Tātari Tauutuutu: accounting for the Māori cultural economy

1. What is Tātari Tauutuutu?
In Te Reo Māori, the word ‘tātari’ is generally translated into English as a verb associated with: sifting, sorting-out, measuring-out or analysing. The word ‘tauutuutu’ can be translated as ‘reciprocity’. When combined, Tātari Tauutuutu can be translated in English as … the measurement, exploration or analysis of cycles of reciprocity. At Te Toi Ōhanga we use ‘Tātari Tauutuutu’ as a name denoting a distinctly Māori cultural approach to accounting for the well-being and survival of the Māori cultural economy.

2. What is the Māori economy?
When we use the expression ‘Māori economy’ most people assume that we are referring the contributions of Māori communities and businesses to growing regional and national GDP. In other words, the ‘Māori economy’ is a sub-sect of the ‘market economy’. This understanding is not wrong, but it is very incomplete and especially because of the ambiguity associated with attributing the English notion of ‘economy’ to Māori as a distinctive cultural group. There is no direct translation of the English word ‘economy’ into the language or ‘Reo’ of our ancestors. Social organisation for work, warfare and welfare was based on the Māori concept of family (i.e. whānau) which embraced genealogical descent from our Earth Mother – Papatūānuku, our Sky Father – Ranginui and the children of Papatūānuku and Ranginui who were appointed at the kaitiaki or guardians of the different domains of what we today call ‘the natural world’.

In the time of our ancestors, this ‘natural world’ was part of the Māori family or whānau. It is thus helpful to differentiate between the ‘Māori (market) economy’ and the Māori (cultural) economy. The Māori cultural economy can be thought of as a whānau Māori ecosystem or Māori family ecosystem, the well-being of which is based on cycles of reciprocity that link together all parts of this ‘family ecosystem’. Tātari Tauututu focuses our measurement attention and activities on making sure that these ‘cycles of reciprocity’ exist and are balanced over differing time frames.

3. Tātari Tauutuutu
There is an urgent need for accounting of this kind because market economic activity tends to interrupt, destroy, degrade and unbalance the cycles of reciprocity on which the well-being and survival of whānau Māori ecosystems are based. Because market economic activity tends to diminish the life force, function and well-being of whānau Māori ecosystems, the survival of Māori and other indigenous cultures is now inextricably connected with the urgent need to reclaim, reframe and reinstate the cultural economies.

Tātari tauutuutu is a model of accounting that can be used to measure all the things that are important to Māori communities or whānau Māori ecosystems and this includes the goals of well-being and survival. Key characteristics of Tātari Tauutuutu are outlined below.

3.1 Measuring what’s really important to Māori communities
Financial accounting is used to record and analyse financial transactions only. Tātari Tauutuutu provides a way of measuring all the things that are important to Māori communities, in units of measurement that are appropriate to each Māori wellbeing area.

3.2 Moving Māori cultural priorities beyond zero
In financial accounting, things that cannot be measured in monetary terms have a value of ‘zero’ in decision-making, planning and policy-making activities that directly affect Māori communities. Tātari Tauutuutu is an inclusive approach to accounting that measures all taonga of importance to Māori communities.

3.3 Measuring progress towards multiple goals
A primary goal of financial accounting is the growth of profit. Tātari Tauutuutu is an inclusive approach to accounting that measures annual progress towards all goals of importance to Māori communities. 

3.4 Making room for values in accounting
Financial (business/corporate) accounting supports a modern-day (liberal) model of economics that can be described as ‘value free’ or ‘ethically neutral’. Tātari tauutuutu is an approach to the measurement of Māori/indigenous wellbeing that is taonga (i.e. kawa, kaupapa and tikanga) based.  

3.5 Incentivising Māori behaviour
Financial accounting tends to incentivise corporate and business plans, policies and behaviours that are poorly aligned to Māori cultural identity, wellbeing and survival goals. The accounting records created by using Tātari Tauutuutu can be used to make decisions, plans and policies that incentivise Māori behaviour (i.e. the expression of kawa, kaupapa and tikanga) that contribute directly to Māori cultural wellbeing and survival.

3.6 Keeping track of ‘growth’ and the consequences of ‘growth’
Financial accounting places great importance on the measurement of economic or individual business growth, while largely failing to measure the consequences of growth (ecological decline, social inequality, increased poverty and cultural extinction). Tātari tauutuutu provides a way of measuring progress towards growth, ecological, social and cultural wellbeing – simultaneously. Accounting information of this kind makes it possible to ensure that the environment, Māori communities and Māori culture are not forgotten or traded-off as a consequence of economic growth and profit-making activities.

3.7 Introducing ‘cycles of reciprocity’ to accounting
Financial accounting is used to record income and expense transactions associated with buying and selling activities on commercial markets. Tātari Tauutuutu measures and seeks to understand how Māori/indigenous wellbeing is linked with cycles of reciprocal generosity and mauri that are the curreny of the true Māori cultural economy.

3.8 Co-creating a distinctly Māori approach to accounting
Financial accounting is an approach to the measurement of human wellbeing that was introduced to our Tūpuna by Tauiwi. Tātari Tauutuutu is an adaptation and extension of financial accounting that has been reclaimed from the mātau of our tūpuna and is now being reframed in a modern-day context to enhance the expression of kaitiakitanga and whanaungatanga by Māori communities.

3.9 Introducing ‘community’ into accounting practice
Financial accounting is an activity that is generally restricted to qualified professionals who act in isolation from the communities who are affected by their accounting practices, advice and statements. Tātari Tauutuutu is an approach to accounting that is conducted by Māori communities and thus provides them an opportunity to learn, monitor, respond and innovate in response to change. Most importantly, it empowers Māori communities to make accounting statements about themselves – rather than having someone else do this form them.

3.10 Measuring the wonderful richness of Māori culture
Financial accounting is based primarily on the use of cardinal numbers (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4 …). Tātari Tauutuutu harnesses the power of emerging digital technology (i.e. maps, documents, numbers, photos, video, audio and illustrations) to assist Māori communities to capture the wonderful richness of our Māori cultural heritage.

Leave comment