by Mohsen al Attar
Today, Tikanga Maori is often regarded as a series of norms that were used to maintain law and order within customary Maori society. Maori scholars reject this view as superficial, pointing out that Tikanga is a holistic system that has regulated social, economic, spiritual, and even environmental aspects of life right through to the present day. This legal code is rooted in a Maori worldview that is informed by cosmology (spirituality), whakapapa (common descent that binds generations), collective social relations among whanau, hapu, and iwi, and the ultimate goal of maintaining balance among the diverse elements of Maori society.
In this lecture, we examine some of the core concepts of Tikanga. We also consider the differences between Tikanga and the formal New Zealand system. Is it possible for two legal systems to co-exist in a single territory? Mighet each borrow from the other and better adapt to dynamic social norms? Or, as some suggest, must one inevitably dominate the other?