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By Ngaroma Williams
To understand Māori social structures it is necessary to know something about whakapapa (see endnote 1). Māori cosmogony (creations) is a significant feature of how tūpuna Māori (ancestors) viewed te ao turoa (see endnote 2); the role they played and the foundations they set down for the generations that follow. Our tūpuna coined vigorous and valuable methods of passing on knowledge and skills. Whakapapa is an underpinning principle of such knowledge, “whakapapa is a basis for the organisation of knowledge in respect of the creation and development of all things” (see endnote 3).
Whakapapa dictates Māori social structures. It ensures the interconnectedness of all living things. The preservation of balance – between people and atua, the generations, women and men, and the internal balance (spiritual, physical, emotional) of every person is of paramount importance.
For example whakapapa is to lay generation upon generation as shown:
Atua ► Kaumātua ► Mātua ► Rangatahi ► Tamariki ►Mokopuna
1. Atua is defined in this context as the living being connected to those beyond (see endnote 4)
2. Kaumātua is a shortened version of kaukaumātua. The kaukau in this context is defined as to ‘wade through’ the mā is the joining word and tua is to take you to that place yonder (see endnote 5)
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