Pakeha Whakapapa

November 4th, 2012 at 11:15 am by David Farrar

John Ansell has blogged something lovely from Jim Traue, the former chief librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library on his Pakeha Whakapapa. The background to his piece:

A short time ago I spent a weekend on a marae.

It was the Ngati Raukawa marae at Otaki and a group of us were there for a two-day seminar to talk about the relationships between our institution and the Maori people and their .

On the first night, after the evening meal, we gathered together in the meeting house and one after another we introduced ourselves to others in a brief speech.

My Pakeha colleagues did this by giving their names, sometimes the place where they were born, and their jobs.

It almost seemed as if their jobs made them, defined them as individuals.

The local Maori introduced themselves by name, by place of birth and tribal affiliations.

Some went back one or two generations while the more eloquent went back fifty generations.

They defined themselves by their ancestral lands and the features of those lands — the rivers and mountains — and their family links to those lands; by their bloodlines, their ancestors.

I thought about the different approaches of the two, Pakeha and Maori, as I waited my turn.

I did not believe that my bloodlines were adequate to define me; that my physical ancestors and their relationships to an area of land were that important for me.

On the other hand I did not believe that my present job defined me as a person.

I think of myself as very much the product of my wider culture.

When my turn came I attempted to place myself within that culture, a culture of the written record and of the individual, just as Maori had placed themselves within their culture, a oral culture of the closely-knit tribal group with a base in a particular locality.

The next day I wrote down an account of what I had said — it had created quite a stir — and then substantially extended my account to cover what I really wanted to say to that group, especially to the Maori members, about the cultural heritage of people like me.

This is that extended account.

It is what I shall say next time I am on a marae and am invited to introduce myself to the group.

 And extracts from the text:

My name is Jim Traue.

I was born in Auckland.

As a child and young man I lived in Palmerston North, Hawera, Rotorua, Frankton Junction and then back in Auckland. But I have lived most of my life in Wellington.

By birth, by domicile, by loyalty I am a New Zealander.

I have no other home.

My parents were born in New Zealand. And their parents before them.

My paternal great-grandfather, the first Traue in New Zealand, was born in Berlin in the Kingdom of Prussia.

He came here in the early 1870s and married a Fitzgerald, born in British India of Irish parents.

Since then there has been an admixture of Welsh and English blood to this original German-Irish stock.

They, my ancestors, have determined my genetic inheritance.

They have determined my height, my shape, the colour of my eyes, the colour of my hair. (And, alas, the lack of it.)

They may well have determined how I react, how I respond. That is, my temperament.

That strong Celtic strain from my ancestors may explain a certain gift for words.

But my great-grandfather also had a love of the English language, and wrote it like an angel, though he spoke with a German accent.

But others, all of them outside my blood lines, have shaped my ideas, my beliefs, my values.

From others I have learned the things I hold dear — the things that identify me as a person, a unique individual, and that have given me my standing, my reputation in the community.

My ancestors of the mind include my teachers.

Miss Davidson at the Rotorua Primary School, who believed in me and encouraged my development.

Mr Taylor, Mr Morton, Mr Gudex, who provided encouragement or models to emulate at secondary school.

Professor Musgrove and Professor Airey, Keith Sinclair, John Reid, Allen Curnow, Bob Chapman, M. K. Jospeh, Bill Pearson, and the other university teachers who opened my mind to exciting new worlds of books and ideas.

My ancestors of the mind include the men and women with whom I studied; the men and women with whom I have worked; the great leaders in librarianship, Geoffrey Alley and Graham Bagnall in New Zealand, who have been my mentors;Lawrence Clark Powell, Archibald McLeish, Paul Raabe, some of my heroes from overseas.

They include the man whose cloak has been passed down to me, Alexander Turnbull the collector, who built a great library to comprehend the European, Polynesian and Maori inheritances of this country.

A man who believed that the writings of the Englishman John Milton in the seventeenth century were as relevant to New Zealanders as the written records of our past in New Zealand; the histories of Maori traditional beliefs, the records of European settlement in New Zealand, our distinctive New Zealand literature and history.

Behind every one of them, and the source of their ideas and their values, is the great culture which belongs to all of us, the culture of Western European peoples, the culture of what was once called Christendom.

My ancestors of the mind, nay, our ancestors of the mind, are all those men and women, most of them long dead, who recorded in their books the ideas and values of that culture, a culture going back some 3000 years.

Our ancestors of the mind include the great thinkers of Ancient Greece.

The dramatists Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides.

The poet Homer.

The scientists Archimedes and Ptolemy.

The mathematicians Euclid and Pythagoras.

The historians Herodotus and Thucydides.

The philosophers and moralists Socrates and Plato and Aristotle.

All believed in the importance of ideas, the power of ideas.

