Patrick Parsons – Whakapapa

Kia ora, tatou. I am Pat Parsons. Some of you will know me, some of you won’t, and in spite of my colour, my specialist field is Māori whakapapa and traditional Māori history in this region, around Hawke’s Bay. You get me outside my territory and my knowledge drops off very quickly.

What I propose to do this morning is to just discuss with you some of the philosophy behind whakapapa, which I have observed over the many years I’ve been … I was in the unusual position when I was young of having two kaumatua [elders] living behind me. I live at Poraiti. I had Bob Cottrell at Wharerangi; I had Jimmy Mapu at Moteo; both fine old men, and they were friends of my grandfather which was a help too, because I was more readily accepted by them.

And I sort of strayed into a secret world which I never knew existed before, and this was the world of Māori whakapapa, and the whakapapa book. I had no idea that Māori people preserved their genealogies in books. We don’t – not to any degree, anyway. And also too, I had two excellent tutors, who were very patient with me. I’m sure they would’ve rather I had been Māori. But nevertheless they invited me down, and I spent Saturday afternoons with Bob Cottrell going through his grandfather Hohaia te Hoata’s trunk and exploring all the treasures that were inside it. And of course I had a translator on the spot for anything that was in Māori and I couldn’t understand. And so gradually, I guess I was being led a certain pathway. And there’s a lot more to it than I’m saying this morning, otherwise you’d be here all day.

But one of the things I’ve observed – and I’ve observed it around the world – is that the Māori love of ancestry is actually quite unique. Now I was in America a few years ago – I was at Yosemite Valley, and I heard about an American Indian chief named Tenko who had made available all the lands there for a National Park. And then the famous chief, Seattle, who lived on one of the islands off the coast near Seattle, and his enlightened commentary on the environment. And so I was drawn back to those places, and they have sort of cultural centres and so forth and when I got to Seattle’s one I started making some enquiries. “Would I be able to see his whakapapa?” “What?” And I said “you know, his genealogies leading back to his ancestors.” “Well we could probably take you back to his grandparents.” And I said, “Don’t you carry on a long way further back than that?” Now I’m not saying this is true of all American Indian tribes, but it seems to me that you create your mana [spiritual power] more by your own deeds during your own lifetime. There did not seem to be any great culture, for example, of tracing your ancestry to your ancestors and then back to the gods, the way the Māori can.

There is that deep spiritual component to Māori whakapapa which I reckon is pretty much lacking with the European version. I’ve got it, but only because the Māori has brushed off on me. And I can go back to the places of my ancestry now – I don’t own anything there anymore; most of the time I haven’t got any relatives there any more. But I can still walk around and feel a kind of cultural ownership, if you like, of the territory I’m in because I know that my ancestors lived and loved and died there back in their generations. But I’ve been transplanted out to Aotearoa now, and I don’t have that sort of ancestral base that you people have.

Now one of the things I do notice is – what does whakapapa achieve? First of all it gives you an identity with a marae, and that’s your birthright. The day you are born you inherit that birthright to that marae, and you inherited it through whakapapa, obviously. It also gives you access to a whole hapū. If we’re talking in Scotland we’d been calling it a clan – or even in Ireland, I suppose. But do you know that although I too come from clans over there, I don’t know who they are. We do not have a master whakapapa from a key ancestor of my clan tracing down all the lines of descent. My cousin married a man from Scotland and he went back for one of their ancestral get-togethers … the gathering of the clans, I think they call it. When he arrived there he was a little surprised when the chief man of the clan stepped up to deliver his address. He was quite black, and he’d come over from Jamaica or somewhere for the occasion. But he was of the senior line, and I was told later on, with a marvellous sense of humour. He saw the look on the people’s faces; he wore a tartan for the occasion, but he delivered a brilliant speech, and of course after that they all loved him and were quite happy for him to be the leader of their clan. [Chuckle]

I said that there’s a strong spiritual component to Māori whakapapa. And there is. It’s no longer a question of just who you are as a person. Your whakapapa actually is your link back to the illustrious ancestors of the past, and beyond that again, back to the gods and the dawn of time. And that is something that we don’t know, and I reckon our system is breaking down worse today. We do not have a marae as a focal point where we all gather for whatever reason. We don’t really, to any degree, go beyond our first cousins in knowing who are relatives are. We have no ancestral attachment to a particular piece of land, because we don’t have a tribal system and we don’t have the kōrero or the history that links us back to that land. And I notice this when I’m trying to interest my own family for example, in our family history. I don’t seem to succeed in touching many of them with it, and they look at me a bit puzzled. Even my mother says “well, you know – what d’you want to know all that for?” And I said to her “well it’s a funny thing, Mum, I’ve got most of what I’ve learned from you.” [Chuckle] And yet she hadn’t analysed the value of it, she had just lived it. And there perhaps is one of the differences.

