Maori Literacy

D. F. McKenzie

Although few Maori are today, in the simplest functional sense, illiterate, the written and printed word is not the mode which they habitually use. The question is therefore an even more fundamental one than whether or not the Maori failed to become fully literate in the 1830s, or why the missionaries failed to teach them full literacy. It is, rather, why has the Maori 'failed' to become literate at all? Or, to shift the burden of guilt, what is it about literacy and books that makes these technologies so inadequate to cope with the complex realities of a highly civilized social experience which the Maori know but which the literate mind too readily and reductively perhaps tries to capture in the book? (From "Oral Culture, Literacy & Print in early New Zealand: the Treaty of Waitangi," 15-16).

Postcolonial Overview New Zealand Australia