The Origins of the First New Zealanders

The Origins of the First New Zealanders

The Origins of the First New Zealanders

The Origins of the First New Zealanders


This multidisciplinary volume presents a fresh look at New Zealand settlement history. Contributors re-examine the orthodox scenario of Polynesian colonization, and by studying aspects of New Zealand like the languages, the climate, the archeological evidence, and the geomorphology, they create new and challenging models for the date, type, and source of that country's colonization.


Sir Hugh Kawharu

'Origins' can be said to be about identity. It is also of course about other things like space and time, myth and history, subject and context. But for Maori people today the question of 'origins' is pre-eminently a question bound up with their identity. Indeed as the contributors to this volume will recall, their conference at Auckland University opened in the campus meeting-house, Tane-nui-a-Rangi, a building redolent with 'origins' statements. Down one long wall, for instance, stand the carved representations of the captains of some of the major migration canoes, while down the other are those of the respective high priests and navigators. In fact the symbols of history, myth and legend in this house tie the first New Zealanders unequivocally to Polynesia.

Yet, since the strands of tribal identity have for so long been torn and twisted and the integrity of their social life so thoroughly compromised by alien values, Maori people have often appeared to have forsaken their cultural heritage as well as their patrimony -- until yesterday. But today there is now an insistence on a distinct identity, one that stems directly from that last chapter in the saga of Polynesian colonisation. It may be uneven, but everywhere there are signs of a growing pride in iwi (tribal) identity, waka (migration canoe) identity, and ritual protocols grounded in a pan-Polynesian theology.

This book, then, is science's contribution not only to its own several fields, but also to the shaping of the context in which a contemporary Maori ethnicity may at last be understood. Foremost authorities in Pacific archaeology, linguistics, ecology, and biological anthropology introduce the reader to the age- old questions: when did people first arrive in New Zealand; where did they come from; was there multiple or single colonisation of New Zealand; and was there return pre-European migration from New Zealand to tropical Polynesia?

Their writing compels appreciation of the inherent complexity of these questions, and not least, appreciation of the rising levels of scientific sophistication required to address them. Simple or minimalist theories, those urging mere rational motives to explain fateful voyages over vast expanses of ocean, and those driven by little more than speculation, have now fallen to the demands of professional rigour.

Undoubtedly this is a book for our time and I warmly commend it to all who would know more of the first colonisation of New Zealand the better to ponder our destiny here deep in the South Pacific.

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