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P?keh? (or Pakeha; , M?ori pronunciation: ['pa:k?ha:]) is a M?ori-language term for New Zealanders of European descent.[1] The term has also recently come to refer inclusively either to fair-skinned persons, or to any non-M?ori New Zealander.[2][3]Papa'a has a similar meaning in Cook Islands M?ori.[1][4]

Its etymology is unclear, but the term p?keh? was in use by the late 18th century. In December 1814, the M?ori children at Rangihoua in the Bay of Islands were "no less eager to see the packaha than the grown folks".[5] In M?ori, plural nouns of the term include ng? p?keh? (the definite article) and he p?keh? (the indefinite article). When the word was first adopted, the usual plural in English was "pakehas". However, speakers of New Zealand English are increasingly removing the terminal "s" and treating the term as a collective noun.

Opinions of the term vary amongst European New Zealanders. Some reject it on the ground that they claim it is offensive,[6] or they object to being named in a language other than their own.[6] A sample of 6,507 New Zealanders found no support for the claim that the term "P?keh?" is associated with a negative evaluation.[7]

In 2013, the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study carried out by the University of Auckland found no evidence that the word was widely considered to be derogatory; however, only 12 per cent of New Zealanders of European descent chose to be identified by the term, with the remainder preferring "New Zealander" (53 per cent), "New Zealand European" (25 per cent) or "Kiwi" (17 per cent).[8][9]


M?ori in the Bay of Islands and surrounding districts had no doubts about the meaning of the word p?keh? in the 19th century. In 1831, thirteen rangatira from the Far North met at Kerikeri to compose a letter to King William IV, seeking protection from the French, "the tribe of Marion". Written in M?ori, the letter used the word "p?keh?" to mean "British European", and the words tau iwi to mean "strangers (non-British)"--as shown in the translation that year of the letter from M?ori to English by the missionary William Yate.[10] To this day, the M?ori term for the English language is "reo p?keh?". M?ori also used other terms such as tupua ("supernatural", "object of fear, strange being"),[11]kehua ("ghosts"),[12] and maitai ("metal" or referring to persons "foreign")[13] to refer to some of the earliest visitors.[14]

However, The Concise M?ori Dictionary (K?retu, 1990) defines the word p?keh? as "foreign, foreigner (usually applied to white person)", while the English-M?ori, M?ori-English Dictionary (Biggs, 1990) defines P?keh? as "white (person)". Sometimes the term applies more widely to include all non-M?ori.[15] No M?ori dictionary cites p?keh? as derogatory. Some early European settlers who lived among M?ori became known as "P?keh? M?ori".


The etymology of p?keh? is unknown, although the most likely sources are the words p?kehakeha or pakepakeh?, which refer to an oral tale of a "mythical, human like being, with fair skin and hair who possessed canoes made of reeds which changed magically into sailing vessels".[16] When Europeans first arrived they rowed to shore in longboats, facing backwards while rowing the boats to shore. In traditional M?ori canoes or "waka", paddlers face the direction of travel. This is supposed to have led to the belief that the sailors were supernatural beings.

In her book The Trial of the Cannibal Dog: The Remarkable Story of Captain Cook's Encounters in the South Seas, the anthropologist Anne Salmond recorded that tribal traditions held that Toiroa, a tohunga from Mahia, had predicted the coming of the Europeans. He said "ko te pakerewha", meaning "it is the pakerewh?", red and white strangers.[17][18]

There have been several dubious interpretations given to the word. One claims that it derives from poaka, the M?ori word for "pig", and keha, one of the M?ori words for "flea", and therefore expresses derogatory implications.[19] There is no etymological or linguistic support for this notion--like all Polynesian languages, M?ori is generally very conservative in terms of vowels; it would be extremely unusual for p?- to derive from poaka. The word poaka itself may come from the proto-polynesian root *puaka, known in every Polynesian language ("puaka in Tongan, Uvean, Futunian, Rapa, Marquisian, Niuean, Rarotongan, Tokelauan, and Tuvaluan; it evolved to the later form pua?a in Samoan, Tahitian, some Rapa dialects, and Hawaiian); or it might be borrowed or mixed with the English "porker". It is hard to say, since Polynesian peoples populated their islands bringing pigs with them from East Asia, but no pigs were brought to Aotearoa by them. The more common M?ori word for flea is puruhi. It is also sometimes claimed that p?keh? means "white pig" or "unwelcome white stranger". However, no part of the word signifies "pig", "white", "unwelcome", or "stranger".[20]

