Rituals of Encounter

Learning from Indigenous Processes
         of First Contact.

Rituals of Encounter.

Building the basis for consensus and friendly relations between strangers is not an
“Poverty Bay”), where he first sighted the headland named Te Upoko o Te Kuri a
Paoa (and immediately renamed “Young Nick’s...
Cook himself, chose to go forward to meet the man, giving his musket to an attendant
and moved to join him. The man retrea...
understood the ritualised process, the outcome would probably have been much more
agreeable for all parties.

Mãori Ritual...
3.     Karanga (call of welcome by the hosts)
                 When the visitors have accepted the taki, an older woman on...
6. Tangi (wailing in remembrance of the dead on both sides)
             As they approach the hosts, the visitors will usu...
discussions can take place. Once again,, before the discussion
               commences, each visitor, will identify thems...
and breath-sharing only comes after a whole process of challenging, remembering the
dead, crying, speaking and gifting. Up...
Proceedings begin with a karakia, often asking for wisdom and guidance in what is to
follow. An elder of the host side the...
each person stands and offers their background as described. No one is allowed to
interrupt and the speaker may hold the f...
From this point, discussion is free-ranging. Anyone may speak, for as long as they
wish, and no one may interrupt. Discuss...
This historical systematic suppression of Mãori traditional language and culture,
coupled with the imposition of British c...

Traditional Mãori rituals of encounter are long, complex and elaborate. They are very
different from the brie...
Ward, A., Hegemony and Education in New Zealand, WIPCE Conference
Proceedings, Waikato University, Hamilton, New Zealand, ...
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A critical analysis of the confusions that arise when people of different cultures meet each other for the first time, and a suggestion that we modify the structutre of communication to build lasting consensus.

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  1. 1. Rituals of Encounter Learning from Indigenous Processes of First Contact. © 2009 Tony Ward To download other free PDFs visit: www.TonyWardEdu.com.
  2. 2. Rituals of Encounter. Introduction Building the basis for consensus and friendly relations between strangers is not an easy task. In another context (http://www.tonywardedu.com/content/view/355/40/) I have described a series of criteria that are the essential building materials for constructing consensus on co-creative projects involving strangers. What I did not include in that list of methodological criteria was a description of the necessary foundations for the construction – the characteristics necessary for a successful first encounter between strangers. Here I hope to correct that omission. We in the modern, fast, technologically “advanced” western world have all but lost touch with the processes and rituals of encounter that were such an important part of pre-industrial society – before production and consumption ethics consumed our lives, and reduced our social relations to superficiality and alienating values of competition, hierarchy and mutual (ab)use. We no longer have the time to engage with each other as feeling, sentient beings with whom we might share common goals, hopes and dreams. Instead we pay perfunctory attention to the details of initial engagement as though they were an almost unnecessary prelude to the essential stuff of closing a deal or gaining agreement to action. In this, we could not be further from the truth. The ways in which we initially encounter each other establish the ground upon which all subsequent dialogue will be built, influencing its shape and direction and, ultimately, its outcome. Without the proper foundation, the construction of consenuality will eventually collapse. It may stand for a time, but inevitably, it will eventually fall. First impressions do count, but in much more than the superficial ways we have come to believe. The ritualised processes of encounter used by our ancestors and developed over millennia of trial and error have much to teach us about establishing good, solid foundations for dialogue and mutual creation. In this essay I want to describe one such traditional structure of ritualised encounter – that of the Mãori – which still operates today, which still contains many of the characteristics of pre-colonial life, and from which I believe we can learn and eventually build a process that is amenable to modern life. The wisdom of these ancient social processes, although conceived in a very different context, still has the power to transform our world if we but use it with love and care. Historical Perspective When Lieutenant James Cook of the Royal Navy sailed the 10 gun Royal Navy Bark Endeavour into Turanganui a Kiwa, in Aotearoa on the 6th October 1769, the lives of the people he was destined to encounter were changed forever. Cook had been ordered by the Admiralty to sail to Tahiti to observe the transit of Venus across the sun in July of that year and, having carried out his mission opened his secret Admiralty orders, informing him to sail South to either find the land mass of Terra Australis Incognita or to find the east side of the island that the Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, had discovered 126 years earlier. Cook’s voyage brought him to this place – Turanganui a Kiwa (Literally “the stopping place of Kiwa”, which he later renamed
