Survey: Pakeha not a derogatory word

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 14:55 05/02/2013

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Being called a Pakeha is not an insult but is an expression of Maori identity, a survey has revealed.

The survey, carried out by the University of Auckland, questioned thousands of people about their attitudes and values.

Half of the 6518 people surveyed preferred being called "New Zealander" followed by Pakeha on 31 per cent and Kiwi on 24 per cent.

Among the white population, 53 per cent preferred to be known as New Zealander.

The university said the findings bust what they say is a recurrent myth that the word Pakeha is derogatory.

"We found no evidence whatsoever for the suggestion that the term Pakeha is in any way pejorative or might reflect a negative attitude toward New Zealanders of European descent," Chris Sibley from the university's School of Psychology said.

He said the findings show the choice by Maori to use the term Pakeha is linked to how strongly they identify as Maori.

Researcher Carla Houkamau said Maori prefer the term Pakeha rather than "New Zealand European", "Kiwi" or "New Zealander".

"The choice to use Te Reo is part of identity - rather than anything to do with Maori attitudes toward New Zealanders of European descent," Houkamau said.

"Maori also express very positive, warm attitudes toward New Zealanders of European descent generally, regardless of the label that they use to describe them."

The word Pakeha has long sparked debate over its origins.

The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand said the word was never derogatory but could have derived from pakepakeha (imaginary beings resembling men), pakehakeha (one of the sea gods), keha (a flea) or poaka (a pig).

The study comes out of an Attitudes and Values Study launched by Sibley in 2009 which surveys thousands of New Zealanders every year on a wide range of topics.

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- Auckland Now

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