Attitudes to the term

New Zealanders of European ancestry vary in their attitudes toward the word p?keh? when applied to themselves.[21][8] Some embrace it wholeheartedly as a sign of their connection to New Zealand, in contrast to the European identity of their forebears. Others object to the word,[6] some strongly, claiming it to be derogatory or to carry implications of being an outsider, although this is often based on false information about the meaning of the term.[22] Some believe being labelled "P?keh?" compromises their status and their birthright links to New Zealand.[23] In the 1986 census, over 36,000 respondents ignored the ethnicities offered, including "P?keh?", writing-in their ethnicity as "New Zealander", or ignoring the question completely.[21] A joint response code of "NZ European or Pakeha" was tried in the 1996 census, but was replaced by "New Zealand European" in later censuses because it drew what Statistics New Zealand described as a "significant adverse reaction from some respondents".[24] Sociologist Paul Spoonley criticised the new version, however, saying that many P?keh? would not identify as European.[25]

The term p?keh? is also sometimes used among New Zealanders of European ancestry in distinction to the M?ori term tauiwi ("foreigner"), as an act of emphasising their claims of belonging to the space of New Zealand in contrast to more recent arrivals.[26] Those who prefer to emphasise nationality rather than ethnicity in relating to others living in New Zealand may refer to all New Zealand citizens only as "New Zealanders" or by the colloquial term "Kiwis".

The term is commonly used by a range of journalists and columnists from The New Zealand Herald, the country's largest-circulation daily newspaper.[27] Historian Judith Binney called herself a P?keh? and said, "I think it is the most simple and practical term. It is a name given to us by M?ori. It has no pejorative associations like people think it does—it's a descriptive term. I think it's nice to have a name the people who live here gave you, because that's what I am."[28] New Zealand writer and historian Michael King wrote in 1985: "To say something is Pakeha in character is not to diminish its New Zealand-ness, as some people imply. It is to emphasise it."[29] New Zealand politicians from across the political spectrum use the term, including Don Brash,[30]John Key,[31]Helen Clark,[32] and Te Ururoa Flavell.[33]


The point at which European settlers in New Zealand became P?keh?--or indeed New Zealanders--is subjective.

The first European settlers arrived in New Zealand in the early nineteenth century, but most were missionaries, traders and adventurers who did not intend to stay permanently. From the 1840s, following the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and the assumption of British sovereignty, large numbers of Europeans began to settle permanently in New Zealand. Most of these settlers were from Britain, with a disproportionate number coming from Scotland. There were also numerous settlers from Ireland and Northern and Central Europe.

In the late nineteenth century there were some moves towards cultural nationalism, and many P?keh? began to see themselves as different from people living in Britain. However, there were still strong ties to the "mother country" (the United Kingdom, particularly England), which were maintained well into the twentieth century. Until some point in the mid-twentieth century most P?keh? considered themselves to be both British and New Zealanders. Many P?keh? intellectuals migrated to Britain in order to pursue their careers as this was not possible in New Zealand. Notable expatriate P?keh? from this period include writer Katherine Mansfield and physicist Ernest Rutherford.

P?keh? ties with Britain were drastically weakened in the decades after World War II. Quicker, cheaper international travel allowed more P?keh? to visit and live in other countries, where they saw that they were different from the British and felt the need for a stronger national identity. In 1973, Britain joined the European Economic Community, cutting New Zealand off from free trade with its biggest market and leaving P?keh? feeling betrayed by the people they had thought of as their own.[34] Meanwhile, M?ori were becoming more assertive, especially about the value of their culture and their ownership over it. The M?ori cultural renaissance made many P?keh? feel that they lacked a culture of their own, and from the 1970s numerous P?keh? writers and artists began to explore issues of P?keh? identity and culture. It was at this point that the word "P?keh?" grew in popularity, although it remained controversial.

