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Realm of Maori sovereignty to be explored

Media Release from the Royal Society of New Zealand

22 February 2000

Realm of Maori sovereignty to be explored

The semi-sovereign Tuhoe realm in the Urewera will be explored and described in a book by a New Zealand James Cook Research Fellow.
President of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Sir John Scott announced today that Professor of History at the University of Auckland, Judith Binney is one of four researchers recently awarded a two year Fellowship.

In her book, Professor Binney intends exploring the existence of a near-sovereign enclave with its encircling boundaries, the Rohe Potae of the Urewera. The book will cover the period c.1820 to 1922.

“Apart from the King movement, the Urewera is the only other example of a Maori self governing territory and yet there has never been a study of the Urewera from this perspective,” Professor Binney said.

“The autonomy of the Tuhoe people did exist, both spiritually and legally, illustrating different ways that we can live together as a society.

“Their autonomy was an experiment in terms of the legal status of Maori
self-government and regional self-government. A pact was forged with central government at the end of the mid-nineteenth century wars and later endorsed by law but was systematically eroded by successive governments from 1910.

“Despite this, for many Tuhoe people the territory still exists as an imagined realm that is both real and factual.

“What I write about may be controversial but I think it will also be positive about the possibilities facing us – when otherwise we so easily forget the past and the lessons it may teach us,” Professor Binney said.

She said she had already studied much of the documentation tracing the area’s history, but the James Cook Research Fellowship would provide the time to bring together the enormous amount of material and to ask questions she would not normally have the time to consider.

“I will work, as I have done in the past, with Tuhoe people, to bring out the layers of historical experience that need to be evoked,” she said.

Over the next two years she will research archives in Wellington and Whakatane and will visit the Urewera.

Professor Binney won the 1996 Montana Book of the Year for Redemption Songs.

For further information contact:
Judith Binney: wk: 09 373 7599 ext 7359, hm 09 377 9321.
Sue Usher, Executive Officer, The Royal Society of New Zealand, 04 472 7421.

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