Veronica Tawhai (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Uepohatu), is a Te Ata Kura Educator and Senior Lecturer in Te Pūtahi-a-Toi, School of Māori Knowledges at Te Kunenga Ki Pūrehuroa, Massey University. She currently resides in the Manawatu in the lands of Rangitāne with her three children. Here, Veronica shares with us some of the findings from her recently submitted PhD titled ‘A Red Tipped Dawn: Teaching and learning about Indigeneity and the implications for citizenship education’.

The struggle to have Indigenous laws, knowledges, practices, languages, histories and current day realities acknowledged and taught in Aotearoa’s education system is a long one. This includes education about Indigeneity – that is, education about our tino rangatiratanga/rights to independence, the terms of Te Tiriti allowing for kawanatanga over our British ancestors seeking a place within our homelands, and the subsequent and ongoing resistance of our people to the overextension of kawanatanga and establishment of settler colonialism that has entrenched a place of privilege and advantage for Pākehā/Tauiwi and poverty, disadvantage and discrimination for Māori. A part of this struggle is that Indigeneity education is not easy, neither for educators or learners. There are myriad mental, emotional, and spiritual challenges we must face as we look to the experiences of our tīpuna and ponder our shared futures. Two questions that I had as an Indigeneity educator were: For those of us teaching in this area, what are some best practice guidelines? and; Is this type of education ‘citizenship education’? 

To answer these questions I sought the guidance and wisdom of our pakeke – those who are most senior and expert in our field. In Aotearoa, this was facilitated through our Te Ata Kura mentors, and overseas, with the kind assistance from the Centre for World Indigenous Studies in Turtle Island (mainland USA and Canada) and Hawai’i, and the National Centre for Indigenous Studies in Australia. 

Overall, the advice from these experts give clear guidelines for the further development of best, evidence-based practice in teaching and learning about Indigeneity, specifically: (1) what are critical aspects of our praxis, including the goals and outcomes we seek, and the specific challenges from learners we may face; (2) what we educators should be drawing upon as essential curricula, to address and overcome the specific challenges encountered; (3) what are a range of pedagogical strategies we can employ to ensure the transformations amongst learners we seek, and; (4) the relevance of citizenship as a site of Indigeneity struggles. The citizenship discussions with these are significant for what should be considered citizenship education recognisant of the citizenship philosophies, knowledges, experiences and aspirations of Indigenous peoples. To that end, the discussions from these experts provide much food for thought as to what could form a transformative citizenship education agenda in settler colonial societies, and the progression of more just, shared futures.

For more information on teaching and learning indigeneity, contact Veronica Tawhai at: [email protected]