Tīmatanga: An annotated bibliography

Below is the annotated bibliography produced by Jade Gifford for her 2017/18 Summer Research Scholarship at Victoria University of Wellington. Titled 'Double Visions: Māori and Anthropology in Aotearoa/New Zealand,' this is the foundation upon which Mahi Tahi is built. The original version of Double Visions is available to download as a PDF, as is the full bibliography Jade collated as part of the Summer Scholarship.

If you would like to add to this annotated bibliography, please email Lorena Gibson for more details.

Double Visions: Māori and Anthropology in Aotearoa New Zealand

Jade Gifford, February 2018

This annotated bibliography is the product of research completed by myself through the Summer Scholarship Programme in the School of Social and Cultural Studies at Victoria University Wellington in 2017-18. 

My summer research project came as a result of the recognised need for more resources addressing the relationship between Māori and anthropology in Aotearoa. Under the supervision of Dr Lorena Gibson and Dr Graeme Whimp, I began by creating a timeline which included important institutions, publications, and entities in the history of Māori anthropology in New Zealand. From that, I gathered and collected a list of relevant titles and wrote annotations for them. For the sake of time restraints, the scope of the project had to be narrowed down, and we decided on the starting date of 1918 - the date H.D. Skinner took up his ethnology positions at Otago University, and the beginnings of anthropology as an academic subject.

What the timeline emphasised to me was that Māori anthropology is a dynamic discipline, one that is changing constantly as a result of political and economic climate, social and cultural norms, and new academic discoveries and approaches. 

One of the first questions I was faced with was - What and who counts as “anthropological”? What does it mean to be an anthropologist of Māori? And what does it mean to be a Māori anthropologist? Was it to uncover ‘hidden truths, to document (dying) cultures, or was it to compare, and aid in ‘developing’ indigenous societies? One thing that was evident was that the relationship between anthropology and the colonial project in New Zealand was undeniable. This relates to the way in which colonisation in New Zealand in particular, after the conclusion of the land wars, was not so much administered by force but by the control of information and of knowledge. Early anthropology on Māori in New Zealand tended to be justified for the means of ‘native administration’ or other such assimilation efforts.

Often the findings from anthropological research would contribute to Native policy-making, to successfully ‘adjust’ and ‘equip’ Māori for a ‘modern’ or, more accurately, ‘Pākehā’ world. Anthropologists, from Edward Tregear to Raymond Firth, were indicative of this time period. Surprisingly, a number of prominent Māori leaders (stemming from institutions such as Te Aute College and the Young Maori Party) such as Āpirana Ngata and Te Rangi Hīroa contributed to this desire of cultural adaptation - to get rid of certain aspects of Māori life, and keep others for the sake of ‘racial survival’. The year 1931 marked the death of Elsdon Best, prominent anthropologist and writer of The Maori and Tuhoe. After his death, H D Skinner and J C Andersen took upon the co-editorship of the Journal of the Polynesian Society (JPS). Their partnership was evidently riddled with conflict as where Skinner represented a newer, professional and academic anthropology, Anderson was the protégé of Best and held true to the traditional ethnological approach to JPS. 

Also during this time, Māori anthropologist and politician Te Rangi Hīroa’s writing highlighted the relationship between Māori and wider Polynesia, as he traced their journey as navigators and discoverers of new lands.

The 1940s and 50s saw an increase in popularity of anthropology as a discipline for university study, as well as the appointment of Peter Fraser as Labour Prime Minister and Minister for ‘Native’ affairs, which he changed to ‘Maori’ affairs in 1947 (Anderson et al. 335). Publications such as Joan Metge’s A New Maori Migration, highlighted the movement of Māori to cities and their subsequent integration into urban society. This period also saw the rise of non-Māori educators such as Metge and Anne Salmond, and their contributions to Māori anthropology, and added theoretical grounding - Salmond, through her anthropology of the occasion of the ‘hui’, and Metge through her exploration of migration trends and impacts in Māori society. 

Anthropology also acted as a platform for the introduction of Māori Studies in New Zealand universities. Figures such as Hugh Kawharu, Bruce Biggs, and Ranginui Walker were essential in the beginnings of Māori Studies and the ongoing relationship between Māori and anthropology in universities. These leaders marked a movement of reclamation for the discipline, a ‘passing over’ of the reigns of ethnography to our own people, armed with the necessary scholarship and experience to carry out real and valuable anthropological research, which was also rooted in tikanga. Anthropology was no longer a discipline reserved for the documentation of a dying culture, but a tool to recognise the diversity of Māori experience, analyse cultural trends, and consider the extensive, pervasive, and lasting impacts of colonisation for Māori.

