ĀteaJune 15, 2020

Read our words: An anti-racist reading list for New Zealanders


While we stand in solidarity with Black and indigenous communities experiencing ongoing violence overseas, we have plenty of work to do here in Aotearoa too. These 10 seminal anti-racism texts by Māori authors are a great place to start.

George Floyd’s death as the result of police violence has sparked protests around the world, including Aotearoa New Zealand. But racialised violence and police brutality are not solely the preserve of the United States.

There are many – far too many – George Floyds.

In Canada, a year after the report of the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women was released, no coordinated response has been developed, even though it described the high rate of violence against indigenous women as “a national tragedy of epic proportion.” In Australia, 434 indigenous Australians have died in custody since 1991.

These statistics are horrifying. They tell us racism is systemic. Racism is structural. Racism is power; it is real, and it is violent.

All of these characterisations are true of Aotearoa, but they are rarely discussed openly.

Māori scholars, novelists, poets and blog writers, though, have consistently addressed racism in our past and present.

In 2018, supported by Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga and Te Apārangi Royal Society, we curated Te Takarangi, a sample list and exhibition of just one genre: 150 Māori-authored non-fiction books published between 1815-2017. These books, our words, have made our lives richer, and helped us to understand our experiences as Māori. They are books that have signalled change, initiated change and, at times, capture the aspirations about what was, and is, possible for Māori and for the future of Māori and Pākehā in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Resistance and decolonisation have been recurring themes in all forms of Māori writing, including non-fiction.

We encourage you to take action to listen to the voices and experiences of Māori to help create an anti-racist nation. To do this you should read our words. Our many, many words.

You could start with fiction. Tina Makereti, and others, regularly call for this. If you’re new to Māori fiction writing, Pūrākau Māori Myths Retold by Māori Writers is simply stunning.

But here’s our list. Ten easily accessible non-fiction books by Māori writers published in Aotearoa New Zealand in the last 30 years.

Collectively, these 10 provide a beginning into understanding Māori history and experiences of institutional racism in our country.

Just as others around the world are presenting anti-racist reading lists and making calls to Do the Work, this is our list, drawing on books available to be purchased now and profiled in the Te Takarangi curation.

Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies. Research and Indigenous Peoples

Otago University Press, 1999 (2nd edition 2012)

This revolutionary book continues to resonate with scholars and communities around the world. Linda Tuhiwai Smith challenges Western ways of knowing and calls for a new agenda for Indigenous research.

Ranginui Walker, Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou: Struggle Without End

Penguin, 1990 (2nd edition 2004)

This outstanding book tells our history, from our origins, and argues that since the mid-nineteenth century, Māori have been involved in an endless struggle for justice, equality and self-determination.

Mason Durie, Ngā Kāhui Pou: Launching Māori Futures

Huia Publishers, 2003

In this authoritative collection of keynote addresses, Sir Mason Durie discusses Māori initiatives in health, education and Treaty of Waitangi settlements; he considers the shape of a fair national constitution; and he builds on Māori potential to develop a vision for Māori futures.

Aroha Harris, Hīkoi: Forty Years of Māori Protest

Wellington: Huia Publishers, 2004

A striking book that provides an overview of the contemporary Māori protest ‘movement’ exploring the rationale behind the actions.

Danny Keenan (Ed), Terror in our midst? Searching for terror in Aotearoa New Zealand

Huia Publishers, 2008.

A powerful critique of the raids carried out by the police across New Zealand in Rūātoki on 15 October 2007. In the opening chapter, Moana Jackson writes of the terrible cost to Māori of being terrorised for 200 years and how such actions sit as “merely recurring features of colonisation”.

Ani Mikaere, Colonising Myths—Māori Realities: He Rukuruku Whakaaro

Huia Publishers, 2011

Brings to the fore the illogicality of seeking justice for Māori within the confines of the coloniser’s law and the importance of reinstating tikanga at the heart of Māori thinking.

Veronica Tawhai and Katarina Gray-Sharp (Eds). ‘Always Speaking’: The Treaty of Waitangi and Public Policy

Huia Publishers, 2011

Illustrates the tensions and dynamics in the relationship between Māori and the Crown by exploring a range of areas including; the environment, social development, health, broadcasting, the Māori language, prison and the courts, local government, labour, youth, education, economics, housing and the electoral system.

Atholl Anderson, Judith Binney, Aroha Harris, Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated History

Bridget Williams Books, 2014

A magnificent book that should be in all our homes. It tells our story as Māori, how our struggle, our survival and our resilience has shaped our nation. It lays a new foundation for enlarging cross-cultural understanding for Māori and Pākehā alike.

Carwyn Jones, New Treaty, New Tradition: Reconciling New Zealand and Māori Law

Victoria University Press, 2016

An award-winning book that uses storytelling traditions to reveal a powerful critique of the West’s racist, colonial legal regimes. It reveals the enduring vitality of Māori legal traditions, making the case that genuine reconciliation can occur only when we recognise the importance of Indigenous traditions.

Margaret Mutu et al, Ngāti Kahu: Portrait of a sovereign nation

Huia Publishers, 2017

This extraordinary book provides unique insight into a long and difficult Treaty of Waitangi claims process that began in 1984. The stories told tell of histories of poverty, deprivation and marginalisation at the hands of the Crown, and the loss of 95 percent of the lands of the iwi along with remedies needed to redress these injustices.

Keep going!