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Category Archives: Symposium

The Canadian Invasion.

It seemed like Dunedin had been invaded by Canadian academics at recent Centre events.

The first event was a half-day symposium, “Colonial Families: New Perspectives” on 20 August, organized by Angela Wanhalla and also funded through her Royal Society Rutherford Fellowship. This featured Laura Ishiguro (University of British Columbia), with ‘“Say nothing”: gossip, intimation, and the limits of intimacy in a colonial family’, a paper that investigated the mixed-race David-Phillipps family, and the gossip and silences around the marriage and children. Jennifer Ashton (Auckland), spoke on ‘Respectability and the Half-caste: The Russells and Manings in 19th Century Hokianga’, on the efforts of early elite Pākehā males for their mixed-race children to gain the cultural capital necessary to become respectable in the emerging settler society. Crystal Fraser (University of Alberta) gave a paper on ‘Reconciling the Future: Past and Present Understandings of Gwich’in Families in the Northwest Territories, Canada’ which looked at her own family’s history living in the “two worlds” of Indigenous and “modern” Canada.   Erica Newman (University of Otago) finished this session with the paper ‘The Care of Fiji’s Orphan’s During the Colonial Period, 1874-1970’ looking at guardianship, adoption and orphanages in colonial Fiji, with particular emphasis on Fijian Indian children.


Canadian guests at the Pūrākaunui Falls, in the Catlins, with members of Otago’s History programme, on the weekend. From left: Angela Wanhalla, Jane McCabe, Kate Stevens, Laura Ishiguro, Crystal Fraser and Kristine Alexander.

On 24 and 25 August the two-day symposium, ‘”Unpicking the Tapestry”: Children and Young People in British Colonial Contexts’ was held at the Hocken Collections.  CROCC member, Hugh Morrison, gathered a great range of scholars to look at colonial children’s history.  This began with a mihi whakatau (welcome) from Mark Brunton, Māori Research Officer (Office of Māori Development, University of Otago).

Mark Brunton

Kei te mihi atu a Mark Brunton (Ngāi Tahu) ki ngā tāngata i tae mai ki te hui rangahau. Mark Brunton (Ngāi Tahu) greeting the symposium attendees.

The first day’s talks were as follows: Crystal  Fraser (University of Alberta) ‘”We went through hell together me and my friend; we cried together, we got shit together, and we fought together”: Student Life at Hostels in Northern Canada, 1950s to 1980s'; Chris Brickell (University of Otago) ‘Transport, Modernity and the Making of Adolescent Cultures';


Chris Brickell spoke about how modes of colonial transport operated as cultural spaces for New Zealand adolescents.

Susan Cahill (Concordia University) ‘Where in the Girl’s  Realm  are  the  Irish?:  Representations  of  Irish   Girlhood  in  British  Girls’  Periodicals  1880-1914′; Michelle Smith (Deakin University) ‘The Family and Maternal Feminism in Colonial Girls’ Literature'; Helen  May (University of Otago) ‘Froebel’s “New Child” in the “New World” Colony: Transforming the Kindergarten across Cultures and Continents'; Christina  Ergler (University of Otago) ‘Managed Childhoods? Questioning the notion of Urban Children’s Free play in Aotearoa over the Course of History’.  Kristine Alexander (Canada Research Chair in Child and Youth Studies, University of Lethbridge) closed off the first day with an evening public lecture, ‘A Tangled Web: Children, Colonialism and Archives’ looking at how the presence of children is marginalized within the Archives.


CROCC Director, Tony Ballantyne, who chaired the evening keynote, poses a question to Kristine Alexander.

The second day’s lineup included Lynette Townsend (Te  Papa) ‘Child-­made Material Culture: an Assemblage of Colonial History'; Jane McCabe (University of Otago) ‘From “Grandmama’s” to “Up the Hill”: Three Childhoods in One Empire Family; Hugh Morrison (University of Otago) ‘Children and Missions: Shifting Identities and Colonial Spaces'; Laura Ishiguro (University of British Columbia) ‘”The future of this country will depend on our children and children’s children”: the Aspirational Politics of Settler Futurity in Colonial British Columbia'; Bettina Bradbury (Victoria University (NZ) and York University) ‘”I don’t think I was ever a boy': Edward Kearney Junior’s Memoir, Emotion, Memory and Colonial Childhood';

anna gilderdale

Anna Gilderdale talked on the social presence of New Zealand children in colonial newspapers.

Anna Gilderdale (University of Auckland) ‘”Sunbeams”, “Cousins” and “Little Folk”: Constructing Young Folks’ Social Worlds through Print, 1880-­1920′; Kristine  Moruzi (Deakin University) ‘Colonial  Children  and  Charity’.  The event closed with a panel discussion headed by Kristine Alexander, Helen May, Kristine Moruzi and Hugh Morrison.