I noticed the lady who led the song here a little earlier, her first task when she stood up was to introduce herself. How did she do it? She did it by whakapapa. She did it by an awa, a river. She did it by a maunga, or a mountain. And she identified an ancestor. I heard Rongomaiwahine I think, and perhaps Rakaipaka as well. Now that immediately tells everybody here who’s involved in whakapapa, where her whenua [land] is, where her marae are, where her ancestry lies. It’s her calling card, if you like, and she can take it anywhere with her. Manuhiri [guests] arriving on a marae also do the same thing. Their speakers stand up and they identify themselves by whakapapa. And the tangata whenua [local people] sitting on the marae listening to this, they’re making the links in their heads straight away. And a good speaker amongst the manuhiri will usually demonstrate a whakapapa link between his hapū [tribe] and the tangata whenua’s hapū as well, so “see we are related further back”, sort of thing, is what he’s saying. We never do that. We couldn’t, [chuckle] and so if that gives you a bit of a glimpse into that difference, that’s the first point I want to make.

Secondly, Māori history is now being proven more and more to stand up to scrutiny. By that … in the past I’ve heard plenty of Pākehā people say, “oh, you can’t have much faith in Māori history – it’s all preserved by word of mouth, and everyone wants to be the winner you know, in the battles and all the rest of it.” And they’re very dismissive of it. Why? Because it wasn’t written down at the time. And of course I’m in the position of saying, “well actually, you’re wrong. Have you ever heard of the Native Land Act of 1865 and what its purpose was? And how the tangata mohio all arrived at the courts at that time who were trained in Māori history? And before the European people had taught them how to lie and how to forget half their relatives so they got a bigger slice, and all these sorts of things.” These were people highly respected within their tribe. And the Māori had safeguards too, against anyone misrepresenting. They used to gather together and wānanga [discuss] regularly about this whakapapa. And as one person spoke, there were at least twenty sets of ears listening carefully for a mistake. And also too, the Māori have that nice manner, when they’re saying “you’re wrong” – they don’t say that. They say, “Kei te pai. That’s the version of your history that you’ve been taught by your ancestors. Now, I’ll give you the version my ancestors taught me.” And then correct the one they claim is wrong. And very often the person who has made a mistake will be big enough to acknowledge that and say, you know, “he’s right,” or “she’s right”, sort of thing.

So what I’m trying to steer into here is, how did Māori preserve their whakapapa when they didn’t have books to write in back in those days? Now I’ve isolated the first means by which they did it – by regularly wānanga. It was never allowed to go to sleep – it was a living whakapapa, the whole time. And they enjoyed their wānanga, don’t worry about that. That was their bedtime stories … stories round the campfire and all the rest of it. In one way or another, they all revolved around their ancestry and the stories relating to those ancestors.

By having a culture of whakapapa, you always get your history in its right sequence, don’t you? Because you have a whakapapa to keep you in the right generation. And as you come down from one generation to the next … to the next … the story is unfolding in its correct sequence. Now I’m not here to put down anyone at all, but if you look in J G Wilson’s ‘History of Hawke’s Bay‘, there is a Māori segment in the front which was put together by Wi [William] Prentice. Wi Prentice was from Wairoa. He was a Māori interpreter and he used to work for Sainsbury Logan & Williams in Napier as a law clerk, and particularly, any of Sainsbury Logan & Williams’ Māori affairs, Wi Prentice usually handled. But the thing I notice as I’m reading through his ‘Pocket Māori History of Hawke’s Bay’, is that he did not have the whakapapa with him as he was writing it. And you find that events are often out of sequence. How do I know that? Because he buries an ancestor on say, page 20, and – hello – he resurrects him on page 25 again! And hasn’t spotted, ‘now hang on, he can’t come back now, he’s gone!’ You know, [chuckle] and that demonstrates the effectiveness of whakapapa when you’re recording history.

Māori also incorporated whakapapa into their waiata [songs]. Now, it’s a funny thing how waiata will stick in your head when other means of teaching don’t. I mean, I can remember silly little poems from when I was a kid of five at primary school.

