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What is the place of Indigenous perspectives in global citizenship education?

Citizenship and tangata whenua

Global citizenship education can be described as an approach to help individuals to develop the skills, competencies and mindset they need to become active and responsive citizens who contribute to building more peaceful, sustainable and inclusive societies. For Indigenous communities worldwide, this is not a new concept. Many Indigenous peoples have deep and enduring relationships with the taiao (natural world), and with the whenua (land).

Are the terms ‘citizenship’ and ‘tangata whenuatanga’ compatible notions considering the colonial history of Aotearoa New Zealand? What does global citizenship mean for Māori as Indigenous tangata whenua of this country?

Indigenous people have long held an enduring connection with the land.

Colonisation and its ongoing effects

Indigenous communities can be described as the world’s original caretakers but are rarely given credit for their efforts. As many of these communities have been colonised, today they experience a high degree of socioeconomic marginalisation, land dispossession, cultural and language loss, assimilation, poverty, terrorism and a host of other abuses, all on their own lands. 

In what ways can educators highlight Indigenous perspectives in their mahi with global citizenship education, especially pertaining to our own Indigenous people here in Aotearoa New Zealand? What would educators need to do to grow their understanding of Indigenous issues and perspectives both nationally and internationally?

Effects of colonisation are still felt today by Indigenous peoples around the world, including Aotearoa New Zealand.


Reconciling Indigeneity and Eurocentrism

As tangata whenua of Aotearoa New Zealand, Māori continue to maintain their rights and authority as people of the land through their close connections and whakapapa links they hold with the whenua. However, due to our colonised history, Māori have had to become ‘citizens’ in order to live, to work and to be afforded the same privileges and responsibilities of any other New Zealand citizen. What does this mean for Māori as tangata whenua? Are the terms ‘citizenship’ and ‘tangata whenuatanga’ compatible? What do the terms ‘tangata whenua’, ‘citizenship’ and ‘indigenous’ mean?

Macfarlane (2021) shares her insights on global citizenship from a uniquely Indigenous Māori position. Matthews (2016) considers the view that Māori live in two worlds – an everyday mainstream world and a Māori world. There is an unconscious expectation that Māori are able to walk comfortably in both the world of te ao Māori and the dominant Eurocentric world. 

However, for many Māori, colonising effects such as the loss of papakāinga (ancestral homes) or the inability to walk in their Māori world can have a negative impact on their identity as Māori and can influence levels of participation and contribution. Matthews infers that a Māori cultural citizenship model that prepares Māori to participate in both worlds successfully and is based on Māori values, tikanga and mātauranga has the potential to empower Māori students and reverse the negative effects of colonisation.


Macfarlane, S. (2019). He raraunga o te ao—Global citizenship: A Māori perspective. Curriculum Matters, 15, 99–103. doi:10.18296/cm.0039

Matthews, N. (2016). Māori cultural citizenship education. Set: Research Information for Teachers, (3), 10–14. doi:10.18296/set.0051


What can teachers do to grow their cultural capability, knowledge and understanding of tangata whenuatanga when teaching about global citizenship?

To what extent are the terms ‘tangata whenua’ and ‘global citizenship’ compatible, equitable or exclusive? 

As global citizen educators, what actions can you take in your teaching to ensure that the perspectives of tangata whenua are heard, seen and valued?

Useful links

In our 2022 webinar GCED through an ao Māori perspective, Merimeri Anania and Tyler Te Kiri explore te ao Māori perspective on global citizenship education.

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