If you’ve got a drop of Maori blood somewhere in your veins, you can count on someone in the Maori media finding out about it and tracking down its source.
The consequence in the case of Jami-Lee Ross is a Waatea News report that that yes, he has a Maori side.
This is not obvious from his name, it might be observed, but nor is it obvious in the case of blokes with names like Shane Jones.
Unlike Jones, Botany’s new National Party MP says he doesn’t know his Maori side, Waatea News reports.
But it seems he is keen to find out.
He says he’s keen to take up an offer from former Alliance MP Willie Jackson to take him to the East Coast to get to know his Ngati Porou side.
“Unfortunately I was one of those young boys who grew up without a father.
“He decided he didn’t want anything to do with me. That was his choice. So I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to learn a lot about my Maori side.
“But it’s certainly something I do want to learn about, get in touch with more. I’ll be better off learning about my whakapapa and history and heritage and that is something I’d certainly like to do,” Mr Ross says.
So is there a danger Jami-Lee might be wooed by the Maori Party?
Alf doubts it.
He notes that Jami-Lee (who would be advised to change his name to something blokish, like Bill, Bob, Fred or Hank) probably blotted his copy book with the Maori Party when he was an Auckland City councilor.
He opposed separate Maori representation for the Super City and he has said he is pleased Maori can get elected in general seats.
Good on him. He’s bang on, with that attitude.
Alf – of course – was surprised to learn about Jami-Lee’s Maori ancestry.
It’s something he doesn’t mention on his Facebook page.
He tells his Facebook audience he is an elected member of the Auckland Council, representing the Howick ward.
He lives in Dannemora, Auckland with his wife Lucy.
And that’s about it.
Mind you, Alf was surprised when Christian Cullen became a Maori All Black.
So how much Maori blood do you need to join an outfit like that?
None, by one account.
A BBC report at the time of Cullen’s selection said –
The furore surrounding Cullen’s Maori credentials is nothing new. In 1927 Frank Solomon, born in Western Samoa and with no Maori connections, was chosen for their internal tour, while Alan ‘Kiwi’ Blake, of Afro-American parentage, represented the Maori from 1948-52 and even captained the team in 1950.
Cullen could claim a bit more Maori blood than none, but not much more.
Christian Cullen although mainly of Irish descent, also has mixed German and Samoan ancestry. This was confirmed during an interview with former Reunion presenter Oscar Kightley. Cullen also claimed to be ‘about’ 1/64th Māori which allowed him to play for the New Zealand Māori.
An article by Michael Bassett explored the subject of Cullen’s smidgeon of Maoriness and his entitlement to call himself Maori.
More to the point, Bassett explained the legal definition of a Maori that was puzzling many Kiwis.
The answer is in the Maori Affairs Amendment Act passed in November 1974. Prior to that, a Maori was defined as anyone who was half-caste or more.
For electoral purposes, only those who were half-caste had a choice between the Maori Roll and the General Roll.
After 1974 anyone with any Maori ancestry who chose to, could designate him/herself as a Maori.
Norman Kirk who was Prime Minister when the Bill received its first reading, welcomed a measure that he believed would help Maori retain their cultural identity.
Alf was more inclined to side with Allan McCready, MP for Manawatu, who said: “It appears now that anyone who rides past a marae on a pushbike can claim to be a Maori”, he told Parliament.
Bassett concluded that –
…the Maori Affairs Amendment Act of 1974 was another milestone on the road to fulfilling Lt Governor Hobson’s (premature) observation on 6 February 1840: “He iwi tahi tatou; we are now one people”.
Where Christian Cullen has gone, others will follow. And vice versa. And we’ll all be better off for it.
But the Christian Cullen furore also was grist for the mill for some academic researchers.
Mrs Grumble has dug up a slab of heavy stuff titled The Māori All Blacks and the decentering of the white subject: Hyperrace, sport, and the cultural logic of late capitalism.
The authors were B. Hokowhitu and J. Scherer and their paper was published in the Sociology of Sport Journal in 2008.
The abstract was too much for Alf to digest. He opted to go no further.
It says –
The authors examine media discourses surrounding the continued existence of the Māori All Blacks, a “racially” selected rugby side, and, in particular, the controversy that erupted over the selection of former All Black Christian Cullen for the Māori All Blacks in 2003.
Having never played for the Māori All Blacks or publicly identified as Māori, Cullen claimed tangata whenua status via whakapapa to his Ngāi Tahu grandfather.
The authors argue that Cullen’s selection emerged as a contentious issue because of the fragmentation that the inclusion of his “Whiteness” within the confines of “an Other” team (i.e., the Māori All Blacks) brought to bear on traditional colonial binaries of race in the context of late capitalism.
Can anyone translate that for Alf?
And what are the implications for capitalism posed by Jami-Lee’s election as a National member of parliament?
These and other questions…