Te Mata Ira was a three-year research project (2012–2015) that explored Māori views on genomic research and biobanking for the development of culturally appropriate guidelines. A key component of this process has been to identify Māori concepts that provide cultural reference points for engaging with biobanking and genomic research. These cultural cues provide the basis for describing the cultural logic that underpins engagement in this context in a culturally acceptable manner.
This paper explores the epistemological divide between mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) and science, and considers which cultural concepts have relevance when considering the use of embryos in research. We argue that empowerment is a necessary precursor for a dialogue process to be effective and to maintain the cultural dignity and confidence of the participants. Negotiating spaces to share ideas, concepts and values between different knowledge systems is an important exercise that creates opportunities for innovative thinking.
The phrase ‘for Māori, by Māori, with Māori’, synonymous with Kaupapa Māori research, reflects the strong community participatory orientation and aims of this paradigm. Its use has evolved from glib reference and catchphrase, to a ‘checklist’/gauge of how well a research project has enacted community participatory principles, and to what extent Māori participation in the research process is meaningful and empowered. Description of research according to this ‘shorthand’ definition, however, can be misleading.