  3. 3. “Poverty Bay”), where he first sighted the headland named Te Upoko o Te Kuri a Paoa (and immediately renamed “Young Nick’s Head” after Nick Young the surgeon’s boy who first made the sighting). As they sailed into the wide bay, Cook and his crew had noticed several smoke fires and a palisaded enclosure on top of one of the surrounding hills and realising that the land was inhabited, had speculated excitedly on what it might be. Two days later, Cook launched a pinnacle with himself, the ship’s botanist and surgeon and a company of armed marines, and made for the beach near the mouth the east side of the Turanganui River. Here they disembarked. They noticed that a small group of people on the other bank had now disappeared into the bush, so they crossed the river mouth to investigate. There they found recently-abandoned fishing camp. While they were inspecting this, shots rang out, and they returned to the yawl that had carried them across the river to discover that one of a group of natives that had advanced on the landing party had been shot and killed. Cook left the shore, leaving a collection of nails and beads on the body as a sign of reconciliation. The next day he returned with three boats and a large armed party back to the east bank of the river. The body was still there, untouched because it was too tapu or sacred (the cause of death being mysterious to the locals). When Cook, Banks (his botanist) and Tupaia (a Tahitian member of the Endeavour crew (brought along to facilitate and translate) approached the river, they were accosted by a large party of warriors who commenced to perform a fierce haka (threatening dance). A musket was fired into the water, which stopped the haka abruptly. Cook then withdrew until the marines had landed. At this point, Tupaia moved forward hailed the warriors in Tahitian. Both parties realised that they were able to communicate, and soon one of the warriors detached himself and swam to a rock in the middle of the river, where he indicated that he wished one of the visitors to join him there. This rock, Te Toka-a-Taiau was, and still remains an acknowledged boundary marker and place of meeting between local tribes and sub-tribes.
  4. 4. Cook himself, chose to go forward to meet the man, giving his musket to an attendant and moved to join him. The man retreated for a while before coming forward to hongi (traditional Mãori greeting of touching noses) with the Captain. At this point a great number of warriors came across the river and Cook was busy giving away trinkets The now large number of warriors, once again started to haka and to try to exchange gifts with the visitors. When one of them grabbed a short-sword from the ship’s astronomer, Charles Green and was wounded by Joseph Banks and then shot dead by the ship’s surgeon, William Monkhouse. The warriors swam back to the other side of the river with several wounded. Cook and his boat crew took to their boats and rowed around the bay looking for a safe anchorage. They saw a number of unarmed natives in canoes paddling out into the bay, ostensibly fishing, and the Europeans decided to capture the occupants, bring them back to the Endeavour to show them that they bore no ill will. When the occupants of one of the canoes saw the armed boats approaching with intent to intercept and capture them they tried to row away. But shots from the boats halted them. As Cook and his men came alongside, the seven natives on board attempted to resist capture by throwing stones and paddles at their assailants, whereupon more shots were fired into the canoes, killing a further four occupants. The remaining three leapt into the water and attempted to evade capture by swimming away, but were eventually caught and taken back to the Endeavour. This version of the story is taken primarily from the logs of Joseph Banks (http://www2.sl.nsw.gov.au/banks/series_03/03_410.cfm) or from other accounts that have sourced their material from these. We have no written Mãori version of the events, since Mãori was an oral culture. We do, however, have accounts that were conveyed to later explorers by Mãori who had witnessed what happened. Initially, the people of Turanganui-a-Kiwa had thought that the approaching Endeavour was either a floating island or a huge bird, and that the occupants were either gods or beings from the mythical homeland of Hawaiki, the arrival of whom had earlier been prophesied by a holy man. In either case it is unlikely that they would have attacked these new and unusual visitors without going through the elaborate protocols of encounter that were an essential part of their cultural practice. Indeed, the haka was a crucial part of these protocols. Misinterpreted and misnamed as “war dance” – a precursor to attack - by Europeans (who today mostly witness it in pre-game confrontations by the New Zealand rugby teams)1, the haka is, in fact only one component of a sophisticated and drawn out process of encounter the aim of which is the establishment of mutual understanding, respect and accord between different peoples. It was traditional also to haka in acknowledgement and respect of the mana of a great leader – a tradition still carried on today. The fact that Cook and his company misinterpreted these rituals of encounter in the very first instance had bitter consequences for the folk of Turanganui-kiwa, and this initial misunderstanding, coupled with what could only be described as colonial arrogance in the later attempt to capture the occupants of the canoes (with equally fatal results) coloured all subsequent encounters. Had Cook (or Tupaia) correctly 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UuXmk4tVoSE
