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Te Kāhui Kura Māori, Volume 0, Issue 1

Kotahi anō te tupuna o te tangata Māori... — Editing Te Rangikāheke’s Manuscripts; Editing People

Kotahi anō te tupuna o te tangata Māori...
Editing Te Rangikāheke’s Manuscripts; Editing People

A paper originally presented to the New Zealand History Association Conference, Wellington, November 2007 and subsequently expanded for inclusion as a chapter in my Master of Arts Thesis entitled Haere mai me tuhituhi he pukapuka; muri iho ka whawhai ai tātou...;1 Reading Te Rangikāheke (2008).

In the mid nineteenth century Wiremu Maihi Te Rangikāheke wrote some 800 pages concerning Māori traditions, Māori history, Māori religious ideas, and Māori stories. In this paper I will argue that Te Rangikāheke thus exercised his tino rangatiratanga – his right to self-determination in his recording of his stories. Accordingly I will argue that Sir George Grey then extended his powers of sovereignty and dominion over the original Māori writing in the act of editing. This analysis affords us a new perspective from which to review the early published writing of Indigenous Māori in which parallels can be drawn between writer and editor, Māori and Pākehā, colonised and coloniser. In this context, the relationship between writer and editor serves as a rich metaphor for colonisation. Te Rangikāheke’s relationship with George Grey is first explored through a survey of the prefaces Grey included in his Māori publications. What emerges is a picture of a man who, though changed over time, was also a product of his time in his imperialist/colonialist attitudes in which he appeared to unwaveringly believe. This is followed by an examination of the tuakana/teina dynamic of Te Rangikāheke and Grey’s relationship, of their whakapapa to each other as articulated in their Māori terms for each other in their writing. In keeping with anchoring the discussion in their contemporary generation, the nineteenth century is then more widely explored in terms of colonial ‘naming and claiming’, a notion important in discussing nineteenth century colonisation ideas and justifications. The final section of this paper looks beyond its own close generations to its future descendents; to the effects that Grey’s editing had on Te Rangikāheke’s manuscripts that we are left with today.


Sir George Grey is primarily remembered as a colonial administrator in New Zealand, South Australia, and the Cape Colony and for his long and controversial political life (Kerr 2006:13). The following synopsis of his life provides some background to the complex and multi-sided person Grey was so as to facilitate a more nuanced exploration of his relationship with Te Rangikāheke.

Born in Lisbon in 1812, George Grey was named after his father, Lieutenant Colonel George Grey, who died in battle at the Spanish fortress town of Badajoz a day or two before his birth (Bohan 1998:16). The younger George was raised by his mother Elizabeth Vignoles Grey and then also by whom Bohan calls ‘...a conscientiously affectionate stepfather...’ (1998:16) the baronet Sir John Godfrey Thomas of Wenvoe, Vicar of Wartling and Bodiam, Sussex (Bohan 1998:16).

Grey’s interest in marginalised peoples began while he was in military service with postings in Glasgow and subsequently Ireland where he was appalled by the poverty of the Irish people and misery inflicted on them by their English landlords (Sinclair 1990:160). He subsequently led two expeditions in Western Australia in 1837-39 in the hope of finding a major river giving access to lands suitable for settlement, both of which were ill-planned and badly executed (Sinclair 1990:160). Grey himself was injured by a spear to his hip when his party met a group of Aboriginals on their first expedition and had to be brought back to their camp on a pony (Bohan 1998:27-28).

Sinclair notes that it was at this time that Grey became interested in the cultures and government of Indigenous peoples. In 1840 he wrote a report for Lord John Russell, the new secretary of state for the colonies, showing how the amalgamation of two races could be speedily effected (1990:160). Grey was then promoted to captain and appointed resident magistrate at King George Sound (Sinclair 1990:160). Grey then married Eliza Lucy Spencer, the daughter of his predecessor in that office and their one child, a son, was born in 1841 but lived for only five months (Sinclair 1990:160). After returning to England, Grey was offered and accepted the governorship of South Australia (Sinclair 1990:160). Sinclair asserts that this governorship was a relative success as far as the Australian economy was concerned, but adds that it fell somewhat short in the area of native policy (1990:160-161). The settlers often clashed with the Aboriginals and, as Sinclair notes there was much conflict, murder, and theft of stock on both sides (1990:161).

Grey was then appointed governor of New Zealand in 1845 where he faced even greater difficulties than in South Australia (Sinclair 1990:161). Grey arrived in New Zealand to find it technically bankrupt (Bohan 1998:68) and the settlers and Māori engaged in violent disputes over land claims (Sinclair 1990:161). It was in this volatile and unstable environment that Grey took it upon himself to learn about Māori traditions, customs and culture as well as the Māori language. By his own admission he felt it his duty to learn these things in order that he might better fulfil his position as Governor-in-Chief of New Zealand (Grey 1855).

