Description of whānau
Māori whānau traditionally:
- were a family group of parents, grandparents, children and uncles and aunts
- lived in the same buildings
- worked together to support the whole whānau
- had common ancestors.
Although not many people live like this now, whānau ties are still very strong.
Individual members of whānau are encouraged to express themselves, and the strength of the whānau is the contribution that all the individuals make.
Whānau can be ‘whānau ake’ the immediate family, or a whole extended group of great grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts and children and grandchildren.
People who have died, or ex-partners of divorced people, are still seen as whānau members.
Whānau is also used as a name for friends, or for a group with a common purpose.
Whānau, hapū and iwi
Whānau, hapū (subtribe) and iwi (tribe) all depend on each other, and there was traditionally no hierarchy. Governments often prefer to negotiate at iwi level and this changes traditional practices.
Whānau, hapū and iwi are joined together by whakapapa (genealogy).
Tuākana are the older brothers of a male or the older sisters of a female. Taina are the younger brothers of a male or younger sisters of a female. Tuakana–taina relationships are an important aspect of whānau.
Whāngai is a Māori form of fostering. Children may stay with another whānau for months, years or for good.