More recently, Māori and non-Māori anthropologists such as Natacha Gagne, Lily George, Amiria Henare, Tarapuhi Bryers-Brown, Catherine Trundle, Marama Muru-Lanning, Paul Whitinui, and many more represent an anthropology which attempts to utilise and validate Māori forms of knowledge and experience, the ability to use storytelling as a device in academic discourse, and the importance of historicising findings as well as incorporating theory. With new theoretical concepts at the forefront such as historical trauma theory, indigenous autoethnography, decolonisation, and other important power related theories.

When I first started studying anthropology at university in 2015, some of the prevailing questions on my mind were, ‘Where do Māori fit into this history?’ and ‘Where do Māori fit into this discipline?’ This project allowed me to begin to find answers to these questions. Although there is still a lot to be done, I hope these preliminary findings encourage more Māori and non-Māori anthropologists to explore this relationship between Māori and anthropology in New Zealand. As I have only just started to scrape the surface of the ‘layers’ and ‘whakapapa’ of the history of this discipline and its relationship with tangata whenua in Aotearoa.

Work Cited

Anderson, Athol, Judith Binney, and Aroha Harris (eds.). 2015. Tangata Whenua: A History. Wellington: Bridget Williams Books.

Beaglehole, Ernest & Pearl. 1946. Some Modern Maoris. Wellington: Oxford University Press.

Ernest and Pearl Beaglehole were a married couple of ethnologists and established academics in the field of social sciences. Some Modern Maoris is a study and survey of the small settlement of Kowhai, near Hamilton in New Zealand. The settlement was populated by no more than 2,000 people, just under 17% of which were Māori (4). The study comprises both detailed documentary materials of the citizens in Kowhai, as well as evidence from participant observation collected by the couple. The Beagleholes’ explore several realms of the daily life of Kowhai Māori which they deem most relevant. One of these being how the citizens earn a living, as according to the Beagleholes, ‘normal life depends on meeting material needs’ (17). Additionally to this, the Beagleholes discuss the types of work people in Kowhai tended to have, their economic lives, marriage, raising children, food, houses, and social events. As well as the citizens’ experiences of religion, sickness, and death. The Beagleholes exclude information they don’t deem as helpful; they write that an exploration of the history of the Māori people in Kowhai is ‘hardly relevant’ to their study (9). Something unique about the Beagleholes’ approach to research is the way that they often link their findings in the small town of Kowhai to wider Māori cultural and social norms. They also often use specific examples from the families and people they have been observing in their fieldwork to enhance their conclusions.


Best, Elsdon. 1924. The Maori – Volume I. Wellington: Board of Ethnological Research for the Author and on behalf of the Polynesian Society.

Elsdon Best is probably one of the most prominent anthropologists in New Zealand of the early twentieth century. He had a deep interest in Māori culture and his publishings were widely read and accepted by many. The Maori - Volume I, is a book which focuses on capturing and documenting the culture ‘as it was’, or prior to European settlement. As Best notes, he hoped this book would present a ‘fairly well balanced and explanatory account of the neolithic Maori’ (xi). In this volume, Best starts by describing the ‘Physical and Mental Characteristics of the Maori’ (1), along with accompanying pictures and descriptions. He goes on to discuss the migration of Māori to New Zealand (20), cosmogeny and gods (85), myth and folklore (124), religious beliefs (232), and social customs (442). The Maori - Volume I could be considered essential reading for those studying Māori anthropology, as it is indicative of an anthropological and colonial approach to documenting culture and a result of the desire to conserve and inform future generations on the state of the early Māori and first peoples to New Zealand.


Best, Elsdon. 1941. The Maori – Volume 2. Wellington: Board of Ethnological Research for the Author and on behalf of the Polynesian Society.

Elsdon Best’s The Maori - Volume 2 follows a similar strand to the first in terms of description and writing style. The second however, deals with different subject matter within the Māori culture. Best’s writing tends to be highly descriptive and at times comparative but not quite analytical. It lacks theoretical grounding in comparison to works by later anthropologists, but definitely provides meticulous attention to many different aspects of Māori life prior to colonisation. For the most part, Best continues discussing the social life of Māori including the events of childbirth, sickness, death, and burial, as well as arts, games, and music. He also goes on to describe Pa, or village structures, agricultural life, fishing, and dwellings. Best gives a broad and rather generalised view of Māori in his book; he does not so much build on or deepen research provided in the first book but instead broadens his range and scope to new domains of Māori social life. This text is indicative of an early colonial anthropology which acts more so as an encyclopaedia of knowledge of the ‘Native’ culture.


Best, Elsdon. 1973. Tuhoe, the children of the mist. Second edition. Wellington: Polynesian Society.

