That’s it, let them all out, no word in Maori for “guilty”

Apparently all Maori in prison should be let out and proclaimed innocent, because…get this…there is no word in Maori for guilty.

A Māori lawyer and social justice advocate says it’s time to abolish New Zealand prisons and take lessons from how law and order was historically approached by Māori.

Does he mean hacking off their heads, tattooing them and selling them to Poms? That sort of justice?

Moana Jackson will give an address tonight in Wellington explaining why Māori and other indigenous peoples didn’t have prisons prior to colonisation.

Mr Jackson said the United Nations and other international human rights bodies have found the operation of prisons in this country to be in breach of human rights.

“The bias and prejudiced way in which various parts of the criminal justice system operates ensures there is a disproportionate number of Māori men and Māori women in prison.

“I think part of that discussion is to look at indigenous nations around the world because there is no indigenous nation in New Zealand, or Australia or Canada or the United States or South America – that have a history of prisons, yet they all have a history of humans causing harm.”

Mr Jackson said Māori traditionally dealt with crime differently, with an emphasis on restoring the relationship between the person who caused harm and the person whom harm was inflicted upon.

I call bullshit on that. He makes out Maori were all sweetness and light and sat around and had a nice meeting to determine that someone was wronged and what the solution was. Those taiaha, mere and other weapons were just decorative weren’t they?

He said Māori sought to impose sanctions for the wrong and in the long-term, rebuild the relationship that was damaged.

“In the Pākehā system if someone is charged with something the question they’re asked in court is do you plead guilty or not guilty?

“There’s no word for ‘guilty’ in the Māori language and so the question asked instead was, ‘do you know who you have harmed’? In other words, do you know what the relationship or the potential relationship is that has been damaged?”

Using his logic, there was no word for dole, or welfare, or benefit, or smokes, or Lotto, or beer, or gambling either…but Maori seem to availed themselves of those quite a fair bit.

I am however perplexed why anyone bothers listening to Moana Jackson. A quick check of the Maori dictionary suggest he is correct…sort of. The is no word for guilty in Maori…there are actually lots of them.


1.(stative) be innocent, blameless, faultless, guiltless, honest, not guilty, sinless.

E hara ana, e harakore ana rānei, te herehere? (MM.TKM 29/2/1856:13). / Do you find the prisoner guilty or not guilty?


mau tangetange

1.(noun) found guilty.

He mau tangetange te whakataunga a te kōti ki runga i a Hīroki, kātahi ka whakahaua kia patua mate rawa (TTR 1994:28). / The decision of the court was that Hiroki was guilty and he was sentenced to death.



3.(noun) bad heart, bias against, ill-treatment, guilty intent, prejudice, intolerance, bigotry, malevolence.

He kupu ēnei nā Pāpaka mō te ngākaukino o āna mātua ki a ia (NIT 1995:291). / These were words by Pāpaka referring to his uncles’ ill-treatment of himself.

Why don’t reporters check these claims that these so-called advocates make?


-Radio NZ

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.