Cultural identity

In general, P?keh? continue to develop identities distinct from and complementary to those of their (often) British origins and those of the other Anglophone nation-states such as Australia, the United States, Canada and Ireland, as well as M?ori. As with most other settler societies, it can be said descriptively that P?keh? contemporary culture is an amalgam of cultural practices, tensions, and accommodations: British/European with some M?ori and Polynesian influences and more recently wider cultural inputs, particularly from Chinese and other Far Eastern cultures.

Christianity in New Zealand, despite its foreign origins, has also been shaped by M?ori through movements such as the R?tana Church and Destiny Church, as well as their involvement in churches of European origin such as the Anglican Church. Where P?keh? identity is identified, commonly NZ kitsch and symbols from marketing such as the Chesdale Cheese men are used as signifiers,[35] and might more appropriately be called "Kiwiana".

Michael King, a leading writer and historian on P?keh? identity, discussed the concept of distinct P?keh? practices and imaginations in his books:[36]Being P?keh? (1985) and Being P?keh? Now (1999), and the edited collection, Pakeha: The Quest for Identity in New Zealand (1991), conceptualising P?keh? as New Zealand's "second indigenous" culture.[36] By contrast, M?ori art historian Jonathan Mane-Wheoki described P?keh? as "the people who define themselves by what they are not. Who want to forget their origins, their history, their cultural inheritance - who want Maori, likewise, to deny their origins so that we can all start off afresh."[34]