To this end Grey owned Grammar and Vocabulary of the Language of New Zealand (1820) by Lee and Kendall with input by Hongi Hika and Waikato, A Grammar of the New Zealand Language (1842) by the Reverend Robert Maunsell, A Dictionary of the New Zealand Language, and a Concise Grammar; to which is added a Selection of Colloquial Sentences (1844) by William Williams, three of the four publications that were available by 1845 that were either in or about te reo Māori and although he did not own the fourth, A Korao no New Zealand (1815) by Thomas Kendall, he possessed a work that contained the word list that was originally compiled by the author of that same publication (Kerr 2006:75-76).

As was popular with Pākehā interested in Māori customs, culture, and language at the time, Grey also enlisted Māori around Aotearoa/New Zealand such as Tamihana Te Rauparaha (Ngāti Toa) and Himiona Te Wehi,2 to assist him in his studies; Grey had them write in te reo Māori about Māori culture in order for him to build a collection of written materials on which to base his study of the Māori language and Māori culture. Grey also received manuscripts from other Pākehā collectors of Māori material such as the German missionary J. H. F. Wohlers, the Presbyterian missionary James Duncan, and the Reverend Robert Maunsell (Kerr 2006:78). However, Te Rangikāheke is generally acknowledged as being Grey’s most important source of Māori manuscript material.

Although Grey did not record much about their relationship,3 Te Rangikāheke was more forthcoming (Curnow 1983:21). He wrote the following in a draft letter to Queen Victoria

He nui anō tāna mahi atawhai ki ahau e noho tahi ana hoki au me ia me tōna hoa wahine i roto i tō rāua nei whare. E kai tahi ana hoki mātou i ngā rā katoa o te wiki e kōrero tahi ana, e tākaro tahi ana, e hari tahi ana (GNZMA 723, Part 2:279).

Te Rangikāheke tells the Queen that Grey was very kind to him and that he lived with Grey and his wife in their house. He writes that they ate together everyday of the week, they talked together, enjoyed their time together,4 and were happy together. Te Rangikāheke evidently took pleasure in his work and lifestyle with Grey and his wife and found it satisfying and fulfilling.

Grey provided a house for Te Rangikāheke and his family next to his own family house in Auckland, along with bags of flour, rice and sugar when they arrived, and payment of two shillings and sixpence for a day, fifteen shillings for a week, and three pounds for a month (Curnow 1983:17). As again noted by Curnow (1983:17), in another letter dated 27 August 1850, Te Rangikāheke marvelled at the generosity of the governor in giving him so many possessions whilst he was in his writing place; four shillings, three figs of tobacco, a Jew’s harp, and a pipe

Otirā, i ngā rā noho ai au i roto i tōku whare tuhituhi ka hōmai e ia e whā ngā hereni, e toru tūpeka, kotahi te rōria, kotahi te paipa; ā mīharo ana ahau ki tōna atawhai ki te hōmai noa mai i āna mea māku (GNZMMSS 45, cited in Orbell 1968:12).

Te Rangikāheke’s use of the word ‘mīharo’ conveys a sense of wonderment and amazement at the care that Grey showed towards him. Grey is painted in a very favourable light in terms of his relationship with Te Rangikāheke with Te Rangikāheke’s use of the word ‘atawhai’, conveying a sense of caring that extends beyond civility and professionalism.

Not surprisingly perhaps, given their evidently warm relationship, Te Rangikāheke not only wrote for Grey, but also taught him in a collaborative manner (Curnow 1983:17). To this end, Curnow notes that Grey wrote comments on Te Rangikāheke’s manuscripts which suggests that he was writing notes during or after discussion with Te Rangikāheke.

In one such note ([GNZMMSS] 81:56) Grey wrote above a line, ‘“Otiraa he take pai” said by the writer of this they thought this a just cause’ (Curnow 1983:18).

Through ready access to the writer, Grey was able to more thoroughly study of the manuscripts he was supplied by Te Rangikāheke than was the case with the majority of his Māori collection. Kerr takes the idea of Te Rangikāheke and Grey working together a step further and imagines what this working relationship might have looked like

The collaboration was close and the image of these two men, antipodal representatives with their own culture and customs, sitting down in Government House, talking together, writing passages of Maori, discussing them, emending them and adding interlinear notes is a powerful one (2006:76).

As indeed the image is powerful, it is also a poignant example of what might be possible when people from different cultures meet and understand each other enough to be able to work amicably, side by side. Te Rangikāheke made great contributions not only to Grey’s learning of te reo Māori me ōna tikanga, but also to Grey’s Māori publications which have over successive generations proved themselves to be invaluable resources in the study of Māori language and culture.5 Te Rangikāheke ultimately taught Grey about things Māori in a close, collaborative way that greatly advanced his knowledge and proficiency of and in Māori language, traditions, and people.

Te Rangikāheke’s and Grey’s writing collaboration was, however, relatively short lasting; it only lasted four years between 1849 and 1853 after which Grey left Niu Tireni to take up his governorship posting in the Cape Colony taking all the Māori manuscripts with him. Grey worked on his extensive manuscript collection with Dr Wilhelm Bleek, a librarian at Cape Town Library, publishing three Māori books during his term at Cape Town;6 Polynesian Mythology (1855), Ko nga Whakapepeha me nga Whakaahuareka a nga Tipuna o Aotearoa (1857), and Ko nga Waiata Maori (1857) as well as a catalogue of Grey’s Māori language material in 1858. In 1860 Grey returned to Niu Tireni to take up his second appointment as governor of New Zealand. Grey subsequently presented his entire library to the South African Public Library at Cape Town, and the valuable New Zealand books and manuscripts were sent there in 1861 where they lay virtually undisturbed for over 40 years (Curnow 1983:2, Williams 1906:175-6).

