Volume 104 1995 > Volume 104, No. 4 > Te Hoe Nuku Roa framework: A Maori identity measure, by M. H. Durie, p 461-470
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In 1992 staff of the Department of Māori Studies, Massey University, in response to some pressure from iwi, recognised the need for a longitudinal study of Māori households which would enable cultural, social, economic and personal factors to be correlated. With funding for three years from the Public Good Science Fund the programme began in July 1993. Known initially as Māori Profiles, the concept of breaking new ground in the research of Māori households was compared to early Māori mariners embarking on an exploration to unknown places; “Te Hoe Nuku Roa” became the Māori name for the study. Te Hoe Nuku Roa is taken from an ancient incantation (karakia) offered by tohunga when setting out on an unchartered journey. It refers to the hoe or ‘paddle’ necessary to power the canoe during the nuku roa ‘long journey’.

The overall aim of the project is to provide a sound empirical base that will inform Māori and other planners and facilitate the development of policies and programmes appropriate to Māori advancement in cultural, social and economic terms. The design of the study incorporates measures of the characteristics of cultural identity. The stability of these characteristics will be tested over time. Data obtained from an initial cross-sectional approach will be supplemented by a longitudinal study so that regular monitoring and evaluation of outcomes at family and individual levels can be continued over ten and twenty year periods.

Four aims of this study make it significantly different from others. First, because it takes into consideration the major influences acting on Māori society, it proposes a Māori framework to gauge personal and family development.

Second, it will examine the relationships of Māori families and individuals with structures in New Zealand society at local, regional and national levels and including Māori societal structures.

Third, the integrated nature of the study provides a basis for the development of co-ordinated policies and programmes, mainly by Māori, but also by other central and regional authorities.

Fourth, by adopting a longitudinal approach, the study offers an opportunity to chart the natural history of families and individuals and to assess the impact of policies and programmes introduced to address their specific and general needs.

The first phase of the study involved the construction of a draft framework relevant to contemporary Māori in a variety of situations. On the basis of the draft, a comprehensive questionnaire, capable of capturing the most appropriate cultural, - 462 social and economic indicators relevant to Māori well-being and advancement at a household level, was developed and tested and the framework subsequently revised. This paper reports on that framework.


Several frameworks have been developed in order to conceptualise and locate Māori individuals according to characteristics of Māori identity, culture, well-being and knowledge. Sometimes known as “Māoriness scales”, they have all sought to capture the key aspects which best describe Māori, to provide measures (qualitative and quantitative) for specific purposes, and to distinguish Māori experience and realities from non-Māori.

Whare Tapa Whā

Durie (1985a) introduced a framework for understanding Māori health perspectives. The model proposes four health dimensions and compares them to the four sides of a whare: taha wairua (spirituality), taha hinengaro (thoughts and feelings), taha tinana (physical health), taha whānau (family).

Though popular, the model has not been put into operation and there is uncertainty about appropriate measures for taha wairua and taha hinengaro. Probably its greatest advantage has been that it offers a construction of health which accords with Māori understandings and facilitates a sense of ownership. Moreover, it reinforces that health is not the sole province of doctors (Durie, 1994).

Te Wheke

Pere (1984) produced a similar model at the Hui Whakaoranga in 1984.

She used the octopus to illustrate the major features of health from a Māori family perspective. Each of the eight tentacles symbolised a particular aspect of health while the body and the head represented the family unit as a whole. The eight dimensions were: wairuatanga (spirituality), tinana (physical), hinengaro (mental), whanaungatanga (family), manaake (uniqueness), mauri (vitality), hā-a-koro-mā-a-kui-mā (inspiration from ancestors), whatumanawa (emotions), waiora (represented by the eyes of the octopus).

Ngā Pou Mana

In an attempt to highlight the most significant aspects of cultural identity in relationship to Māori well-being, the Royal Commission on Social Policy used the analogy of four pillars, ngā pou mana (Royal Commission on Social Policy, 1988). The four pillars are represented by whanaungatanga (family cohesion), taonga tuku iho (cultural inheritance), te ao tūroa (the environment), tūrangawaewae (security). This model is broader than the other two allowing for the consideration of economic resources (land), access to the environment, cultural heritage, as well as family systems. But like them, it seeks to locate the individual within a broader sociocultural context.

