Story: Māori non-fiction and scholarship – ngā tuhinga me te rangahau

Page 3. Māori academic writing

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Te Aute College Students’ Association

Some of the earliest academic writing by Māori can be found in the proceedings of conferences of Te Aute College Students’ Association (TACSA) from 1897. Association founder Apirana Ngata contributed a number of papers along with other members; they were later known as the Young Māori Party. Ngata, though busy as a politician, continued to research and write about Māori culture and traditions.

Te Rangi Hīroa

Te Rangi Hīroa (Peter Buck) also made an early contribution to the TACSA conferences with a paper on Parihaka. He then published articles in Dominion Museum bulletins and the Journal of the Polynesian Society in the early 1900s. From the 1920s Buck became more involved in anthropology, publishing on Māori clothing and Cook Islands material culture. He then became a research fellow at the Bishop Museum in Hawaii and moved from amateur to professional anthropologist. He would later become the museum’s director. Buck’s best-known publication was Vikings of the sunrise (1938), which covered the traditions, ethnography and social structure of Polynesian groups.

Mākereti Papakura

In 1926 Mākereti (Maggie) Papakura enrolled in a BSc in anthropology at Oxford University in England, but died shortly before examination, in 1930. Her thesis, The old-time Maori, published in 1938 by the secretary of Oxford’s anthropology committee, was the first extensive anthropological work by a Māori scholar. It was reprinted in 1986, with an introduction by scholar Ngahuia Te Awekotuku.

Maharaia Winiata

In 1954 Maharaia Winiata gained a PhD from Edinburgh University, becoming the first Māori to receive a doctorate overseas. Winiata wrote articles for the Department of Māori Affairs magazine Te Ao Hou and the Journal of the Polynesian Society. His thesis was published after his death as The changing role of the leader in Maori society (1967).

Other early Māori academics

Ngāpare Hopa was the first Māori woman to graduate from the University of Oxford with a doctorate, in 1977. In 1955 Bruce Biggs received a PhD in linguistics from the University of Indiana. Hugh Kawharu gained a doctorate at Oxford in 1962. Patu Hohepa gained his PhD in 1965 at Indiana University. Hirini Mead received his doctorate in 1968, as did Ranginui Walker in 1970. All went on to have successful academic careers and to write important works.

Later writing by academics

Bruce Biggs made an outstanding contribution to Māori linguistics, but is possibly best known for his book Let’s learn Māori (1969). Mason Durie published Whaiora: Māori health development in 1994. Hirini Mead wrote extensively on Māori art in Art of Māori carving (1961).

Te haurapa: an introduction to researching tribal histories and traditions by Te Ahukaramu Charles Royal (1992) was widely utilised by Māori researchers. In 1999 Linda Tuhiwai Smith published Decolonizing methodologies, about indigenous approaches to research. Her book became influential in Māori studies and indigenous studies, and in wānanga (Māori tertiary institutions).

Royal’s Te ngākau: he wānanga i te mātauranga (2009), written in te reo Māori, explores Māori knowledge. Poia Rewi and Rawinia Higgins published The value of the Māori language: te hua o te reo Māori, a book on the state of the Māori language, in 2014.

Academics in the 2000s

By the 2000s there was a flowering of Māori involvement in academic research and writing. The Māori historians’ group Te Pouhere Kōrero was established in 1992. The Māori Association of Social Sciences was formed in 2006 and has held national hui every couple of years.

A number of universities established pro-vice-chancellor (Māori) positions to provide leadership for academic work by and for Māori. Incumbents have included Jim Peters at the University of Auckland and Piri Sciascia at Victoria University of Wellington. Linda Smith was the first Māori woman pro-vice-chancellor, at the University of Waikato. The three wānanga – Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, and Te Wānanga o Raukawa – are headed by Māori.

In 2002 a Māori centre of research excellence, Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, was formed at the University of Auckland. It plays a significant role in Māori research and writing.

How to cite this page:

Basil Keane, 'Māori non-fiction and scholarship – ngā tuhinga me te rangahau - Māori academic writing', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 29 June 2022)

Story by Basil Keane, published 22 Oct 2014