In 1906 the Reverend H. W. Williams spent time in Cape Town, ‘re-discovered’ the manuscripts, and published an article in the Journal of the Polynesian Society entitled Maori Matter at the Cape of Good Hope: Some Notes on the Grey Collection in the Cape Town Library (1906:175-80). In this article, Williams gives brief background details on the history of Grey’s collection, a résumé of his month’s work on the collection, and other brief notes on what remained to be done with the collection. Special mention is made of Te Rangikāheke’s manuscripts that Williams noted were ‘...the most striking...’ (1906:179) of those he examined and ‘...whose writing is clear, and punctuation admirable’ (1906:179). Almost all the manuscripts were finally returned to Aotearoa/New Zealand in 1922-23 after what Biggs referred to as ‘protracted negotiations’ (Biggs 1952:177), with the three outstanding items being returned in 1999 (Kerr 2006:83).7 The collection is currently held in the Special Collections at Auckland Public Library and is accessible by the general public.

Reading Grey

The Māori books Grey published with their significant contributions by Te Rangikāheke form one collection of material that might be analysed comparatively beside Grey’s collection of Te Rangikāheke manuscripts. Though they differ in many often wide ways, they share whakapapa that is both rich and diverse. The following analyses of the prefaces Grey included in his Māori publications are explored as much for their lack of acknowledgement to Te Rangikāheke and the many other Māori contributors, as for what other information and insights into Grey they do contain. Inasmuch as Te Rangikāheke can be read through his manuscripts in the Grey collection, so too can Grey be read through his prefaces, and perhaps both of the men in the main text of some of these books. This ‘reading between the lines’ therefore takes dually into account what is present and what is not, and explores the spaces in between the two.

(i) Nga Moteatea (1853)

Before Grey presented his library at Cape Town, four of Te Rangikāheke’s manuscripts were published in 1853 in Wellington as appendices in Grey’s Ko Nga Moteatea Me Nga Hakirara Maori. But rather than acknowledge any of his Māori sources, Grey fills the greater part of his preface in Nga Moteatea with extolling the virtues of the ‘fertile in labors, rich in love, apostolic in character’ missionaries (1853:i), and explaining why and how he collected what he calls the ‘poems’ contained in the main body of the text. The preface concludes with some unpublished remarks about Māori poetry by Maunsell whom Grey describes to as ‘one of our most learned Maori scholars’ (1853:xiii). Maunsell proceeds to belittle Maori poetry deeming it amongst other things ‘abrupt and elliptical to an excess not allowed in English poetry’ (Grey 1853:xiii) while also conceding that ‘these irregularities help much to invest Maori poetry with that shade which none can penetrate without close study of each particular piece’ (Grey 1853:xiii). Maunsell’s overwhelmingly negative view of Maori poetry is illustrated in the final paragraph of the preface that systematically lists the ‘peculiarities’ that Maunsell felt obliged to note as the following

...omissions of the articles ‘ko’ and ‘te’, omissions of ‘ai’, of the pronouns, of such particles as ‘nei’, and of other complementary words, omissions of the nominative case, of the objective, often of the verb, and verbal particles, omissions of the prepositions, changes of one preposition into another, unusual words introduced, and words sometimes inverted – exceedingly wild and abrupt metaphors, and transitions unexpected and rapid’ (Grey 1853:xiv)

Such a list begs the question as to how any native speaker of Māori, let alone a student of the language, was ever able to make any sense at all of Māori poetical forms, but also more importantly highlights Maunsell’s grammatically based frame of reference with which he approached poetry, or more specifically, Māori poetry. Maunsell bases the majority of this part of his assessment of Māori poetry firmly on the rules of grammar, the rules of Māori grammar in which he must have considered himself an expert. Indeed, whether or not Maunsell’s understanding of the grammar of te reo Māori was good is beside the point; the main point is that poetry in many if not all languages often breaks the grammatical rules of that language with no dire consequences to speak of. As the above quote shows, Maunsell approaches Māori poetry from a Pākehā-centric corner that sees him rely on a European based understanding of grammar. This moreover sees him defeated at the end where he resorts to calling the metaphors ‘wild’ and the transitions ‘unexpected and rapid’.

Grey avoids acknowledging the original writers of the Māori waiata and prose material contained in Nga Moteatea in the preface and anywhere else in the book in preference to the righteousness of missionaries, his methods of collection, and Maunsell’s Pākehā-centric assessment of Māori poetry. Rather than being presented as a celebration of Māori waiata, this preface focuses squarely on Pākehā concerns about the righteousness of missionaries, Grey’s methods of collecting, and Maunsell’s assessment of waiata Māori.

