He Pukenga Korero, Vol 2, No 1 (1996)

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A Framework for Analysing Written Iwi Histories

Monty Soutar


Tokomaha ngā tāngata nā rātou i tā ngā hitori-ā-iwi
mai i tērā rau tau ki naiānei. Ko te nuinga he tāne, he
Pākehā hoki. Ko te pātai nui o rota i te tuhituhinga e
whai ake nei, "Ko wai te tangata pai hei kohikohi, hei
tuhituhi, hei tā i nga kōrero a tōu iwi". Ko te tūmanako
ka kai-ngākau mai ētahi atu o tātou ki tēnei mahi ki te
tātari i ngā momo rangahau mō tōu iwi.

During the past ten years there has been a marked
increase in the number of published tribal histories,
particularly from within universities. More
significantly these have been the work of Māori writers
perceptively aware of tribal readership. One hundred
years ago there arose another spate of published
material relating to tribal histories.
The authorship of these earlier works was made
up almost completely of non-Māori, male settlers
whose views were determined by their intellectual,
political and moral beliefs. The changing visibility of
tribal histories over the past one hundred and fifty years
indicates the necessity for a clear historiographic
In this essay an analysis of selected tribal histories
is undertaken from the point of view of historical
methodology in an attempt to determine what each
historian's objectives were in writing tribal hist01y and
the extent to which each compromised the historical
method to meet their objectives. Taking as its central
focus four publications which draw extensively on
aspects of Ngāti Porou history, the writer will argue
that tribal histories exist only as they are interpreted
by their authors during a particular historical period
and that this interpretation is influenced by the author's
personal background and experience.
The history of the Ngāti Porou tribe forms an
excellent context in which to demonstrate this claim.
While no definitive publication of the history of this
tribe exists, there have been several sporadic attempts
to place on record facets of its history. These include
articles, books and unpublished theses by writers inside
and outside of universities. The writers have been of
both Māori and European descent, and collectively
they are a fair representation of the types of historians
who have published tribal histories in New Zealand
throughout the last one hundred years. The four
publications which I have selected are interesting
methodologically because they reflect the distinct
periods in which their authors wrote and the diverse
backgrounds from which they came. The publications
are Walter Gudgeon (1897) 'The Maori Tribes of the
East Coast', Waipaina Awarau (1927)
'Tuwhakairiora ', Robert Drummond (1937) 'The
Origins and Early History of Ngāti Porou' and Mark
Isles' 'A Maori History of Tokomaru Bay'.
In order to analyse the historical methodology used
in these publications I have found it necessary to
construct a framework from which to assess the
factors, present in each author's personal and societal
background, that influenced the way in which they
interpreted the past. These factors are grouped into
two major categories: those that determined which
source material was made available to the historians
and those which influenced the way in which they
processed them. A thematic approach is undertaken
in applying this framework to the four Ngāti Porou

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