Elsdon Best’s Tuhoe, the children of the mist is a pivotal and crucial text in Māori anthropology. Best recounts the history, myth and tradition of the Tuhoe tribe of New Zealand. This book is the subsequent result of 30 years of collecting and compiling data on the region, and information passed on from one of Best’s key informants and prominent Tuhoe chief, Tutakangahau (1143). The book is divided into two sections, the first comprising the early tribes of Tuhoeland, important battles and raids, inter-tribal relations and regional histories prior to Pākehā arrival. Best also discusses the state of Tuhoe post-Pākehā settlement, such as the interaction with early traders and missionaries, the Christian influence, and fighting between Pākehā and Māori. The second section of the book documents the traditions, myths, religious beliefs, and practices of the Mataatua tribes. Best concludes by stating, ‘should the matter conserved in this paper prove of interest to their descendants, then my object has been achieved’ (1143). Best was one of the first anthropologists to study the Māori people, and although his work does contain some cultural assumptions indicative of the period, it is obvious that he believed that in doing this study he was noting and conserving Tuhoe histories for its future descendants.


Biggs, Bruce. 1960. Maori Marriage: An Essay in Reconstruction. Wellington: The Polynesian Society Incorporated.

Bruce Biggs (Ngāti Maniapoto) was a leading figure in the establishment of Māori studies in New Zealand universities, working as the senior lecturer in Māori language at the University of Auckland, and was also a student of anthropologist Ralph Piddington. In his book Maori Marriage, Biggs attempts to reconstruct the indigenous marriage system in Māori society. Biggs uses the theory of cultural reconstruction to guide his research, as he argues that the more samples, fragments and snapshots that can be provided of a dynamic culture, the better informed we as anthropologists are overall (2). Biggs writes that reconstruction is necessary in the case of the Māori, as they are ‘one of the most documented of the world’s primitive peoples’ with a ‘wealth of ethnographic material’ (2). Biggs uses sources such as legends and song to discuss values pertaining to sex and courtship and discusses the aspects of personal choice of mates, the occurrence of arranged marriages, and the impact of marriage on wider social and economic organisational structures. Biggs notes the lack of ceremony or religious sanctification in Māori marriage (52), and the importance of marriage as a ‘procreative institution’ (60). Biggs’s ‘reconstruction’ of Māori marriage is a key text as it gives credence and consideration to both non-Māori knowledge and writing together with  Māori oral histories to provide a broad perspective on the occasion of marriage.


Buck, Peter H. 1938. Vikings of the Sunrise. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company.

Te Rangi Hiroa, or Peter H Buck, is probably the first recognised professional Māori anthropologist. His book, Vikings of the Sunrise, was written while he was working as the director of the Bernice. P Bishop Museum in Hawaii. Buck notes that he bases this study on a mixture of ‘personal incidents’, his knowledge of customs from previous fieldwork, as well as works published by the Bishop Museum (v). The main purpose of the study, as he writes, was to ‘make known to the general public some of the romance associated with the settlement of Polynesia by a stone-age people who deserve to rank among the world’s great navigators’ (v). It is evident then, that Buck is writing to an audience of people, presumably outside of Polynesia, of the native Polynesians dynamic and heroic histories. Primarily Buck discusses the gradual peopling of Polynesia - from the earliest voyages of settlers and the elusive homeland of Hawaiki - along with a discussion and comparison of Polynesian myths, flora, fauna, knowledge of sea and winds, and language. The book provides observations into many of the islands of Polynesia including - Tahiti, Marquesas, the Society Islands, Hawaii, the Cook Islands, Tuamotu Islands, Tonga, Sāmoa and Aotearoa. Buck begins by analysing the several different origin and migration theories of different islands regarding the location of Hawaiki and the route of canoe which populated Polynesia. Chapter XIX ‘The Southern Angle’ (259-283), is where Buck primarily discusses Aotearoa. He begins by reflecting on his own life and his intimate relationship to the culture and traditions. He goes on to discuss the Māori gods - including Māui, creation stories, arrival of canoe, food plants, art, proverbs, and songs. This book is significant in that it effectively explores the differences and similarities between Māori and wider Polynesian culture.


Buck, Peter. 1949. The Coming of the Maori. Wellington: Maori Purposes Fund Board.

The Coming of the Maori is a body of work that combines the history, traditions, customs, culture, social organization, and economic life of the Māori, with the story of Polynesia. The book is split up into 4 sections entitled ‘Coming of the Maori’, ‘Material Culture’, ‘Social Organization’, and ‘Religion’. Buck focuses primarily on Māori prior to the arrival of European settlers. He weaves in comparisons between Māori and wider Polynesia, for example similarities in language and art motifs in tattoo, carving, and weaving. Buck explains aspects of social organization - from the intimate family unit, to the hapuu, to tribe and canoe fleet. The Rt. Hon Peter Fraser wrote that Buck is ‘one of New Zealand’s greatest sons’ (Dedication). It is evident then, that Buck’s writing was incredibly influential and valuable in the growing knowledge about Māori culture in the twentieth century.


Firth, Raymond. 1959. Economics of the New Zealand Maori. Wellington: Whitcomb and Tombs Limited.

