B Indigenizing “Whitestream” Early Childhood Care and Education Practice in Aotearoa

Contextual Explorations of Maori within “Whitestream” Early Childhood Education in Aotearoa New Zealand

Jenny Ritchie

Abstract: This chapter provides a historical overview of whitestream (see Skerrett, this volume) provision of early childhood care and education (ECCE) services within Aotearoa, positioning this within the wider socio-cultural/ political contexts of colonization and assimilatory policies. The origins of the various early childhood services are explained as emerging from needs identified in New Zealand communities at particular periods, with long-standing colonialist ideology re-emerging as deficit discourses, with assimilation of Maori into the whitestream being the underlying intention, despite the aspirations of both the 1840 Tiriti o Waitangi and 1996 early childhood curriculum Te Whariki espousing bicultural possibilities whereby Maori maintain the right to uphold te ao Maori values (Maori worldview), traditions, and language, whist also accessing the knowledges of the Western world.

Ritchie J., and M. Skerrett. Early Childhood Education in Aotearoa New Zealand: History, Pedagogy, and Liberation. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. doi: 10.1057/9781137375797.0008.


In this chapter, the growth of ECCE services in Aotearoa New Zealand, with a particular focus on inclusion/exclusion of Maori children and families, will be positioned within historical and international contexts. Colonization by Great Britain, legitimized in 1840 with the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi/The Treaty of Waitangi, was one of the furthest and latest extensions of international imperialism, toward the end of an era when the strongest European countries had competed for global wealth, resources, and prestige. Consistent with its history as a former British colony, this small Pacific nation aligns itself with larger Western countries such as Britain, Australia, Canada (British Commonwealth ties), and more recently the United States of America, with its political economy an extension of global imperialism/capitalism. The impacts of colonization are not only historical but ongoing, as Maori continue to suffer the impacts of low socioeconomic status and poor educational outcomes (Ministry of Health, 2006). Maori children are particularly vulnerable to these (Policy Strategy and Research Group Department of Corrections, 2007). This chapter briefly traverses the history of early childhood services in Aotearoa, drawing upon the work of Helen May (2009, 2013). This has been characterized by being a series of diverse “flax-roots” movements, emergent and responsive to the contexts of their time of origin. Weaving through the discourses of empire and colonization have been filaments of egalitarianism contrasting with twisted threads of white superiority, underpinning justification of the disenfranchisement and marginalization of Maori within their own country. In this chapter, I consider ways in which ethical visions of hope may have opened up lines of flight, a process in which the visionary leadership and advocacy of certain key people have been hugely influential in inspiring ethical relationality and practices (Rose & Novas, 2005). Connections will be made to a Deleuzian-inspired “everyday and immanent practice” of ethics that might enable us to “begin to identify what is good and what is bad for us as well as for others, or what conjoins us with, or separates us from a life” (Frichot, 2007, p. 178). Rather than viewing Maori as passive victims of colonization, the view is that all parties have taken responsibility for their engagement, since, in a Deleuzian view, “each self has a primary responsibility to cultivate and practice an attitude of relation to others that enables the emergence of ethical social forms” (Bignall, 2007, p. 208).

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