January 09, 2014
Tradition at risk in powhiri review
MPs are expressing concern that a review of Maori protocols at Parliament could involve an attempt to change traditional practices.
The review was called by the Speaker, David Carter, in response to an incident during a powhiri for the Youth Parliament earlier in the year when Labour MPs Annette King and Maryan Street were asked to move from their front row seats because they were women.
Manurewa MP Louisa Wall says tikanga Maori is part of the national identity, and it is important that Maori are recognised in parliament as the first peoples.
“This is not an exercise in melding (or moulding) cultures and philosophies. It is not a matter for compromise. It is for Maori and Maori alone to determine the appropriateness and nature of tikanga and the kawa that emanates from that,” Ms Wall says.
She says while the kawa of a powhiri should not be changed, there may be occasions where a less formal mihi whakatau may be appropriate.
Green MP Catherine Delahunty says rather than talking about the “modernisation” of powhiri, Mr Carter should consider modernizing some of the arcane Westminister traditions, such as the use of the mace, which symbolizes violent maintenance of medieval authority.
She says as a feminist she understands the appeal of sitting in the front row from a Pakeha definition of power sharing, but that bias fails to recognise how in powhiri Maori honour women on their terms.
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