Hawaiki was often thought of as a physical place, and in the late 19th and early 20th centuries there was great interest in finding its location. Ōriwa Haddon helped narrow down the investigation into Māori origins by pointing out similarities between Tahitian and Māori traditions. He described these in a letter of 20 October 1929 to the Māori-language newspaper Te Toa Takitini. He was, however, unable to settle the debate concerning the precise location of Hawaiki.
Here is a translation of the final two paragraphs of his letter:
In the past few years, I visited the island of Rangiātea – “Raetea” of Tahiti. The traditions of the elders there were unanimous regarding Turi and his canoe, Aotearoa. I was taken to Turi’s home and heard many traditions concerning him. I also heard a great deal about Te Tahāroa-o-Raeatea, that is Te Whangaroa-o-Rangiātea, Te Tai-o-Marama, Taputapuātea, Opoa, Tevai-a-Tufi-Langi, that is Te Wai-mā-Tuhirangi and many more. The traditions I heard there were no different from those I heard from my elders of Ngāti Ruanui and Ngā Rauru concerning Aotearoa. This is the subject of ongoing discussion. However, the question to which we seek an answer is: where is Hawaiki? We have not been able to locate it. Numerous scholars have searched, however, we have heard no word or received no message to say that they have found Hawaiki, the place from which the Māori sprang.
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Reference: Te Toa Takitini, 1 Noema 1929, p. 1,917.
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