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Book on Mäori newspapers provides insight

Book on how Mäori newspapers provides new insight into Mäori-Päkehä relations

PALMERSTON NORTH - A new book by Mäori history lecturer Dr Lachy Paterson provides new insights into the views and attitudes of Mäori in the years following the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Colonial Discourses: Niupepa Mäori 1855 – 1863 is the first book to examine Mäori language newspapers.

Dr Paterson says in 1855 most Mäori lived in a tribal setting exercising their chiefly rights guaranteed by the Treaty of Waitangi.

“But their world was changing. Many Mäori had entered the market economy, most had converted to Christianity, many could read and write and some had sold land to the Government.

“These trends pleased the Government, which envisaged a New Zealand dominated by Europeans with the benefits of European civilisation extended to Mäori, elevating them socially and economically. They assumed that the two races would become ‘he iwi kotahi - one people’. ”

And he adds that the Government used its own newspaper Te Karere Mäori (the first Mäori language newspaper), to disseminate this message to Mäori.

“Other newspapers were published by government agents, evangelical Päkehä, the Wesleyan Church as well as the Kingitanga, which the government considered the rival Mäori government.

But while the newspapers were used for propaganda, they also provided a forum, with many Mäori debating the issues of the day.”

Dr Paterson says by examining this debate, the book is able to illuminate the whole colonial discourse between Mäori and Päkehä as it appeared in Mäori language newspapers.

“Although some historians have used the newspapers in their research, they are an under-utilised resource and valuable as a window on Mäori society in the 19th and early 20th century,” he says.

The book looks at an eight year span of the newspapers from January 1855 to September 1863, covering a vital period in Mäori-Päkehä relations, leading into the wars of the 1860s.

It is published by the Otago University Press and based on Dr Paterson’s PhD thesis.


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