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 to 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:


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.


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.


The Principle of Culturally-preferred Pedagogy:


This principle acknowledges the 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.


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.


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 the intrinsic connection between the research, the researcher, and the researched.


The Principle of Collective Philosophy:


The ‘kaupapa’ refers to the collective vision, aspiration, and purpose of Māori communities.  The research topic or intervention systems therefore are considered to be an incremental and vital contribution to the overall ‘kaupapa’.


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 Aotearoa/New Zealand. It affirms both the tangata whenua status of whānau, hapū, and iwi in Aotearoa/New Zealand, and their rights of citizenship. Te 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 well-being when engaging with Māori.