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



This chapter foregrounds some of the inherent racist underpinnings of colonization entrenched in the New Zealand consciousness through its daily discourses. This consciousness is what underpins our societal institutions and, crucially, educational practices. It is a difficult thing to acknowledge that our education system is inherently racist, facilitated through teachers in denial, but who readily admit that they know little about their Maori students (ERO, 2012). As Gordon (1995) puts it:

A great deal of the effort to study racism is marred by the core problem of self-evasion. This is partly because the study of racism is dirty business. It unveils things about ourselves that we may prefer not to know. If racism emerges out of an evasive spirit, it is hardly the case that it would stand still and permit itself to be unmasked. (p. ix)

The self-evasion in New Zealand’s history has been referred to as sociohistorical amnesia (Walker, 1990) and is the means by which colonial status quo of unequal power relations is maintained. The serious issue of the negative impacts of anti-Maori racism in education is deeply imbued at the ideological level in “Whitestream” New Zealand. It is argued that implicit in colonizer worldviews there is an assumed power to define their worldviews as “truth,” “facts,” “scientific,” corresponding to a generalized reality fit for curriculum packaging in education. Concomitantly, Maori worldviews are seen as “savage,” “unenlightened,” “myths,” even “lies,” fit only for eradication or museums. This explains why, and the ways in which, Maori knowledge was misappropriated and misrepresented in education (Smith, 1999). The education system in New Zealand is a key mechanism for the maintenance of anti-Maori racism. It is systemically and systematically corrupt.

Deleuzeguattarian theories assist in critically analyzing Maori experience with what has been termed territorializing, deterritorializing, and reterritorializing. Implicit in Deleuze and Guattari’s (1987) notions of reterritorialization is the restructuring of a territorialized space in order to dismantle the patriarchal hierarchies of colonization creating smoother spaces to navigate. The smooth spaces allow for Maori to stand on their turangawaewae, to elevate themselves on the shoulders of their ancestors to see their future pathways, to distinguish the navigational landmarks and fertile grounds to continue to build marae. Smooth spaces allow for liberatory praxis. They stimulate the imagination and facilitate transformation. Juxtaposing these Deleuzeguattarian notions therefore assist with theorizing the colonization of Aotearoa (through land commodification), and the cultural shock impacting on Maori as “tangata whenua” and Maori language through linguafaction.

It has been argued that language/s shift (from the terralingua of natural “smooth” environments to colonial territorialized space) is the fate of all indigenous languages living with linguafaction. Indigenous language/s undergo shift equivalent to the rate of shift of land from indigenous people/s to the colonizers for their institutional developments. Territorialization disconnects indigenous languages from the landscape, their lives, and their languages. It is the language/land disconnects that makes territorialized space unsafe for indigenous people and their languages that is argued occurs through linguafaction.

Further, colonial discursive practices create a false consciousness through myth-making discourses. Attempts to eliminate Maori identities (and language) through colonization have created severe socio-cultural dislocation for many Maori. Counter-colonial (Maori) spaces and readings of texts allow for alternative ways of thinking, knowing, and being in the world and seek to counter such dislocation.

Just one day in the life of The Dominion Post—September 6, 2012—displayed an entire two-page foldout of eurocentrism extraordinaire, full of harmful discourses “masking the power hierarchies” (Cannella, 2011) of colonization. Not only were Maori seemingly “savage,” Maori were seen as “naked savages.” The categorization of Maori thus, not as “sovereign people” was merely a maneuver to lock Maori into a state of being “incapable of maturation—needs tutelage” (Gordon, 2012). The Stone Age myth promotes the idea that Maori were “frozen in time” and therefore “without futures” is fundamentally an error of logic. The dehumanizing discourses consigning Maori people to “savage sub-humanhood” were merely attempts to invade and invalidate the Treaty, largely in response to British settler discontent over their insatiable demands for land. That these types of discourses are still in vogue today show that the discontent continues and is inculcated into the “kiwi” psyche. The Treaty spin that it was made between the Crown for and on behalf of all New Zealanders simultaneously invisibilizing Maori is the ultimate “treaty trick.”

How some discourses create realities has been tracked drawing on three historical myth-making discursive practices to current day ones. This analysis followed those discourses with a view to showing how they become entrenched through continuous streams of consciousness played out in current day history-making media mechanisms, for the purposes of this chapter, newspapers, and educational settings. In this way they become self-perpetuating discourses. Discourse analysis is an effective tool that provides push-back to the insidiousness of internalized colonial thought. Reterritorialization as a theoretical frame can assist with the reframing of a new “whare” or “marae” (spiritual homelands) through the creation of te ao Maori spaces.

The parallel discourses in which the colonization of Aotearoa New Zealand is viewed as a wholly positive thing that brought civilization and benefits to Maori provided opposing discourses based on the view that colonization was harmful, destructive, and destabilizing for Maori: a wholly negative thing. This has been a discourse analysis of power, hierarchy, exploitation, harm, and survival. Even though New Zealand is no longer a Dominion of England, the imperialist footprints remain. Unpacking how discursive myths become internalized has been a straightforward task. How we disrupt them is perhaps not so easy, but we do not have to tacitly, uncritically, accept the current status quo as inevitable, as natural, as “normal” We do not have to accept the monocultural, monolingual, foreign view the world. The words used in colonial discourses express the myth-making and the culturally different worldviews bound up with the language of the colonizers. Counter-colonial discourses represent the unmasking of anti-Maori racism, a struggle for power, and the reterritorialization of Aotearoa. The following two chapters will look at Maori language regeneration and its official introduction into all facets of municipal life, especially education.

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