  5. 5. understood the ritualised process, the outcome would probably have been much more agreeable for all parties. Mãori Rituals of Encounter By the time James Cook arrived at Turanganui-a-Kiwa, Mãori had already been living continuously in New Zealand for approximately five hundred years. They had come from the North and East – the Cook Islands, Tonga, Samoa, voyaging across thousands of miles of ocean in double-hulled sailing canoes. Accounts of the number of canoes vary, but by the time of Cook, Mãori were well settled and in a continual state of struggle for land and resources. They were a warlike people who practiced cannibalism on their enemies and there was a more or less continual war between different tribal and sub-tribal groups. Alliances were made and broken, intermarriages were arranged to broker peace and the system of tenuously peaceful interaction was held together by two great traditions – tikanga (traditional cultural practices and customs) and utu (the law of reciprocity). Utu or reciprocity worked in both positive and negative ways. A kindness given was a kindness to be reciprocated, but by the same token, a slight or injury given was an injury owed. Utu sometimes extended beyond the lifespan of individuals, and was held in the collective memory of the group. Hence an injury given generations ago but never reciprocated by a counter- action might continue to be seen as an outstanding debt. In such an uncertain and dangerous social world, initial encounters between strangers were particularly fraught. The stranger met for the first time may be the descendant of an ancestor to whom a great unrecompensed wrong had been done by the host’s forebears, and such an encounter could be accompanied by extreme and often mortal danger. To ensure that discourse, trade and tribal relations could persist in the face of such danger and uncertainty, Mãori devised a very specific set of sequential ritual practices, at each step of which the possibility of acute danger from the Other is acknowledged, studied, checked against historical oral records and then accepted as the basis for a further lessening of safeguards. The haka is but one of these rituals, albeit at the very beginning of any encounter. The sequence is composed of eight components: 1. Waerea (protective incantation by the visitors) An incantation by one of the leaders of the visiting group to alert the hosts of an impending visit, to seek guidance and protection from the Atua (gods) for safety, and to clear the path of any supernatural obstacles that might have been laid by sorcerers. The Waerea was used more in ancient times than today. 2. Wero (the challenge, including haka) The wero: meaning “cast a spear”, was the traditional way of testing visitors to see if they came in peace or war, in which a host warrior runs out, gesticulating, grimacing and wielding his taiaha (spear) and places taki - a ritual object (carved stick, white feather) on the path in front of the important visitor. This is usually retrieved by an aide to the visiting dignitary. The warrior then returns to his own “side” and the visitors commence their entry. In the old days, the position in which the taki was laid on the path indicated whether the host group were intent on aggression or peace
  6. 6. 3. Karanga (call of welcome by the hosts) When the visitors have accepted the taki, an older woman on the host “side” then commence a karanga or wailing call of welcome in which the visitors are called on to approach the hosts group. Often the greeting will contain a welcome to the spirits of the dead or ancestors. The approach to the hosts is almost always led by the women of the visiting group one of whom may respond to the welcome in like manner, giving reference to their origins and greeting the hosts and the spirits of their dead.2 The visitors then begin their approach through the waharoa (gate) and across the marae atea (a clear area between the gate and the waiting host party and their meeting house. The marae atea is seen as the domain of Tumatauenga – the Mãori god of war. Marae Atea (left) the domain of Tumatauenga, ther god of war (right) 4. The Haka: (ceremonial aggressive dance by the men, brandishing weapons and inspiring fear and dread) During the approach, the host group may show a fearsome display of aggression, distorting their faces, putting out their tongues and threatening attack. This is to show the visitors that the hosts are powerful and dangerous and that they are on their guard for any subterfuge (which was often the case in less peaceful times). It is also intended as a display of respect for the mana and authority of the visitor(s). It is now mostly used to welcome important people or dignitaries onto a Marae (a ceremonial place of gathering belonging to an Iwi (tribe) or Hapu (sub-tribe). 5. Powhiri (action chant of welcome by the hosts’ womenfolk) This is a general warm, welcoming chant, often accompanied by actions and performed by the women on the host side.3 Its purpose is to ward off evil spirits and provide the visitors with a safe access to the Marae. 2 Nga Puhi (an Iwi located mostly in the North of the North Island) will generally be led on by elder men and will also have male replies to karanga. 3 Another exception! Haka powhiri that are performed by women aren’t always warm and welcoming and can be a forceful as the men. Ngat Porou (East Coast of the North Island) are famous for them.
