Almost 30 years ago, Jeffrey Sissons, noted historian, proposed two major types of histories principally relating to northern tribal region of New Zealand: (1) founding and (2) conquest. Founding traditions ‘concern marriage, birth and residence; they establish relations between hapū [kin groups] with respect to land’, he wrote (1988, p.200). Certainly this description may apply elsewhere in Aotearoa. There is another dimension of founding narratives that we want to talk about: the voyaging waka. These kōrero (stories) concern entrepreneurial leadership, discovery and expansion. We want to focus on the idea of expansion.
For decades, Thor Hyderdahl, historians and others (for example, Howe 2006, Green 2001, Irwin 1994, Walker 1990, Simmons 1976, Percy Smith 1910), have tried to make sense of, and interpret, waka narratives to understand origins, motivations to travel, how and where the early ancestors travelled and so on.
It might be argued that research into early waka narratives has already been done and little, or nothing, new can be learnt.
We argue to the contrary. We re-examine selected waka narratives to demonstrate that the early Polynesian entrepreneurs’ expansion and exploration in Aotearoa and throughout the Pacific are much greater than previously acknowledged.
One New Zealand example based on mid-1800 narratives shows extensive exploration, expansion and settlement by the first Te Arawa voyaging individuals in Taitokerau, Northern New Zealand. Taitokerau narratives generally give limited attention to these kōrero and instead focus on other waka (Ngātokimatawhaorua, Mataatua, Mamari, Mamaru, Tinana and others depending on what area is being discussed). A new slant suggests a Te Arawa colonisation in Taitokerau as demonstrated through the many places visited and named by the first NZ-based Te Arawa tūpuna (ancestors).
More recent oral narratives concerning broader Pacific/international Polynesian expansion sheds exciting new light on entrepreneurship and the extent of voyaging beyond the Tahiti-NZ-Rarotonga-Rapanui-Hawaii nexus. An overview of narratives from Northern west coast USA as told to Paul in a recent research trip will be discussed.
The evidence discussed also provides a counterpoint to other types of analysis about early settlement and origins in NZ, which are archaeological and suggest Wairau Bar in southern North Island of NZ as a diffusion point to elsewhere in NZ.
Professor Paul Tapsell (Te Arawa, Ngāti Raukawa)
Paul is chair of Māori Studies at the University of Otago. Of Te Arawa and Ngaāti Raukawa descent, he has a background in museums and cultural heritage. Having graduated from the University of Oxford with a D.Phil in Museum Ethnography, he has worked as curator of the Rotorua Museum and Director (Māori) at Auckland Museum. In the mid-1990s, he was instrumental in the return of Pukaki, an iconic and important taonga, to Rotorua from the Auckland Museum.
Paul is published widely on Māori and indigenous topics and has spearheaded the Māori Maps project, which began as a pilot mapping all hapū marae in Taitokerau. He was co-principal investigator on FoRST (Te Wehi Nui/Māori Maps) and Marsden (entrepreneurial leadership) projects and the current Ngā Pae (‘Waka Wairua’) project, all of which are led out of the James Henare Centre.
Associate Professor Merata Kāwharu (Te Taou, Ngaoho, Te Uringutu (Ngāti Whātua), Ngāti Rahiri, Ngāti Kawa (Ngāpuhi))
Merata Kāwharu is the Director of Research at the James Henare Māori Research Centre. She has been involved in Māori and indigenous cultural and economic development, locally nationally and internationally (including as a consultant to the UN and to UNESCO). Merata has published widely on Māori development under Marsden grants, FoRST and other funding, and has worked with many hapū and iwi claimants on their Treaty claims, researching and writing in particular on customary histories and Te Tiriti. As a Rhodes Scholar Merata read Social Anthropology for her DPhil at Oxford University. In 2012 she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Māori Education. She is privileged to be working at the Centre where her father was the foundation director, and to work with hapū and marae of Taitokerau.