Māori customary law: A relational approach to justice

Stephanie Vieille has written about Māori customary law in the open access International Indigenous Policy Journal. Stephanie spent time in Aotearoa in the summer of 2010 and conducted open-ended interviews with 33 Māori informants about their “level of activity within their community, knowledge of the Mãori language, cultural beliefs, and practices, as well as their experience and knowledge of customary mechanisms of justice” (p.1). She uses this field research to highlight the tensions between tikanga Māori (correct procedure) and the criminal justice system.

In the abstract to her article she writes,

“This research paper examines the philosophy of justice embodied in tikanga Mãori, the Mãori traditional mechanism and approach to doing justice. Based on several months of fieldwork in New Zealand, this study contends that the Mãori approach to justice adopts a holistic and relational lens, which requires that justice be seen in the context of relationships and crimes dealt with in terms of the relationships they have affected. As a result, justice must be carried out within the community and the process owned by community members. Further discussion draws attention to the response of Mãori communities to the New Zealand government’s attempt to accommodate their traditions and warns against the global tendency to render traditional Indigenous approaches to justice ahistorical through their representation as restorative justice mechanisms.”


Vieille, S. (2012). Mãori Customary Law: A Relational Approach to Justice. The International Indigenous Policy Journal, 3(1). Retrieved from: http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/iipj/vol3/iss1/4

Community Research


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