  7. 7. 6. Tangi (wailing in remembrance of the dead on both sides) As they approach the hosts, the visitors will usually pause to remember those who have died on both sides, and to perhaps bid their spirits to leave or remain quiet during the proceedings. In past times when utu may be involved in historic grievances, this was often a way of ensuring that past misdemeanours, slights or misunderstandings did not contaminate or influence current proceedings. Often the women on both sides will wail or keen at this time and there is often a copious amount of weeping. 7. Whaikorero (speech making by both sides) Once the visitors have approached to a point where talk is possible, they move to the side and engage in a period (often lengthy) of speech- making. Here there is first a welcome from a host-elder, welcoming the visitors and making reference to their ancestors, turangawaewae (home location, literally “a place to stand”), mountain and river. Then there follows two different protocols, paeke (where all the hosts speakers speak first one after the other followed by the visitors) and tauautuutu (where host and visiting speakers alternate).4 Whatever the order of speaking, the visitors will first acknowledge the hosts, their manawhenua (geographical authority), their history, and any previous historical encounters between the two groups. They will identify themselves formally and will usually refer to the reasons for the current visit. It is customary after each speech, for the speaker (and a cohort of supporters) to sing a traditional waiata (song or chant). When all of the speeches are finished, the last speaker of the visitors usually place a gift or koha on the ground as a token of friendship and material support. 8. Hongi (ritual pressing of noses, handshaking) With the formal introductions completed, the visitors now move for the first time to have physical contact with the hosts. This takes the form of a hongi – a ritual pressing of noses and simultaneous hand-shake, in which both sides line up and move slowly past each other so that everyone on each side formally greets everyone on the other side. In the hongi, breath is shared, and sometimes foreheads are also pressed together – sharing thoughts and feelings. 9. Kai (sharing of food) Once everyone has formally greeted everyone else, the visitors are taken for a shared meal, where they are served first as a mark of respect and manaakitanga (hospitality). The sharing of food is the final step in the “lifting of tapu”, that is, the removal of all dangerous spiritual impediments to friendship and open communication 10. Take (discussion of purposes) Following the shared meal, both groups usually will then retire to a place (usually a Wharenui or meeting house) where the proposed 4 Tauautuutu is a tradition practiced mostly my Tainui, in the Waikato.
  8. 8. discussions can take place. Once again,, before the discussion commences, each visitor, will identify themselves, their tribal and geographical affiliations, possible kinship connections to the host group. This allows tribal affiliations to be known, remembered and for the oral culture and Whakapapa (genealogy) to be maintained. These sequential components of the overall traditional encounter of Mãori helped to maintain a balancing of utu and the establishment and maintenance of cordial relationships between often antagonistic groups. Taken individually, they represent key components of a gradual process of interaction extending from potential aggression at one end to amity at the other. Collectively they offer a systematic structure of encounter communications from which we may learn to improve the conditions of our own mutual encounters and strivings. What Can We Learn from Mãori Ritual Encounters? The first thing that we can observe about the relationships that developed between Cook and the people of Turanganui-a-Kiwa is that it was an encounter between peoples of radically different culture, histories and social practices. In those days it was rare for any except explorers or colonists to encounter such cultural differences during their lifetimes. Today, cultural differences of an equal magnitude occur daily at the local, regional, national and international levels. We take such encounters for granted as part of our modern multicultural existence, but not unlike James Cook, we make all sorts of assumptions about the beliefs, intentions and motivations of the Strange Other that often prove to be incorrect and often tragically so, just as it was for the crew of the Endeavour. Cook’s mistake, of