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Home arrow Education arrow Early Childhood Education in Aotearoa New Zealand: History, Pedagogy, and Liberation


Power hierarchies through geographic territorialization and sociolinguistic stratification

“Ka tangi te tltl, ka tangi te kaka, ka tangi hoki ahau”

As the tit! (sooty shearwater) bursts forth, as the kaka (native parrot) assertively conducts;

a new day dawns and I too find my voice

Deleuze and Guattari’s (1987) work (translated 2004), A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, the notion of striated (stratified) space assists with understanding the mechanics of colonization. The concept of striated space can be about the division of land; its objectification by surveying it, categorizing it, and putting up fences. This is the concept of territorialization. Likewise, striation can also be about the division of people who occupy those spaces. As spaces are territorialized, the people who occupy those territories are themselves territorialized (categorized) as they fit (or not) into those territories. Binaries are created. Davies (2009) argues, “The binaries become naturalized—the world is divided that way because it is that way—and they can create apparently insurmountable impediments to change” (Davies, 2009, p. 23). Binaries then create “normalities” and “abnormalities.”

Territorialization is the commodification of land and its inhabitants and exemplified in McLintock’s (1949) book, which gives a history of the colonization of Otago, New Zealand, drawing on many historical documents including Captain Cook’s logs and other documents of the 1800s. He asserts:

That Otago was destined to become the scene of a most interesting experiment in colonization did not even remotely enter his [Captain Cook’s] mind. The land lay empty, unkempt and wild, and upon it rested still unbroken the silence of the centuries ... In the remote past the physical environment of a society was its dominant factor, and even among primitive people, such as the pre-European Maori, the human being was largely at the mercy of omnipotent nature. Natural phenomena dominated his thoughts, controlled his life and shaped his religion. In a very real sense, such history could be regarded as merely geography set in motion (p. 7).

The concept of natural phenomena dominating Maori thought, life, behavior, and spirituality is precise and is inextricably entangled in our expressive Maori language, which reflects just that—the inter- relationality of the natural phenomena of Aotearoa/Otago and its Maori inhabitants. I would hypothesize that the languages of all indigenous peoples are connected in this way to the geography of the land. It makes sense that the first language mapped on to the land is that of the first people on that land—the idea that underpins the field of terralinguistics and is bound with the Maori terminology “tangata whenua” (people of the land). The following quote is intriguing:

This does not mean that the historian is prepared to accept the absolute dictation of the geographical factor alone. He realizes, however, the need for an adequate study of any historical problem, first, as regards the action of Nature on Man and, secondly, of equal or of greater importance, as regards the reaction of Man on Nature. Thus, if certain consequences follow certain causes, the explanation may well arise from human determination no less than from natural determinism. The colonization of Otago, which fell within the last century, gives excellent scope for such a two-fold investigation—the primitive environment, stark and unsympathetic, the pioneer society, eager to conquer and subdue. (p. 8)

The colonization of indigenous peoples is seen as the “historical problem.” Of course by the time the British got around to colonizing Aotearoa/New Zealand, the European colonial tradition outside of Europe had been around for at least 500 years. In that sense the “problem” was somewhat historical; that being the extrication of the land out of people who are synchronized with the land. It was a violent process and one that had been fine tuned as indigenous peoples became a disposable by-product (of little consequence) in the productive territorialization of land to conquer it and to subdue it. Papatuanuku (our earth mother) became “it”; an apparatus for Western capitalist expansion. Furthermore, the following is a glimpse of what was awaiting the colonizers in 1948 when the first two ships for the Otago settlement arrived:

It is difficult to-day ... to envisage the Otago landscape as it appeared to the pioneers, and—perhaps more difficult—to recapture the wonder it must have aroused within their minds. For those who assembled on the decks of the John Wickliffe and the Philip Laing to gaze with anxious eyes upon the land destined to be their home were greeted with a vista of what must have seemed an endless sweep of that sub-tropical rain forest, not the least among New Zealand’s glories .... Even to land-hungry immigrants, the virgin beauty of the scene must have made a strong appeal until the soon familiar sound of axe and saw shattered the brooding spell of centuries. (p. 15)

We must remember here that my Ngai Tahu (southern tribe) forebears had lived with this land for over a thousand years—had lived according to the principles of “kaitiakitanga” (give and take only what is needed) and manaakitanga (caring for the land)—but all too soon they struggled to protect their earth mother who sustained and provided their mahinga kai (food gathering places) once the settler colonizers arrived, exemplified in the corresponding disappearance of the forests and birds:

But the unique experiences [of the settler pioneers] were all too fleeting and soon, very soon, a solitary bird-note became the echo of a once lovelier song. For it was a tragedy, little understood or heeded in those early decades, that the native birds were fated to disappear at a rate corresponding to the destruction of the forest. (p. 22)

In discussion around the protection of mahinga kai with my 86-year-old father, he said, “Yes, yes, that’s right—they had to protect all the mahinga kai—but what a shock with the arrival of the colonists. When our people stood at the Taiaroa Heads to welcome them in haka, they were shot at—many of them shot dead.” Indigenous people were killed. Lands were carved up. The mellifluous dawn chorus vanished. The quote so aptly exemplifies the colonial/indigenous binaries Davies (2009) refers to, as if they are “natural” and “irrevocable”:

  • ? Maori as geography set in motion versus colonizers as motion set upon the geography
  • ? Nature on Man versus Man on Nature
  • ? Primitive environment (with primitive people) versus Subdued conquered environment (with civilized people)
  • ? Natural determinism (people of the land) versus Human determination to conquer and control (people owning the land)
  • ? Savage and unenlightened versus Urbane and civilized!

When the settler colonizers arrived, they did not find borders or survey pegs, or territories complete with cadastral maps establishing ownership for taxation/rates purposes. No, they saw rivers and trees and rocks and mountains and pristine lands, with multitudinous marae (ancestral homes and sacred lands) from Te Reinga (spiritual departing point at the northern tip of the North Island) to Kura Tawhiti (spiritual gathering place of Ngai Tahu in the center of the South Island) to Te Kareha-a- Tamatea (the southern tip of the South Island) and on all the surrounding islands. They met Maori people living with those lands and islands. The whole of Aotearoa/New Zealand was a marae to Maori, so when the Pakeha arrived at Taiaroa Heads and started to murder the welcoming haka-party the bitter memory lives on in the stories told by Ngai Tahu elders today. Territorialization is a physical carving up of the land for categorization and stripping it of its people and resources. In the 1800s when the settlers arrived they did not find a territorialized country. They simply did not recognize the lands were governed by the relationships of the indigenous Maori people. Striation is part of the process of ter- ritorialization. It is the categorization element and for the purposes of this section it refers to the categorization (colonization) of language.

Language occupies physical space (Skerrett-White, 2003), in the mouths, on the tongues, and between the spaces of the people who speak those languages in the spaces they occupy. That the dawn chorus is impossible to re-enliven without its base (forest), so too it is nonviable to revitalize te reo Maori without a home base. Alongside Deleuzeguattarian theories of territorialization, striation of land peoples/land languages, I want to introduce the concept of linguafaction.

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