Raymond Firth’s Economics of the New Zealand Maori can be considered the first attempt to bridge the gap between economics and anthropology in New Zealand (16). The book has grounding in theory - specifically the theory of the non-monetary economic system. Firth connects growing knowledge of economic theory to a Māori case study. He raises questions such as, Where does value lie in non-monetary economic systems? And how does one measure worth in such systems? Firth also discusses types of exchange media and in this case, ‘primitive money’. He provides a historicised study - beginning with the New Zealand natural environment and how it was crucial in establishing the earliest of Māori economic systems. He also analyses types of Māori goods and services, industry and work attitudes, ‘magic’ in the economic system, and the importance of prestige related to social value. He then moves on to discuss the land further, as well as the concept of gift exchange. Later, Firth discusses the arrival of Pākehā, and the economic aspect of cultural change. In this section, Keesing explores how the primary modes of Māori economic exchange were challenged and changed with the arrival of Pākehā settlers. Overall, this text is one of the first vital and serious explorations of Māori economic systems.


Gagné, Natacha. 2013. Being Māori in the City: Indigenous Everyday Life in Auckland. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Being Māori in the City is an ethnographic study of the everyday, ordinary experiences of Māori living in urban settings. Through two years of fieldwork, and 250 hours of interviews, Gagné explores how ‘indigenous ways of being are maintained within an urban context, and are even strengthened through change and openness to the larger society’ (Preface). Gagné is a non-Māori, now professor of anthropology at Université Laval in Canada. She intertwines history, politics, and modern Māori affairs in her writing, thus contextualising and placing her ethnographic findings within a broader web of social, cultural, and historic structures. Gagné explores the importance of Māori political and social movements. Important concepts which Gagné includes in her study are identity, autonomy, urbanisation, self-determination, and decolonisation. Basing her fieldwork in Auckland, Gagné attempted to interview different types of Māori to get a wide range of experiences - this included interviews with newly urbanised  Māori, and Māori who were born in the city, as well as individuals from different tribes, age groups, sexes, and various socioeconomic statuses (16). Gagné’s book addresses a wide range of issues and prominent features of Māori urban life, including the pervasive effects of colonisation, diversity, marae, whanau systems, and the interaction of Māori and Pākehā worlds. Being Māori in the City uses personal stories as well as anthropological theory and concepts to showcase the struggle for Māori affirmation in the city and participation in today’s world ‘on their own terms’ (20).


George, Lily. 2018. 'The Incredible Complexities and Indelible Tensions of Researching with Māori: A Mixed Methods Autoethnography.' In Social Science Research in New Zealand, edited by M. Tolich and C. Davidson. Auckland: Auckland University Press, forthcoming.

This chapter provides a detailed personal reflection by Lily George on her PhD research entitled Tradition, invention and innovation: Multiple reflections of an urban marae. George discusses the complicated and ‘incredibly messy and complex’ process of researching Māori (7). She outlines the important things she has learned from her experiences in researching Māori, such as the importance of cultivating relationships with participants. As well as the importance of placing yourself in the research by asking questions such as ‘Ko wai au? Who am I?’ and ‘What right do I have to be doing this research?’ (7). George reflects on the instances where her authenticity as a Māori researcher was questioned, and how also her position as both a Māori and an academic meant she was at times ‘considered less authentic in each sphere because of her inclusion in the other’ (2). She offers some guiding themes for future research on Māori such as reflexivity, collaboration, respect, integrity, history, and research positionality (2-3). George argues that because of the diverse experiences of Māori today, restricting kaupapa Māori research to ‘only those who are culturally fluent, excludes others who have much to offer our people in a variety of ways’ (2). Overall, George’s chapter is a reflection and guide from a Māori scholar on approaches and considerations for future researchers of Māori.


Henare, Amiria. 2007. 'Nga rakau a te Pakeha: reconsidering Maori Anthropology.' In Anthropology and Science: epistemologies in practice, edited by J. Edwards, P. Harvey, and P. Wade. Oxford: Berg. 93-113.

Amiria Henare’s article 'Nga rakau a te Pakeha' explores the history and development of anthropological theory in New Zealand, especially Māori participation in anthropology. She writes about figures such as Āpirana Ngata and Peter Buck, and the expeditions of the Dominion museum. And how these leaders utilised Pākehā tools to ensure the survival and advancement of Māori people. She also discusses Ngata’s strategy to ‘employ nga rakau o the pakeha’, ‘in recording old forms of knowledge and material arts - nga taonga a o tipuna or the treasures of ancestors - for the Young Maori Party’s programme of economic and cultural invigoration’ (6). Henare argues that ‘distinctively Maori concepts’ tended to endure and remain evident in the tradition of Māori anthropology in New Zealand (5). She discusses the ways in which Māori learned to move between te ao pākehā, the world of the pākehā, and the ao Māori, the world of Māori. Henare discusses important figures and milestones in the history of New Zealand anthropology, such as the decrease in field-based anthropology with the introduction of the discipline in New Zealand universities. This article is a recent example of reflective writing on the impacts of anthropology for Māori in New Zealand.


