They have a thing here called Pākehā. It’s a bit similar to the words gaijin, haole, gwai lo, or honky mofo, but there’s seems to be less (or even no) derogatory association attached to it. Basically, if you’re in New Zealand and you’re not Maori (and “Maori” is simply the Maori word for “normal people”), you’re a Pākehā.

There are some who say that only white Kiwis who were born in New Zealand qualify as Pākehā. So I might actually just be talked about as “that white dude with the funny accent.”

I know I’ve only barely scraped the surface of New Zealand culture, but there seems to be a much better relationship between the native people and descendants of foreign colonists here than in most other places I know. Te Reo Maori and English are both official languages of the nation, and the Waitangi Treaty is treated with much more respect than, say, the various Native American treaties were treated in American history.

(To be clear, the Waitangi Treaty seems to have suffered from some deep cultural miscommunications and its exact terms are still being litigated to this day, but at least there seems to be a mutual effort to treat it as a legitimate contract, rather than just tossing it and making with the guns and disease-blankets.)

I’m watching a documentary about Michael King, who was a Pākehā historian of the Maori and New Zealand as a whole. I’ve been reading one of his books (given to me by his son, Jonathan, who was my gracious host for the recent Wellington awesomeness) and wanted to know more about him. He treated his subjects with love and care, and it seems he positively influenced the attitude of both the Maori and Pākehā who have come after.

Plus, I’d rather be called Pākehā than honkey mofo any day.

Advertisements