Responses to the launch of 'Tangata Whenua'

In more than 200 years of publishing about Māori, Tangata Whenua is the only detailed synthesis of Māori history in its entirety. Our explicit intention was to produce a Māori history for all New Zealanders in a book that spans Māori history as a whole.

Tangata Whenua was produced in the conviction that a knowledge of Māori history in sufficient detail to understand its particularities and complexities is an important attribute of New Zealand citizenship.

Professor Atholl Anderson


When you read the book, one of the main themes that I hope is highlighted for you is the strength and resilience of Māori communities, not just in the twenty-first century but actually over time, even when times are tough. I hope that when you open this book, the Māori past opens for you.

If Māori didn’t cede sovereignty at the signing of the Treaty in 1840, and the New Zealand government has sovereignty now, what happened? So if not 1840, when? And if not by cession of sovereignty, how? This is partly where my love for history lies. It’s in the questions, and the addressing of questions and the playing around with possible answers, and the kind of figuring out that fine line between the facts – and we know that there are facts – and the discussion about those facts and the interpretation of them.

Dr Aroha Harris


I think this book is incredibly important. It’s important as a bridge between the races; it’s incredibly important as a torch shining on an entire people in a way that’s never been done before.

That’s the role of a book like this, of course, to throw light. To throw light through scholarship and truth, on a subject and on a people who continue in these fraught times in the twenty-first century to be the subject of controversy – a people still struggling in negotiation with the majority of the wider New Zealand polity, to negotiate their status and their place in this land. This book shines light on that discussion in a modern context. What more could we ask for?

It’s a great credit to the scholarship of Judith Binney and those who worked to complete her work. To Atholl and Aroha and those who worked around them. A lot of stars, a lot of tides, a lot of funding sources had to align for this thing to get launched up in Auckland last week and here in Wellington today. The scholarship of these people and the tenacity of their publisher has meant that New Zealand is a richer place now than it was last week as a result of this book.

If you could identify a book throughout the post-literacy history of my people that captured their mauri - this in my view is the book.

The Hon Justice Joe Williams


Traditional tribal histories have been largely absent from the education of most New Zealanders. Many of us struggle to name more than one or two tribes, let alone the key ancestors and the historic events they shaped.

The publication of Tangata Whenua marks a turning point in the development of our national identity. Instead of grafting our indigenous stories onto a colonial academic and anthropological rootstock, the authors start by cultivating the history and traditions that are rooted in the landscape of Aotearoa. We are no longer looking at ‘Māori’ stories through a Pākehā lens; now we can appreciate their natural diversity and tangled beauty, interwoven in the cloak created by Tane Whakapiripiri to adorn Papatuanuku.

Each iwi and each people have their own traditions to maintain. But when we can understand and respect each other’s point of view, we are united in our diversity.

The Hon Dr Pita Sharples


We had a book called Our Nation’s Story, and it talked about Captain Cook – and later of course I realised that New Zealand had never been lost, it had already been found – by us! There was another picture of Edward Gibbon Wakefield… and the caption underneath said ‘the father of New Zealand’, but I knew he wasn’t my father! So we knew all about the Stewarts and the Kings of England, but we weren’t taught anything about our own history. As Pita has said, this book will close those gaps.

Professor Ranginui Walker


With the publication of this superb book, an authoritative history of Māori and Moriori is for the first time made available to ordinary people. While there has been a huge amount of publication in a multitude of places, there remains a great need for an up-to-date work based on the finest contemporary scholarship. This is realised today. While the story of my people, Ngāi Tahu, is evident in the text, this history offers a much broader context. It is a rich general history, one that entwines the narratives of the country’s many iwi. Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated History will make a significant contribution in bringing the peoples of New Zealand to a fuller understanding of their shared past and the possibilities of a rich future in these islands.

Sir Tipene O’Regan


Tangata Whenua is a new development – it really has no rivals. It’s a first. This book tells the whole story of Māori history, using the latest scholarship, but speaking also to a wide audience. And it provides a completeness that we haven’t hitherto had in the scholarship on Māori history.

That’s a tribute to the team who created this book – Judith Binney, of course, was a great scholar, Aroha Harris is a leading young Māori historian, and Atholl Anderson is just a marvellous pre-historian, a scholar of global reputation. And it’s a tribute also to publisher Bridget Williams, who brought this group together. This is really an outstanding team, and they’ve succeeded in making the book more than the sum of its parts.

This is quite an event – one that I think is important for all New Zealanders, not just Māori.

Professor James Belich


In preparing this contribution I thought about how in the time of now, our present time, we speak to each other across time, our tīpuna speak to us, we speak to our descendants, and we do this in a variety of ways. In dwelling on this, it can seem as though everything, all time, is a now time, a present time. My mihi is as follows:

The centre is the now place, which each of us occupies for a time. From the centre one reaches, in any direction, to the outer circles from where understanding and inspiration are drawn. There is no great distance in the reaching because we are our own tīpuna. Also we share the dust of stars. Reaching out and drawing in one comes to knows oneself, becoming whole and human.

From the centre:

May this fine waka launch heartily.

May it sail in ever widening circles to find its place among the many iwi who have settled in this land.

May it venture beyond these shores – swiftly through calm waters, boldly through rough seas – to reach the hearts and minds.

Patricia Grace