How Much Māori Are You?

Image: Irihipeti Waretini

Image: Irihipeti Waretini

A question I often get asked is “oh, you have Māori in you? I didn’t know that… How much Māori are you?”

I mean what kind of question is that?

Do you want it in pints or litres? Maybe a mathematical fraction or percentage?

When was the last time you heard someone ask a Pākehā, “oh are you Pākehā? I didn’t know you were Pākehā?”

“How much Pākehā are you? Are you a pint Irish, a litre British, and 33.33% Australian?”

So, I never really know how to answer this question. Maybe I shouldn’t bother answering it at all.

My mother is Pākehā and my father is Māori. My grandmother was Māori and my grandfather Pākehā. What is the appropriate quantitative reply to such a question?

I have no idea.

How do you measure how much Maori you have?

Actually, why do I even need to?

My skin colour and facial features come from this shared whakapapa.

Pākehā and Māori.  

In some ways, this has made it easier for me to blend in and be accepted by some people. But at other times this has worked against me, even with those from my own iwi.

If I was part of a kapahaka group would that make me more Maori?

What is the measure for ‘how Māori’ I am?  Is there some guide or formula that is accepted as a correct standard?

My husband, who is a New Zealand born Samoan has been described as more Māori than me. In fact, of the two of us, he is the one who is mistaken for Māori far more often than I am. I’m not offended by that though. He helps me with our children, encouraging and nurturing their Māori-ness as we see it.

In my opinion, I believe cultural identity is more than skin colour or facial features. It is linked to our whakapapa, our upbringing and whānau.  

How we feel, where we feel we belong, and where we are at home. How can there be a right or wrong, a more or less to this feeling of belonging?

I am not part-Māori, a pint-Māori, a litre-Māori. I am Māori.


Melanie Sio (Rongomai Wahine, Mahia) is a mother of six. Between, kids, sports and school events, full-time work and part-time study, Melanie spends time with her bestie (her cousin) and their family. The dinner table always has at least 9 kids at it when they get together. And that’s just life outside of her creative mahi.

“I was inspired to create and share with Awa Wahine, initially to support the kaupapa… helping women to be heard and sharing stories. We all have stories to tell… but now I see that writing also helps our mental and emotional well being. Kind of like therapy. Helps us to process our thoughts and feelings.”