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Ngā Pūtake

In relationship to Māori mental health, Durie (1985b) also described three institutions as foundations for good health. These were whenua (land), whānau (family) and te reo (Māori language, i.e. communication). He argued that good mental health required a firm anchoring on all three foundations and, conversely, poor health resulted when access to any was eroded or blocked.

Ngā Pou Ārahi

This model, proposed by the Standing Committee on Māori Health (1987), is about leadership. Though described initially for health purposes it has potential for wider application. Essentially it recognised Māori structures and leadership patterns as important for the maintenance of good health. Iwi and hapū were described as vehicles for health promotion and care and ngā tohunga (elders and healers) were seen as leaders in advocating good health. The links of ngāpou ārahi with their own iwi were seen to be as important as professional or technical skills in determining attitudes and improve-ments in health.

Māori Identity Scales

Based largely on cultural knowledge and self identification, a number of scales have been used to assess acculturation. Thomas (1988a) developed a Māori knowledge test, in the form of a 40-item questionnaire, which required understanding of a variety of everyday words, together with an awareness of distinctly Māori institutions. Thomas (1988b) demonstrated that Māori children who had some knowledge of Māori language and culture gained higher scores on achievement tests than Māori children who had little or no knowledge of their culture. His main point was that culture and ethnicity are not identical and that because not all Māori have the same cultural capital, outcomes for Māori cannot be assumed to totally reflect cultural difference.

In a study on the perceptions of Māori children to physical disability, Te Pūmanawa Hauora (Ratima, Potaka, Durie and Ratima 1993) used a Māori identity scale, based on Thomas's study. It employed a questionnaire which asked five cultural familiarity questions, seven Māori knowledge questions and a self-identification question.

Māori Cultural Capital

A questionnaire developed by A. E. Durie (1993) and used in an access to education study attempted to measure Māoriness, culture and identity by focussing on knowledge, associations and language. It sought information on: iwi identity, marae affiliation, marae involvement, association with Māori organisations, involvement in a Māori school, attitude towards and competence in Māori language. Though used primarily for an educational survey, it brought together a number of factors with wider relevance.

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Hapū A nd Iwi Resources

Winiata (1988) has developed a tool for the measurement of the position of iwi and hapū. In examining human resources he suggests measurements for membership (of an iwi or hapū), repositories of whakapapa, wairuatanga, whanaungatanga, kawa, te reo, tikanga, kaumātua, health, education. Physical resources are quantified by reference to marae facilities, taonga, manuscripts, land, investments and fishing rights. His framework represents an early attempt to quantify cultural and social factors as well as access to the economic wealth of the group.


Most of measures so far described have been used for quite specific purposes, and though appropriate for particular needs, have failed to make provision for links and relationships between culture, individual and group dynamics, change over time and socio-economic standing.

As part of the Te Hoe Nuku Roa - Māori Profiles Study, the following framework has been developed as a basis for understanding Māori individuals and households. The framework is intended as an instrument to aid in conceptualising the current position of respondents and their households and to provide a substrate upon which the philosophical and methodological aspects of Te Hoe Nuku Roa study can be grafted.

Importantly, it recognises that although the statistical definition of Māori has been clarified in the Māori Affairs Amendment Act 1974, the significance and actual meaning of being Māori at a personal level is not well understood. Not only do aggregated data make it difficult to distinguish ethnicity from socio-economic class, but, at odds with field observations, they lend weight to a presumption that Māori are a homogeneous group. Moreover there is often an implication that Māori individuals who do not conform to certain pre-ordained cultural characteristics are less Māori than those who do, or that, conversely, most Māori ascribe to similar values, beliefs and lifestyles.

In order to test those and other hypotheses, Te Hoe Nuku Roa does not presuppose the parameters of Māori culture, but attempts to link a variety of cultural and ethnic measures with other indicators so that a more comprehensive profile of Māori might be obtained.


To address the position of contemporary Māori, four assumptions have been made. They recognise Māori diversity, dynamic change, multiple affiliations and self-identification.

Far from being members of an homogeneous group, Māori individuals have a variety of cultural characteristics and live in a number of cultural and socioeconomic realities. The relevance of so-called traditional values is not the same for all Māori, nor can it be assumed that all Māori will wish to define their ethnic identity according to classical constructs. At the same time, they will describe themselves as Māori and will reject any notion that they are “less Māori” than those who conform to a conventional image.

