Reclaiming Our People Following Imprisonment

  • Cherryl Waerea-i-te-rangi Smith
  • Helena Rattray
  • Leanne Romana
Living reference work entry


Mass incarceration needs to be seen as part of the complex historical picture of the development of settler states, a picture that is located within the dispossession of land and identities. Most analysis locates mass incarceration as a school to prison pipeline, a poverty to prison pipeline, and a victimization to prison pipeline. These factors while extremely significant and relevant fail to grapple with the Indigenous factor. The Indigenous factor means that if you are Indigenous in colonized countries, you are likely to be among the most highly imprisoned peoples in the world. For Maori in Aotearoa (New Zealand), despite being 17% of the population, women make up 60% of the prison population and Maori men make up over 50%. Current analyses fail to grapple fully with the disproportionately high rate of Indigenous incarceration in settler states. Very often these factors are examined in isolation to the mass dispossession of Indigenous identity, lands, language, and culture over relatively few generations.

Maori community workers have long recognized that a key to turning around the imprisonment rates of Maori is twofold, it is a battle to change state systems which have shaped and enacted historical and contemporary injustice, and it is simultaneously a battle waged in restoring the hearts and minds of those impacted by imprisonment. Our researchers worked with Maori community workers and a group of 35 Maori men and women coming out of prison. Over 2 years we interviewed them and we attempted to reconnect them to their iwi history and iwi support. The initiative that we ran with iwi support was enormously successful. We worked with 35 Maori men and Maori women post release and although statistically 18 should have returned to prison within the first year, only four returned to prison. This article will look at what Maori researchers alongside of community workers and researchers did that enabled Maori men and women to successfully strengthen their lives, increase their understanding of their world, build support systems, and stay out of prison.


Maori Prison Iwi Hapu Historical trauma Imprisonment Indigenous Intergenerational trauma Indigenous models of intervention Whanganui Waikato 




New Zealand, Māori term for New Zealand.


Earth oven to cook food with steam and heat from heated stones.


Kinship group, clan, tribe, sub-tribe, section of a large kinship group and the primary political unit in traditional Māori society. It consisted of a number of whānau sharing descent from a common ancestor, usually being named after the ancestor, but sometimes from an important event in the group’s history. A number of related hapu usually shared adjacent territories forming a looser tribal federation (iwi).


Extended kinship group, tribe, nation, people, nationality, race, often refers to a large group of people descended from a common ancestor and associated with a distinct territory.


Food, to eat, to consume, feed (oneself), partakes, devour.


Māori Performing Arts, performance, Māori song/dance.


Prayer, to recite, or chant.


Topic, policy, matter for discussion, plan, purpose, scheme, proposal, agenda, subject, program, theme, issue, initiative.


Gift, present, offering, donation, contribution, especially one maintaining social relationships and has connotations of reciprocity.


Elderly man, grandfather, grandad, grandpa, term of address to an older man.

Kumara vines

Maori lines of networking.

Manawhenua Report

This report has been commissioned by Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Apa as part of their preparation for presentation of Wai 265, the Ngāti Apa land claim before the Waitangi Tribunal. The purpose of this report is to provide a definition of the nature and extent of Ngāti Apa manawhenua. This report is a component of the overall research and reporting project currently underway as part of Wai 265.


Indigenous New Zealander, indigenous person of Aotearoa/New Zealand.


Village, communal village, courtyard. The open area in front of the wharenui, where formal greetings and discussions take place. Often also used to include the complex of buildings around the marae.


Mountain, mount, peak, sacred hill.

Mihi Whakatau

Speech of greeting, official welcome speech, speech acknowledging those present at a gathering.

Ngai Tahu

A tribal group in the South Island of New Zealand.


New Zealander of European descent, English, foreign.


High ranking, chiefly, noble, esteemed.


A town located near the middle of the North Island of New Zealand.

Tangata Ora

People of wellness (literal translation). People who are well or who are healing. Term used for men and women who have been released from prison.

Tangata Whenua Tuturu

Original People of the Land.


Traditional Māori Funeral.

Te Reo

The Māori language.


Māori traditions and protocols, correct procedures, customs.

Treaty of Waitangi

A treaty first signed on 6 February 1840 by representatives of the British Crown and various Māori chiefs from the North Island of New Zealand.

Treaty Settlements

The settlement of historical Treaty of Waitangi claims.


Ancestors, grandparent(s).


Region in the upper North Island of New Zealand.


To meet and discuss, deliberate, consider, seminar, conference, or forum.


Genealogy, genealogical table, lineage, descent.


Family, extended family, family group.

Whānau Ora (Programmes)

A key cross-government work program jointly implemented by the Ministry of Health, Te Puni Kōkiri, and the Ministry of Social Development.


City in the lower North Island of New Zealand.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cherryl Waerea-i-te-rangi Smith
    • 1
  • Helena Rattray
    • 1
  • Leanne Romana
    • 1
  1. 1.Te Atawhai o te AoWhanganuiNew Zealand

Section editors and affiliations

  • Bryan Brayboy
    • 1
  • Megan Bang
    • 2
  1. 1.Arizona State UniversityArizonaUSA
  2. 2.College of EducationUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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