(ii) Nga Mahi a Nga Tupuna (1854)

Grey’s second Māori publication Ko nga Mahinga a nga Tupuna Maori, which Simmons notes contains material at least a quarter of which is derived from four Te Rangikāheke manuscripts (1966:364), similarly offers no acknowledgement of its Māori sources other than mentioning in the preface that

These traditions were all either written down from the dictation of their principal Chiefs and High Priests, or have been compiled from manuscripts written by Chiefs (Grey 1928:ix)

When Grey recasts the Māori sources in general terms as ‘Chiefs and High Priests’ he de-personalises the texts, removing authorial agency from the Māori writers, and solidifying the texts in the genre of ‘mythology’. Grey’s decision regarding authorial acknowledgment satisfied the colonial requirement that Indigenous people’s individual identities not exist. This decision, whether intentionally politically motivated or otherwise is inherently political in that in making it, Grey exercised his colonial powers over Te Rangikāheke’s Indigenous texts thereby negating Te Rangikāheke’s tino rangatiratanga. In this act of not acknowledging his sources, Grey effectively edited his sources out of their own texts.

(iii) Polynesian Mythology (1855)

Polynesian Mythology (1855), Grey’s third Māori publication, is his English translation of Nga Mahinga a nga Tupuna Maori (1854). In the substantial preface to this work, Grey explains amongst other things why and how he set about learning te reo Māori, and how he came to publish some of the material he collected in this and the previous Māori books. He writes

I soon perceived that I could neither successfully govern, nor hope to conciliate, a numerous and turbulent people, with whose language, manners, customs, religion, and modes of thought I was quite unacquainted (Grey 1855:iii).

In Grey’s own words, he deemed it necessary to learn the Māori language and to learn about Māori culture in order to better equip himself for his role as the Governor-in-Chief of New Zealand, governing over both Indigenous Māori and predominantly European settlers. Grey goes on to talk about the problems with enlisting translators noting that information relayed via the medium of a translator is not as personal as the more standard mode of using one language to communicate, that it is also ‘...cumbrous and slow...’ (Grey 1855:v), that, being done hurriedly and in as few words as possible was not ideal, and finally that the Natives did not like talking through an interpreter (Grey 1855:v). Having dispensed with the usefulness of translators, Grey reminds us again of what he tells us was his ‘duty’

...to make myself acquainted, with the least possible delay, with the language of the New Zealanders, as also with their manners, customs, and prejudices (Grey 1855:v).

From here, Grey describes the difficulties he faced in learning a language that he thought ‘a very difficult one to understand thoroughly’ (Grey 1855:vi) as it ‘varied altogether in form from any of the ancient or modern languages’ (Grey 1855:vi) which he knew. He mentions that there was then ‘no dictionary of it published...there were no books published in the language which would enable me to study its construction’ (Grey 1855:vi) and that, as he was occupied with the governance of the country, he was left with little time to devote to these matters. In writing about why he felt compelled to learn te reo me ōna tikanga followed by the ensuing difficulties through which he struggled, Grey writes himself into this preface at the expense of the Māori stories contained in the book – it’s all about him. This egocentric through line continues throughout the preface.

Furthermore, whereas Grey gives much detail about why he collected Māori manuscript material, he is notably vague about exactly how he collected this material. He writes

I worked at this duty in my spare moments in every part of the country I traversed, and during my many voyages from portion to portion of the Islands. I was also always accompanied by natives, and still at every possible interval pursued my inquiries into these subjects (Grey 1855:viii).

Grey does not disclose his methods of acquiring the source material much less who his sources actually were. His focus remains squarely on himself and his work in obtaining the source material as per the above quote where Grey writes that he was ‘accompanied’ by some Māori. Grey marginalises Māori firstly by referring to them in general terms as ‘native’ and secondly by suggesting that these same ‘natives’ did not work either with or for him in his use of the word ‘accompanied’. Grey avoids mentioning that Māori were largely the actual writers of the manuscripts as well as a much larger body of other Māori writing and through this avoidance he effectively erases their literary achievements. Grey further marginalises the Māori sources from whom he obtained his material by not acknowledging any of them by name and instead referring to them as the ‘aged and influential chiefs’ and ‘priests’ (Grey 1855:viii) who aided him in his collecting.

Grey then discusses his reasons for publishing some of the Māori manuscript material stating that he did not want his hard work to go to waste and not benefit others ‘...whose duty it may be hereafter to deal with the natives of New Zealand’ (1855:ix). Rather than his work being of any benefit to Māori, Grey intended his work to benefit the colonial powers with whom would lie the burden of ‘deal[ing] with’ the Indigenous people of Aotearoa/New Zealand. This is furthermore underlined by Grey’s emphatic statement that he now presents ‘...to the European reader a translation of the principal portions of their [ie Māori] ancient mythology, and some of their most interesting legends’ (1855:x). Although it might be conceded that it was not unreasonable for Grey to intend this publication, being a translation into English, for an English audience, this view assumes that Māori were not literate in the English language and would therefore gain nothing from this publication. It furthermore assumes that Māori, even if they were literate in English, would have no interest in a publication in English concerned with their own traditions. This view is untenable given the expediency and voracity with which Māori took up writing in the nineteenth century as illustrated by the volume of the Māori language newspapers, as well as numerous other manuscripts, letters, committee minutes and other media that were produced in the nineteenth century.