course, was to perceive the haka as an actual attack, rather than as a symbolic step in a process of getting-to-know, and to respond by killing the supposed attackers. Given that the gulf between cultural meanings and understandings between strangers in an initial encounter can be so demonstrably wide, it is therefore important to recognise secondly that the process of encounter must of necessity be gradual in all instances. Understanding does not come quickly or easily across cultures, and any intention to engage in mutuality must necessarily take time to allow for step-by-step processes of internalisation, reflection, calculated response (modelling), confirmation and agreement of meaning. At each step of the process there exists the danger of misunderstanding, and since each understanding is constructed on previous understandings and agreements the process must be gradual and slow. It is interesting to note that in modern Mãori encounters non-Mãori participants often complain about the time taken by each step – and in particular by the whaikorero (speech-making) component of the process. But from a Mãori perspective this gradual and time consuming ritual is not just essential, but enjoyable – simply because it increases and extends the degree of mutual knowledge and understanding of both visitors and hosts. Being gradual and graduated, the process is also necessarily sequential. Since each level of understanding and intimacy is constructed on earlier understandings, each segment of the process contains its own degree or level of intimacy, extending from the most alien (as of that between potential aggressors) to the most intimate (that of the hongi and food-sharing). Each step, therefore, is more intimate than the last, and it is important to keep the sequence in the correct order. The final act of mutual touching
  9. 9. and breath-sharing only comes after a whole process of challenging, remembering the dead, crying, speaking and gifting. Up to this point each step explores and expresses not only a different and increasing level of intimacy but also a different level of sensory experience – fear, grief, respect, empathy, pride, humility, acceptance. In this way, the mutual experience operated not merely in a linguistic or rational domain, but also at a spiritual and emotional level. All aspects of human consciousness are involved and engaged, and the learning is therefore not only at the conscious, but also at the unconscious or sub-conscious level. To aid this process, a variety of media are implemented – waiata (songs), haka (dance, movement), karakia (prayers or incantations), whaikorero (poetic oratory) and, finally, touch and those most intimate of modalities, odour and taste. Who Is the Other? All of this is very well, but following the hongi and a meal, we are still confronted by two groups who know each other only collectively. The whaikorero, hongi and kai offer limited opportunities for knowing the Other at an individual level. In traditional encounters, this could still prove to be problematic, since historical slights may have happened below the level of Iwi or tribe, and individuals or whanau (family members) within a group might be the harbingers of utu of which the larger group were not aware or with whom they were complicit. It was thus essential for both safety and cordiality reasons to increase the level of intimacy yet further, down to the hapu (sub- tribe), whanau and individual level, and such is still the case. This process takes place once the meal is finished and the two groups move to the take or discussion-proper, which usually takes place in the wharenui. The wharenui is a large building – sometimes large enough to accommodate up to two hundred people. Both the inside and outside of the building are usually intricately carved with stylised images of ancestors, and the building itself is seen as the body of the founding ancestor, with the ridge as the spine, the rafters as the ribs and the bargeboards as the arms. The entrance is often stylised with carvings depicting the female genitals (passing under which represents the ultimate “lifting” of tapu), so that the sense is one of entering into the body of the ancestor. As a mark of respect, shoes are removed and left outside. Wharenui of the Tuhoe people in Te Urewera Once inside, the hosts and visitors sit in a circle around the walls, overlooked by the ever-watchful images of the ancestors behind them. On entering, the host group usually sits to the left where they can guard the door, the visitors sit to the right.