‘When the daffodils dance in the sun and the rain
Then I know that springtime is coming again
Tra-la-la-la-la-lah, tra-la-la-la-la-lah
Then I know that springtime is coming again’

How on earth do I remember that sixty years later? It’s the power of waiata. It’s the rhythm of it. And also, of course, it’s the frequent chanting of it too. All of those factors put together – they’re a very strong memory aid.

Some kaumatua, [elders] as they’re getting on a bit, are a bit worried they’re going to sort of forget a generation when they’re delivering whakapapa on the marae, and you’ll see some of them, some of them, with a whakapapa stick. It’s a tokotoko [walking stick] with notches in it, and apparently as they’re delivering the whakapapa … we’re not noticing as we’re listening, impressed by all this … but their fingers are just moving down the notches so that he knows he’s [they know they’ve] remembered another generation, if you like, on the way down.

You notice too, in wharepuni [meeting houses], there are carvings around the walls, too. And of course, who are they are representing? They’re representing your tipuna [ancestors] as well. And I like, because of my interest in genealogy, just walking around a meeting house and just seeing who is commemorated in there. And I’m thinking to myself, ‘yeah, I know why they’ve put you in here. Yep, I know why they’ve put you in here. Now, who are you?’ And so forth, but in the Māori world, these are all understood. And they … old Māori know … they know who that ancestor represents. I’ve even seen them go and sit under their own ancestor because they feel that there’s provision for them to be recognised in another hapū’s marae.

And then came the Treaty of Waitangi and the first European colonists. And with it, a big shift in traditional Māori learning. The Pākehā brought missionaries with them, and the missionaries were preaching their faiths. Māori had no problem thinking in the abstract. They were used to doing this already. And therefore they often recognised in the Scriptures parallels with their own culture, and could actually almost name the person who was the equivalent in the Bible. And it had an impact on Māori. You look at the Christian names they started to embrace … many, many names which came from the Bible. And of course a lot of those names are still being used today. Now there represents immediately a bit of shift in traditional thinking, the fact that Christianity was influencing them in new directions.

You had a government which was very determined to purchase land. A lot of settlers wanted to come out to the colonies, get away from Britain, but they needed land. And a whole host of problems – which is why the Waitangi Tribunal was set up in later times to try to examine them – started to occur. I will only comment on around here. During the 1850s we had some very large purchases in this province. The Waipukurau purchase – two hundred and seventy-five thousand acres. We had the Ahuriri purchase – a hundred and sixty-five thousand acres. We had the Mohaka purchase – between eighty and a hundred thousand acres. And then we had a lolly scramble after that too. I won’t mention any ancestor names here – I’ll be diplomatic today. But what we did see was in the 1850s all the lands from Maraekakaho going down Highway 50 through Tikokino, Onga Onga, down to Rakautatahi – they were all going like dominos. And there came an awareness that the Māori were being dispossessed. They were being reduced from landlord to labourer. And Māori were having to cope in a new world that they didn’t know.

Some chiefs were more enlightened than others. I usually quote Renata Kawepo, who had a pretty clear idea of what was going on and he took steps to try and make it work for Māori. He was a remarkably generous benefactor for public works. If he saw that more money was needed for a bridge for example, which was going to give better access for his people, he would contribute financially to the building of that bridge. The same thing with agricultural implements. He watched carefully what the Pākehā were doing. He analysed, ‘we have the land – we can do this too.’ He supported education to the degree where he built a school out at Omahu. He supported the church. And up until the time of his death in 1888, the tribal lands of those people were largely still intact. Now I’m saying 1888 – compare that with the big purchases which took place in the 1850s – thirty years later, his lands were largely intact. And there was one of the differences.

Māori people were embracing the Pākehā way of life. They were great copiers, and if they saw things that would work well for them also, they weren’t slow to pick them up. They tended to end up in jobs like shearing, and those were back in the days with the hand clippers too, sort of thing – there was no power at the very beginning. You saw them often working on roadworks, scrub-cutting. But they were labouring jobs. And I began to sort of see … even myself, I can see now why the old methods of preserving their history for example, came under threat. They had to be away from their marae a lot more than they used to. They often went into the new towns because that was where the food processing and the meat works and so forth were, and it was gradually taking them away from the influences which kept their whakapapa alive.

In 1865 the government passed a Native Land Act which said: ‘No more Māori land can be sold before the title to the land has been examined in court and we have identified who the true owners of this land are.’ Now from a selfish perspective … you know, for a fellow who works in Māori history … I am very grateful for that Act, because history started to be documented by the interpreters in the Land Court. And that last generation of tohunga whakapapa [experts in genealogy] – they were still there at that time, and of course they were brought into the Court by the hapū themselves to prove their right to be included in the title.

