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New book uncovers remarkable journey of young Māori man

The life and experiences of one of our most prominent pre-Treaty Māori travellers is the subject of new book.

Professor Alison Jones of the University of Auckland and Kuni Jenkins have written Tuai: A Traveller in Two Worlds.

The book uncovers the story of Tuai, a remarkable young Māori man, born about 1797, who actively contributed to European knowledge of Māori language and culture well before the Treaty of Waitangi.

To learn more about Pākehā society and to get settlers for his area of the Bay of Islands, Tuai lived amongst Pākehā overseas. He worked as a whaler in 1812, and, while in Australia in 1813, taught Thomas Kendall (who was to become the first New Zealand schoolteacher) to speak Māori, assisting him in the compilation of the first teaching book, written in Māori.

Tuai then travelled to England where he witnessed the Industrial Revolution, visiting factories in Shropshire, and becoming a guest at high society dinners in London. With his lively travelling companion Titere, he would attend fashionable gatherings and sit for his portrait.

On his return to the Bay of Islands in 1820, he found work as an interpreter for British naval timber expeditions, and as an instructor of French scientists seeking knowledge of the Māori people.

But unlike his people’s rival Hongi Hika of Ngāpuhi, he failed to get English settlers, sealing the fate of his Ngare Raumati people who were dispersed by Ngāpuhi following Tuai’s untimely death, aged 27, in 1824.

“The book tells a Māori story. It focuses on amusing and poignant insider details of the earliest Māori attempts to strategically control Pākehā settlement in the north, and the earliest Māori studies of Europe,” Alison says.

The book provides an opportunity to learn more about the extent of Māori-Pākehā engagement, particularly in the north of New Zealand, in the years before the Treaty. Readers can learn a lot about the earliest Māori explorations of Pākehā societies, and the contribution of Māori to western scientific knowledge about Māori and New Zealand.

“It was great to meet so many Ngare Raumati people who wanted their story told. New Zealanders generally know about Ngāpuhi history and their leader Hongi Hika, but we know very little about Ngare Raumati who were once a very powerful group in the north,” Kuni says.

“It is often forgotten that from 1814 Māori tried to get Pākehā settlers for their own areas to boost their military position against rival hapū. So the Pākehā decisions about where to settle had a significant impact on Māori tribal history well before the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.”

Professor Jones, a Pākehā, is a Professor in Te Puna Wānanga, the School of Māori and Indigenous Education, at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education and Social Work. Kuni Jenkins, from Ngāti Porou, is a Professor in Education at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.

Alison and Kuni have worked together for many years including on the He Kōrero project, which began with Kuni’s PhD, Haere tahi taua: an account of aitanga in Māori struggle for schooling.

In 2012 they won the Ngā Kupu Ora Māori Book Award for Best Non-Fiction book for Words Between Us: He Korero - First Māori-Pākehā Conversations on Paper.

Alison and Kuni are launching Tuai: A Traveller in Two Worlds, at the Faculty of Education and Social Work on Thursday 13 July at 5.30pm, following the initial launch at Kororāreka marae in the Bay of Islands on 8 July.

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