  10. 10. Proceedings begin with a karakia, often asking for wisdom and guidance in what is to follow. An elder of the host side then makes another formal speech welcoming the guests to the tribal area, the marae, the ancestral house, followed by a waiata, to which the guests reciprocate, acknowledging each of the identifying markers (mountain, river, marae, house, tribe as well as the ancestors) of the hosts. Following this, begins a process of personal identification in which each person present stands to name and locate themselves within the wider framework of Maori culture. The naming and identification is much broader and deeper than that to which non-Maori are usually accustomed, and includes not only the person’s name, and occupation, but the birth location, tribal affiliations, family history and geographical markers like rivers and mountains. Mãori traditionally identify themselves not as individuals, but as members of a set of relations which includes not only human relatives, but also places and landmarks that are viewed as ancestors. Hence, an individual will begin a formal introduction of self-identification by first naming their mountain, then their river, then their tribe, their hapu, their whanau (family) and so on. In pre-European times Mãori land tenure was in a continual state of flux, as tribes moved to occupy more fertile territories, fishing grounds and so on. One of the ways in which manawhenua (authority or custodianship or historical use rights) over territory was to ensure that occupation was maintained in the collective memory of the people. Hence to identify oneself through a place was to ensure a continuing and collective relationship to that place no matter what else transpired. In addition to issues of identity, there were, as already noted, also issues of utu (reciprocal responsibilities, debts and/or retributions to consider). A perceived injustice from several generations past might still be the fuel for a conflict in the present. Hence, an extended description of whakapapa (genealogy) taking into account descriptions of geographical location became a crucial marker to inter-tribal histories. This is why, when they introduce themselves in the discussions, Mãori describe so extensively their geographical as well as their hereditary place and space.5 Finally, Mãori place names, like the Turanganui-a-kiwa already mentioned, are almost always descriptions of historic events – in this case, the stopping or resting of Kiwa at this place. The four main tribal groups of the region, (Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki, Rongowhakaata, Ngai Ta Manuhiri and Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti) have a common ancestor, Kiwa, who landed here and discovered the area. (In much the same way that Young Nick’s head was named by Cook). The Mãori name therefore stands as a reminder not only of the history of who came here first, but of a bond of common ancestry between proximate peoples, allowing for extensions of trade and goodwill between them. The importance of Mãori place names to Mãori identity, Mãori history, Mãori social relations and Mãori political relations is therefore paramount, and all of this is why Mãori go to such pains to locate themselves in the social, cultural and geographical nexus of their world. In this process of identification taking place within the body of the ancestral house, moving clockwise from the door, and beginning with the tangata whenua or hosts, 5 When James Cook arrived in Turanganui-a-Kiwa he commenced a process that was to continue for the next 150 years – the renaming of all places in Aotearoa (New Zealand) with English names. Almost all of these names introduced by Cook and those that followed him are still with in use today, although there is a concerted effort by Mãori to reinstate the Mãori place names. This is hardly surprising
  11. 11. each person stands and offers their background as described. No one is allowed to interrupt and the speaker may hold the floor for as long as he or she wishes. In the process a complex and detailed understanding is established of individual identities, relationships, family connections and personal expectations – all overseen by the image-ancestors of the host group. The leader or most senior person (usually a man) of the host group will then summarise what seems to have been learned by everyone, drawing on relationships, family connections and historical events and precedents, and so on. Only when this process has been completed can the real business, the take – the reason for the visit be discussed and undertaken. Let us note that the participants in such a process have been moved from a state of potential aggression to an experience of mutual accord, and to a mutual acceptance of the task at hand. Compare this to the usual meeting format in a European setting, or more particularly a British setting using Roberts Rules of Order which are used for all formal meetings and for all parliamentary debates.6 Here, the participants may well begin and end as strangers, there are rules who may speak and when, strict guidelines about what issues may be raised, in what order, and the whole process is directed by a Chairperson who wields immense power. The process itself is confrontational and adversarial. In the House of Commons, where the British Parliament meets, for instance, the Government of the day and the opposition sit across from each other separated by a distance that is slightly greater than two sword-lengths – a remnant from the time when actual physical violence was not uncommon in debates. Within this system, the majority rules, and minority interests may or may not be acknowledged and included in final decision-making, invariably leading to unresolved expectations, hopes and ambitions on the part of minorities. The Take – Making Decisions Compared to the European debating system, the Mãori way of conducting discussion seems often loose and indecisive and often takes a much longer period of time to achieve results. But the results, when they are achieved are invariably much more inclusive and are framed in the context of conflict resolution rather than majority rule. Consensus is the primary aim of all parties, since an intimacy has already been established under which the rules of manaakitanga (hospitality) and awhinatanga (support and assistance) now operate. The discussion begins with a general overview of the problem or task to be considered or resolved, usually given by the prominent spokesperson for one of the two sides. 