Tim Angeli-Gordon: 'Let's avoid Pākehā paralysis by becoming part of the tukutuku'

Opinion: There's a role for non-Māori to become 'Pākehā allies' in supporting te ao Māori, te reo Māori and mātauranga Māori, writes Tim Angeli-Gordon.

Dr Tim Angeli-Gordon is a senior research fellow in the Auckland Bioengineering Institute.
Dr Tim Angeli-Gordon is a senior research fellow in the Auckland Bioengineering Institute who has become a 'Pākehā ally'. Photo: Elise Manahan

This month’s Māori language week seems an apt time to reflect on the immense value of te reo Māori and mātauranga Māori in our society, the latter highlighted in numerous media stories about the University in recent weeks.

As a Pākehā in Aotearoa New Zealand, I constantly face the fact that I am still learning how I fit within the wider sociocultural landscape, a feeling that may ring true with others too. The concept of ‘Pākehā paralysis’ resonates deeply with me, a concept that I first heard explained by Alex Hotere-Barnes.

Pākehā paralysis manifests as an innate fear that we want to do ‘the right thing’, but at the same time, we do not want to inadvertently offend, insult or marginalise Māori. That fear of knowing that I will make mistakes, drives me into the safe space of paralysis – if I do not act, then my actions cannot be incorrect.

However, I feel strongly that there is an important role for non-Māori to play as ‘Pākehā allies’ in supporting te ao Māori, te reo Māori and mātauranga Māori. As I have navigated this path, I learned of an analogy that was attributed to the late Professor John Moorfield. Moorfield is a well-respected figure in the revitalisation of te reo Māori. He was asked about his thoughts, as a Pākehā, on the role that Pākehā should play in te ao Māori, and compared it to tukutuku panels in the wharenui (the ornate woven panels on the walls of the main meeting house on a marae).

In Moorfield’s analogy, the beautiful front of those tukutuku panels is the rightful position of Māori, signifying that the most-important, forward-facing, leadership positions in te ao Māori must be held by Māori. Conversely, the back of the tukutuku is an intricate network of crisscrossed fibres and knots – the unglamorous side that no one in the wharenui sees, but is important for supporting the beautiful pattern on the front of the tukutuku. Moorfield suggested that the back of the tukutuku represents the place for Pākehā in te ao Māori, playing a key supporting role.

I have come to think of this position, as Moorfield described, as that of being a ‘Pākehā ally’, and in that, I can see a place where I may be able to contribute – a role where I can tautoko (support) my Māori colleagues, and provide research opportunities to Māori students.

I can see a place where I may be able to contribute – a role where I can tautoko (support) my Māori colleagues, and provide research opportunities to Māori students.

Dr Tim Angeli-Gordon, senior research fellow Auckland Bioengineering Instititute

I am a Pākehā immigrant from the United States who came to Aotearoa 12 years ago to complete my PhD in Bioengineering at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI).

I continued into an academic career at the ABI, where I am now a senior research fellow and lead the Target Lab (Translational Research in Gastroenterology and Emerging Technologies). Over my years as a scientist in Aotearoa, my concurrent personal journey led me to marrying my beautiful wife, Joni Māramatanga Angeli-Gordon (Ngāpuhi; Ngāti Whātua).

My wife is an incredible, talented, intellectual, compassionate wahine who, along with my daughter, has brought an immense amount of privilege and enrichment into my life in the area of te ao Māori.

I am privileged to be married to Joni, and to learn from her ongoing efforts to reclaim her ancestral language. This has entailed tens of thousands of dollars in university and course fees, endless nights and weekends at various kura reo (language courses), and several years teaching at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi Marae (a Māori immersion school in Glen Eden). I am privileged to now get to watch as she finishes writing her PhD thesis in te reo Māori.

I am also privileged to have a daughter who is fluent in her native language and, through her, I get to experience first-hand the immense beauty and value of kura kaupapa Māori. I am extremely privileged to be welcomed so openly by all of the whānau in these various aspects of our life – most notably, at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi Marae, where our daughter attends.