The strongest associations for Māori with the lands were ancestry (whakapapa), and ahi kā roa, or long occupation. And it was those two factors first and foremost that the old tohungas were conveying to the judges in the Court. And those whakapapa started to be written down. Not all of them, by any means, but there was a growing awareness here. You were getting a younger generation of Māori who were starting to be educated Pākehā-style, and in English, and knew how to write, knew how to read. Not everyone by any means, but there were people who were starting to become educated in a kind of a new world. And they saw the need to record the knowledge of these tohunga whakapapa while they still had them. And that’s how the whakapapa book first started to come into existence. I’ve got copies of many of those books at home. I would say the earliest ones … and they’re often dated in the front … around about 1868, 1869 – very soon after that Land Act of 1865. Ane the thinking was that if we get these whakapapa recorded in a pukapuka (a book), then it’s not so important if the old tribal historians pass away. At least we’ve still got the proof of who we are. And so a new method of recording your whakapapa came into existence, and with that, all of the … well, shall we say the cultural thinking behind whakapapa … with it.

Some people could cope with whakapapa, some couldn’t, and that’s true today as well. I’ve got good at it I suppose through interest, for a start-off, and because I’m regularly talking with people who are the living people of that whakapapa. And therefore I’m almost living in a modern wānanga, aren’t I? Where it’s discussed so regularly that it keeps it fresh in my mind.

Now, it’s rather funny that I only really started to think in terms of my own whakapapa when I was about thirty-two, already taking an interest in the Māori side of things without actually really thinking much … there you are, that’s the symptom of my culture, isn’t it? That it wasn’t being fed through to me in that form. But boy, once I woke up to the fact that I too had a whakapapa, I didn’t waste much time. I had two grandmothers still living at that point, and I started going and picking their brains regularly and writing down what they said, and also who my wider relatives were. Now the good spin-off from that was that a) I started to focus on my own ancestry. I became closer mates with my grandmothers than I’d been before. And I could see too, that they took pleasure in reliving the stories of their youth. They could take me back to their grandparents, and that’s just what I needed. So I was sort of on the road in terms of my own identity as well. And I can tell you today, I wouldn’t be without my ancestors. And really, that’s the spin-off from the Māori spirituality affecting my view of my whakapapa. Whenever I travel overseas now, I always spend a week or two somewhere or other that my ancestors came from, delving further back and seeing what I can find, wandering around, etcetera. You know, the person who has got that is rich, I always maintain.

Now, what do I today? I used to be a high school teacher at Hastings Boys’ High, teaching French and English. No history. And it wasn’t until the Waitangi Tribunal started to come into force that I was approached by various Māori claimant groups asking if I’d help them research their traditional rights to the pieces of land under question. And so I actually jumped waka [ship], and I started a new career after 1990, and next year will be my twentieth year in it. It has been a career of feast and famine, as you can imagine, but I have survived in it. And better, for example, than the city historians have because I’m in a rare field and I don’t have many competitors. I guess that’s a factor as well.

So I have worked in Ahuriri Inner Harbour Claim with Wai 55; Mohaka-Waikare Confiscations with Wai 299. I’ve also done some published histories – Te Pohue wanted a history of their district for their school centenary. I didn’t realise they had me in mind until they pinned me down. Then after that I went down Waipukurau. They were looking at a millennium-type history down there, backed by Rotary, and so I worked on that. And I was grateful for those first two offers because they taught me that with help, I could put a book together – something I’d never done before.

And then more recently I have declined to do these district histories in full. But I do volunteer to help with the Māori component ‘cause I’m a bit worried there won’t be one if I don’t. And so the book ‘West to the Annie’ – I participated in the Māori history section of that. I helped James Graham with the ‘Opening the Gate’, the Te Aute district. We published last year a book called ‘The Road to Pourerere’, and I helped with the Māori history of that section.

Right now, I’m involved in what you might call the tidy-up from some of these Waitangi Tribunal hearings. I’m helping Ngati Hineuru at Te Haroto with their interests in the central North Island settlement district, exploring how far their interests extend into it, because there is a part of the poutea that’s for such hāpu, but you’ve got to sort of prove that you do have interests there.

Now the same thing will happen afterwards with Wai 299, the confiscated lands. And basically they asked me to do a sort of a mana whenua [right to land] report, and also to identify wāhi tapu [burial grounds] within the area – places that may be able to be preserved etcetera. And so on I go. And I can say at the moment, I seem to be flavour of the month, and I remember a few years ago when I was sort of wondering ‘well, who’s going to be employing me next month’ sort of thing. So I’m philosophical about it – you know, what will be will be.

