Fieldwork today or cultural theft ? (part 5)

Peter Keegan pkeegan at
Fri Feb 7 02:21:01 UTC 1997

At 03:03 PM 2/6/97 -0800,  Mark P. Linex wrote:

>I'm still trying to make up my mind on how I see this ethical question, so
>I'm asking here for a little clarification of your position, Peter.

Okay, I'll try to explain my position.

>1. Do you know for a fact that the two non-Maori "knew little about" the

We very much suspect so. There is little "published" literature and readily
available on the movement. There is even less research. Even if those two
had in fact visited a kohanga reo, its dynamics are lost on those with no
knowledge of Maori language or culture.

>2. Is it possible that what they _did_ know might have been consistent
>with that of a Maori, that what they knew was more than the other
>non-Maori participants at the conference, and that therefore their
>presentations (other things being equal) might have been justified?

No, we argue that we "own" our culture and language. We also "own" the right
to define how the rest of the world see's us. In the past we suffered much
Non-Maori misrepresenting us. Naturally we cautious about what is written
about us and our attempts to retain our language.

>3. Assuming that the two non-Maori participants were qualified to speak
>about the movement from their own perspectives (whatever that might be),
>do you believe that the presence of the Maori's perspective in the
>conference program automatically disqualified every other possible
>perspective from the program?

I perhaps should have perhaps stated Professor Karetu is also a member of
the National controlling body of the Kohanga Reo movement. I'm sure he
would have like to have seen the two papers beforehand and be given the
right to publicly challenge (at the conference) any aspects of those papers
he didn't agree with.

Negative international press could damage the whole movement.

There is a place for external prospectives on Maori language revitalization
efforts. Bernard Spolsky for example, has done much to help the New Zealand
situation. We argue we should have some control over those processes.

>4. Is it possible that the two non-Maori removed their original papers
>from the conference out of respect for the greater first-hand knowledge
>they might have assumed the Maori participant to possess, rather than out
>of any kind of shame, guilt or other shortcoming?

Unfortunately we will probably never find the answer to this one. I
understand there wasn't any consultation !

>Can you expand on your belief that the right to talk about a certain topic
>is dependent on one's skin-color?

It has nothing to do with skin-color, rather, it is birthright. Being of
Maori descent
in New Zealand results in certain privileges, both legally and culturally.
It also
has a downside, sooner or later you encounter racism.

I don't automatically have a right to speak for all Maori. When I do speak on
Maori topics I do so because I have gained clearance from the appropriate
Maori authorities. Thus who gets to speak for Maori is based on birthright and

>> Why where there no Australian Aboriginals at that conference?

This was a rhetorical question

>Do you know for a fact that Australian Aboriginal languages and cultures
>were misrepresented by the white Australians speaking at this conference?

No, this point is valid. I do have some prospective on how white Australians
view Australian Aboriginals.

Peter Keegan
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