As a half caste teenager, I was caught in a dilemma - Boris Sokratov


Identity is something almost everyone struggles with at some time in their life.

I did as a “half-caste” teenager growing up in Aotearoa New Zealand in the 1970s until I stumbled upon academic Moana Jackson.

He was a man I genuinely admired. Through my eyes, he was and remains one of this nation’s greatest ever thinkers. He was always articulate, thoughtful and considered.

I recall reading an article in the late 1970s describing him as “NZ’s most dangerous man,” and thinking, “whatever?”

The last time I heard Jackson speak was in June 2009, in Blenheim at the first National Māori Men’s Health Conference. The other impressive keynote speaker at that conference who resonated with me was Hone Harawira.

Matua Moana articulately spoke about how the notion of Tāne Māori as a war-like warrior race did us no favours. He preferred the term Toa. For him, Toa had historically always been carers, nurturers and protectors. Good fathers, husbands, and sons. As Moana talked he made me think.

I began reflecting on all my mother’s brothers, my Henare uncles. Moana was concisely describing every one of them. All genuinely hard-working, kind, caring “gentle men.” Good husbands, brothers and dads. Dame Anne Salmond felt the same way.

And that’s what Tāne Māori need to do - heed Matua Moana’s wisdom and begin the process of socially reframing the narrative of what it means to be Tāne Māori. Moana’s words, still echo loud in my head “The image of us as a warrior race does us no good. We are not war-like warriors - we are Toa, nurturers and protectors, good fathers, husbands and sons.”

That’s how I believe we need to see ourselves. And when we collectively do, the dominant media narrative of us as social welfare-dependent guests of His Majesty will change.

Boris Sokratov is a Bulgarian-Māori and has whakapapa to Te Rarawa, Ngāti Haua. He was the producer of the Nutters Club Radio Show. He helped establish the Key to Life Charitable Trust that supports mental health advocate Mike King.