Part 3: Exercise 3.5

Research into local history


Because I have already looked at local history in depth during ‘People and Place’, and also because of my potential assignment submission, I have decided to look at the resources that can be found concerning Māori mythology, the history of the Moari migration and the arrival of Europeans in New Zealand.

The first part of my research was undertaken while I was passing through the North Island town of Rotorua. Having been to a tourist ‘Māori’ Experience’ evening, I was left feeling that there was so much more to find out about the culture. The next day, I went back to the reserve and asked to speak to a Māori who could explain more about the Maori’s relationship with the forest,  and also the recent generations difficulties in adapting to ‘New World’ ways.


This information gave me ideas about how the ‘Mother Earth’ and ‘Father Sky’ belief system seemed to have been drawn from the landscape. Being in tune with the geology, flora and fauna is still something that seems so lost on the western way of being. The sacred sites in Rotorua are rich in geological activity. Reflecting on these sites after this conversation helped me to gain insight into the Māori belief system.   The grandson of the tribal chief spoke of the symbiotic relationship with the environment, the consequences of the arrival of Europeans and the fight to retain their culture and sacred sites. Also, he spoke about the ongoing issues of the ‘lost’ Māori youth – some who find themselves embroiled in gang culture and drugs.


“According to Māori tradition, earthquakes are caused by the god Rūaumoko (or Rūamoko), the son of Ranginui (the Sky) and his wife Papatūānuku (the Earth). Rangi had been separated from Papa, and his tears had flooded the land. Their sons resolved to turn their mother face downwards, so that she and Rangi should not constantly see one another’s sorrow and grieve more. When Papatūānuku was turned over, Rūaumoko was still at her breast, and was carried to the world below. To keep him warm there he was given fire. He is the god of earthquakes and volcanoes, and the rumblings that disturb the land are made by him as he walks about”

As you will read further on, my exploration and project was spun on it’s head when I found myself in Ground Zero in Kaikoura. The wrath of Mother Nature presented itself within 3 hours of arriving there. My living experience of this and my contact with the Māori humanitarian response was beyond anything to be found in my local library. However, since coming back, I have looked online to find out more about this region.

The Kaikoura museum has been closed since the earthquake but there is a wealth of information to be found via the online libraries.

The history of the Māori migration and mythology is briefly introduced here

Below are historic photographs of Kaikoura which is a town suggested as being the place where the first Maori settlement was situated. The Maori and settlers worked together on whaling trips quite harmoniously.

This link explains the arrival of Robert and George Fyfe in 1842. He set up the whaling station there but it wasn’t long before the whale stocks collapsed. Maori men were employed along with Australian and European whalers who went on to marry local Ngai Tahu women.

Farming became the main industry in Kaikoura from there on in. However whaling did resume in 1987 for a time (tourism overtook after this brief revival).


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In this day and age, the internet contains much of what you would possibly ever want to know. However, the best part of this exercise was actually talking to people with first hand experience of the topic. Maori tribes lived symbiotically with the environment and their conceptualisation of the natural environment is instinctive and seems to be beyond articulating. Pulling together an abstract and mythological element to my assingment appeals to me at the moment.

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