(iv) Polynesian Mythology. 2nd Edition. (1885)

The second edition of Polynesian Mythology, which appeared thirty years after the first, is markedly different to the first edition. The older Grey writes much less with a sense of purpose and more with a sense of reflection if not nostalgia. Grey begins by lamenting the deaths of his ‘fellow-labourers and assistants in collecting the materials for the original work, so long ago as the year 1845’ (1885:xiii). Interestingly, he also laments the deaths of his Māori friends many of whom he notes were much respected and admired (Grey 1885:xiii). Grey further contends that the feeling between the Māori and Pākehā after the cessation of the land wars of the 1850s and 60s has mellowed to a point whereby

...the Europeans thoroughly appreciated all instances of truely noble courage in the natives who were opposed to them, and loudly expressed their admiration for the men who thus distinguished themselves (1885:xiii).

While Grey implies that Europeans did not recognise any noble courage in Māori before they were engaged in war with them, he goes on to justify this assumption by proclaiming that they corrected themselves by expressing admiration for some of the Māori. This ideology perpetuates the “noble savage” discourse as expounded by the influential French philosophiser Rousseau that was popularly employed by colonising powers in the nineteenth century as a justification for the horrors of colonisation. The general tone of this preface in the second edition of Polynesian Mythology follows this “noble savage” line to its inevitable foregone conclusion that the Māori people as a whole, like many of Grey’s old Pākehā and Māori ‘friends’, will die – the Māori as an anthropological relic.

In keeping with the dire and sad tone of this preface, Grey, no longer the young, idealistic, energetic man he once was tells us

Many of the manuscripts were written by natives from the dictation of the most celebrated old chiefs, such as Rangihaeata, Te Rauparaha, Potatau, Te Heuheu, Patuone, Te Taniwha, etc (1885:xiv).

Unusually, despite being acknowledged now as the author of at least 50 of the 198 pages in Nga Mahinga a nga Tupuna Maori (Simmons 1966:364), as well as sharing a congenial relationship with Grey (Curnow 1983:17), Te Rangikāheke’s name does not figure in this list. I posit that rather than acknowledging the primary Māori sources of the book, this list is included to inflate the importance of the book as the most comprehensive and authoritative book published on traditional Māori narratives. This theory is supported by the fact that the names Grey mentions are the names of some of the most prominent rangatira of their time. Where Simmons asserts that ‘Te Wherowhero of Ngāti Mahuta gave Grey Te Kitenga a Te Kanawa i te Patupaiarahe’ (1966:367) which most likely refers to Pōtatau Te Wherowhero, the first Māori king, or Pōtatau as given in the list above, there is some doubt as to whether the other rangatira listed above dictated the manuscripts that subsequently found their way into Grey’s possession. Simmons, in his article “The Sources of Sir George Grey’s Nga Mahi a Nga Tupuna”, found that together with material from Te Rangikāheke’s manuscripts, Grey also used material from manuscripts written by Mātene Te Whiwhi. Mātene, or Te Whiwhi as he was more commonly known, was the son of Rangitopeora, a prominent rangatira of Ngāti Raukawa and a nephew of two prominent Ngāti Toarangatira rangatira, Te Rangihaeata and Te Rauparaha. Simmons is unclear as to whether Te Whiwhi dictated traditions from his uncles, or wrote what he was taught by them and others, or wrote what he knew of the traditions as he knew them. As for Te Heuheu, Patuone, and Te Taniwha, whereas Te Taniwha may have contributed to written accounts of traditions, these rangatira are not remembered for their writing but for their political and social prominence.

Grey may not have wanted his published work to be associated with such a socially and politically mobile Māori as Te Rangikāheke was as this might compromise the venerability of the traditions that Grey describes as being ‘ancient’. It is improbable that Grey simply forgot to include Te Rangikāheke due both to their close relationship and Grey’s fine attention to detail and dedication to hard work. Grey may, however, have been overstating the case in naming these particular rangatira as some of his sources but this is difficult to substantiate at this time and is an area of inquiry that lies beyond the scope of this paper.

Te Rangikāheke’s teina dynamic with Grey

In the draft letter to Queen Victoria previously mentioned Te Rangikāheke writes of his relationship with Grey;

E rite ana tōna atawhai ki au i te atawhai ki tāna tamaiti ake, teina ake, whanaunga ake (GNZMA 723, Part 2:279).

He writes of the kindness that Grey shows toward him being the same as that which one would show to their own child, to their younger sibling, or to their close relative.8 Te Rangikāheke writes ‘teina’ meaning ‘younger sibling of the same sex’9 which is clearly distinguished in Māori from ‘tuakana’ meaning ‘older sibling of the same sex’. From a Māori point of view, the implications of this word choice are specific; whakapapa is one of the foundational concepts upon which Māori social structure is built and iwi, hapū and whānau are ordered according to tuakana/teina relationships. The tuakana belongs to an older and more senior line of whakapapa and the teina belongs to a younger and more junior line of whakapapa (Mead 2003b:220). Relatives, family or other kinship groups are defined in this tuakana/teina binary. Te Rangikāheke, in this case, claims the younger ‘teina’ position for himself and in doing so lowers his social status in deference to Grey.