Māori society is not static, any more than New Zealand society generally. It is - 465 both dynamic and interactive. Changing demographic patterns, technological advancement, interaction with other cultures and nations, and reduced control over resources, have been accompanied by changing cultural beliefs and practises. In addition, throughout the human life-cycle, situations, attitudes, values and aspirations change so that Māori individuals at different stages in life may demonstrate quite different characteristics from those present at other stages.

Māori belong to numerous social and cultural groupings. Sometimes ethnicity will be the most significant affiliation, but on other occasions it may be less important than belonging to a school, a sports club, a socio-economic grouping or a family constellation. Balance between individual and group membership varies over time according to other competing claims such as cultural expectation, financial barriers, opportunities and personal preferences. Furthermore, social groupings may be seen as primarily Māori in nature even though their origins lie elsewhere. A rugby league club, for example, might be described as a Māori organisation by its members because it incorporates Māori notions of leadership, training and hospitality.

People and groups are best able to articulate their own positions, values and beliefs. Imposed stereotypes create misleading impressions that certain individuals will automatically wish to move in particular ethnic or cultural directions when in fact they may have quite different inclinations. Self-identification and choice underpin this study and there has been a deliberate effort to avoid creating stereotypes which carry with them expectations of preferred outcomes. In other words, being Māori in the 1990s cannot be assumed to be synonymous with conservative expectations of a stereotyped cultural heritage.


Te Hoe Nuku Roa is built on a relational framework made up of four interacting axes - paihere tangata (human relationships), te ao Māori (Māori culture and identity), ngā āhuatanga noho-ā-tangata (socio-economic circumstances), ngā whakanekeneketanga (change over time). A set of indicators, ngā waitohu, is used to describe the four axes according to: levels of choice, access, participation, satisfaction, information and knowledge and aspirations.

Table 1 shows the four axes, ngā Pūtake and their related dimensions

Table 1 Ngā Pūtake
Axes Ngā Pūtake Dimensions
Axis 1 Paihere Tangata Human Relationships
Axis 2 Te Ao Māori Māori culture and identity
Axis 3 Ngā Ā huatanga noho-ā-tangata Socio-economic circumstances
Axis 4 Ngā Whakanekeneketanga Change over time
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Table 2 shows the indicators, ngā Waitohu, which can be applied to each axis

Table 2 Ngā Waitohu
Indicator Ngā Waitohu Descriptors (examples)
Choice Kōwhiringa options, alternatives
Access Tomokanga opportunity, barriers, control over goods and services
Participation Whaiwāhitanga involvement, active/passive interaction
Satisfaction Painga confidence, value, outcome
Information & Knowledge Ngā Whakamōhiotanga me ngā Mātauranga medium of exchange, source style of presentation
Aspirations Ngā tūmanako aims, goals, intentions

Table 3 shows the four axes and the indicators

Table 3 Axes and Indicators
Ngā Waitohu Axis 1 Paihere Tangata Axis 2 Te Ao Māori Axis 3 Ngā Ahuatanga noho-ā-tangata Axis 4 Ngā Whakanekeneketanga
Indicators Human relationships Māori culture and identity Socio-economic circumstances Change over time
Information & knowledge        

Axis 1, paihere tangata, the human relationship axis, is consistent with the several units of focus in the study - individuals, households, families, and whānau - and the relationships between them. The nature and extent of the relationships between Māori individuals and other social groupings will be explored, without - 467 assuming that all Māori are actively involved in wider kin-based circles. A distinction will be made between household, family and whānau groups; they are not synonymous though the metaphor of the whānau may be used, loosely, to describe all three. Whanaungatanga, the processes by which whānau links, cohesion and mutuality are maintained will be a further focus of Te Hoe Nuku Roa.

Axis 2, te ao Māori, the Māori cultural identity axis, contains four subsets that will enable a construction of identity and cultural positions according to: mana ake (personal identity), taonga tuku iho (cultural heritage), ngā rawa o Rangi rāua ko Papa(natural resources), whakanōhanga Māori (Māori institutions). This axis moves beyond equating a Māori identity with knowledge of Māori culture. Instead the focus is on a range of quantifiable measures potentially available to Māori by virtue of ethnic inheritance. While the axis includes knowledge and understanding of culture, it also embraces access to and participation in Māori institutions (such as the marae), and Māori economic resources (such as land and fisheries).