Hohepa, P. H. 1964. A Maori Community in Northland. Wellington: A. H. & A. W. Reed.

Based on Patrick Wahanga Hohepa’s MA thesis from the University of Auckland, this ethnography details the place and lives of Māori living in the small Northland town of Waima. Hohepa begins by providing an outline of the history of the town from pre- European times, and into the twentieth century. Hohepa discusses the social and economic organisation of Waima, and how European engagement posed new challenges with the introduction of dairy farming, as well as issues of wage-earning and social security. The structures of kinship and marriage in Waima are something that Hohepa also touches on, and he incorporates family tree diagrams and maps to his discussions. Hohepa uses his fieldwork findings to comment on the events and occasions of the Māori community such as ‘hui’ - including unveilings, weddings, and birthdays. He utilises the Northland Māori community of Waima in this focused study on the lives of its inhabitants and the ways in which they navigate an increasingly Pākehā world.


Kawharu, I. H. 1975. Orakei: A Ngati Whātua Community. Wellington: New Zealand Council for Educational Research.

Hugh Kawharu was an anthropologist and founding professor of anthropology and Māori Studies at Massey University in 1971. In this book, Kawharu studies the community of Orakei, Ngāti Whātua, and the tangata whenua or original inhabitants of Auckland - his own tribe. Kawharu discusses how, despite the ‘vast, pulsating modern city which has grown up around it’ the Māori community continues to exist and thrive (v). Kawharu undertook this research under the New Zealand Council for Educational Research in 1964. He set out to explore the values of the community and their significance for social organisation, with a particular interest in educational programmes and policies (vii). Kawharu begins by discussing the history of the area and the arrival of Ngāti Whātua, their descent and kinship structures through exploration of households and genealogies. He then goes on to explain the influence of religion and particularly the Ratana Church in the region. In chapters 5 and 6 Kawharu plays close attention to schooling and education, and the relationships between teachers and pupils in Orakei. Kawharu concludes in his final chapter, by sharing interviews from young people just leaving school and going out into jobs and further education. Orakei: A Ngati Whatua Community is an crucial text as it explores the relationship between anthropology and education within a Māori case study. Kawharu’s research differs from other studies of Māori communities which tended to be more rural - such as Sissons’s Te Waimana and the Beagleholes’ Some Modern Maoris in Kowhai. Orakei is a unique Māori community as it lies in the middle of the thriving metropolitan city of Auckland, and Kawharu’s attention to this introduces and reinforces the diverse experiences and lifestyles of Māori in New Zealand today.


Keesing, Felix M. 1928. The Changing Maori. New Plymouth: Thomas Avery & Sons - The Board of Maori Ethnological Research.

Keesing’s The Changing Maori was published in 1928. The main question Keesing poses throughout the book is, What is the place of the Māori in the new world? This book was written at a time of tumultuous social change, as Māori populations were beginning to rise, and leaders such as Āpirana Ngata and other Young Maori Party members were beginning to encourage the need for Māori to culturally adapt to a Pākehā world, in order to ensure survival. Rather than being totally fixated on acknowledging a romanticised and fixed past as earlier works tended to do, Keesing is one of the first anthropologists to explore the state of Māori in the past, present day, and future. The book is split up into seven sections which can be further cut down to four main stages: ‘The Ancient Life’, ‘The Coming of the Pakeha’, ‘The Race Today’ and ‘The Outlook Ahead’. Keesing’s writing tends to be generalised with underlying cultural assumptions and bias. He does not use Māori informants but instead relies on his experiences in interacting with Māori and some historical texts. Often Keesing’s evidence includes a style of writing similar to story-telling, where he poses hypothetical situations and provides a typical ‘Maori’ reaction. The Changing Maori is a study on how and why Māori needed to adapt to a new and colonised Aotearoa in the 1920s, and the advantages of them doing so. Some of the issues Keesing describes as a result of Māori involvement in modern life include language issues, lack of knowledge of social norms, and cultural and physical differences. He even notes that ‘Pakeha mana’ tended to ‘increase at the expense of Maori mana’ (97). Overall this book looks at the Māori culture and provides strategies and solutions to the issues that come as a result of Pākehā settlement and the modern world in New Zealand. Keesing writes that he believes the times he is writing in are ‘vital years’ for the survival and future of Māori. He concludes that - ‘If the Maori is to survive, there must be a steady and purposive re-organisation and co-ordination of the forces, both white and Maori, working within the race…’ and they must ‘find a way of living and a justification for living in the swiftly changing world civilization’ (196).


Metge, Joan. 1964. A New Maori Migration: Rural to Urban Relations in Northern New Zealand. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.