In another manuscript (GNZMMSS 87) Te Rangikāheke writes that Grey addresses him as ‘tama’ which literally translates as ‘boy’ or ‘son’. In Te Rangikāheke’s written words, the relationship he shared with Grey is mutually defined in Māori kinship terms whereby Grey occupied the tuakana or senior position and Te Rangikāheke occupied the teina or younger position. A parallel metaphor can be drawn from the dynamics of their relationship as articulated by Te Rangikāheke that sees Grey occupying the high-status position of Governor-in-Chief of New Zealand to Te Rangikāheke being a lowly native, and so the binary, interdependent status order between tuakana and teina, coloniser and colonised, oppressor and oppressed is reinforced in their relationship. Te Rangikāheke appears to have agreed to these terms of engagement with Grey and indeed, worked within his teina role to achieve his political and personal objectives.

There is though another way of reading the Māori terminology used to articulate Te Rangikāheke and Grey’s relationship which sees the two men locked into a close, familial relationship bound by responsibilities and accountabilities that defy the restraints of time and place; Te Rangikāheke and Grey take whakapapa and extend it beyond birth right to include politically motivated ‘foster’ relations. Hence when Grey calls Te Rangikāheketama’ he assumes some responsibility for him that extends beyond a professional/work based relationship into a whānau relationship. Rather than being simply friends or acquaintances, this kinship dynamic radically altered the terms of their relationship and adds a whole new layer of complexity to it. Where the motivations for constructing and maintaining the dynamics of this relationship were different for each, it seems that both men were ultimately politically driven as was their relationship. This is seen in Te Rangikāheke’s reasons for teaching Grey (Curnow 1983), as well as Grey’s reasons for learning te reo Māori and about Māori culture and customs (Grey 1855). Another pertinent example of the enduring whakapapa relationship that transcends time and space, is the fact that Te Rangikāheke wrote to Grey from Mokoia in 1893, some 40 years after first writing for him, asking for his intercession with the government to get him a house at Ōhinemutu (Curnow 1983:31). From Te Rangikāheke’s point of view, at least, the tuakana/teina relationship he shared with Grey was enduring and extended beyond the less familiar bounds of friendship.

It is, however, difficult to tell whether their terms of address for each other can be taken to be a true reflection of the nature of their relationship, especially when one considers that the roles Grey and Te Rangikāheke played were inverted in terms of the aims of their collaboration. Grey wanted to learn the Māori language and customs (Grey 1855:vi, viii;) and Te Rangikāheke wrote and taught him (GNZMA 723, Part 2:277); that is, Grey was the student, and Te Rangikāheke the teacher. The relative status of both Te Rangikāheke and Grey was inverted in terms of Grey’s desire to learn Māori language and customs with Te Rangikāheke occupying the elder, tuakana position of teacher and Grey occupying the younger, teina position of student. This can be seen as a subversion of the binary colonial positions of coloniser and colonised whereby the coloniser concedes status without having to openly confess to it, and without perhaps even realising it. Given that Grey himself believed that Indigenous Peoples ‘must be freed into civilisation’ from their primitive and savage cultures rather than treated as inferiors (Bohan 1998:42), this subversion of roles whereby the native teaches the coloniser runs contrary to his own personal ethos of colonisation. Accordingly, editing Te Rangikāheke out of his texts by not acknowledging him achieved the means by which Grey’s intellectual and political dominance and by implication, his assumption of colonial dominance, would be unquestionable.

Colonial discovery and ‘naming and claiming’ ethos

Grey’s editing out of Te Rangikāheke as the original author also has the effect of solidifying the texts’ place on the mantelpiece of European ‘discovery’. Grey takes full credit for the Māori narratives because he was, and arguably still is, popularly known as the author of the Māori books he produced. Grey lays claim to the ‘discovery’ of the narratives in much the same way as Cook lays claim to the ‘discovery’ of New Zealand even though the Polynesian peoples discovered these islands hundreds of years before they did. In this way, the Māori text is validated because Grey ‘discovered’ it rather than because a Māori wrote it.

This view is clearly supported by H. D. Skinner who, in his review of Katherine Luomala’s book Maui-of-a-thousand-tricks: His Oceanic and European Biographers calls Grey ‘...the greatest of Maui’s biographers...’ (1950:93-95) even though the Māui story referred to is Te Rangikāheke’s story that was edited and published by Grey. In the same review, Skinner tells us that in her book

Dr. Luomala discusses in detail Grey’s Arawa version of the Maui cycle (1950:93).

