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Being Pakeha – a definition

January 6, 2012

In one of his essays, Michael King defines ‘Pakeha’ in this way:

“as an adjective, the word [Pakeha] now denotes non-Maori and usually Western or European phenomena; and … as a noun it refers to people of predominantly European descent. …In common use ‘Pakeha’ is simply a descriptive word applied to non-Polynesian people and things in New Zealand that derive originally from outside New Zealand – most often from Europe, and even more specifically, because of the nature of our history, from the United Kingdom.” (36)

“‘Pakeha’ …is an indigenous New Zealand expression that denotes things that belong to New Zealand via one major stream of its heritage: people, manners, values and customs that are not exclusively Polynesian. But it also denotes things that are no longer simply European. It denotes people and things that derive from abroad but that, through the transformations of history and geography, through their new characteristics and combinations, are now unlike their sources and antecedents.” (37)

“While Maori are Maori and Pakeha are Pakeha, each has been influenced by the other and had his or her culture shaped decisively by the other. One essential ingredient of Pakeha-ness, as far as I am concerned, is contact with and being affected by Maori things: Maori concepts, Maori values, Maori language and Maori relationships.” (39-40)

“If one recognises the existence of the evolving Pakeha culture of which I speak, and if one accepts that it is a phenomenon that could only accrete in New Zealand from the Maori, European and wider human ingredients that history has cast up on these shores – then what we are acknowledging here is not something foreign: it is a second indigenous New Zealand culture.” (40)

“I am fully in agreement with Ranginui Walker on this point: use of the word Pakeha is part of the process by which the descendants of European colonists achieve a New Zealand identity.” (41)

Ref: (blue bold emphases mine; italics in original) Michael King (2011) The Silence Beyond: Selected writings by Michael King: With an Introduction by Rachael King. Penguin Books: Auckland. [A GREAT READ!!! with a couple of apparent typos that haven’t been edited out – just in case that stuff bothers you]


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