Joan Metge is a non-Māori anthropologist and academic with a particular interest in Māori case studies. In this detailed ethnography, Metge discusses the trend of rural to urban Māori migration in the 1940s and 1950s. Metge addresses popular concern about problems that arose as a result of increasing Māori urbanisation - as she states- many people believed Māori urban life was too contradictory to the widespread ‘idealised stereotype of Maori rural life’ (3). She states that most New Zealanders tended to believe ‘the city was synonymous with a Pakeha way of life’ (3). Therefore, there were concerns that Māori, a people set in traditional modes of communal and rural life, would not fare well in the ‘competitive and individual life of a western industrial city’ (3). In her study, Metge utilises her own fieldwork findings and interviews to inform current concerns to do with the movement of Māori from rural to urban areas in New Zealand during this period. As she writes, it was a tense period as Māori attitudes were often ‘tempered with resentment over past injuries- especially over the alienation and confiscation off their land - and at present instances of discrimination’ (262-263). Metge’s book is crucial in that it is the first text to address this migration phenomenon in New Zealand and its wider effects socially and culturally in New Zealand society.


Metge, Joan, Jeff Sissons, and Lily George. 2013. 'Whakapapa – New Zealand Anthropology.' In Sites: New Series. 10(1): 4-29.

In this article, anthropologists Joan Metge, Jeffrey Sissons, and Lily George track the ‘whakapapa’ or ‘ancestry’ of New Zealand anthropology. As Metge states in the introduction, ‘whakapapa’ translated to verb means - ‘to lay down layers’ (4). This piece attempts to reveal the layers that have made up New Zealand anthropology, and reflect on the generations of engagement between anthropology and Māori throughout history. Metge, Sissons, and George trace influential people and publications in their own journeys of becoming anthropologists, as well as those who have influenced and contributed to New Zealand anthropology as a whole. Metge notes the starting point of New Zealand anthropology as being the partnership, and subsequent publications, between Elsdon Best and Māori chief - Tutakangahau. George goes on to note significant events in history such as Āpirana Ngata’s appointment as Native minister in 1928, and the subsequent platform that gave to anthropology as a means of Māori administration (24). George also discusses the social change that occurred in the late 1960s which involved indigenous uprising against colonising practices and treaty breaches - which in turn lead to a condemnation on research about Māori. This article is important because it historicises the discipline of anthropology in New Zealand and more importantly the turbulent and controversial relationship between the discipline and Māori.


Muru-Lanning, Marama. 2016. Tupuna Awa People and Politics of the Waikato River. Auckland: Auckland University Press.

Marama Muru-Lanning’s book Tupuna Awa explores the issues of ownership, guardianship, governance, and politics of the Waikato River in the upper North Island of New Zealand. The river has held prominence over time especially for Māori, as a number of hapū border its expansive waters - most of which branch off Te Arawa and Tainui iwi. Muru-Lanning discusses the modern history of the river and its political importance in the relationship between Iwi and Government. She notes that the river acts as a crucial source of tribal identity, prestige, and mana for local people. And that the river is a symbol in reclaiming mana and status for Waikato-Tainui. Muru-Lanning documents the ongoing political struggle for Waikato iwi, and important changes such as the signing of the Deed of Settlement in 2009 which saw the implementation of a new co-governance structure that allowed for equal representation between the Crown and Waikato-Tainui (178). Muru-Lanning also uses Foucault’s power theories to discuss how power and discursive practices work through the ‘politics of language’ regarding the Waikato river debate (179). And also how discourses can transform ‘identities, power relations and socio-political hierarchies’ (179). Tupuna Awa emphasises the link between the river as an ancestor for the Māori who live there, and its importance as a modern symbol which highlights the incessant struggle between Māori and Government over ownership of New Zealand’s natural resources.


Pihama, Leonie, Paul Reynolds, Cheryl Smith, Linda Tuhiwai Smith, John Reid, Rihi Te Nana. 2014. 'Positioning Historical Trauma Theory within Aotearoa New Zealand.' AlterNative: In An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, 10(3): 248-262.

In this article, Pihama et al explore the theory of historical trauma in Aotearoa New Zealand. Firstly, they discuss the concept of historical trauma theory in a Native American setting with reference to the work of anthropologist Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart. They refer to historical trauma as the ‘intergenerational transfer of trauma’ (249) and that for Māori people, ‘colonization has interrupted and disrupted the intergenerational transmission of tikanga (protocols), reo (language) and mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge)’ (249). The authors argue that many of the present disparities and gross representation of Māori in New Zealand trauma profiles today (including sickness, infant mortality, suicide and vehicle accidents), can be associated with the effects of historical trauma. They also explore how language associated with historical trauma theory, such as ‘holocaust’ and ‘genocide’, have been exceedingly controversial in New Zealand in describing the Māori experience. Conclusively, Pihama et al emphasise how historical trauma theory could be useful for future Māori researchers in exploring the pervasive impacts of ‘trauma and oppression’ for Māori (258).


Salmond, Mary Anne. 1973. Hui—A Study of Maori Ceremonial Gatherings. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University Microfilms International.