6 The British and American rules of legislative debate differ. Britain uses Thomas Erskine May’s A Practical Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament (1851) , known simply as Erskine May. In the U.S. the State Legislatures follow Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure (1935). Below the legislative level most public meetings in both countries are conducted under Roberts Rules of Order. These were first formulated by U.S. Army Major Henry Martyn Robert in 1876. Being based upon military principles of discipline and hierarchy and conceived in an era of colonial expansion, they pay little regard to minority perceptions or interests. Further, they have operated for more than a century on the basis of a largely mono-cultural (and Euro-centric) social environment – a situation quite radically different from the conditions of multiculturalism that we find ourselves in today. I would suggest that the use of Roberts Rules of Order constitutes one of the greatest impediments to securing long-lasting agreements between peoples of different cultures. http://www.robertsrules.com/. See also: http://www.robertsrules.org/, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert%27s_Rules_of_Order
  12. 12. From this point, discussion is free-ranging. Anyone may speak, for as long as they wish, and no one may interrupt. Discussion will progress until everyone who wishes to has spoken and until it is clear that a consensus decision has been made. Sometimes discussions may go on long into the night, and participants frequently doze. This is not seen as ill-mannered, since in the half-awake/half-asleep state the mind is recognised as being particularly receptive, allowing access to unconscious or subconscious internalisation of that which is being discussed. If everyone has spoken the elder from the host side will normally summarise any decisions that have been made so that everyone present is clear and in agreement about what needs to be done. If a decision has not been reached, then the elder will clartify this and suggest that there needs to be further time and reflection before another hui (meeting) to come to agreement. Rarely if ever, are decisions taken that exclude minority points of view or interests except with the explicit acknowledgment and permission of the minorities concerned. The meeting is concluded with a karakia, giving thanks to all of the people present as well as to the ancestors and the atua (god(s). Modern Mãori Decision-Making While Mãori traditional ritual practices of encounter are still used as a central part of Mãori cultural life, they have been to some extent superseded in formal meetings by official Maõri bodies and have been replaced by Roberts Rules of Order. One of the main reasons for this may be the relationship that exists between Government (which controls the Mãori economy and which still requires British forms of recording and accountability of meeting procedures), and Mãori groups that are dependant upon Government economic support. Since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, Mãori have been increasingly subject to the rule of law imposed upon them by the original colonial government (referred to as The Crown). As in all other similar situations, the new colonial government set out to disenfranchise the indigenous people, and to dismantle their culture and assimilate them into British cultural life. Part of that process involved the eradication of key components of Maori life and constitutional practice – Mãori were compelled to attend English-speaking schools where they were forbidden to speak their own language, Whare Wãnanga (traditional Mãori places of higher learning) and Tohunga (learned Mãori expert practitioners) were suppressed7 and would-be Mãori academics were relegated to curricula designed to produce servants, maids and agricultural workers.8 This white supremacist attitude carried through to the dismantling (or ignoring) of traditional Mãori constitutional forms and bodies and their replacement with and pakeha (European settler) alternatives. This has continued down to the present in many instances. In a series of legislative moves, the Crown set about establishing a system of local self-government for Maori tribes that would subordinate Maori sovereignty and authority to that of the Crown.9 7 This was accomplished with the Tohunga Suppression Act (1907). See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tohunga_Suppression_Act_1907. 8 See for example the case of Te Aute College in Ward, A., Hegemony and Education in New Zealand, (http://www.tonywardedu.com/content/view/152/40/) 9 The Maori Trust Boards Act (1955) was passed to ensure that the Parliament retained control over how tribal assets would be administered. Maori Trusts Boards were superceded Runanga by the Runanga Iwi Act (1990) designed to centralise Mâori tribal governance structures in order to pass increasingly stringent