Now, on the board here, I have put some samples of whakapapa which I’ve taken from different sources, and I just want to speak briefly about each one because I’m far enough down the track now in whakapapa that I really use it as a problem-solving mechanism, particularly where I find whakapapa that doesn’t sort of fit quite right with what’s all around it. And I use this one here as an example. I was commissioned by Waimarama marae, two years ago perhaps, to prepare a brief history. This was to do with Ocean Beach and the problems they’re having with developers there, etcetera, etcetera. And so I never put pen to paper ever, on these histories without drawing up the whakapapa first. Why? Because that’s the framework that I base my history on, and I can’t do the history with confidence until I have the whakapapa first. Then I know I have my sequence correct and I won’t be killing off an ancestor and then resurrecting them, for example.

And also I’ve got to have credibility. I do not have a doctorate in history like some of the fine city historians for example. And I actually talked to Bob Cottrell and Jimmy Mapu years ago and said, “do you reckon I should be going back to university and getting a history degree?”

And they said to me, “you’re never going to learn what you’re learning here at a university.” Because I was actually learning a customary history, and only the people who live it can tutor it. So I do have the advantage if I get in front of these commissioners and judges and all the rest of it, and the solicitors for the other side … course they’re trying to trip me up all the time, but they’ve never caught me out by saying, you know, “Mr Parsons, have you ever been to this place?” Because I always go to the places that I’m writing about and talking about.

I was working for Rangitāne [iwi] down at Dannevirke a while ago, and there was this place called Wahatuara up in the Puketoi mountains. And I said, “I need to go there, I need to be on this place”. And sure enough, it came up in cross-examination. “Have you actually ever been there?” I said, “Yes, Your Honour, I have stood on it. The kaumatuas took me.” That stopped that rot straight away! And of course when it comes to our solicitors saying to the city historians, “have you actually been to the place you’re writing about?” “Well no, I haven’t actually”, sort of thing. And it’s not a good look, you know? And there’s probably the difference with someone who has learned their history from the people themselves.

Now what I did – and Waimarama were good – they allowed me access to whakapapa books and I focussed on just one or two families who I knew were going to end up at the bottom of this whakapapa – in this case

Tiakitai, seeing as he was a prominent chief of the time, sort of thing. And I started looking through the different sources and assembling it, kind of like a jigsaw. And I’d find some lines that really didn’t fit in with what I was doing at all – they’re so long, and so … I thought, you know, ‘there’s something wrong here’, you know. And so

I’d leave that one and I’d go back – that’s right – to the ones that seemed to be telling the same story. Well do you know, I would have worked on this for about a fortnight without any distractions. I was … I made myself a whakapapa expert on this whakapapa, in two weeks. But I was doing nothing else, and I didn’t let anything distract me. And in the end, I was almost frightened by the result. It looked too good to be true. And I thought, ‘you know – this doesn’t work this way usually – there’s always some spanner in the works or something or other’. But I got to the point where I rang the kaumatua, and I said “can I come out and hui [meet] with you people, and I’ll present my findings?”

So I went out and I stood up there, and I said, “look – this is what the access to your whakapapa books and other sources have allowed me to construct.” I said, “I reckon I’ve just about got it right, but I want you to take it back home now and you compare it with your own whakapapa, your own sources, and we’ll come back and hui again if there are any concerns about it.”

I actually didn’t get any concerns about it in the end. But that could mean any one of three things, that no one bothered to check, or you know … etcetera, etcetera, or else say “oh well – yeah, we’ll trust him.” I don’t really know. But in the end, it came out looking like this – and you’re welcome later on to come up and have a look at it.

Now if you put a whakapapa like that in front of me now, boy, can I read into it things that are not obvious there. For example, the whakapapa goes back to your early navigator ancestors like Kupe for example. And you can see where they sit in terms of generations, compared to someone like Tiakitai who drowned in 1846.

But I go deeper than that as well. I’m thinking to myself, ‘I wonder if I can isolate the generation when the waka [canoe] ‘Tākitimu’ arrived.’ So I go back to the whakapapa and yep, I’ve got Tamatea-ariki-nui here on the left-hand column. Now I know he was the commander of the Tākitimu canoe, so I then drew a line across the page to see who the other contemporary ancestors were, who were already there. Because we know we had Rangitāne, we know we had Ngai Tara, and various other people who were already tangata whenua here when the Tākitimu waka arrived. And so I can see … for example we’ll take the ancestor Tara himself. Now he should be earlier than the arrival of the waka Tākitimu, and thank goodness he is. He is three generations earlier. So I can see now at a glance when Tara was here, by comparison with that.