Pākehā paralysis manifests as an innate fear that we want to do ‘the right thing’, but at the same time, we do not want to inadvertently offend, insult or marginalise Māori. 

Dr Tim Angeli-Gordon, senior research fellow Auckland Bioengineering Institute

And so this brings me back to the concept of Pākehā paralysis. What can, and should, I do with the privilege that I have been given? And more broadly, what can we Pākehā and other non-Māori do to support Māori as the back of the tukutuku in Moorfield’s analogy?

As an academic scientist, a husband to a passionate Māori wife, a father to a strong Māori daughter, and someone trying to be a Pākehā ally and honourable Treaty partner, I look forward to the opportunity to continue to learn, to step into the discomfort, to engage in mātauranga Māori, and to support my Māori colleagues in advancing Māori aspirations at the ABI and the wider University.

Tō mātou tūranga i roto i te tukutuku

Ko te āhua nei he wā pai te wiki o te reo Māori i tēnei marama hei whakaaroaro i te uara nui o te reo Māori me te mātauranga Māori ki tō tātou porihanga, otirā i tāmuramuratia e te mea whakamutunga rā te huhua o ngā kōrero pāpāho mō te Whare Wānanga i ngā wiki tata nei.

Hei Pākehā i Aotearoa, e mārakerake ana ki a au taku ako tonu i taku tūnga i roto i tēnei horanuku ā-ahupori whānui, he pānga e whai wheako ana ki ētahi atu hoki. E hohonu ana te tōiriiri ki a au o te ariā 'pararūtiki Pākehā', he ariā i rongo tuatahi au nō te wā i whakamāramatia e Alex Hotere-Barnes.

Ka whakaehu mai te pararūtiki Pākehā hei wehi taketake o tō mātou hiahia ki te 'mahi tika' engari i runga anō i tērā, kāore mātou i te hiahia ki te takahi pokerehū i tētahi, ki te whakapaetaha rānei i te Māori. Nā taku mataku kei hapa ahau, koirā te mea e uruhi ana i au ki tētahi wāhi haumaru o te pararūtiki - ina kore au e mahi, kua kore au e mahi hē.

Engari e kaha whakaaro ana ahau he tūranga hiranga mō tauiwi hei 'hoa Pākehā' ki te tautoko i te ao Māori, te reo Māori me te mātauranga Māori. I a au e takahi ana i tēnei ara, i ako au i tētahi kupu whakarite nā Ahorangi John Moorfield. Ko Moorfield hoki tētahi tangata i whakaute nuitia mō te whakarauoratanga o te reo Māori. I uia a ia mō ōna whakaaro, hei Pākehā, mō te tūranga o te Pākehā i roto i te ao Māori, ā, ka whakaritea e ia ki ngā tukutuku o te wharenui.

I roto i te whakarite a Moorfield, ko te wāhanga mua rerehua o aua tukutuku te tūranga tika o te Māori, e tohu ana ko ngā tūranga kaihautū hiranga nui, anga mua i te ao Māori, me noho te Māori ki aua tūranga. Waihoki, ko te wāhanga o muri o te tukutuku, he whatunga matatini o ngā weuweu me ngā pūtiki - te wāhanga hongehongeā tē kitea e te hunga i rō wharenui, engari he hiranga tonu ki te tautoko i te tauira rerehua kei mua o te tukukuku. I kī a Moorfield he tohu te wahanga muri o te tukutuku i te tūranga mō te Pākehā i te ao Māori, te tūranga kaitautoko hiranga.

Kua tau ōku whakaaro mō tēnei tūranga, i whakaahuatia e Moorfield o te noho hei 'hoa Pākehā', ā, e kite ana au i te tūranga e taea ana pea e au te whai wāhi atu - he tūranga e taea ana e au te tautoko i aku hoamahi Māori me te tuku āheinga rangahau ki ngā ākonga Māori.