  13. 13. This historical systematic suppression of Mãori traditional language and culture, coupled with the imposition of British constitutional forms and administrative structures that do not correspond to traditional Mãori decision-making processes has resulted in the abandonment by Mãori of these traditional processes, sometimes resulting in significant intra-tribal conflicts, factionalism and disaffection.10 I believe that the abandonment by Mãori of their own traditional consensus decision-making processes and the adoption of British models of management and administration represents not only one unfortunately successful aspect of colonial assimilation policies, but also a retrograde step in their striving for tino rangatiratanga and their ability to govern themselves. This opinion is based not only on patronising conjecture, but on the basis of direct experience. During a twenty-year period while I was teaching in the Department of Architecture at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, I ran the Community Design Studio that specialised in real projects in the community for groups that could not afford professional design fees. Almost invariably, this meant working with Mãori groups in assisting them to realise their environmental and building design projects. In 1991, the students in the programme were involved with a group on Waiheke Island – a small dormitory island off the main city of Auckland in the Waitemata Harbour. The group had been formed to develop a Marae for the island’s Mãori community. A piece of land had been set aside and named Piritahi Marae and a Whare Kai (dining room) had already been constructed some years earlier. Now the Marae Development Committee was meeting regularly with the students from the Community Design Studioclass to develop plans for an adjacent Whare Nui. It should have been a straightforward process, but the committee, operating on pakeha lines got bogged down in discord and recrimination. The students were on the point of abandoning the project when Saul Roberts, one of the Mãori students, suggested that the client group change their meeting structure to conform to tikanga Mãori principles. There was an immediate change in the emotional climate in the group as well as in the temper of the discussions. The design was realised in very short time and the Whare Nui design was completed. It now stands as a testament to the significance Mãori protocols in the achievement in co-creative consensus planning. In subsequent projects the protocols of the Community Design Studio were always monitored to ensure that design discussions were not held within the format of Roberts Rules of Order, but were conducted according to Mãori traditions. As the Studio became more and more iengaged in projects in the Mãori community, its consensus-building processes developed in many ways, some of which are more fully detailed elsewhere.11 government accountability standards. The demands by the Crown for greater accountability of Mãori assets came at a time when government policies were intent upon selling off state-owned assets on the international market. Many of these assets were subject to Mãori claims under the treaty of Waitangi Despite being repealed by the incoming National government one year later, they remain fiscally subject to the jurisdiction of the Minister of Maori Affairs. See: Wickliffe, C. and Dickson, M., Toi Te Kupu, Toi Te Mana, Toi Te Whenua (Maori Development in a Global Society - Options for Constitutional Change), www.cpsu.org.uk/downloads/Matiu_Di.pdf. 10 See, for instance, the case of the struggle for control of the Tainui Iwi: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/boards- and-governance/news/article.cfm?c_id=133&objectid=10546239 11 Ward, A., The Ward Method, (1990) http://www.tonywardedu.com/content/view/361/49/
  14. 14. Conclusions Traditional Mãori rituals of encounter are long, complex and elaborate. They are very different from the brief rituals (handshakes, name-tags, brief bio’s) that we use today in the educational and business worlds. They were conceived and evolved in a very different social and historical time in the context of potential violence and warfare. Yet despite their strangeness and their differences from our own current practice there is much that we can learn from them about laying the foundations for a successful long- lasting consensus building among strangers. The traditional Mãori ritual practices governing first encounters still operate today in modern Mãori culture, albeit in slightly modified form. They have proved to be extremely helpful in assisting Mãori to make collective consensus decisions that are creative and successful. They can also be seen a source of inspiration and an example to non-Mãori seeking to develop strategies for consensus decision-making in a multicultural context. The more prevalent Roberts Rules of Order work differently. Their aim is to facilitate the efficient working of meetings where efficiency is framed not in terms of the effectiveness of long-lasting consensual agreements but in reducing the time taken to arrive at decisions, irrespective of their long-term outcomes. The supposed efficiencies of this imposed British system may, in the long run be less efficient and less effective than its more inclusive indigenous counterparts. In my next essay I will suggest some specific ways that these Mãori protocol might be adapted and used in a non-Mãori context. Bibliography. Banks, J., The Papers of Sir Joseph Banks, State Library of New South Wales, (http://www2.sl.nsw.gov.au/banks/series_03/03_410.cfm) Harawira, W., Te Kawa o Te Marae: A Guide for all Marae Visitors, Reed Publishing, New Zealand, 1997. Hough, R., Captain James Cook, Norton Publishing, New York, 1997. King, M., The Penguin History of New Zealand, Penguin, Auckland, New Zealand, 2003. Mead, H. R., Tikanga: Living by Mãori Values, Huia press, New Zealand, 2003. Salmond, A., Hui: A Study of Mãori Ceremonial Gatherings. Reed Publishing, New Zealand, 179. Salmond, A., Two Worlds: First Meetings Between Maori and Europeans 1642-1772 Viking Press, Auckland, 1991 Ward, A., In Support of Critical Pedagogical Method, (1990) http://www.tonywardedu.com/content/view/355/40/ Ward, A., The Ward Method, (1990) http://www.tonywardedu.com/content/view/361/49/
  15. 15. Ward, A., Hegemony and Education in New Zealand, WIPCE Conference Proceedings, Waikato University, Hamilton, New Zealand, 2005. See also: http://www.tonywardedu.com/content/view/152/40/