But let me introduce you to the thinkings of my mind further. I got very interested in the moa hunter period, because Ocean Beach and Waimarama belong to that. And I’m thinking, ‘now, will I be able to isolate on this whakapapa when the moa became extinct?’ Yes.

I was lucky enough to meet a guy called Trevor Worthy. Now he and his mate wrote the definitive history of the moa a few years back, and I actually took him out to various places where I knew there were bones in the swamps and so forth. So I pinned him down on the question – I said “have you got any firm view on when the moa died out?” He said “it is very precise.” “Oh!” And I said, “when was that?” He said, “within one generation of the arrival of the wakas.”

Now, I had no idea that was the case ‘cause I’ve read stories about you know, old Māori people saying, “I just remember seeing the last one up in the mountains when I was a boy”, sort of thing. But Trevor Worthy and his mate had been around the whole of New Zealand, gathering samples of moa bones from different areas, and they had funding to carbon-date them. Consistently, those carbon datings said that the moa was dead by 1400 AD – fifty years after the arrival, or the traditional arrival date of the Māori waka. So, I’m rather fascinated by this, and I said to Trevor Worthy, “there must have been one or two who were later than that”, and he said, “there were.” He said “there were one or two small and sparse groups out on the Canterbury plains and so forth which survived on a bit longer, but not much.”

And then I read, one of the ancestors from Pakipaki, Urupene Puhara who has actually talked about this. And he said “when I was a boy we didn’t use the name ‘moa’”. I think they used the word ‘whero’ … yes, the red bird, sort of thing. And he said, “my ancestors always told me that the moa was destroyed by the fires of Tamatea.”

Now if I was to isolate one swamp in this territory which has a very strong presence of moa bones, it’s Pukahu – Crystall Road, those great big deep drains there. When they were digging those in the 1870s they came across enormous deposits of moa bones. And there are still enormous deposits under there to this day. Now one of the things that happened during the drought periods, the moa moved nearer to the edges of the swamps because there was still greenery there and stuff to feed on. And of course, they’d extend their necks a bit further out into the swamp, take one extra step out just to reach that next part, and to cut a long story short, would end up getting bogged and couldn’t get out again. And then they would just starve – the more they struggled, the more they bogged themselves down. And that must have happened through generations earlier than I’m talking about.

So I can draw a line – actually, it’s the top line is the one that represents the arrival of the waka Tākitimu. The second line, where it’s got Rango-kako, that’s the one that represents the end of the moa hunter period.

The next red line I’ve drawn right through represents the period in which Ngati Kahungunu came down and occupied Ahuriri and Heretaunga. And I’ve done that by ancestry, because I know that Rakaihikiroa and Taraia the First are named as being leaders of that migration, and therefore I’ve drawn the line across. And then I can see who were the contemporary Rangitāne who were living at the time, and the Ngai Tara who were living at the time, etcetera, etcetera. So what I’m demonstrating here is that … see how good a base that whakapapa creates, because it allows me to make these other conclusions because I have the whakapapa to work from. And I also have the traditional history. I know which tīpuna [ancestors] commonly said were present at various events and so forth, and so on it goes. I’ve said enough about that one – that sort of represents it.

You’ll also get a progressive system of whakapapa being recorded in books. I can see this one here, which … it’s got some Omahu whakapapa in it; it’s also got some Pakipaki whakapapa as well. But you see actually Māori readings here, ‘na te teina o Te Atakore na’. [The younger brother or sister of Te Atakore] That helps you get the sequence of your children in their right order. If you see ‘tuakana’ [older brother or sister] and you see ‘teina’, [younger brother or sister] then you can see which is the older and which is the younger, for example. And you read ‘ka moe ia’ so-and-so mated with … married so-and-so. And so it was being recorded in very Māori terms at that stage, in Māori language, in writing, and all you really had to learn was the format and then you could actually read the whakapapa and reconstruct it as well.