In her book, Anne Salmond studies the ‘Hui’ and its significance as a Māori ceremonial gathering for the fulfilment of her PhD degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Specifically Salmond focuses on the way Māoritanga is expressed through hui. She describes her theoretic reasoning and approach as an ‘anthropology of occasions’ and an ‘attempt to capture Māori culture from its gatherings’ (5). Salmond uses both theory, research, fieldwork observations’ and interviews with informants in her study. She also attended hui all around the North Island of New Zealand, especially the east coast (6). The book is divided up into sections where Salmond discusses the historical background of the hui, the significance of the marae, preparation for hui, and the actual ritual, along with the stages and rules which are performed. Salmond concludes by arguing that her findings exemplify how during hui ‘Maori culture comes into its sharpest focus’ whereas in other environments such as cities ‘it plays at best a background role’ (438). Salmond also writes that Māoritanga ‘flourishes in gatherings where members celebrate its significance in their lives’ (438). Hui is a focused study of the components of this important ritual for Māori people, especially in a modern post-colonisation setting.


Sissons, Jeffrey. 1991. Te Waimana The Spring of Mana: Tuhoe History and the Colonial Encounter. Dunedin: University of Otago Press.

Jeffrey Sissons is a non-Māori anthropologist and now university anthropology associate professor. This book is based on his PhD fieldwork undertaken in March 1974 and a 15 month stay in Te Waimana between November 1977 and May 1979. Te Waimana is located in the Te Urewera ranges in the western North Island of New Zealand. Sissons focuses on the relationship the region has had with Pākehā colonisers throughout history. It begins with an evaluation and critique of Elsdon Best’s earlier work on the Tuhoe region, to which he is constantly referring back in relation to his own findings.  Particularly, Sissons focuses on the origins of Te Waimana and Tuhoe more broadly, important battles, land confiscations, and religious movements as a result of Pākehā influences. Sissons incorporates both academic research, field notes, pictures, diagrams, maps, and detailed transcripts from korero with informants such as kuia and kaumātua in his writing. He explores the origin stories of Tūhoe and Waimana, and the complicated mythologies and histories as told by some of the most prominent families in Te Waimana. He discusses important leaders and figures such as Tāneatua, Kahuki, Te Kooti and Rua Kenana. By comparing and discussing the stories told by members of different prominent families, Sissons explores the differences and contradictory narratives that have arisen as a result of the oral histories which have been passed down intergenerationally.  This piece is important because it is the result of a new wave of anthropologists studying Māori culture - less authoritative and from a more emic perspective than earlier anthropological works. Sissons concludes by stating he hopes this book would contribute to ‘the growing awareness and understanding among Māori and Pākehā historians of differences between their historical traditions’ (289).


Skinner, H. D. 1921. ‘Culture areas in New Zealand.’ In Journal of the Polynesian Society, 30(118): 71-78. 

In his article ‘Culture areas in New Zealand’, Skinner argues that the most important factor in determining a ‘culture area’ is the material culture of that area. By material culture, he refers to ‘dwellings, clothes, implements, ornaments, weapons made by inhabitants’ (71). Skinner draws from the theory of ‘culture areas’ which comes from American ethnologists, the theory states that the world, or at least countries, can be split up into multiple ‘culture areas’ based on the physical type, language, religion, social organisation, and material culture. Skinner highlights how the study of linguistics in said areas can be useful in the Polynesian case study, especially in tracing from whence Māori came and their route of voyage to New Zealand. He makes comparisons between behaviour and occurrences which appear all over Polynesia and behaviours which have only occurred in NZ as a result of local needs (73).  Skinner argues that New Zealand can be split up in to 8 ‘culture areas’, these being The Moriori, Murihiku, Kaiapoi, Wakatu, West Coast, East Coast, Central, and Northern culture areas. With the defining factors of ranging from the growth of kumara in certain areas, canoe structure and excellence in wood carving. Overall in this paper Skinner argues that it is not helpful to discuss Māori broadly due to the major differences between different localities and populations. He concludes that geographic divisions such as culture areas can be useful in making cultural comparisons and the tracking of Māori regional histories.


Tregear, E. 1926. The Maori Race. Wanganui: A. D. Willis Ltd Printers and Publishers.