Axis 3, ngā āhuatanga noho-ā-tangata, is concerned with socio-economic circumstances and includes oranga tangata (well-being), whai tūnga (societal standing) and whai huanga (economic position). Though using conventional indicators, such as income levels, occupational class and level of education, the approach will emphasise self assessment and satisfaction without assumptions that Māori necessarily wish to pursue the same socio-economic track as non-Māori.

Axis 4, ngāwhakanekeneketanga is related to change over time. The longitudinal nature of the study will enable an assessment of the impact of particular policies at individual and household levels, mobility, improvement or deterioration in socio-economic status, and changes in household and whānau dynamics. Of particular interest will be the levels of dependence, independence and inter-dependence for different age groups and in different contexts.

Each axis forms a pūtake (root), from which sub-sets, ngāpeka (branches), take form, resulting in ngā rau (leaves), the areas of inquiry that will provide essential information both to quantify and to qualify ngāpeka and ngāpūtake. The questions contained in the lengthy questionnaire are capable of capturing data across the range of concerns and can be quantified.

Although there is no absolute agreement about many of the terms used in the framework, the study itself will, among other things, provide contemporary perceptions about Māori cultural values and beliefs.

A Māori institution for example could be defined as “an institution which is controlled by Māori and which operates within tikanga Māori (according to Māori protocol)”. Under that definition marae or hapū or iwi would be obvious examples of Māori institutions. But other situations may be less clear. Even though operating within tikanga Māori, for example, a Kura Kaupapa Māori could be regarded as a State institution since control rests largely with the Ministry of Education. There are also some institutions such as sports clubs which have a high level of Māori membership, even Māori control, but which may not operate according to tikanga Māori. Then there are Māori dominated institutions, closely linked to iwi and hapū but operating within tikanga Pākehā, e.g. the Waitangi Tribunal, the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission and Te Puni Kōkiri.

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Respondents in Te Hoe Nuku Roa will be asked to give their own views about Māori cultural values enabling the development of a set of understandings based on a range of modern Māori views.

Table 4 shows ngā peka, the subsets from which ngā rau are derived

Table 4 Ngā Peka
Ngā Peka Subsets
Tangata Individual
Noho kāinga Family / Household
Whānau Extended family
Mana ake Personal identity
Taonga tuku iho Cultural heritage
Ngā rawa a Rangi rāua ko Papa Natural resources
Whakanōhanga Māori Māori institutions
Oranga tangata Well-being
Whai tūnga Societal standing
Whai huanga Economic position
Whakawhiti kāinga Changing household dynamics
Hurihuri whakaaro Shift in cultural identity
Whakarerekētia Altered circumstances

Although the framework consists of four axes, the significance of Te Hoe Nuku Roa is that items on one axis can be linked with items on any other. This provides for the creation of a more complete profile of Māori than has been possible in the past. Most descriptions of Māori have suffered from cross sectional limitations and a single sectoral interest. Moreover, assumptions about what constitutes a Māori cultural identity have tended to be based on “traditional” values, or at least on popular perceptions of a Māori identity. Often these have been romantic constructs based on the writings of early anthropologists and missionaries, but bearing little relationship to common Māori experience.

By focussing simultaneously on four distinct but related dimensions (the four axes), Te Hoe Nuku Roa will be able to demonstrate the relationships, for example, between access to a marae, income levels, educational achievement and employment. It will also enable an exploration of relationships between ngā rau, (e.g. language and tikanga, language and education, language and whānau cohesion). It will give meaning to “being Māori in the 1990s and beyond”.

The longitudinal component of the study will also provide access to the fourth axis, the dimension of change. Follow up at three yearly intervals will enable exploration of altered personal and group circumstances, household dynamics, changes in identity, mobility, and the realisation of aspirations.