Te Rangikāheke’s version of the Māui story is credited to Grey and is worse still referred to as ‘...Grey’s Arawa version...’ as if Grey himself was either of Arawa descent or had some kind of existential claim to Arawa traditions. Te Rangikāheke’s Māui story is attributed to Grey in interesting twists of language such as the ones above that I argue give more credit than is due Grey in terms of the Māori stories he published. Although Grey edited and published a Māui story, he took his source material, in this case his source narrative, directly from one of Te Rangikāheke’s manuscripts.

Additionally, one of the more curious aspects of Skinner’s review is that Te Rangikāheke is mentioned in the second half of the second paragraph after Grey has been loudly praised for his “masterpiece of primitive literature” (Skinner 1950:93). Although Skinner notes that Te Rangikāheke supplied the Māui narrative, a substantial quote from Percy Smith (1899:257) immediately follows that asserts that Te Rangikāheke’s work is incorrect as other Arawa elders will attest to (1950:93). Skinner answers Smith’s criticism by conceding that

...even though the priestly experts are able to correct some minor details, Wiremu’s [ie Te Rangikāheke’s] story remains an achievement unparalleled in Polynesian literature (Skinner 1950:93).

While acknowledging Te Rangikāheke as the source of Grey’s published Māui story, and furthermore praising him for his literary talent and skill, Skinner paradoxically credits Grey for his story and for preserving the story. I argue that the authorship of Te Rangikāheke’s account is unnecessarily complicated by Skinner who mentions Te Rangikāheke’s involvement in the production of his own text more as an afterthought than being central to the issue. Although both Te Rangikāheke and Grey are mentioned in relation to the Māui narrative under discussion, the greater emphasis is placed on Grey who is given prominence by way of the language used in relation to this Māui narrative, and also the order in which each man figures in the structure of the paragraph.

Although Te Rangikāheke is acknowledged as being the original author of the Māui account as edited and published by Grey, it is Grey who is given the kudos. In this way, Native writers are effectively side-lined and their contributions to the literary landscape of Aotearoa/New Zealand are not fully realised. Whereas this thesis resists showing Grey more attention than is reasonably warranted by focusing on Te Rangikāheke the writer and exploring Te Rangikāheke using Indigenous methodologies such as whakapapa and Native American Literary Theory, the effects of this historical side-lining are still felt today whereby George Grey is inextricably tied up with Te Rangikāheke’s writing. That is, it is very difficult to hold a conversation about Te Rangikāheke or his writing without having to also mention Grey. The coloniser Grey, whether by accident or design, continues to appropriate a Native writing space as his own. Ironically, the necessarily close tuakana/teina dynamic of their collaborative teaching relationship is played out for a potential infinity in the legacy of the resulting publications. Until such time as due acknowledgement is given to Te Rangikāheke for his writing, Grey will continue to feature prominently in discussions of Te Rangikāheke’s work. This Indigenous writer eagerly anticipates the day when Te Rangikāheke’s work is central to the discussion and Grey’s dominance is no longer felt as acutely as it currently is.

In discussing Grey’s treatment of the prose material mainly derived from Te Rangikāheke that initially appeared as appendices in Nga Moteatea me nga Hakirara o nga Maori, Williams points out that although sparingly edited in this publication, ‘...the same material was very freely handled when transferred to “Nga Mahinga”...’ (1906:179). He continues

...a comparison of the latter [ie Nga Mahinga a Nga Tupuna Maori] with the original mss. makes it apparent that the editor allowed himself still further freedom, dislocating his narratives, inserting particles, altering the diction, and in places weaving his narratives in such a way as to necessitate wholesale alterations in proper names (1906:179).

Biggs similarly noted that Grey ‘...took a great many liberties with the original texts’ and furthermore identified three categories in which Grey’s editing was found wanting (1952:180). Firstly, Biggs found that Grey rearranged and combined material from several sources to ‘fill out’ the stories and failed to indicate where this had been done (1952:180). He argues that while some of this rearranging may have been necessary, Te Rangikāheke’s long narrative concerning Māui, for example, was quite clear before Grey rearranged the episodes in a more strictly chronological order (1952:181).

Secondly, Biggs asserts that Grey indulged freely in the alteration of the construction of sentences which often made for awkwardness and sometimes obscured the sense (1952:181). Biggs highlights Grey’s use of “e tika ana ano ena kupu” to replace the more ‘crisper’ original “he tika ena kupu” which changes the grammatical construction from being more nominal to being more verbal.10 As the basic content of the two constructions is the same in each, Grey’s substitution comes down to a matter of style rather than better grammar. Grey evidently made this change to suit what he considered to be a better pace in terms of the narrative.

Biggs also notes that Grey substitutes “Ko te kauae o tona tupuna, o Muri-ranga-whenua, kua riro mai koa i mua atu” for the original, more flowing “Kua riro mai koa i mua atu te kauae o tona tupuna, o Muri-ranga-whenua” (Biggs 1952:181-2). Although both sentences are grammatically correct sentences in te reo Māori, the emphasis shifts from being centred on the verb in Te Rangikāheke’s original, to being focused on the subject in Grey’s edited version. In the context of the greater narrative from which these examples are taken, Te Rangikāheke’s original version progresses the narrative as opposed to Grey’s version that enters more haltingly into it.

