Whakapapa describes the relationships between Te Ao Kikokiko (the physical world) and Te Ao Wairua (the spiritual world). Whakapapa is expressed as sets of relationships, conditional obligations and privileges that determine a sense of self wellbeing between whānau, hapū and iwi and the interconnectedness between whānau, hapū and iwi and the environment. Whakapapa is broadly defined as the continuum of life that includes kinship and history.

Te Ao Māori and being Māori do not exist if whakapapa is non-existent. If whakapapa is non-existent then you cannot have whānau, hapū and iwi. It is the construct that underpins the essence of Māori identities and the governance role of tikanga among whānau, hapū and iwi.


  • Whakapapa is a tool for engagement. It provides the necessary starting point for an alliance of interest and a centrifugal bond within whānau, hapū and iwi.
  • The reciprocity and obligatory nature of whakapapa means that it can be used to create productive and enduring relationships that support change. Whakapapa establishes connections and relationships and brings responsibility, reciprocity and obligation to those relationships.
  • In a practice sense, the practitioner must confer with and involve others in the therapeutice relationship when operating from a whakapapa base in order to infer a collective responsibility.
  • Whakapapa has a collective quality. We look for relationships between things but not at the expense of individuality. Relationship is the more vital force in the universe.
  • Whakapapa informs a person about being human, being a person, being of a culture, being of a place.