All believed that the highest purpose of humanity was to define the nature of truth, beauty, and justice.

Our ancestors of the mind include the poets and essayists, historians, political philosophers, architects, engineers of Ancient Rome:

Terence, Horace, Livy, Cicero, Virgil, Ovid, Seneca, Catullus, Plutarch, Lucretius, Pliny, Tacitus.

And the jurists of Rome who attempted to lay the basis for laws to guarantee justice, fairness and equality of treatment for all. …

Our ancestors of the mind include the great army of thinkers and writers of the new societies created within the last 1000 years in Europe and beyond in the Americas and Africa and the Pacific.

 The ‘tribes’ of Western tradition, as it were, who drew on the ideas and values of Greece, Rome, the Hebrews and the Christians, and on each other, to develop their own cultures and values.

We may, of course, be grievously mistaken.

But those of us who belong to the western tradition believe that reason and natural justice are the right tools to deal with the world.

We see the human condition in terms of problems to be tackled.

We believe that wrongs should be put right.

That progress is always worth the struggle.

Mysticism and resignation leave us puzzled.

But this concept of duty coexists with the conviction that the interests of the individual must be protected, even against the state itself.

We believe that the life of the mind and the need for action have equal claims.

We like to think we are tolerant of the views of others.

Ours is a written tradition.

And because it has been a written culture for 3,000 years the knowledge and the wisdom of 3,000 years of experience has accumulated in our libraries and our archives and our books.

And it belongs to everyone of us.

As the inheritors of a written culture we can wear it lightly because we no longer need to depend on memory.

We may not be able to recite our genealogies, of all of Shakespeare or Milton or the Bible.

But nevertheless they are there, indestructible, immutable, always there when we need them.

Safe in the storehouses outside of our minds which our culture has created.

Just as agricultural societies could store their surplus food, so literate societies could store their intellectual surplus, their experience, to call on in the future when it was needed.

Our ancestors of the mind come from all languages and civilizations that have left written records.

We are all part of the international community of the book, the library, the archive.

The Frenchmen Montaigne and Moliere and Voltaire and Rousseau…

The Germans Goethe and Herder and Lessing…

The Russians Tolstoy and Dostoevsky…

…are just as much our ancestors of the mind as Chaucer and Shakespeare and Milton, Defoe, Dryden and Dickens, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Walt Whitman and T. S. Eliot, Allen Curnow, Frank Sargeson, A. R. D. Fairburn, R. A. K. Mason, Janet Frame and Karl Stead.

Our ancestors of the mind include Aristotle, Plato, Bacon, Descartes, Leibnitz, Hume, Kant and Wittgenstein, Locke and Rousseau, Tom Paine and Robert Owen and Karl Marx.

They include Adam Smith and J. M. Keynes and Milton Friedman; Voltaire and Gibbon and Ranke and Keith Sinclair and Bill Oliver; Coke and Montesquieu and Blackstone; Kepler, Copernicus and Galileo and Newton, Linneus and Darwin and Einstein, Marie Curie and Rutherford.

Our ancestors of the mind are innumerable, encompassing many races and religions and times and places.

And their ideas, their creations, are available to me and to you, to everyone, in millions of books that fill our libraries.

Who am I?

I am one of the heirs to all this.

Every one of us, whether we wished it or not, whether we deserved it or not, have been given this same inheritance of the written and printed words of our culture.

You must not suppose I am claiming close personal acquaintance with all these writers.

A written culture does not work like that.

We do not have to memorise it to make it our own, or call on someone to recite it to us.

It is always there and we can go directly to it and read it and interpret it for ourselves.

It is the most democratic of cultures because it belongs to everyone.

Most of us do not need to read more than a fraction of the original works.

The ideas they contain are always present, are never lost or forgotten.

Our ancestors of the mind are immortal on the printed page.

I am proud of my ancestors, my ancestors of the mind, as proud as any Maori is of his ancestors.

I have listed only a tiny fraction of them by name.

There are countless millions who, by recording their experience in some permanent form, have become my ancestors of the mind, who have in some way contributed to making me what I am.

That is my genealogy, that is my whakapapa.

This resonates strongly with me. In the past as I have reflected on my identity and culture, I have actually regarded the ancient Greeks and Romans as being a core part of my cultural identity. I’ve never lived in Europe, but the history of Europe (not just the UK) is part of me. I am a New Zealander, but I am also a European who doesn’t and never will live in Europe. And I am very proud of the several thousands years of European culture, which is part of me.  I say this, because so often European NZers say that they have no real culture or heritage.
I like Traue’s term “ancestors of the mind”.
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30 Responses to “Pakeha Whakapapa”

  1. iMP (2,344 comments) says:

    I agree David. There is no need for us to apologize or feel inferior as “Europeans,” the most dominant and successful human culture on the earth, because it is the best of several unified cultures.

