When a traditional Indigenous identity is submerged beneath a cloud of contemporary politics and power relations, how might such a situation undermine its educational and developmental aspirations? This article examines the case of Te Riu o Hokianga (the valley of Hokianga) in Aotearoa New Zealand, where the imposition of a contemporary political identity is adversely affecting the development of a more culturally appropriate identity, otherwise known as Hokianga whānui (the wider Hokianga family community). Semi- structured interviews were conducted with six participants who shared an ancestral whakapapa (genealogy embodying layered connections) with the Hokianga. Voicing their interpretations, experiences and aspirations, participants disclosed how they envisioned educational and developmental success in Hokianga. Our interpretation of Te Ihomatua (a positive active essence for transformation)—informed by a hybrid theoretical framework that interweaves Marxist, elite and kaupapa Māori (based on Māori worldview) theory—is employed to discern the multifaceted whakapapa of place and how that might inform Indigenous arrangements that support identity and developmental aspirations.