Tino Rangatiratanga and Capitalism

by Teanau Tuiono

Ka whawhai tonu matou ake ake ake - Rewi Maniapoto
1864. (We will fight on forever, ever and ever.)

Firstly I’d like to say that this my opinion on what is Tino Rangatiratanga, acknowledging that there are many different meanings for Tino Rangatiratanga and the concept itself is part of a rich and ongoing debate in Maori society. So I think the debate/dialogue/discussion surrounding Tino Rangatiratanga is an organic/dynamic thing so in that vein of thought my own views are also dynamic and changing. So yeah that’s all the disclaimer shit out of the way [in case I change my mind: and someone quotes me out of context.]

I feel that no one person has all the answers but that there should be parameters where the korero is contained, so that the korero is relatively in the same discussion ballpark. I also think that some of the issues surrounding Tino Maori and Maori alone to debate/decide. (How that decision is made is another thing completely). I think there are some aspects of Tino Rangatiratanga that non-Maori can engage on but there are some aspects that are for Maori only. This is consistent with principles of self-determination, meaning it’s not self-determination if someone else is determining it for you.


A good definition of Tino Rangatiratanga can be found on the Tino Rangatiratanga website. (http://aotearoa.wellington.net.nz) The word tino is an intensifier and the word rangatiratanga broadly speaking relates to the exercise of chieftainship.

Its closest English translation is self-determination although many also refer to it as absolute sovereignity or Maori independence. Such a concept embraces the spiritual link Maori have with Papatuanuku (Earthmother) and is a part of the international drive by indigenous people for self determination.


(as opposed to the courts, parliament, the universities, and other talking heads.) How this broad definition fits in with what is happening in Maori society, the sorts of parameters it throws up and the extent of those parameters, I think is determined, at the flaxroots level. Treaty principles (and other similar attempts thrown up by this and that government and this and that court and then mulled over by the academics in the learning institutions) have all been reactions to direct action at the flaxroots level. For example the setting up of the Waitangi Tribunal and the establishment of the Maori Language Commission culminated with actions from the 60s, and 70s.

I think the struggle for Tino Rangatiratanga happens on a number of levels, a part of the struggle is the retention and revitalisation of our language and customs. In that sense every volunteer in every kappa haka group and Kohanga reo (and other similar groups) is in some way contributing to the struggle of Tino Rangatiratanga. Where I think the most clarity and direction happens for Tino Rangatiratanga is on the direct action frontline (as opposed to parliament, the courts, the classroom). The Movement has traditionally been an extremely heterogeneous social force encompassing a considerable variety of political strategies, campaigns and participants. But this is where the parameters of Tino Rangatiratanga are set (or not set ). Like most movements the Tino Rangatiratanga movement has a tradition and a history.

This tradition is rooted in conflicts over the Treaty of Waitangi, Maori resistance in the Land Wars, inspired by the Prophet Warriors Titokowaru and Te Kooti Arikirangi, the philosophies of Te Whiti and Tohu Kakahi, the strategies of the Kingitanga, the resilience of Rua Kenana, and the foresight of Ratana, and those countless ancestors whose blood soaks this land. In the modern context this tradition has been held up by new groups and individuals such as Nga Tamatoa, WAC (Waitangi Action Committee), Te Kawariki, Black Women, Te mana motuhake o Tuhoe, Te Kawau Maro, (the list goes on and on) who in turn drove and were inspired by the Occupations of Bastion Point (Takaparawha), The Land March and the countless Marches on Waitangi, resistance to the infamous fiscal envelope and the Occupations it set off, Pakaitore,Takahue, etc. The establishment of the Tuhoe Embassy, the Occupation of Waikaremoana, resistance to Free Trade and Genetic Engineering. It is here where I think the parameters of Tino Rangatiratanga are debated /digested /formulated.


(the divide between rich Maori and poor Maori.)
Yup nasty old capitalism. I think that one of the parameters that needs to be set is a Maori based analysis of capitalism. Placing white settler colonisation of Aotearoa within its historical context, it can be seen as a part of the global process of capitalist expansionism based on the destruction of the territorial and cultural integrity of the indigenous populations by the expropriation and commodification of their lands and human resources. From a tikanga perspective capitalism began in Aotearoa with the commodification of Papatuanuku, that is the individualisation of whenua, disrupting the collective connection that Maori had with the whenua.
This is the nature of colonisation so the struggle against colonisation is the struggle against capitalism. Capitalism is class struggle, that is, capitalism, by its very nature, forces people to work for a wage. For example, by stealing communal lands and resources, causing the indigenous peoples who relied on those lands and resources for survival, causing them to move to the cities to work as wage slaves.

