TT: Pakeha and Pueblos

Looking for the Wednesday Wanderings?  Page back one and find out how an Idea became a Story.  Then join me and Alan as we take a look at some elements at modern New Zealand and New Mexico – including the mysterious figure of the pakeha.

ALAN: Last time I told you a little about how the Maori have become part of modern New Zealand.  How are things in New Mexico? What are the pueblos like today?

Courtesy of AAA

Hillerman Country, Courtesy of AAA

JANE: Today, many of the pueblos still exist.  Like all the remaining indigenous peoples, they are recognized as semi-sovereign nations within the United States

ALAN: Wait!  I thought “pueblo” was just another word for Native Americans or American Indians or whatever you call them.  I think I’m missing something.

JANE: “Pueblo” is actually a Spanish word meaning “town.”  The Spanish applied it to those Indian groups they encountered that lived in villages and cultivated farms.   There were many such groups, as I mentioned when we were discussing the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, encompassing multiple languages and a wide variety of customs.  Still, they had more in common with each other than they did with the more nomadic groups, such as the Apache, Navajo, and Comanche.

Does that help?

ALAN: Thank you – that helps a lot. I hadn’t realised that distinction existed.

JANE: Honestly, I’m not certain how much I realized before I moved to New Mexico.  Now it’s more or less second nature.

As I’ve mentioned, the first European-based group to come into the lands now called New Mexico were the Spanish.  However, in 1846, the Spanish turned over New Mexico to the United States.  In a process far, far too complex for me to go into here, agreements were worked out over time with each group.  These agreements included reserving land for the exclusive use of each group.  This reserved land became known as “reservations.”  With me so far?

ALAN: Yes. But what are the practical implications of that? Doesn’t it imply that there could be several administratively separate semi-sovereign (to use your term) “nations within a nation” as it were? That must lead to some horribly complex legal problems when the two systems interact and overlap.

JANE: Yep!  Exactly.  New Mexico has within its borders something like twenty reservations.  These vary in size from the sprawling Navajo reservation that has territory in both New Mexico and Arizona, to much smaller pueblo holdings.  However, even a small reservation encompasses many thousands of acres.  The larger tribes – like the Navajo – even have their own police force.

This makes life in New Mexico interesting, because there are large areas that are technically both part of and not part of the state.   Planning a road or rail line can become a nightmare, because each reservation must be negotiated with separately – and each tribal government will want concessions, equal to or exceeding those already granted to the other tribes.

ALAN: I just knew it was going to get complicated!

JANE: The thing that is often overlooked when people talk about “Indians” or “Native Americans” is that they are no more one group than Europeans are one group.

ALAN: And here, on the other hand, the Maori really are one group in the same sense that the English are a group or the French are a group.

JANE: That must be convenient!  Though, now that I think about it, I’d miss all the different cultures.  It’s one of the things I like about New Mexico.

Anyhow, a good way to get a feel for these nations within the nation is to read Tony Hillerman’s mystery novels featuring Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee.  Leaphorn and Chee are both Navajo, but the stories touch on many of the tribes and their interactions both with each other and the Anglo world.  Jim Chee’s best friend, Cowboy Dashee, is a Hopi.  (Despite the nickname “Cowboy,” Dashee is an Indian.)  He and Jim frequently tease each other about cultural differences – much as someone from Italy might tease someone from France.

ALAN: We don’t have that degree of separation or of isolation (though some Maori activists do campaign for it). The population of New Zealand is just the population of New Zealand and ethnic heritage gives no special rights or privileges. Though having said that, the country does have three official languages – English, Maori and Sign Language. So, if a Maori is charged with an offence and goes to trial, he can insist that the trial be conducted in Maori, even if none of the court staff speak it! And of course there are social programmes aimed exclusively at Maori in a kind of left-handed, positive discrimination sort of way.

JANE:  I love that Sign Language is included…  But I’ll resist a tangent and stay on the point.

Certainly the reservation system can lead to isolation, if that is what the residents prefer.  However, many Native Americans live and work within the general population.  Two of Jim’s and my neighbors are Indians.  Jim works with several other Indians.  On his last project, his crew included one Comanche/Santa Clara and one Navajo/Zuni.  As this shows, the tribes frequently intermarry both within themselves and with non-Indians.

