24 Nov 2014

'Landmark' work charts Māori history

7:33 pm on 24 November 2014

A "landmark" book on Māori has been launched, with high profile Māori such as Pita Sharples and Sir Tipene O'Regan praising it for its comprehensive coverage of the history of tangata whenua.

 Aroha Harris and Atholl Anderson.

Aroha Harris and Atholl Anderson says the book's themes come from a uniquely Māori perspective. Photo: RNZ / Laura Bootham

Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated History covers the early origins of Māori from ancient South China through to the present day and took Aroha Harris, Atholl Anderson and Judith Binney seven years to write.

Tangata Whenua book cover

Photo: SUPPLIED

Ms Harris said the authors made sure the book's themes are relevant to Māori and come from a uniquely Māori perspective.

"It's not a story of loss due to colonisation followed by a story of recovery, it's actually a far more complex story. So the resiliance is present even when there's a great deal of trauma and loss in Māori society."

Atholl Anderson says the work encompasses all periods of Māori development.

"The books that have gone before are generally speaking quite specialised, or rather they come from two ends of the spectrum.

"They're usually quite specialised when they're scholarly books, for example, a book on a Māori battalion for example or a book on tapu, or weaving. Or at the other end, they're quite general in the sense that they cover a lot of ground, but do so fairly lightly. Our book is the first and entire history of Māori."

Academic and company director Sir Tipene O'Regan described it as one of the most significant books on the Māori world ever written, while former Maori Party leader Pita Sharples said that, for the first time, tangata whenua are no longer looking at Māori stories through a Pakeha lens.

Historian James Belich said the authors are some of New Zealand's most outstanding scholars and the book needs to be on the shelves of libraries and universities of Aotearoa.

Aroha Harris and Atholl Anderson acknowledged the work and contribution of Judith Binney, who passed away during the book's creation.

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