Royal Society Honours Māori Author & Academic Aroha Harris
Respected Māori author and academic honoured by Royal Society
Dr Aroha Harris, senior
lecturer in History at the University of Auckland, has been
awarded the inaugural Royal Society Te Apārangi Early
Career Researcher Award in Humanities for her substantial
contributions to the award-winning Māori history, Tangata
Whenua: An Illustrated History.
“This award is a wonderful recognition of Māori history. I'm very proud,” says Dr Harris who is currently on secondment at the Waitangi Tribunal.
Dr Harris co-wrote Tangata Whenua with the late University Professor of History, Dame Judith Binney FRSNZ and Atholl Anderson FRSNZ. She was lead author of the book’s final 135-page section, “Te Ao Hurihuri: The Changing World,” which explores the sociocultural history of twentieth-century Māori.
These four chapters reveal the significant economic and sociocultural challenges that Māori experienced by telling local stories that illustrate and emphasise Māori resilience and creativity.
The Society’s award selection committee noted that Dr Harris had diverged from the tendency in other histories to focus on Māori political struggles and Māori-Crown relationships. Instead she has provided new insights into lived reality for Māori, emphasising the creativity, resilience and agency of Māori communities in the face of significant sociocultural and economic challenges such as racism and poverty.
Dr Harris was appointed a member of the Waitangi Tribunal from 2008, she currently sits on the Te Rohe Potae (Wai 898) panel, which is investigating over 200 claims from Mokau in the south to Whaingaroa in the north. Her research-based teaching focuses on Māori policy and race relations, Māori historical methods including oral histories, and Māori perspectives of the past.
She has been President of the New Zealand Historical Association since 2015, and in 2017 she became President-elect of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association. She will move into the role of President in 2018.
The Royal Society Te Apārangi is an independent not-for-profit organisation that supports all New Zealanders to explore, discover and share knowledge.
The New Zealand Research Honours is held each year by the Society to celebrate the achievements of New Zealand researchers by the awarding of a number of medals and awards. The Health Research Council of New Zealand also awards two medals at the event. To discover more visit -
• The full citation for Dr Harris reads: “To Aroha Harris for her significantcontribution to the award-winning Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated History, which spans the entirety of Māori history.”
• Tangata Whenua has won numerous awards, including the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Award for Best Illustrated Non-fiction and the 2015 Royal Society of New Zealand Science Book Prize. Eminent historian James Belich describes it as the first publication to tell “the whole story of Māori history, using the latest scholarship, but speaking to a wide audience”. For respected Māori leader Sir Taihākurei Durie, Tangata Whenua “lays a new foundation for enlarging cross-cultural understandings for Māori and Pākehā alike, and contributes significantly to the survival of Māori culture and tradition".