Although this has led to some sharing of cultural traditions, it hasn’t eliminated the sense of distinct nations any more than a French woman marrying an Italian man would dissolve their cultural identities.

ALAN: That’s just as true here – intermarriage between Maori and pakeha is very common and both share many cultural traditions. Nevertheless, Maori retain a distinct cultural and spiritual heritage of their own. Obviously it is based on the language that all Maori share (Te Reo) but many other aspects are also alive and well and positively encouraged and respected by all sides.

JANE: I don’t see what’s “obvious” about it being based in the language.  Reason I say this is that my mother is part Italian.  She doesn’t speak a word of the language, but that doesn’t keep her from identifying with Italian culture, to the point that she recently fulfilled a lifelong hope to visit Italy and including the area her grandparents came from.

ALAN: Maori regard Te Reo as something that identifies and defines them. Without it, they are diminished. In the mid-twentieth century, Maori children were punished at school if they were caught speaking the language. As a direct result of this, both the language and the culture almost died out. Each requires and depends upon the other. They really are seen as two sides of exactly the same coin.

These days the pendulum has swung almost to the other extreme. In the 1970’s, Maori language pre-schools started to appear. They are known as kohanga reo (there’s that word again) and have been very successful. However, when the pre-schoolers entered the mainstream educational system, they often started to forget their language…

So in the 1980s, total language immersion schools started to appear. They are known as kura kaupapa maori and are designed specifically to promote and revitalize the language and culture. There’s even a TV channel  (also called Te Reo) that broadcasts exclusively in Maori and presents shows based firmly in Maori cultural ideas.

JANE: Wow!  That’s interesting.  We had similar problems with native languages being lost.  However, since there are so many more indigenous people here, a program such as the one you mention would not be practical.

I think we need to step back and define the term “pakeha.”  As I recall, that’s what the Maori call people of European extraction, right?  I did some research on New Zealand for a short story (“Pakeha,” published in Freedom, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Mark Tier) and I learned that much, but I don’t think I ever found out what the word means.

ALAN: It’s an odd word, and there is still some argument about what it means.  It has been in use since at least the early nineteenth century and possibly before. Nobody really knows where it comes from, but Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand – suggests that it might derive from pakepakeha (imaginary spiritual beings resembling men) or pakehakeha (one of the sea gods). Both terms might easily be applied to the original European explorers who, I imagine, took the Maori rather by surprise when they first appeared.

JANE: No kidding!  Go on…

ALAN: On the other hand, Te Ara also suggests that the word might be related to keha (a flea) or poaka (a pig). The article goes on to say, rather drily, that use of the work pakeha is “in no way derogatory”.

Many New Zealanders of European ancestry have adopted the term enthusiastically. I’m very proud and happy to refer to myself as a pakeha. But some people do object to its use. The census asks people to identify their ethnicity, and the word pakeha is noticeably absent from the list of choices it presents. The word was used in one census but there were so many complaints that it has been replaced with the phrase “New Zealand European.”

JANE: Interesting…  Again, in the U.S., we don’t have any similar word.  Here in New Mexico, those who are neither Indian nor Spanish tend to be clumped together as “Anglos” – never mind that many of those “Anglos” have no tie to England at all.  I’ve even heard people of African extraction referred to as “Anglos” or “black Anglos.”

ALAN: That’s a bit mind boggling!

JANE: That’s New Mexico in a nutshell.  Boggling!


8 Responses to “TT: Pakeha and Pueblos”

  1. Peter Says:

    A couple of asides on terms for groups: I recall running across (I believe in a Howard Waldrop story) the notion that some of the Plains tribes had a word, usually translated as “white people” that meant basically “anybody who isn’t us”. This leads the narrator to refer to the US Civil War as “that time when the blue-coat white people were fighting with the grey-coat white people over what to do with the black white people.”

    “Anglo” is used in parts of Canada (mostly in Quebec) to mean “Anybody who isn’t quebecois du pure laine” (“pure laine”, lit. “pure wool”, meaning “exclusively of French colonist descent”, although a lot of quebecois du souche have Irish or Scottish ancestors, since until relatively recently the divisions in Quebec society were stratified along religious, rather than linguistic, lines), regardless of what language(s) they actually speak. See also: Utah, where Jews are Gentiles.

