Explorations of the term ‘Indigenous’
I am an Indigenous Practitioner, but I am still on a journey to discover what that truly means. Our struggle as Māori in Aotearoa, as a colonised people, has created a raft of inter-generational issues that we are still feeling and dealing with. For me growing up, it has been hard to fully embrace my “taha Māori”. Although I went to a Māori high-school, and my whanau identified strongly with our Māori heritage, outside these spaces, “being pakeha” offered advantages I would never have received had I looked Māori. It is only in the past 15 or so years that I have truly come to understand the power, resilience, love and grace of te ao Māori. And here I find myself, challenged to position myself in this world, and therefor to be able to define what it means to be Indigenous.
On the surface the word Indigenous seems self-evident, but I actually need to understand its significance, its use in both local and global contexts, and how it impacts how we do what we do. It appears to me as if we go through decades where a particular set of words become the every-day buzzwords. Over the past couple of years, I have often said to people that I work with, that while innovation is the buzzword of this decade, indigenous will be the buzzword of the next decade. What I mean by this is that I can see the word indigenous being used and commercialised by western organisations and systems, with little or no regard to the true understanding of what it means to be indigenous. We only need to google “cultural appropriation” to see examples of this in practice. While I only have anecdotal evidence of this trend, living in a world that straddles both digital innovation and kaupapa Māori, I believe this to be true. In this position paper, I will explore the meanings of the words indigenous and indigeneity, and look at how they are used by various organisations around the world. I will define what indigenous means in my practice, and why I believe it is important for us, as Māori, to own the use of Indigenous and Indigeneity in Aotearoa.