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  2. BeaB (2,082 comments) says:

    Wonderful.

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  3. Longknives (4,686 comments) says:

    Well written- It amazes me how often we hear/read moronic comments like “Pakeha’s don’t have any Culture” or (as was commonplace after the London Olympic opening ceremony) ” The English don’t have any culture”.
    New Zealanders have had it brainwashed into them that unless it involves a tongue-poking haka it isn’t ‘Culture’!
    I am immensely proud of my ancestors, especially the ones that came here with nothing and helped break the land and the ones that fought and died for this Country on the battlefields of Europe. I guess in some people’s eyes that makes me some kind of ‘White Supremacist’- Those people can kiss my lily-white arse….

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  4. Mary Rose (393 comments) says:

    > one after another we introduced ourselves to others in a brief speech.

    It’s very nice. But if that is extracts from the text, hardly brief!

    Especially given the inference that the others may have kept it to: “Hi, I’m John Smith, I was born in Hamilton and I’m a librarian,”

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  5. thor42 (971 comments) says:

    Excellent stuff!

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  6. nixie (3 comments) says:

    Wow, from one setting in a marae, you’ve done well. You’ve found the inner sense of you, of what most Maaori would liken to. Well done. Well written too. It feels like I understand alot of you from what you have shared. Thanks.

    From a Maaori.

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  7. Minnie1972 (42 comments) says:

    I agree Mary Rose. No wonder things take so long to get done in this country if that is a brief introduction!! Nevertheless, I agree that it is about time people started to look back to their own European and New Zealand European ancestors and feel proud of who they are and what they achieved. No doubt this is widely felt, given the increase in interest in genealogy. For me though, it’s not just about who was born when and to whom, but more about the measure of the people who came before. Interestingly, my husband got up to speak at a Marae last year when we visited with an exchange student, and (although in a much much briefer way) he said the same things – spoke of his ancestry and where he came from). Too often non Maori New Zealanders seem to feel some kind of shame in acknowledging their past – I’m really not sure why?

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  8. Viking2 (11,275 comments) says:

    and of course we should not forget that most Maori today potentially share that ancestry.
    They just need reminding that they should also learn that part along with the taniwha stories of their own.

    Return history to schools.

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  9. Rightandleft (655 comments) says:

    We do teach history in schools Viking. If we didn’t, I wouldn’t have a job. In fact I teach significant amounts of European history along with some American and Asian history as well as studying the settlement of NZ. Classics is also taught as a separate subject in most schools.

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  10. Nostalgia-NZ (5,043 comments) says:

    ‘on his Pakeha Whakapapa.’

    Hardly.

    But he did coin a new phrase ‘ancestors of the mind’ from which he liberally associated himself with ‘great thinkers.’

    Surely a very modest man who one would avoid getting in an argument with for fear of being bored to tears.

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  11. Kea (11,878 comments) says:

    Rightandleft, what you refer to as history (in schools) is all too often politically correct indoctrination, where Europeans are always made out to be the bad guys. Often it is not simply bias, but outright lies.

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  12. Kevin (1,122 comments) says:

    I think the problem is that history in say years 8 to 11 is so scattered and “special topic” oriented especially In this day of “problem oriented” or “self directed research” hands off teaching. The kids don’t get a broad overview of history, even though there is a wealth of material out there now that can make it very interesting.

    On the whole it is the single poorest taught core subject at school, not because of the teachers, but because of the curriculum.

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  13. kiwi in america (2,477 comments) says:

    Superb!

    I was recently in England – my father is English and so I have family there. 2 hours in Westminster Abbey gives one an enormous appreciation of the contribution my English ancestors made to the world and its history. One of my business partners is Maori and he has memorised whakapapa not just through NZ but through the Pacific as well. Whilst he is very appreciative of his ancestry his father was Welsh and he honours and is grateful for his European AND Maori culture and tires of some Maori who exhibit blatant racism towards Pakeha.

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  14. Shunda barunda (2,966 comments) says:

    I was talking to a chap from Ngai Tahu (his tribe and workplace) about this stuff. I was talking about my love for the South Island and my keen interest in geology and native plants etc.

    After I talked about the tectonic history of the South Island :) he talked about the Maori legends of creation, but interestingly, indicated that the scientific explanation should also become a part of our combined culture.

    I don’t see this a regressive at all, and in fact, I found that my own connection to the land was broadly very similar to Maori values.

    I think a lot of people are unnecessarily fearful of embracing aspects of Maori culture, but in reality, the European culture became so strong by doing exactly that – taking the best aspects of all cultures encountered.

    In saying this, I can’t stand the whole ‘Ngati Pakeha’ nonsense and personally believe that is the domain of insecure people of weak character, but I think it would be fair to say that ultimately Maori culture will become a greater aspect of NZers common heritage than in the past.

    The biggest barrier to this are the zealots on both sides.

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  15. Shunda barunda (2,966 comments) says:

    I think the problem is that history in say years 8 to 11 is so scattered and “special topic” oriented especially In this day of “problem oriented” or “self directed research” hands off teaching. The kids don’t get a broad overview of history, even though there is a wealth of material out there now that can make it very interesting.

    I totally agree, which is why I am teaching my 2 oldest boys about history myself.

    At present they are fascinated with world war 2 and we are studying all sorts of aspects about the reasons of war to the military equipment used.

    Youtube is a fantastic resource, often all I have to do is a bit of searching and when I find something just ask the boys “come and take a look at this guys”.

    They love it.

    We were even able to discuss the brutality of war and why certain individuals were cruel while others weren’t under the same circumstances, the nasty kid down the street gave great context due to his killing of baby ducks the day before.

    Kids need this stuff to place their lives in context, so many of them just have no idea where or what they are or where they are going.

    And then they end up killing baby animals! :)

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  16. mikenmild (11,246 comments) says:

    Perhaps the kid down the road is descended from a Norfolk poacher.

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  17. Shunda barunda (2,966 comments) says:

    Or a Viking :)

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  18. KH (694 comments) says:

    Socially, and in things such as Justice the western tradition makes New Zealand a safe and liveable place. I am proud of it.
    As to place, I have my river and my mountain, and hold them close in my heart. I don’t think I am unique in that.

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  19. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    Evidently he does descend from any citizens of Lacos – who were known for their brevity.

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  20. DJP6-25 (1,310 comments) says:

    What an excellent article.

    cheers

    David Prosser

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  21. Kevin (1,122 comments) says:

    “Socially, and in things such as Justice the western tradition makes New Zealand a safe and liveable place. I am proud of it.”

    Yes it’s achieved by giving and giving and giving and giving and giving and giving and giving and giving and giving and giving and giving ….

    And all we receive in return is and increasingly hostile state.

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  22. grumpyoldhori (2,416 comments) says:

    Ansell using the term whakapapa, why , he speaks no Maori(te reo).
    If you want to lay out your whakapapa lay it out in te reo.
    Or do you persil types do not have the ability to learn another language?

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  23. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    Surprise, surprise – racism on a Right wing blog.

    I don’t know who gave Ansell et al the right to use the word whakapapa.

    Cultural theft.

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  24. Kevin (1,122 comments) says:

    I haven’t seen any racist comments here today.

    I’d love to learn Maori and will when I’m retired, but not if its copyrighted cos then I could never use it. Idiot ham.

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  25. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    Kevin – I am sure Ansell has a genuine interest in Te Reo and his article was written with an open mind.

    You can learn any language you like, but don’t pretend Ansell’s something he’s not.

    You may find learning Te Reo is a little on the expensive side since Tolley’s unmandated cuts to adult education in 2009.

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  26. Kevin (1,122 comments) says:

    Ok reasonable reply, sorry. Luckily my wife and children are part Maori and we have fluent speakers in the extended family.

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  27. Reid (16,110 comments) says:

    If you want to lay out your whakapapa lay it out in te reo.

    Why should we do that grumpy? If you guys don’t want to learn English in NZ in 2012, why should we care?

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  28. labrator (1,846 comments) says:

    I don’t know who gave Ansell et al the right to use the word whakapapa.

    Cultural theft.

    Hamnida, you’re an idiot.

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  29. ChardonnayGuy (1,184 comments) says:

    Well, I’m the product of a bicultural marriage. I venerate both the Ngai Tahu Maori whakapapa of my mother and my dad’s pakeha background, originally from Devonshire in South England (although mum has bits of Irish Catholic and Mumbai Indian interspersed within the Ngai Tahu). Funny thing in my folks case- Mum always knew where she was from, and it’s made her a more centred and decisive person, and her sense of family is much stronger than Dads. Added to which, Mum’s younger siblings were able to make it to university in the early seventies. Mind you, Nanna and Granddad were a two parent family…

    As for Dad, his dad died early and he was brought up by his fat, useless racist slattern of a mother, which truncated his educational opportunities because she was too lazy to go out and work- and before that, paternal granddad was adopted anyway. Listen to me- paternal grandmother was a street kid in the thirties too. And a solo mother. Which may explain why my dad’s siblings were unable to stay married- unlike my folks, who celebrated their fifty-sixth anniversary yesterday.

    Sometimes, whakapapa, family antecedents and ethnicity don’t always yield what stereotypes insist.

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  30. Sam Buchanan (502 comments) says:

    Jim Traue’s piece is pretty much what it was suggested Pakeha do at decolonisation workshops run by radical leftists back in the 1980s. Good that John Ansell is finally catching up!

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