Establishing a 'secure' Maori identity based solely on particular criteria of Maori culture (te reo Maori, tikanga, marae, etc.) continues to be problematic for some Maori. Those who are not seen as connected in this way are often defined by what they are seen as lacking, hence terms such as disconnected, distanced, detached and dissociated. Although young Maori may define themselves in terms of difference from others there is an increasing danger of some urban youth being defined as different from Maori who are 'culturally connected' and for this to be seen primarily as a negative demarcation. Although it may be the aspiration of some to have greater cultural connection, what this means for different groups and individuals may have both congruence and divergence with what are usually considered to be markers of cultural inclusion. This thesis presents the findings from a wider research project funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand. The project objective was to gather data that can inform and contribute to existing knowledge about cultural identity of rangatahi Maori with a view to establishing a framework(s) for greater youth development and a more positive and embracing perspective of culture. Kaupapa Maori and social constructionist framings are used to centre the focused life story interviews that were conducted with young people aged between 13-21 years, who identified as Maori and lived in the South Auckland area. Findings suggest that conventional and experiential indicators of Maori identity as well as a strong localised identity are key factors in this exploration. Challenges for identity theorists, societal institutions and other Maori are discussed.