He Kaawai Hapuu Tuuhoe no te Ao o Mua: An ethnohistorical reconstruction of one hapuu branch of Ngai Tuuhoe in the Urewera District Native Reserve 1899-1903

Steven Webster


The Tuhoe (or Ngai Tuuhoe) are an iwi or 'tribe' of the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand. This essay attempts to reconstruct the kinship and social organisation of a particular Tuhoe descent group at the turn of the last century, 1899-1903. It is concerned primarily with family organisation of the descent group through the four generations that were living at the time; the wider hapuu affiliations of this descent group are reconstructed in a sequel essay.

Although this study originated in field research begun in the 1970s, the ethnohistorical reconstruction is derived mainly from archives of public documents. The analysis hopes to show the wealth of detail and ethnographic insight that can be extracted from old historical records, even regarding relatively obscure aspects of Maori social organisation. Although the Tuhoe will be able to find mistaken interpretations, I hope that they themselves might be reassured that, regardless of Crown and government motives, these revealing records can continue in dialogue and fill gaps in the long Tuhoe memory, often regarding their own ancestral lands and sometimes in their ancestors' own words. While the records examined here are in some ways unique, in many ways they parallel the records kept in the Native Land Court. Consequently, as well as Tuhoe, other Maori researchers may find the ethnohistorical methods developed below to clarify family and social organisation useful for their own purposes.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11157/sites-vol7iss1id117