Is Indigeneity in whare taonga a myth?

I always wonder why we as indigenous people constantly feel like we are hard done by?  It saddens me that most of the time we seem to take the low road instead of the high road.  Instead of looking at the issues, create a solution that makes it worth our while to work where we do.

I recently attended an indigenous hui for those working in the information sector.  I realised that some indigenous people are not as fortunate as us in that Māori have Te Tiriti o Waitangi (not that it is all “hunky dory”), but we are able to use this as a tool to push our kaupapa  through.  What does this have to do with indigeneity within libraries you ask?  Well, kaitiaki within whare taonga of the world, whether they be indigenous or not, have a lot of work on their plate.  I make special note that indigenous people in this sector even more so.

Scenarios to consider amongst indigenous peoples in the information sector:

  1. Holding an indigenous or non-indigenous role in a region where you are tangata whenua has an impact
  2. Holding an indigenous or non-indigenous role in a region where you are not tangata whenua has an impact

These impact on all indigenous people. Yet what really made me grimace was the people who are indigenous, but not from the land, are not allowed to liaise in any way with the local tangata whenua! Que?  Yep me too, I was stunned to say the least.  They are asked to look after the knowledge, yet cannot make contact with the people who are the actual caretakers of that material because the organisation is sitting on their land!  Sound familiar?  All too familiar to many of us.

Colonial organisations want to be able to look after the indigenous traditional knowledge within their collections, so having the following is a small step:

  1. Bilingual signage – yet how many people actually know how to pronounce these properly or use them on a regular basis?
  2. Māori names for teams – yet who in their teams know what their Māori name is?
  3. Tukutuku panels, whakairo, kowhaiwhai patterns dotted around the place – yet who knows the kōrero behind these?

We know this isn’t an organisation being indigenous.  In some respects, it is an acknowledgement that they know we are here, but what do others do around the world?  Yep I don’t believe enough.  We are forming an Indigenous Matters Section via the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions.  Here we are able to provide guidelines, implementation plans to support organisations who have indigenous traditional knowledge housed within their whare.  It is here that we could make an impact.  The International Indigenous Librarians’ Forum which will be held in Aotearoa 2019, is a forum where we can make recommendations to this standing committee to action.  A way forward for us all perhaps.  What are your thoughts on indigeneity within whare taonga?

by Anahera Morehu


Whare taonga – Institutions that house and care for treasured objects. Treasures can be interpreted widely to include both tangible artifacts, like rare books, and intangible objects like knowledge.

Hui – meeting or gathering

Te Tiriti o Waitangi – An agreement between the British and Māori

Kaupapa – purpose, topic or subject, matter for discussion, policy, agenda, programme.

Kaitiaki – guardian, caretaker

Tangata whenua – people of the land, local tribe

Tukutuku – decorative lattice-work panels

Whakairo – carvings

Kowhaiwhai – decorative painted panels

Kōrero – stories

Aotearoa – New Zealand  – “ Land of the long white cloud”


  1. Haneta Pierce

    Ka pai Anahera some great thinking to get the korero started. Christchurch City Libraries – Te Kete Wananga o Otautahi have been on that journey for a few years now and we are constantly dealing with the complexities of resource and equality. However in saying that we work hard to ensure that our taonga reflects the mana of our indigenous community, some we get right some we need to re think but in all of that learning ensuring that we have open lines of communication and being ready to listen with an open mind and attitude is probably the best and most positive way forward. looking forward to other comments

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Mohika Williams

    Uaua kē te whakautu i taua urupare e hoa, mō koutou e mahi ana i waenganui i te mātotorutanga o te Ao Pākehā nei. Ko te mea tuatahi, pūmau tōnu ki te reo, pūmau tōnu ki te whakaaro Māori, ahakoa ki whea, ahakoa ko wai, pupuru tonu ki tō Mana Māori Motuhake. Ki te kore koe e mōhio ki tō reo, aroha mai, akohia, koinā noa, akohia te reo me ōna tikanga. Mā te ako tō reo, ka puta ngā pātai, nō whea mai ahau? Ko wai ōku tūpuna? Ko wai ōku iwi? He aha kē taku pepeha? Mā te kimi i tō tūākiritanga, ka timata te whakangaueue i ngā momo tamihanga, ngā momo whakatau tikanga a te Pākehā.

    Me huri ngā Iwi Taketake o te Ao ki tēnei momo rautaki anō, me titiro rātou, otirā, tātou katoa ki a tātou anō, hai aha te tohu atu ki te Pākehā, nā rātou tātou i tūkinohia, kei hea te rongoā ki roto i ērā kōrero kia whakatūtuki tātou i ngā wawata me ngā tūmanako a kui mā, a koro mā?

    Makere ērā whakaaro ki te taha, kaweā te taki kei mua i tō ake aroaro ki te ako i tō tātou reo rangatira, ērā kāore anō kua ako, tātou kua ako i te reo, engari, me whakapakari anō tō reo ki taumata kē atu.

    Ka mutu tēnei tuhinga poto āku ki te kōrero a taku hungawai, a QSM Kaa Kathleen Williams, kō tāna i kī mai ” kāore he mutunga mō te ako, kei te ako tonu ahau!” Nō reira e te iwi, hāpaitia ngā hoe, hoeā te waka ki te pae tawhiti, whakamaua kia tīna.

    Kia ora mai tātou katoa.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anahera01

      Ngā mihi nunui rawa atu ki a koe e te rangatira

      E kore au i ngā kupu mutunga i te whakaaro me te kōrero ataahua nei. Kia mau tonu tātou ki a tātou ake pukenga. Mahia te mahi, akohia te ako me te whakaako hoki.


  3. Abigail McClutchie

    Kia ora Anahera for your post, points raised and hearty questions. The reality as much as it pains me to say it, is colonisation that started here in the nineteenth century despite everything that has happened since, still continues today.

    Feeling hard done by is something that we can control. It is about keeping up with the latest versions of colonisation and having on a critical lens to figure out various ways to access the so-called high road. Sometimes it is figuring out whether or not the high road is available to us as indigenous people. You’ve described examples in the libraries referring to how indigenous knowledge is being looked after and who has access to it, showing us that sometimes the high road is closed to some. At times the signs to the high road are not pointing in the right way, or expressed in a language that indigenous people comprehend or make sense of. Sometimes there are road blocks and detours. Quite often indigenous people are not welcome on the high road and when we take the high road by ourselves we find preference on the same road as our friends and family. Therefore for all of those who have taken the (high) road less travelled, thank you for your courage and paving the way for others to follow. Whether you think you are on the high road or low road, and are actively seeking to be critical and decolonising your mind, you will probably find that both roads lead to the same place and that it’s a personal journey. But hosting forums and discussions creates inroads for indigenous people. It helps people critically analyse similarities and differences that have the potential to change a personal journey into a collective consciousness. Perhaps it is in these spaces that new roads are formed for both the colonised and colonisers to be liberated.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. anahera01

    Ngā mihi nunui rawa atu ki a koe Abigail i to whakaaro hoki.

    Some great comments being generated and expressed from different viewpoints is fantastic. Totes agree with the concept of high and low road leading to the same point, which is the same as we all do in our research. It is about analysing, critiquing and finding solutions in some parts but also not. Creating others to think along different lines and make personal or not is fantastic to see.

    I enjoy reading others thoughts on what is or what isn’t. Ka rawe.


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