See also


  1. ^ a b P?keh?: New Zealander of European descent, Kupu.maori.nz, archived from the original on 15 August 2017, retrieved 2017
  2. ^ Ranford, Jodie. "'Pakeha', Its Origin and Meaning". M?ori News. Archived from the original on 24 February 2011. Retrieved 2008. One approach continues the references to those with white skin colour while the more inclusive refers to all those who are non-Maori appears to be gaining currency. Today 'Pakeha' is used to describe any peoples of non-Maori or non-Polynesian heritage
  3. ^ "Pakeha". Merriam-Webster. Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 2013.
  4. ^ Language of the Islands: A Papa'a's Guide Archived 11 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine, http://www.cookislands.org.uk Archived 20 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 18 November 2010.
  5. ^ Nicholas, John Liddiard (1817). "Narrative of a voyage to New Zealand, performed in the years 1814 and 1815, in company with the Rev. Samuel Marsden". J. Black and son, London. Retrieved 2015.
  6. ^ a b c Mulgan, R.G. and Aimer, P. "Politics in New Zealand Archived 15 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine" 3rd ed., Auckland University Press pp.29-31
  7. ^ Sibley, Chris G.; Houkamau, Carla A.; Hoverd, William James (2011). "Ethnic Group Labels and Intergroup Attitudes in New Zealand: Naming Preferences Predict Distinct Ingroup and Outgroup Biases". Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy. 11 (1): 201-220. doi:10.1111/j.1530-2415.2011.01244.x.
  8. ^ a b Research busts myth that "P?keh?" is a derogatory term, archived from the original on 18 May 2017, retrieved 2017
  9. ^ "Pakeha not a dirty word - survey", NZ Herald, 5 February 2013, retrieved 2017
  10. ^ Binney, Judith (2007). Te Kerikeri 1770-1850, The Meeting Pool, Bridget Williams Books (Wellington) in association with Craig Potton Publishing (Nelson). ISBN 978-1-877242-38-0 . Chapter 13, "The M?ori Leaders' Assembly, Kororipo P?, 1831", by Manuka Henare, pp 114-116.
  11. ^ M?ori Dictionary, Maoridictionary.co.nz, archived from the original on 29 April 2013, retrieved 2013
  12. ^ M?ori Dictionary, Maoridictionary.co.nz, archived from the original on 29 April 2013, retrieved 2013
  13. ^ M?ori Dictionary, Maoridictionary.co.nz, 30 June 1903, archived from the original on 29 April 2013, retrieved 2013
  14. ^ The First Pakehas to Visit The Bay of Islands, Teaohou.natlib.govt.nz, archived from the original on 12 January 2014, retrieved 2013
  15. ^ Orsman, Elizabeth and Harry (1994). The New Zealand Dictionary, Educational Edition. New House Publishers, Auckland. ISBN 1-86946-949-6. Page 193, second meaning.
  16. ^ Ranford, Jodie. "'Pakeha', its origin and meaning". www.maorinews.com. Archived from the original on 24 February 2011. Retrieved 2017.
  17. ^ Binney, Judith (December 1984). "Myth and explanation in the Ringat? tradition: some aspects of the leadership of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki and Rua K?nana Hepetipa". Journal of the Polynesian Society. 93 (4): 345-398.
  18. ^ The Trial of the Cannibal Dog: The Remarkable Story of Captain Cook's Encounters in the South Seas, by Anne Salmond, Chapter 7, "Travellers from Hawaiki".
  19. ^ Gray, Claire; Nabila, Jaber; Anglem, Jim (2013). "Pakeha Identity and Whitness: What does it mean to be White?". 10 (2). Otago University: 84. Archived from the original on 28 January 2018. Retrieved 2017.
  20. ^ (1) Williams, H. W. (1971). A dictionary of the Maori language (7th ed.). Wellington, New Zealand: Government Printer. (2) Ngata, H. M. (1993). English-Maori dictionary. Wellington, New Zealand: Learning Media. (3) Ryan, P. (1997). The Reed dictionary of modern Maori (2nd ed.). Auckland, New Zealand: Reed. (4) Biggs, B. (1981). Complete English-Maori dictionary. Auckland, New Zealand: Oxford University Press.
  21. ^ a b Bell, Avril (1996) '"We're Just New Zealanders": Pakeha Identity Politics' in P. Spoonley et al (eds) Nga Patai: Racism and Ethnic Relations in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Palmerston North: Dunmore, pp144-158, 280-281 Bell, Avril. "We're just New Zealanders': Pakeha identity politics". Nga Patai: Racism and Ethnic Relations in Aotearoa/ .... Archived from the original on 6 May 2018. Retrieved 2017.
  22. ^ Misa, Tapu (8 March 2006). "Ethnic Census status tells the whole truth". New Zealand Herald. APN Holdings. Archived from the original on 28 June 2012. Retrieved 2010.
  23. ^ 'Pakeha' Identity Archived 31 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Whitiwhiti Korero, issue 5, March 2006. Human Rights Commission.
  24. ^ Statistics New Zealand. (2009). Draft report of a review of the official ethnicity statistical standard: proposals to address issues relating to the 'New Zealander' response Archived 4 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine. Wellington: Statistics New Zealand. ISBN 978-0-478-31583-7. Accessed 27 April 2009.
  25. ^ "Census poses a $38m question". New Zealand Herald. APN Holdings. 10 March 2001. Retrieved 2010.
  26. ^ Wedde, Ian; Burke, Gregory (1990). Now See Hear!: Art, Language, and Translation. Victoria University Press. p. 33. ISBN 9780864730961. Archived from the original on 17 September 2017.
  27. ^ These include Garth George, a conservative P?keh? columnist [1], Rawiri Taonui, a somewhat radical Maori academic [2], and John Armstrong, a mainstream political columnist.[3]
  28. ^ Barton, Chris (18 June 2005). "It's history, but not as we know it (interview with Judith Binney)". New Zealand Herald. APN Holdings. Archived from the original on 23 February 2013. Retrieved 2010.
  29. ^ King, M. (1985), Being Pakeha: An encounter with New Zealand and the Maori Renaissance, Auckland: Hodder and Stoughton.
  30. ^ "NATIONHOOD - Don Brash Speech Orewa Rotary Club | Scoop News". Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 2017. 15 September 2017
  31. ^ "Read Hansard Reports". www.parliament.nz. Archived from the original on 16 September 2017. Retrieved 2018.
  32. ^ "Read Hansard Reports". www.parliament.nz. Archived from the original on 1 November 2017. Retrieved 2018.
  33. ^ "Flavell: Address at the Maori Party 10th Anniversary - Scoop News". www.scoop.co.nz. Archived from the original on 16 September 2017. Retrieved 2018.
  34. ^ a b Mane-Wheoki 2000, p. 11.
  35. ^ Mane-Wheoki 2000, p. 10 cites Mike Harding, When the Pakeha Sings of Home. Auckland, 1992.
  36. ^ a b "The indigenous Pakeha: An interview with Michael King". Critical English Online. waikato.ac.n. Archived from the original on 11 April 2017. Retrieved 2017.


External links

  • The dictionary definition of 'p?keh?' at Wiktionary

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