Edward Tregear is an important figure in Māori anthropology as he was amongst some of the earlier wave academic ethnographers to study the Māori people. He was also one of the founding members of the Journal of the Polynesian Society, a publication that would go on to produce some of the most crucial anthropological work on, by, and about Māori. In The Maori Race, Tregear attempts to discuss and document many realms of Māori life. As he notes in the preface, this is the first study which portrays ‘the habits and beliefs of the elder Maori people in anything like a condensed form’. Some of the attributes of Māori life Tregear includes in the book are bodily and mental characteristics, music, language, song, poetry, food, rank, property, animals, tapu, curses, dreams, and omens. Along with house structures, marriage, weapons, tools, war, myth, religion, and also some origin stories. Because of the widely varied topics of interest in this text, Tregear’s writing could seem generalised and lacking of analytical depth compared to anthropological later works. However, The Maori Race can be seen as an important stepping-stone in understanding some early ethnological writing, with an introductory description to many areas of Māori life.  Published first in 1904, a time where the future of Māori as a race was unknown, Tregear’s writing is most likely an ode to a dying people. To the modern reader, it can be noticed that his writing is heavily romanticised and undoubtedly Eurocentric. As Tregear writes in the preface, the text was published ‘in the hope that the settler, the anthropologist, and the tourist may be enabled to gain more understanding and appreciation of the brave and generous people who were once the lords of “The Fortunate Isles”’.


Trundle, Catherine and Tarapuhi Bryers-Brown. 2017. 'Indigenizing military citizenship: remaking state responsibility and care towards Maori veterans’ health through the Treaty of Waitangi.' In AlterNative An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, 13(1): 44-50.

Anthropologists Catherine Trundle and Tarapuhi Bryers-Brown discuss how Māori veterans and victims of radiation exposure ‘utilize and rework ethnic identity categories to encompass wider notions of citizenship, care and responsibility, and challenge neoliberal models of reparations’ (43). Trundle and Bryers-Brown set up by describing how the case of Māori veterans ‘encourage us to rethink the role of the Treaty’s principles’ (44). They discuss how historically the British Government have denied that most servicemen based at testing sights ‘received no or negligible radiation exposure’, despite veteran’s subsequent complaints of ill health (44). Trundle and Bryers-Brown use the example of Māori veterans, to discuss the ways in which veterans and victims of radiation risk have come to utilise the Waitangi Tribunal to ‘assert the state’s ongoing responsibility for radiation harm’ through the Treaty of Waitangi (43). Trundle and Bryers-Brown discuss the ethics of military citizenship in a Māori case study, and the ways in which veterans search for recognition and visibility through the Waitangi Tribunal for their radiation harm. This article is an example of a text from a medical anthropological standpoint which exemplifies the way in which modern Māori and non-Māori anthropologists can speak to and illuminate the struggle of Māori groups’ search for retribution and reclamation of, in this case, health care rights, recognition and visibility.


Walker, Ranginui. 2004. Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou: Struggle Without End. Revised Edition. Auckland: Penguin Books.

Ranginui Walker’s Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou: Struggle Without End is a staple text in Māori history and anthropology. Walker details the struggle that Māori have faced, socially and culturally since the arrival of European settlers, and how that struggle has continued and evolved over time. Walker discusses the early myths and ideologies of Māori and how these were fundamentally disrupted and challenged as a result of colonisation. Walker depicts key milestones in the ongoing struggle for Māori rights, affirmation, and reinvigoration over time. Some of which are modern day issues such as Māori sovereignty, urbanisation, land rights, political activism, fisheries, institutional racism, the Māori economy, and increasing inequalities. In his final chapter, ‘Ka Mau Tonu te Whawhai’, Walker discusses the advances made in education through Māori institutions such as Wananga (o Raukawa, o Aotearoa, and o Awanuiarangi), as well as the increasing involvement of Māori in other tertiary institutes. Ranginui Walker was a prominent Māori academic, writer, educator, and activist. His book provides an important retelling of New Zealand history from a Māori perspective. Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou is a ‘distillation of forty years’ experience’ which tracks the growth of Māori culture, political involvement, and economic power through history (6).


Whitinui, Paul. 2013. 'Indigenous Autoethnography: Exploring, Engaging, and Experiencing ‘Self’ as a Native Method of Inquiry.' In Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 43(4): 456–487.

Paul Whitinui is a current associate professor at the University of Victoria in Canada with a background in sporting, indigenous health, and education. In this article, Whitinui explores indigenous autoethnography, and how this approach encourages researchers to discover their own voices as ‘culturally liberating human beings’ (456). Whitinui discusses how autoethnography works to ‘address issues of social justice and develop social change’ by use of resistance-based discourse, and a grounding of one's sense of ‘self’ in the research (456). Whitinui highlights the value in story-telling as a mode of writing, and how autoethnography asks that the researcher consider their ‘own level of connectedness to space, place, time, and culture as a way of (re)claiming, (re)storing, (re)writing, and (re)patrating our own lived realities as indigenous people’ (467). Whitinui describes indigenous autoethnography as being counter-hegemonic as it resists colonial and Eurocentric ways of knowing, and introduces new, more emic, and indigenous forms of validation. Whitinui argues that the indigenous autoethnographic approach works to protect who we are as Māori, it goes about solving problems we experience as Māori by providing stories of lived experiences by Māori, and it also attempts at healing trauma of the past (479). Overall Whitinui aims to describe the value of an indigenous autoethnographic approach to conducting anthropological research about and by Māori, and he uses his own experiences as a Māori scholar to support this.

Updated 26 April 2018