The critical theory of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki

  • Byron Rangiwai


Inscribed in an autograph book in 1949, Sir Āpirana Ngata’s[1] celebrated ōhāki, or parting/death speech, encourages Māori to understand introduced Pākehā knowledge and technologies, while maintaining the knowledge and traditions of their ancestors as a two-pronged approach for Māori progression. He states:


E tipu, e rea, mō ngā rā tōu ao;

Ko tō ringa ki ngā rākau a te Pākehā hei ara mō te tinana;

Ko tō ngākau ki ngā taonga a ō tīpuna Māori hei tikitiki mō tō māhuna,

ā ko tō wairua ki tō Atua nāna nei ngā mea katoa (Panapa, n.d., p. 33, emphasis added).


Anglican Bishop, W. N. Panapa, gave the following translation:


            Grow up oh tender plant

To fulfil the needs of your generation;

Your hand clasping the weapons of the pakeha

As a means for your physical progress,

Your heart centred on the treasures

Of your Maori ancestors

As a plume upon your head,

Your soul given to God

The author of all things (Panapa, n.d., p. 33, emphasis added).


With these words, Ngata offers positive change for Māori going forward through the advantageous amalgamation of two different knowledge systems: ngā rākau a te Pākehā - Western knowledge; and ngā taonga a ō tīpuna Māori - Māori knowledge.

Tipene Tihema-Biddle, a healer from the Waiōhau community in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, states that there needs to be a balance between the whare Māori and the whare Pākehā – the Māori and Pākehā paradigms:


We talk about the whare Pākehā and the whare Māori, and the way we work through things is to come to the realisation that one whare should not impose its tikanga on the other. Yes, Pākehā have imposed their tikanga on Māori for so long and we know the outcomes of that…. It is our belief – and indeed it is the way that we operate in our healing practice – that the whare Māori and the whare Pākehā have their own tikanga working within them, but that both can be neighbours, rather than in constant opposition (T. Tihema-Biddle, personal communication, 20 October, 2011).


The emphasis above relates to collaboration between the Māori and Pākehā ways of knowing and being. However, in order to achieve this, an acute awareness of how the two paradigms interact historically and politically in relation to colonisation and oppression is required. Thus, a considered and critical approach to Western knowledge is necessary. When used critically, Western knowledge is not only useful to colonised people but can be used to transform communities. Royal (1992) states:


We [Māori] are at a point in our history where a tremendous challenge has been laid before us: to seek all that is good in the past, in the world of our ancestors, and place it alongside all that is good from the Pākehā world, thereby creating a new and better world (p. 16).


In the lyrics of Redemption Song, Bob Marley (1980) emboldens the oppressed: “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds” (n.p.). Marley’s music speaks of liberation from oppression (Worth, 1995) and therefore resonates with Māori and their political struggles (Karini, 2009). Like Marley, Freire (1970) states that only the oppressed are capable of freeing themselves. While it is certain that only Māori can emancipate themselves, Māori are free to use whatever methods they choose to achieve this. Ngata believed that using both Indigenous and Western approaches would be a beneficial process. This is also true of the psychiatrist Fanon, who used Western psychiatric and psychological theory as a means for decolonisation (Greedharry, 2008).

This article is about emancipation; it is about the critical use of Māori and Western theory together as a strategy for decolonisation and transformation. This article will define critical theory from a Horkheimeran perspective. A biography of Te Kooti’s life is provided to attempt to understand the critical nature of his spiritual and political agenda, and the social, historical, political and religious context from which his ministry emerged.


[1]     Walker (2001) writes that Sir Āpirana Ngata was “…one of the most illustrious New Zealanders of the twentieth century” (p. 11). Ngata spent his life pursuing the emancipation of the Māori people as a politician and as a prominent leader in the Māori world. Walker (2001) argues that Ngata was “…a man of such extraordinary gifts of intelligence, energy and foresight that among his own Ngāti Porou people he was esteemed as a god among men” (p. 11).


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How to Cite
Rangiwai, B. (2017). The critical theory of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki. Te Kaharoa, 10(1).