Iwi connections important for urban Maori

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ErinKeenan

Many Maori who migrated to Wellington 50 years ago still dont consider the city home, new research from Victoria University of Wellington reveals.

As part of Erin Keenans PhD research, she spoke to Maori about their migration experiences after WWII, with a specific focus on the capital city.

These are people who have lived in the city for over 50 years and they still dont see themselves as being a person from Wellingtonits somewhere they live, but not where theyre from.

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The fact that Maori still feel the need to deny this urbanisationthat they prioritise iwi identities over loyalty to a cityshows that the idea still carries some weight that urbanisation required the loss of iwi identities, despite evidence to the contrary.
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However, instead of a simple story of loss and loneliness, urbanisation was also about resilience, she says.

Erin found a range of reasons why Maori moved to Wellington and stayed and there was no universal experience for those who made the journey.

Erin recalls one womans positive experience. She enjoyed meeting people from different iwi and backgrounds and found people to be friendly. This contrasts with another who felt so separate from her family and she ended up getting into a bit of trouble.

Erin also spoke to people who described moving to Wellington as a time of loss, disconnection and detribalisation (the abandonment of local customs to adopt urban ways of living).

One person found visiting home was too hard emotionally so she didnt visit. Another felt he needed to go home regularly as a way to recharge his batteries.

Erin says she made the topic of Maori urbanisation experiences her own, even looking into a personal connection to the research area.

When her grandfather returned from the New Zealand Air Force at the end of WWII, he moved from Pungarehu to New Plymouth where he was a part of a rehabilitation scheme for Maori soldiers.

When Erin looked through archived records of this time in her grandfathers life, it inspired her to think about others and what they had experienced.

Erins grandfather passed away before she started her PhD, but she says his death sparked her motivation. Older generations are only with us for a certain amount of time, so we need to talk about their experiences and learn from them.

The people who lived during those times are our kaum?tua now. I was very privileged to have the chance to interview some of the most knowledgeable.

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