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Table 5 summarises the three levels of inquiry: ngā pūtake, ngā peka, ngā rau

Table 5 Te Hoe Nuku Roa Framework: Ngā Pūtake, Ngā Peka, Ngā Rau
Ngā Pūtake Axes Ngā Peka Subsets Ngā Rau Focussed units of inquiry
Axis 1 Paihere tangata Human relationships Individual Family Household Whānau Household roles and relationships Whānau cohesion Interdependence
Axis 2 Te Ao Māori Māori identity Mana ake (personal identity) Taonga tuku iho (cultural heritage) Ngā rawa a Rangi rāua ko Papa (natural resources) Whakanōhanga Māori (Māori institutions) Ethnic affiliation Language Tikanga Land Fisheries Forests Environment Marae Hapū activities Iwi links
Axis 3 Ngā āhuatanga noho-ā-tangata Socio-economic circumstances Oranga tangata (well-being) Whai tūnga (societal standing) Whai huanga (economic position) Health Education Housing Employment Lifestyle Income
Axis 4 Ngā whakanekeneketanga Change over time Changing household dynamics Wider interactions Shift in cultural identity Altered circumstances Mobility Stability Realisation of aspirations Vulnerability Impact of external factors New groupings

As Māori move towards self determination and defining their own futures, there is a danger that a narrow focus based on prejudice about a “typical” Māori, could distort a view of Māori people by relying on 20th century stereotypes rather than 21st century realities. In order to avoid classifying Māori solely according to traditional cultural knowledge and skills, or on the basis of affiliation with marae, hapū and iwi, it is necessary to emphasise the range of circumstances which not only shape cultural expression but also permit or inhibit cultural identification and practice.

Most frameworks used to describe Māori have been of a single dimension stressing links with traditional knowledge and skills but failing to capture the range - 470 of activities, lifestyles and multiple affiliations which characterise Māori people in modern society.

The Hoe Nuku Roa framework provides a method for the conceptualisation and description of the position of Māori individuals and households without value-laden judgements about the “level of Māoriness.” In addition, by incorporating four interrelated axes, it enables cultural, social and economic circumstances to be linked in a holistic manner. It recognises the diverse realities within which Māori families live and accepts that identification as Māori necessarily includes a range of cultural, social, lifestyle and economic realities. A Māori identity in the 21st century will encompass all of those factors.

The framework will be used as a basis for developing an appropriate methodology to conduct a longitudinal study of Māori households and will be used in the analysis of complex data sets. It is compatible with an evolving and constantly changing culture, and because it takes into consideration the major influences on contemporary Māori society, can be legitimately described as a Māori relevant framework. It is hoped that it will contribute to a more complete understanding of contemporary Māori profiles and provide a bridge between class, culture and ethnicity.

  • Durie, A. E., 1993. Report on the Evaluation of the “Tihei Mauri Ora” Teacher Development Contract, Educational Research and Development Centre, Massey University.
  • Durie, M. H., 1985a. A Māori perspective of health. Soc. Sc. Med., 20:483-6.
  • —— 1985b. Māori Health Institutions. Community Mental Health in NZ, 2,1:63-9.
  • —— 1994. Whaiora Māori health development. Auckland: Oxford University Press.
  • Pere, R., 1984. Te Oranga mō te Whānau, in Hui Whakaoranga Māori Health Planning Workshop, Department of Health, Wellington.
  • Ratima, M. M., U. K. Potaka, M. H. Durie, and K. H. Ratima, 1993. Acculturation and a Māori Identity Scale, Te Pūmanawa Hauora, TPH 93/6, Department of Māori Studies, Massey University
  • Royal Commission on Social Policy, 1988. The April Report, vol III, part 1, 24-32.
  • Standing Committee on Māori Health, 1987. Tribal Authorities as Advocates for Māori Health. Wellington: NZ Board of Health.
  • Thomas, D. 1988a. Culture and Ethnicity: Maintaining the distinction. Australian Journal of Psychology, 38, 3:371-80.
  • —— 1988b. Development of a Test of Māori Knowledge. New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 17:59-67.
  • Winiata, W., 1988. Hapu and Iwi Resources and their Quantification, in Royal Commission on Social Policy, The April Report, Vol III, part 2, pp. 791-803.
1   Te Hoe Nuku Roa framework is a research project involving a number of staff members of Massey University, all of whom have contributed to theproduction of this paper. Apart from the author, these are T. E. Black, I. S. Christensen, A. E. Durie, J. Taiapa, U. K. Potaka, E. D. Fitzgerald.