Ka whakaehu mai te pararūtiki Pākehā hei wehi taketake o tō mātou hiahia ki te 'mahi tika' engari i runga anō i tērā, kāore mātou i te hiahia ki te takahi pokerehū i tētahi, ki te whakapaetaha rānei i te Māori.

Dr Tim Angeli-Gordon Waipapa Taumata Rau

He manene Pākehā ahau nō Amerika, i tae mai ki Aotearoa 12 tau ki muri ki te whakaoti i taku tohu kairangi i te Pūkenga pūhanga koiora i te Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI).

I haere tonu taku mahi ako i ABI, ināianei he Paewai rangahau matua, ā, e ārahi ana i te Target Lab (Translational Research in Gastroenterology and Emerging Technologies). I aku tau maha hei kaipūtaiao i Aotearoa, nā taku ara pūtahi au i ārahi ki te mārena i taku wahine ātaahua a Joni Māramatanga Angeli-Gordon (Ngāpuhi; Ngāti Whātua).

He wahine mīharo, whai pūkenga, koi, ngākau māhaki hoki ia, nāna me taku tamāhine i whiwhi painga nui, haumako nui ki taku ora i roto i te ao Māori.

Nōku te whiwhi i taku hononga ki a Joni, ā, me te ako mai i te rite tonu o āna whakapaunga kaha ki te whakahoki mai i tōna reo tīpuna. Ko te utu o tēnei ko ngā hia tekau mano tāra o ngā utunga whare wānanga, akoranga hoki, ngā pō mutunga kore, me ngā rā whakatā i ngā kura reo maha, me ētahi tau maha e whakaako ana ki Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi Marae (he kura rūmaki Māori i Glen Eden). Nōku te whiwhi ki te mātaki i a ia e whakaoti haere ana i tana tuhinga whakapae kairangi i roto i te reo Māori.

Nōku hoki te whiwhi i taku kōtiro e matatau ana ki tōna reo taketake, ā, mā roto i a ia, e whai wheako ana au ki te rētōtanga me te uara hōhonu o te kura kaupapa Māori. E tino māringanui ana au i taku pōhiritanga nui e te whānau whānui i roto i ngā āhuatanga maha o tō mātou ao - inā hoki, i Te Kura Kuapapa Māori o Hoani Waititi Marae, te wāhi e kuraina ana tā māua tamāhine.

Nā kia hoki mai au ki te ariā o te pararūtiki Pākehā. He aha te mea e taea ana e au, me aha hoki au ki te whiwhinga kua homai ki a au? Ā, kia whānui ake te titiro, he aha ngā āhuatanga e taea ai e te Pākehā me tauiwi ki te tautoko i te Māori, pērā ki te wāhanga muri o te tukutuku i roto i te whakarite a Moorfield?

Hei kaipūtaiao ā-mātauranga, hei hoa rangatira ki tētahi wahine Māori ngākaunui, hei matua ki tētahi tamāhine Māori pakari, hei tangata e whakamātau ana kia noho hei hoa Pākehā, hei hoa Tiriti hōnore hoki, e pōhiritia ana e au te āheinga ki te ako tonu, ki te hīkoi i roto i te uauatanga, ki te whakauru ki te mātauranga Māori me te tautoko i aku hoamahi Māori ki te whakaahu i ngā wawata Māori i te ABI me te Whare Wānanga whānui.

He kairangahau motuhake matua a Tākuta Tim Angeli-Gordon i te Auckland Bioengineering Institute, ā, he kairangahau motuhake Rutherford Discovery i Te Apārangi.

Ko ngā whakaaro o tēnei tuhinga e whakaata ana i te whakaaro whaiaro, ā, ehara i ērā nō Waipapa Taumata Rau.

Dr Tim Angeli-Gordon is a senior research fellow in the Auckland Bioengineering Institute and a Rutherford Discovery Fellow with the Royal Society Te Apārangi.

The views in this article reflect personal opinion and are not necessarily those of the University of Auckland.

Te Wiki o te Reo Māori: 13-19 September

This article first appeared in the September 2021 issue of UniNews.