Of course with the passage of time and the lesser standards of perfection if you like with the whakapapa, they started to get more Europeanised … ‘so-and-so married so-and-so; 1, 2, 3, 4, 5’ written down the page, and these are the children. You can see this one here. This is a Wairoa whakapapa. Now, okay, it’s got Te Rangi Tuanui, ka moe ea Ratua, [Te Rangi Tuanui married Ratua] which is a very significant marriage in that area. And then the children: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 … 14 kids. And then after that it picks them off one at a time. Now for example, you can see here the first child was Hineaka. And as you come down you find that they pick up number one, Hineaka, underneath and they carry on down her line there, and then they’ll pick up Tane Te Kohurangi next. And systematically they just follow through child by child by child until they have dealt with the whole list, which took pages obviously, with fourteen kids. And sometimes, with more than one husband or more than one wife too to deal with, also. So what I’m saying is that you notice that the system is gradually evolving from a more pure Māori representation to a kind of a mixture with Roman numerals chucked in as well.

You also get these masterpieces of planning. I quite like this whakapapa here because the person who sat down to do it has tried to put the whole lot on the one page. And so you get one child’s descent leading up there, another one’s down into that corner. And actually, it is quite a skilled piece of planning, that is seen there. And it’s one that you can follow. Now it relies not so much on Māori wording or Pākehā numbers, but lines. And suddenly you’re getting lines of representation leading from here down to there, and then down to here, and across to here and so forth. And if you’re patient and follow the lines through, you can usually get the gist of where it’s all headed.

A big part of what I do I told you, is problem-solving. I mean for you to get your whakapapa wrong is not a good look. For me, it’s a disaster. [Chuckle] Exactly! So I have to cross-check, cross-check, and cross-check again, until I’ve reckon I’ve given it my very best shot. And so what happens with me – now I’ve chosen just a base whakapapa line here which I’ve been uncomfortable with for years, and you see it in many whakapapa books. And it’s this one here from Kahungunu, Kahukuranui, Rakaihikuroa, and then Rakaihikuroa’s daughter, Hineteraraku, who married Rangitauira. But if you follow this whakapapa line down here, you eventually end up at Whatuiapiti, way down here. And this is what I … I wasn’t comfortable with this. So I went back to Whatuiapiti’s mother, Hinetemoa of Ngati Ngarengare …Pakipaki line … and I put that down beside this one here, following their ancestral line, Tauheikuri, down to Ngarengare. Then here’s Hinetemoa here, and Whatuiapiti. Hello! Here’s Whatuiapiti way up here in this line, and way down there in that! And so I began to think ‘yeah, I’m right in being suspicious about this. They can’t both be right.’

Then I’m lucky, and I find a marriage from that line to Taitara down to Hinerakai, who married back into Ngarengare. And I can see that that’s all obeying the rules, and there’s consistency in terms of the generations down, which puts this one under more doubt still then, obviously. And then I thought, ‘okay – I’ll take Whatuiapiti on his Kahungunu side now, and I’ll see what happens here.’ And here it is here – I didn’t have room to stick it out there, but Whatuiapiti, back to Rakaihikuroa … 1-2-3-4 generations back from himself. And this one, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 … something wrong there.

But, what’s the point I’m making? It’s simply this – that you can use whakapapa as a problem-solving exercise. And because Māori people will have more than one line of descent from Kahungunu, you can put them all together side-by-side and you can see which ones are credible and you can see if there’s one that really stands out — and that’s the case here. And that’s the only reason I put that whakapapa up for you to have a look at, so you can see what happens there.

The biggest single advantage of whakapapa is that there are intermarriages the whole way through it. And there’s another way you can soon sort out a whakapapa that doesn’t fit in with the majority, because I picked these marriages out, and you’ll see them all here, several of them – marriage between Rangitane and Tara, and Tara and Kahungunu etcetera, etcetera. And I’ve done that deliberately to reassure myself that I’m on the right track, and as I say, if there’s a whakapapa I’m really uneasy about I prefer not to put it there. In that scenario I’m quite happy to put in a problem-solving one, and this raises perhaps the last point I want to make today.

I’m pretty solitary in my field of whakapapa. I am lonely for company who talks the same language. I don’t really attract many students. Marae will ask me to help them prepare a … like a whakapapa of the whole hapū, which is fine – they come along etcetera, etcetera. But who are my students? Who’s going to take over when I’ve gone? That’s really my concern for the future. And I find that there are people who will stick with me for a while, but they usually have a cut-off point, where they’ve found out what they wanted to know. And of course my work doesn’t have cut-offs. I not only need to know a hapū directly, but I need to know the overview, so that I can see how Matahiwi links up with the Waipatu for example, or Kohupatiki links up with Omahu, etcetera, etcetera, because I’m asked to do that a lot. Bill Prentice, my kaumatua out at Wharerangi said to me, “now can you show me our links with such-and-such a marae?” Or I’ll get a kaumatua ringing me, “look, I’ve been caught without warning and I’ve got to be at a tangi. Can you show me how so-and-so links to so-and-so?”, so that they’re ready for it sort of thing, and so on. Now that’s what I’m expected to be able to do. It’s what I do do.