    And if you think reserves crossing state lines gets complicated, it’s an order of magnitude worse up north, where they may cross not only state (or provincial) boundaries but also national borders – there are quite a few that are in both (or neither, depending on how you look at it) the US and Canada, which causes all manner of jurisdictional confusion. There was one near where I used to live that was a very popular destination among smokers, since there were stores selling duty-free cigarettes purchased from American companies that they would then sell on at a markup to Canadian smokers – who could buy them without having to go through Customs.

  2. Heteromeles Says:

    Actually, if you go to Hawaii, there’s the word “haole” for whites, and as with Pakeha, there’s a problematic etymology. As I understand it, “haole” is now used for people born in Hawaii who aren’t native, while “mainlander” is used for us tourists. It’s worth pointing out that the native Hawaiians are the only major group of American Indians who don’t have a reservation, and this has generated a lot of anger and bitterness in the islands. Native Hawaiians as Indians? Well, it’s not like Columbus got it right (although as one Indian activist noted, it was a good thing he wasn’t trying to find Turkey), and it’s not like the Indians are one cultural group either. If we’re going to be silly enough to call those who were here before Columbus “Indians,” then that definitely includes the native Hawaiians.

    I’d also point out that the reservation system is what makes the US technically an empire. AFAIK, a nation-state is a country that has a defined territory (the state) and contains a single, theoretically homogeneous people (the nation). An empire, conversely, is a state that contains multiple nations, and treats the people of the different nations differently (different rights and sometimes laws for different groups). Because of all the reservations that the US has created for the Indians, and because the US gives the Indian nations different rights and laws than everyone else gets, we’re technically an empire. This ignores all the other things (like treatment of African-Americans, Hispanics, and the ownership of non-contiguous territories like Hawaii and Alaska) that also make us imperial. There’s this eternal tension in the US between whether we’re a nation or an empire, and both ideologies generate problems. For example, the idea of forcing Indians and Hawaiians into the mainstream against their will by destroying their culture and language is very much a nationalist notion. Conversely, the idea that different races and genders should be treated differently by the law, with white males at the top of the pecking order, is very much an imperialist notion.

  3. Chad Merkley Says:

    As I understand it, the Indian reservation lands in the US are held by the federal government in trust for the various tribes. The trusts are administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which is part of the Department of the Interior. In the 19th century, Indian affairs were managed under the War Department, so Interior is definitely an improvement.

    • janelindskold Says:

      That is correct, I believe. However, the various Indian groups see the land as theirs to administer. When a question comes up about a road crossing or suchlike, they are the ones who are dealt with, not the BIA.

  4. Shelley Chappell Says:

    I had the privilege of hearing Sir Tipene O’Regan (Ngai Tahu) speak at the Christchurch Writer’s Festival this weekend. He mentioned an old manuscript describing the invasion of a North Island Maori tribe (pre-European colonisation) and how the Maori invaders were consistently described as ‘Pakeha’. It’s a term we usually equate with ‘European New Zealander’ but here it apparently just meant ‘stranger’.

    Future usage could be interesting as well. I recently attended a professional development session at my workplace in which we had quite a discussion about the term ‘Pakeha’, as there was some suggestion that it can be used to signify all New Zealanders without Maori heritage (for example, New Zealanders with Asian rather than European heritage). At the moment I don’t think that’s a very common understanding of the word, but we’ll see if that description makes it into the next census!

    • janelindskold Says:

      I just finished a Ngaio Marsh novel in which a Maori character describes himself as “more pakeha than Maori” in most things — but admits when things like murder start happening, he finds out how Maori he still is.

      So “pakeha” is an interesting and evolving term. May it make it onto the census!

  5. Louis Robinson Says:

    I find ‘black Anglo’ perfectly reasonable – after all, most of us are resolutely anglophone. I am myself, despite my French papers.

    In this case the terminology is linguistic, not ethnic, although the Indian branch is woefully imprecise even in that regard. It does, however, reflect the traditional social groupings.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: