Indigenous Identity and Environmental Values: Do Spirituality and Political Consciousness Predict Environmental Regard Among Māori?

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Abstract

Indigenous peoples often have a unique and deep connection to the land. However, quantitative research exploring this issue is scarce. The current research investigates cultural variation in environmental regard in New Zealand, where more recent settler groups have questioned the strength of Indigenous environmental regard. Study 1 examined differences in environmental regard held by Indigenous and non-Indigenous ethnic groups in a nationally representative data set, the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (N = 9,269). Māori (the Indigenous group) expressed the highest levels of regard for the environment on average, although there was also considerable variance among Māori as a group. Study 2 adopted an emic perspective to investigate which dimensions of Māori identity are related to higher environmental value specifically among Māori (N = 193). Bayesian regression indicated that sociopolitical consciousness—the extent to which participants recognize the importance of and stand up for Māori political rights—was linked with higher environmental regard. Contrary to predictions, belief in Māori spiritual concepts was not linked with increased environmental regard. These findings suggest that Māori tend to value the natural environment more than non-Indigenous New Zealanders at least in part because high environmental regard is central to Māori political consciousness.

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