Finally, Biggs groups together Grey’s ‘...omission of passages which revealed that the authors were familiar with European culture, and of passages which were evidently considered to be too strong for our cultivated tastes’ (1952:181). In terms of the first criticism, Te Rangikāheke begins his manuscript entitled Tama a Rangi:

E hoa mā, whakarongo mai. Kotahi anō te tupuna o te tangata Māori; Ko Ranginui e tū nei, ko Papatūānuku e takoto nei ki ēnei kōrero (GNZMMSS 43: 893).

Te Rangikāheke categorically states that Māori trace their ancestry to these two beings and to no one or nothing else. As these two ‘primeval’ parents are always considered a binary pair as the respective father and mother of creation, Te Rangikāheke does not write that there are ‘only two’ ancestors of the Māori as this confuses the issue, or at least confuses it in the Māori language. The inference is that this pairing of Ranginui and Papatūānuku are together considered the ‘one’ ancient ancestor of the Māori.

Te Rangikāheke’s manuscript continues:

Ki tā te Pākehā, ki tōna tikanga, nā te Atua anake te tangata me Rangi me Papa me ngā mea katoa i hanga. Ki ngā tāngata Māori, nā Rangi rāua ko Papa ngā take o mua (GNZMMSS 43: 893).

Te Rangikāheke begins his manuscript by contrasting Māori and Pākehā beliefs regarding the origin of creation. This contrast is emphatically made through the juxtaposition of the adverbial phrases ‘Ki tā te Pākehā...’ and ‘Ki tā ngā tāngata Māori....’ Biggs notes that Grey edited out this and other comments which illustrated Te Rangikāheke’s observations of the culture contact situation that was the social and political reality of nineteenth century Aotearoa/New Zealand (Biggs 1952).

One of the effects of this editorial decision is the removal of the narratives from a definitive location in time and the reassignment of them to existence in the vague mists of the distant past. In regards to this, Biggs notes that ‘The editor appears to have wished to give the impression that the informants were quite unfamiliar with Europeans and their ways and beliefs’ (1952:179). In this way, Grey edited the manuscripts to align them with colonial discourses that allowed Māori to exist as long as they existed without individuality, ‘out of time’, and without the native writers possessing self-reflective or critical faculties. Via the process of editing, Grey shaped these texts to fit the established mould of acceptable Indigenous colonial discourse thus rendering the Indigenous author’s voice effectively absent while simultaneously fostering ‘The Invention of Tradition’11 in New Zealand, the Pacific, and the globe.

In this paper I have demonstrated that Te Rangikāheke’s tino rangatiratanga was violated by Grey via the process of editing and that Te Rangikāheke’s texts were edited in accordance with Western colonial ideals. The end result of this colonial editing process is a text that is removed from time and space that was then, and is still now, popularly categorised as mythology. As the Māori author of the texts was not acknowledged, so too are Māori frequently unacknowledged. As the text became the property of the publishing company, so too did other Māori intellectual property become the property of New Zealand. As the Māori were ‘alienated’ from their texts, so too were they alienated from their lands. It is in this way that the process of editing can be seen as a metaphor for the process of colonisation.

This being the case, it is hoped that future editions of Grey’s Māori books might be metaphorically returned to their original writers, and published under their own names, whānau, hapū, iwi as the case may be. In terms of accessibility to resources this generation of treaty settlements has it within their reach to publish Te Rangikāheke’s and other older Māori writing without need of overbearing colonial interference. With such a dream bearing close on the horizon, it is important to remember that such publications would ideally not presume to harken back and represent ‘the Māori in his most pure form’ before Western-European influences corrupted us, but would rather present writing as inherently subjective as it is.


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GNZMA: Grey Māori Letters, Auckland Public Library

GNZMMSS: Grey Māori Manuscripts, Auckland Public Library

1 GNZMMSS 93:1.

2 Te Wehi’s iwi is not known.

3 Curnow notes that Grey’s diary, which covers the years 1845-83, is a very sketchy document and makes no mention of Te Rangikāheke (1983:21).

4 Curnow translates ‘e tākaro tahi ana’ literally as ‘we played together’ (1983:17).

5 Williams (1928) notes that Maori had by this time been included in the subjects for the BA degree and that the Academic Board had prescribed Nga Mahi a Nga Tupuna as a text book for the examination.

6 Grey’s first Māori publication Ko nga Moteatea me nga Hakirara o nga Maori (1853) was published in Wellington, and his second, Ko nga Mahinga a nga Tupuna Maori (1854) was published in London.

7 Interestingly, Grey mentions his desire for this exchange to one day take place in the preface to the 2nd edition of Polynesian Mythology (1885); this was not an oversight on his behalf due to the pressing demands of office as Williams (1906:176) points out.

8 Translated by Curnow as ‘His kindness to me was like his kindness to his own child, his younger brother, or relation’ (1983:17).

9 The word ‘sibling’ includes cousins in te ao Māori, not just one’s immediate siblings.

10 For a more linguistic analysis of te reo Māori see (Bauer 2003).

11 See Obeyesekere (1992) and Sahlins (1995).