Academics claim while Pākehā bicultural interactions with Māori can be seen to strengthen the culture, it's instead potentially destroying and destructive. Melissa Derby of Ngāti Ranginui and Professor of history Paul Moon spent years observing practices carried out on marae that feed into interactions between Māori and Pākehā. The result is a research paper called Playing Cultures that looks at Pākehā roles in bicultural interactions with Māori. The pair took a particular interest in the power dynamics between the two cultures.
Speaking to Kawekōrero, Dirby says, "One of the conclusions that we drew is that, we as Māori are at a very risky time culturally now, our culture is being appropriated left, right, and centre by Pākehā and it's doing a lot of damage and potentially destroying our culture."
The paper questions presumptions currently held about the utility of Pākehā engagement with the Māori world, and looks at an Anglo-Saxon cultural deficit that exists in the country and the dynamic between te reo Māori and English. One of the examples given shows how using Māori words in English sentences can be seen as enhancing the Māori culture, but instead the dynamic created is one within a Pākehā-owned environment who are taking what they want from Māori culture and discarding the rest.
"Who benefits from that? Not Māori, as far as we're concerned it's very destructive to our culture, I think our tūpuna, to be honest, would be quite mortified at what's actually happening in many instances here and without considering some of those underlying power dynamics that we discuss in the paper," says Derby.
Derby goes on to explain that English is a linguistic coloniser taking words from other languages and using them as its own, appropriates and anglicises them and in the process strengthening its own linguistic power by broadening their vocabulary.