Although commerce is often considered to be a primarily Western activity, Māori were, and are, just as engaged in it as anyone else and are internationally recognised today for their business entrepreneurship. Trade and exchange was a common feature in the early history of Māori, both before and after Pākehā contact, as it was one of the main reasons for interaction. The language used in these interactions offers an insight into Māori commercial and economic adaptability and provides a template for how te reo Māori can further develop to support a Kaupapa Māori way of conducting business.
The realisation of the developmental aspirations of Indigenous communities requires a reframing of economy and economic representation. The “diverse economies” framework provides a platform from which to counter the dominant Western narrative surrounding notions of economy, and bring to the fore forms of enterprise and practices all too often “hidden” or viewed as alternative, and therefore deemed inferior. This paper explores the notion of economy and economic activity through the lens of diverse economies to best represent the complex and multidimensional nature of Māori small and medium-sized enterprises—pakihi Māori.