Māori Ways of Speaking

Joanne Marras and Vaughan Rapatahana

Medium: Video
Issues: Indigenous Culture, Māori, Nature, and Poetry

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Governments around the world have started to legally acknowledge non-human entities, including cetaceans and apes, as well as rivers. Cultural discourses employed in Aotearoa New Zealand’s parliament during the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River) Settlement Bill, is a window to understand how identities of human and nonhuman entities are constructed through discourse, as well how indigenous cosmologies and worldviews are being acknowledged. In particular, the indigenous conservation practices such as Kaitiakitanga, an example of a “holistic” environmental and ecological approach of “care and management”, connecting Māori to the land through guardianship and as a direct ancestor of Mother Earth. But it has been “impossible” to practice Kaitiakitanga over the last 150 years. Through studying language and discourse in this short film we highlight –through aesthetics, poetry, and analytical data, — ways in which Kaitiakitanga is essential to the conservation of indigenous landscapes, flora, and fauna in Aotearoa New Zealand.


Joanne Marras Tate is a multimedia producer and scholar. Her interests are in environmental communication, science communication, visual communication, emerging media, agnotology, marine sciences, conservation, and education. She is a doctoral student within the Community and Social Interaction area in the Department of Communication at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her background is in Marine Biology and Psychobiology.

Vaughan Rapatahana is a New Zealand writer and reviewer. Though perhaps best known for his poetry, his bibliography also includes prose fiction, educational material, academic articles, philosophy, and language critiques. Rapatahana is of Māori ancestry, and many of his works deal with the subjects of colonial repression and cultural encounter. His writing has been published in New Zealand and internationally. In 2009, he was a semifinalist for the Proverse Prize and in 2013 he was a finalist for the Erbacce Prize for Poetry. In 2016 Rapatahana won the Proverse Poetry Prize.