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Integration by degrees: Blood, politics, and identity

Lyn Carter


In September 2006 the National Political Party leader, Don Brash, questioned whether New Zealand Māori remained as a distinct indigenous group. Brash was responding to High Court Judge David Baragwanath’s comments where he raised the possibility that Māori may need separate legal treatment, and that there needed to be more Māori lawyers. Brash stated that: ‘He [Baragwanath] continues to talk as if Māori remain a distinct indigenous people. There are clearly many New Zealanders who do see themselves as distinctly and distinctively Māori —but it is also clear there are few, if any, fully Māori left here [New Zealand].’ The comments were similar to those made by Brash in his 2004 Orewa speech where he had referred to anthropological studies that showed Māori were a diluted race and non-existent as a distinct group (Brash, 2004).


The comments have once again raised the issue in New Zealand of using this race-based measurement of Māori to determine legitimacy in identity. The use of a blood quantum measurement for accurately determining ethnicity is, however, a politically motivated fiction. It has evolved from historical ideas of superiority of race: the white race being superior and therefore more desirable than the other. In New Zealand’s case the other are Māori, and Māori have their own way of determining who they are.



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