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This week the three readings were on pūkārau, a kaupapa Māori research extension, where pūkārau provides the methodology. Pūkārau is a pedagogy.

Pūkākau is a Māori narrative process which links, contextualises and politises stories, drawing on Māori oral literature tradition, knowledges, philosophies, histories, experiences, dreams and aspirations (Lee, 2008, Metge, 1998 &, (Cavino, 2019, pg. 95).

I could write forever on this topic given its relevance to the RAW mahi, however I will try to condense my writing so that my thoughts are well clarified.

There were many questions that arose from these three readings, especially from the story of Kahungunu and Rongomaiwahine, that was in (Jones, pg. 128), to demonstrate the principles of Māori law, whanaungatanga, mana, manaakitanga, tupu/noa and utu. While I understand the use of pūkākau as a tool of Māori legal analysis, and that this process of law, effectively approved of a very significant partnering. However, I am still unsure as the apparent avoidance or even sanctioning of another man’s life (Tamatakutai), being taken to enable this courtship to progress. I wonder how this is dealt with as this story is intergenerationally passed down, as the way it reads in this chapter’s version of the story, Tamatakutai’s pre-planned demise, appears to have been glossed over as insignificant in regards to the collective benefits that arose from the new partnership, deemed to advance the two respective tribes.

The three chapters had me reflect on our RAW mahi and the value that pūkākau would add to privileging the voice of the incarcerated wahine. This value would be not only useful in informing decolonising decarceration strategies but also within the operational content that is delivered inside the prison.
Pūkākau would enable a dissident population to connect and revalue their whanaungatanga, and re-establish their tino rangatiratanga, through the sharing of their stories, that at present are only recorded on Western legal justice records.
It was interesting to reflect in the establishment of our Western legal frame works, how they operate, and their foundational basis, that sits within case law precedent, developed according to the current worldview, social, economic and environmental imperatives of the communities at the time. As opposed to Māori law, that is part of a cultural system, based on Māori traditions recorded in different forms, waiata (songs), whakairo (carvings), karakia (prayers), korero/ pūkākau (histories and stories), that developed from a system of law and social organisation, bought by the first people to arrive in Aotearoa from Hawaiki.
Both common and Māori law draw from stories, one serving the objectives of English communities, the other, comes from different sources, and serves the circumstances and aspirations of Māori.

Māori law operates in a framework of:
1. The Law of Spirituality: That explains the concepts of mana (power/ authority) and kaitiakitanga (guardianship).
2. Law of the Natural World: Management of natural resources.
3. Law of Rununga: Deliberative and collective law making processes.
4. Law of Rangatira: Leaders having the power to impose or remove.
5. Law of the Ancestors: Expression of values that demonstrates flexibility through allowing significant variations to develop between places, circumstances or communities.

Within the analysis framework, above, extracted from (Jones, pg.127), I am drawn to consider the RAW wāhine that I work with on the inside and how this would apply to them as a process to assess their anti-social community behaviours, that subsequently see them ‘repeatedly’ detained.

Why do people in this story do what they do, are their actions determined by:
1. Key values and principles?
2. Past actions and precedent?
3. Their relationship to another?
4. Actions of statements of people in leadership roles?
5. Something else?

What is the central message to this story, and if you were to re tell this story, what would you see as the essential points?

While I sit comfortably with the above framework in principle, I am unsure as to how this would apply to an intergenerationally dissident population that have normalised and amplified criminal lifestyles, drugs, violence and alcohol, and are well versed in playing the justice game, Māori or Western.

You’re right, it does become normalised and glossed. Finding ways to beat the system often seems more merit worthy, than attempting to function within a hateful society with lost mana. Creating such a cultural disconnect (RAW wahine).

It is interesting to note the words of a RAW wāhine, now studying at the University of Waikato within social sciences, who has been detained for over 10 years (2 consecutive sentences).

I think it’s questionable how people, often academics that haven’t experienced prison (and are privy to the traumatic stories within the wire) often think prisons are unhelpful.
I think prison contains a troubled person from hurting themselves (and others) further, and enables professional services to attend to their needs. People on the outside, that lead troubled, pro-social lives, would give their left arm for access to inside services, programs, etc.
This is why containment is helpful, to identify and reach those who deserve restorative work (RAW wāhine).

RAW works with extremely complex wāhine offender’s, therefore our kaupapa reflects their experiences and needs. I also find it questionable (as do the RAW wāhine), that academics with no lived experience on the inside (largely their knowledge has come from research ON this population) lead the way with the decarceration dialogue (often framed as abolition).

I loved gaining an understanding of how when wāhine reclaim and re-author their pūkārau, we reinstate wāhine as holders of the knowledge, as opposed to listening to stories that have been commodified for white consumption.

Noting, the recent Hollywood activity in regards to the commodifying of the Māori legend of Moana, as an example of not only reclaiming, but also rescuing pūkākau from colonising configurations.


The reclaiming of the pūkākau by the wāhine, dovetails beautifully into privileging the voice of the incarcerated wāhine, within the decarceration kaupapa.

Hayley’s recount of how historical pūkārau can weave into contemporary pūkārau, provides a strong example of the ‘Law of the Ancestors’, where she details her three-times great grandmother’s pūkārau on “they would not listen to the voice of a woman” in respect of land confiscation and re-allocation, enabling Hayley to work within and across time and place.

Finally I was drawn to the wonderful analogy of understanding pūkākau and the natural world through the trees. Trees provide the clues on how to understand pūkākau as a methodology, where there is a wealth of information to regenerate cultural sustainability.
Tāne Mahuta (god of the forest), is the child of Papatūānuku (earth mother), and Ranginui (sky father).
There are many stories about Tāne, including the one where he separated his earth mother and sky father, to enable the eventually of all living things. This pūkākau took the form of an enormous tree that had the power to push his mother and father apart. The pūkākau of Tāne tells us that ‘we are the trees and the trees are us’ (Lee-Morgan, pg.155).

Stories teach of survival, courage strength and resilience, but also of heart, healing, compassion, generosity, reciprocation, struggle and tino rangatiratanga. (Lee-Morgan, pg.164).

A truly interesting list of readings this week, that have led me to buy Pūkākau and Atua, two books where Māori myths are retold by Māori writers. I am intending the share their valuable fruits with my mokopuna.

Being faced with a very long Easter weekend (when being busy is my preference), I googled Indigenous movies on colonisation, and found an awesome list that had been put together by Harper’s Bazaar Australia. The diversity of their list was significant, from very old to current day, all Australian in theme, and I have always been partial to a good Aussie film. These however, given my current study, became a truly affronting watch. It would have been easy to see modern day Aboriginal circumstances and struggle, as being from their own choices, however, to re-frame in the content of Māori law adds another perspective to my thinking.
Why do people in this story do what they do, are their actions determined by:
1 Key values/principles?
2.Past actions (precedent)?
3.Their relationship to another?
4.Actions of statements of people in leadership roles?
5.Something else?

Watching Samson and Delilah and The Nightingale (both on Netflix), over the Easter break, became another thought provoking moment for me. Indigenous challenges all over the globe are the same, I guess in the same way that the wāhine journeys to prison are all so similar.
The brutality of the colonists actions in the early 1900’s and the patriarchal dominance exerted through extreme and unaccountable violence was underpinned by power, power over land, power over people. To gain this power, inhuman acts took place, which in modern day frames are not even understandable, yet back then they resulted in a perpetrator’s advancing success and a victim’s ongoing deterioration. A deterioration that is now in the 21st century judged as a hopeless, dependent, unwilling, and dissent lifestyle.

Archibald, J., Xiiem, Q., Bol Jun Lee-Morgan, J., & De Santolo, J. Tuwhai Smith, L . (2019). Decolonizing research: Indigenous storywork as methodology. Zed books. London.