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Māori urban migration and the assertion of indigeneity in Aotearoa/New Zealand, 1945–1975.

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Interventions, 14(2), 256-278

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This essay explores the mass urban migration of indigenous Māori in New Zealand following World War II and its impact on their quest for rangatiratanga since British annexation in 1840.

The piece challenges the prevalent assumption that urban migration had a solely negative impact on Māori culture and autonomy. It argues that, despite severe strains on tribal structures and leadership, the urban shift allowed for the adaptation and survival of rangatiratanga. New leaders and forms of Māori institutions emerged, adapting indigenous life to urban spaces and subverting state attempts at assimilation. The essay discusses the history of the Māori struggle for rangatiratanga, highlighting the post-Anglo-Māori Wars era and the state’s assimilation policy. It explains how urban migration was initially viewed by the state and many Pākehā as leading to the dissipation of Māori culture. However, contrary to these expectations, Māori culture adapted and survived, laying the foundation for the ‘Māori Renaissance’ in the mid-1970s. The essay further explores the intricate relationship between the Māori and the New Zealand state, focusing on the state’s efforts to appropriate indigenous organisational energies for assimilation. It argues that Māori reappropriations partially subverted these attempts, allowing Māori to exercise rangatiratanga in urban settings. The piece concludes that despite the challenges, Māori successfully negotiated their identity and autonomy in the face of urbanisation and modernity, thus preserving and enhancing rangatiratanga. This essay emphasises the resilience and adaptability of the Māori in maintaining their cultural heritage and political autonomy amidst significant social and political changes.

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