The struggle against colonisation and capitalism also has contemporary manifestations, but there are also things that happened relatively recently that we can be learn and build on. The Tino Rangatiratanga movement in the 60s and 70s drew on other social movements of that time period that identified with the left, specifically the Anti-Racist Movement, the Womens Liberation Movement, and the Trade Union Movement (a lot of shit was going down at this time eg the biggest amount of strike activity in the history of colonial New Zealand, the Mangere Bridge lockout in 1978, the Kinleith strike in 1980 etc). The political turbulence of this period culminated ( for the Tino Rangatiratanga movement ) in the 1975 land march on parliament, Bastion Point, Raglan and the regular protests at Waitangi.

In the 80s, a lot of energy was focused on winning Maori studies and language programmes in the education system. For large parts of the movement the emphasis on the rediscovery of culture came to be the objective of the movement itself and a substitute for practical struggle. Although I think struggle for the revitalisation of te reo Maori and tikanga are good things I think they need to seen as just a part of the fabric of Tino Rangatiratanga. By focusing on cultural issues this allowed the co-optation of a Maori elite within the structures of the state forced many Maori leaders to straddle the uneasy gulf between pushing the Maori struggle forward and maintaining the existing state of affairs. The prestige and wealth that went with such privileged positions in the settlement process meant that Maori leaders became increasingly removed from the concerns and vitality of the flaxroots Maori struggle. Tino Rangatiratanga could be then seen as economic independence because we were free to enter the free market. Capitalism with a smiley (Maori) face. Bullshit. Watching our rangatiratanga go up and down on the stock exchange is not a good thing, especially if someone flies a plane into it.

Tino Rangatiratanga should be a radically democratic alternative to capitalism in which the flaxroots, local community would be constantly and actively involved in making the key decisions about the allocation of societies resources in a collective, co-operative and open manner rather than behind the closed boardroom doors of large corporations (be they tribal or otherwise). It would involve communities making these important decisions and running the economy and society as a whole on a day-to-day basis.

Tino Rangatiratanga should embrace a system in which our entire economy is geared up to satisfy the needs of human beings our tikanga, cultural values and aspirations not the profit margins of a tiny elite. (i.e. human need, not greed!) It would encapsulate our role as kaitiaki, guardians of the earth and the eco-system. It would be based on a vision of society free of racism, class exploitation, women’s oppression, homo-phobia and the oppression of indigenous peoples.

This helps us to understand the nature of Maori corporations, corporate warriors, the brown table, tribal capitalists, who by cashing in the momentum created by Tino Rangatiratanga advocates, have managed cash up generations of Maori struggle for only a small fraction of what the land, fisheries and other resources were worth (and for some Maori assigning a $$ value to Papatuanuku or Tangaroa is obscene). Tino Rangatiratanga needs to be rescued from corporate warriors, tribal executives and Maori businesses along with the ideologues of the New Right to define Tino Rangatiratanga in a way that seriously threatens the living standards of the vast majority of working class Maori whanau.

I think a way of acting on all of this is recognizing that the struggle for Tino Rangatiratanga is part of a broader international struggle simply because the system that were fighting against is an international one. This seemed to be picked up on in the 60s, 70s, and 80s (and some people still got the afros, and leathers looking like Black Panthers). Our struggle against capitalism depends on building a movement that has an organic connection with Aotearoa and an analysis of the system here. It is simply dangerous to assume that what happens in Britain or Europe can be simply applied to NZ. While there are broader trends that are the same, we need an indigenous analysis of class struggle and capitalism in NZ not the borrowed writings of British authors applied mindlessly and indiscriminately to a country 12,000 miles away. The
Polynesian populace is overwhelmingly working class (for those of us lucky enough to have a job)...our values and outlook are not the same as British workers. We need to build an indigenous analysis and political strategy that relates to the realities of surviving capitalism in our own little part of the world. –

No comments: