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Kaupapa Māori Research


Te Atawhai o Te Ao is a kaupapa Māori research Institute that undertakes a range of environmental and health research.

Kaupapa Māori research grew out of the Kaupapa Māori schooling movement and the revival of Māori language in the late 1980s. Kaupapa Māori Research is research that values Māori ways of doing things. Te reo me ōna tikanga are regarded as critical elements of this type of research. There is no single definition of kaupapa Māori as the context of the research is important.  This means every part of the research process and analysis considers the following underlying principles:

Tino Rangatiratanga 

The Principle of Self-determination.
Tino Rangatiratanga relates to sovereignty, autonomy, control, self-determination and independence. The notion of Tino Rangatiratanga asserts and reinforces the goal of Kaupapa Māori initiatives: allowing Māori to control their own culture, aspirations and destiny.

Taonga Tuku Iho 

The Principle of Cultural Aspiration.
This principle asserts the centrality and legitimacy of Te Reo Māori, Tīkanga and Mātauranga Māori. Within a Kaupapa Māori paradigm, these Māori ways of knowing, doing and understanding the world are considered valid in their own right. In acknowledging their validity and relevance it also allows spiritual and cultural awareness and other considerations to be taken into account.

Ako Māori 

The Principle of Culturally Preferred Pedagogy.
This principle acknowledges teaching and learning practices that are inherent and unique to Māori, as well as practices that may not be traditionally derived but are preferred by Māori.

Kia piki ake i ngā raruraru o te kāinga 

The Principle of Socio-Economic Mediation.
This principle asserts the need to mediate and assist in the alleviation of negative pressures and disadvantages experienced by Māori communities. This principle asserts a need for Kaupapa Māori research to be of positive benefit to Māori communities. It also acknowledges the relevance and success that Māori derived initiatives have as intervention systems for addressing socio-economic issues that currently exist.


The Principle of Extended Family Structure.
The principle of Whānau sits at the core of Kaupapa Māori. It acknowledges the relationships that Māori have to one another and to the world around them. Whānau, and the process of whakawhanaungatanga are key elements of Māori society and culture. This principle acknowledges the responsibility and obligations of the researcher to nurture and care for these relationships and also the intrinsic connection between the researcher, the researched and the research.


The Principle of Collective Philosophy.
The 'Kaupapa' refers to the collective vision, aspiration and purpose of Māori communities. Larger than the topic of the research alone, the kaupapa refers to the aspirations of the community. The research topic or intervention systems therefore are considered to be an incremental and vital contribution to the overall 'kaupapa'.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi

The Principle of the Treaty of Waitangi.
Pihama (2001) identified another principle to be taken into account within Kaupapa Māori theory: Te Tiriti o Waitangi (1840) is a crucial document which defines the relationship between Māori and the Crown in New Zealand. It affirms both the tangata whenua status of whānau, hapū and iwi in New Zealand, and their rights of citizenship. The Tiriti therefore provides a basis through which Māori may critically analyse relationships, challenge the status-quo, and affirm Māori rights.


The Principle of Growing Respectful Relationships.
The principle of āta, was developed by Pohatu (2005) primarily as a transformative approach within the area of social services. The principle of āta relates specifically to the building and nurturing of relationships. It acts as a guide to the understanding of relationships and wellbeing when engaging with Māori.

For further information please visit this website.

Publications list

5 lesson's from 18 years of Kaupapa Māori Research by Cherryl Smith and produced by Ngā Pae o te Maramatanga.

Cultural and intellectual property rights (Vol. 2) edited by Leonie Pihama and Cherryl Smith.

Colonising airspace. In Cultural and intellectual property rights (Vol. 2) by Kuini Jenkins and Cherryl Smith.

Kimihia te maramatanga: Colonisation and Iwi development, unpublished MA thesis by Cherryl Smith.