Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I am a New Zealander

New Zealand is a strange and wonderful place, where there is technically no such thing as a New Zealander.
My Dad always says to me, “Do you realize that New Zealand is the only country in the world where we can’t call ourselves New Zealanders?”
When we fill out forms, we have to tick the box that says “New Zealand European/Pakeha”.
Firstly, I have never been to Europe, and nor has my family. My ancestors were born in Scotland and England, and only ever went to Europe to fight in the wars.
Secondly, “Pakeha” is a Maori word, which means “white ghost”, a name given to our ancestors when they arrived on the shores of New Zealand in ships flying white sails 200 years ago. Some say it means, “white pig”, or at least that’s what the Maori kids at school used to tell us.
Of all things, the Rugby World Cup has bought this anomaly to the forefront of my mind once again, which is entirely appropriate, given that the eyes of the world are on our tiny country at the moment, with 20 countries competing for the Webb Ellis Cup.
On my dad’s side of the family, I am a third-generation “New Zealander” and on my mum’s side, I am fourth generation.
On Sunday, my dad, sister and I donned blue and white face paint and headed to the stadium to support Scotland, the country of our ancestors.
There is nothing wrong with being proud of your heritage and supporting other teams for a bit of fun, but where do we draw the line at being defined by our heritage?
I love the sound of the bagpipes, and jumping around yelling at Scotland to “run the damn ball!” and cheering when they score, but when I stood up and sang Flower of Scotland (the national anthem), the hairs on the back of my neck stayed flat and my heart beat was normal.
Yet when I stood up with my sister in my living room on September 9 when the All Blacks kicked off the RWC with a match against Tonga, put hand on heart, and sang God Defend New Zealand, tears of pride came to our eyes.
When the All Blacks performed the Haka, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.
Every Anzac Day, when I attend the dawn service in Wellington, I think of the New Zealanders who fought and died for our freedom regardless of the colour of their skin nearly 100 years ago.
How many generations of people born and raised in New Zealand will it take to shake off the words “Pakeha” and “European” and when will we get to tick the box that says “New Zealander”?


  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUmnCs33G70 This is a short documentary my friend made for University about New Zealand identity. She asked us to take a picture of what New Zealand identity means to us then asked us questions around that. It's fascinating how everyone feels differently about New Zealand identity. As I say in this video, I am a New Zealander, there's no other ethnicity I feel I fit into.

  2. I like this, it makes me think. One thing though: remember that 'New Zealander' is your nationality and 'Pakeha' is your ethnicity. Different categories, obviously. And Pakeha isn't a bad word as some say it to be, it's like being called a Maori.

    One thing to consider too: what about minorities who are struggling to maintain their own heritage in NZ? Might be easy for Pakeha to forget their European heritage, but for others, it means everything.

    I'm proud to be a NZ Maori. And proud when NZers say that they're proud of who they are ethnically. We are all not the same - cultural difference is beautiful - I cannot wait till the day that NZers celebrate difference. You're Pakeha. That's awesome!!! I'm Maori. That's awesome!!! We're from NZ, and noone better mess with us... that's awesome!!!