Within my territory, if a stranger came to see me one day and said, “I’ve always been told I have Kahungunu blood, and I’m trying to find out where it is”, I would be very surprised if I could not pin it down, provided they can give me enough lead to go on. If I can get them back to a territory, or if they’ve got part of the whakapapa … you know, for example if someone says “well I don’t know all the middle generations, but this is where our whakapapa starts”, and you see it coming down to Rakaipaka – up to Nuhaka you go – that’s where you’ll find that one. Or if I see Ngarengare – go over to Pakipaki. Or Hawea – Matahiwi’s where you should be going sort of thing. So the whakapapa is self-explanatory. It allows you to analyse where this whakapapa lies. And once you get to there, then I can send them back to kaumatua and kuia [male and female elders] in their own area who have more in-depth knowledge of that. So on it goes.

Now look – I’ve sat here talking … or stood here talking all this time. And I probably haven’t told you half the things that you really want to know. If anyone’s got any questions, now’s your time.

Question:  Has any information survived on the origins of the Māori?

Yes, it has. I had a wonderful old man named Blue Anaru who lived at Taupo, and he was from the Anarus from Tangoio. Now, the last time I saw Blue, barefoot, ninety-nine years old, and who made me lunch in a microwave … that technology wasn’t beyond him, and what’s more, he had a gas canister nearby and if he needed a whiff of oxygen every now and again, he knew how to mix the brew and stick it in as well. At ninety-nine he was not afraid of modern technology. And I’d be scared I’d be blowing myself up if I got together with a gas canister!

But anyway, during our talkings … and I used to go and see him a lot, I was very fond of him – fine old man … on one occasion, he did start talking about the origins of the Māori. And this surprised me because you never know what these old people know until you ask the right question, and then whether they choose to answer or not. And he said to me, “Do you know”, he said, “they say that our people once lived on the island of Kishm [Qeshm] , and that we were boat-builders without mana?” And I’m thinking, ‘How do you know that?’ [Chuckle] And I said, “Where’s Qeshm?” “You know, you know that island.” “No.” So it took us about ten minutes to pin it down. “In the Mediterranean Sea!” So I’m going to Malta to Ibiza and so forth. It was Cyprus, I think … Cyprus? One of the islands near the Biblical countries.*  “Yeah, that was Qeshm”, he said. And then he said, “Yes, our Māori people were developing a reputation for their boat-building. And of course the news spreads.” And he said, “The King of Persia got to hear [about] our boat-building skills, and he commissioned us to come over and build a fleet for him.”

Now this was all new korero [news] for me, and I was wallowing in it of course, and so forth. And so he then talked about the ancestors of the Māori occupying that territory for some generations – you know, you don’t build a fleet in one week sort of thing. But he said, “there came a time where”, he said “they divided into two, and one lot decided to move on east”. And he said “they ended up down Taiwan, Singapore, that area there”, sort of thing. He said “the other lot went back,” but he said “they didn’t go back to where they came from.” And he said “all I was told was that they made their way across to the Americas.” And now that probably only half-answers your question, but that’s what I’ve been told, and I just took it at face value. I had no means of cross-checking on it. I do have some Mormon whakapapa that Pourawhanga provided me with, taking us back to the twelve tribe generations [of Israel] they speak about and who they married and so on, but it’s such a long task. And anyway, it’s well beyond what I do. [Chuckle]

Was she a Māori from here? [Inaudible reply]

Well see that doesn’t preclude what Blue said either, because … depends on the route they took to get to Persia, and being boat-builders, they’d probably come by boat, wouldn’t they?

Look, there are several Rangitauiros. Look, it’s the same with a lot of names, and I don’t have that sort of ancestral base that you people have.

Well … it’s rather interesting – I’m sure that there are many of you here who are already aware that some years ago one of the universities in New Zealand got onto this and started DNAing, and they have proven a link between the Māori and Taiwan.

Kia ora, tatou, and feel free to come up and have a look at these, and you can work out when the moa died and so forth, and all these things that sort of strike my intellect from time to time and make me wonder.

*The island of Qeshm lies in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Iran, with coastal countries surrounding the Gulf being Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE and Oman, all to the west and south.  

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Landmarks Talk 9/9/2009


  • Patrick Parsons

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