Panel. From left: Kristine Moruzi, Kristine Alexander, Helen May & Hugh Morrison.



Click to enlarge. Presenters (mostly), from left: Helen May, Hugh Morrison, Christine Ergler, Jane McCabe, Anna Gilderdale, Crystal Fraser, Angela Findlay, Kristine Alexander, Susan Cahill, Kristine Moruzi, Bettina Bradbury, Laura Ishiguro, Lynette Townsend, and Michelle Smith.

Extra Media options:  Dunedin TV (the local station) broadcast a two-minute television clip on the “Unpicking the Tapestry” symposium, with short cameos from a few of the presenters.  Click here to view.

This was also the first time we have actively used Twitter at a CROCC event, with Angela Wanhalla (and a few others) disseminating regular tweets of snippets of presentations, and the odd photo, as the symposium progressed.  These can be accessed on Twitter through #cyccs.  Angela has also created a Storify package where the tweets have been collected together, and can be seen without having to have a Twitter account.  Click here to access.

Thanks to Hugh and Angela for organizing these two amazing events, and to all the  scholars (from Canada, Australia and New Zealand) who made their way to Dunedin to share their research.

Orphanages, Residential Schools, Colonial Gossip

All of these topics will be discussed at a half-day symposium on “Colonial Families: New Perspectives” taking place on Thursday 20th August from 9-12 in Central Library Seminar Room 3, University of Otago. This event is sponsored by the Centre for Research on Colonial Culture, with support from a Royal Society of New Zealand Rutherford Discovery Fellowship and features four speakers who will present new research into the history of the family in Canada, New Zealand and the Pacific:

Laura Ishiguro’s (University of British Columbia) research is trans-imperial and global in scope. She will speak about colonialism, mobility, and intimacy in the “long” nineteenth century through the story of one Metis family from British Columbia. Her talk draws upon her SSHRC-funded research project, “Settler colonialism, global families, and the making of British Columbia, 1849-1871″ (Insight Development Grant 2014-16). She guest-edited a 2013 issue of the Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History on “Imperial Relations: Histories of Family in the British Empire,” and in it called for a rethinking of the meanings of, and relationships between, family, intimacy, and imperialism.

Crystal Fraser (University of Alberta) is a high-profile young Gwich’in scholar who is undertaking research on the impacts of colonialism on her home community, Inuvik, located in northern Canada. She has been identified as “one of the most important Canadian historians of the next generation” whose research on residential schools, gender, and sexuality in Gwich’in society and the Canadian North is “actively shifting both fields as aboriginal people and northerners start writing and directing research in their own history on their own terms”. She is also a leading voice in Indigenous social media, which included hosting @IndigenousXca where she discussed racism in Canadian academia. Crystal will speak about the current debates within Canadian history and society about residential schooling.

Jennifer Ashton (Auckland) will speak about family, race and respectability in northern New Zealand during the nineteenth century. Jennifer’s talk draws from her recently published, and highly regarded first book, At the Margin of Empire: John Webster and Hokianga, 1841-1900 that “takes us into Hokianga to reveal how the evolving intimate relationships and economic transactions of everyday life reflected larger shifts in colonial power” through a biography of the trader and colonist John Webster and his networks.

Erica Newman (Otago) will talk about her original and exciting doctoral research on orphanages and adoption in colonial Fiji. Erica’s research in this area has been recognized internationally in the form of invitations to participate in pre-read workshops at the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, and an invited publication on her previous work on Māori adoption in the highly regarded American Indian Quarterly.

Contact Dr. Angela Wanhalla ( for further information about this free event.

An exciting symposium on colonial childhood

The Centre for Research on Colonial Culture is hosting a free two-day symposium, ‘Unpicking the tapestry: children and young people in British colonial contexts’, comprising 16 different papers on this theme by a range of scholars from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the USA, and with roundtable discussions to end each day’s sessions.  This will be held in the Seminar Room, Hocken Collections, 24-25 August.  Click here for the Draft Programme.


Dr Kristine Alexander

As part of this event, Dr Kristine Alexander of Leithbridge University, a Canada Research Chair in Child and Youth Studies, will be giving a public lecture, “A Tangled Web: Childhood, Colonialism, and Archives”.  This will be be held in Burns 2, 24 August at 5.30pm.  All interested people are warmly invited.

In particular the symposium is interested in addressing a number of key questions which include: What does it mean to talk about ‘colonial childhoods or adolescence’ or to think about children and young people in relation to colonialism? What colonial sites were significant or influential for children’s and young people’s lives, and in what colonial sites were children influential? To what extent were children and young people constrained by boundaries or moved fluidly across boundaries (eg. gender, race or ethnicity, nation, class, religion), and to what effect? What are the sources for excavating and interpreting colonial childhoods? What are the gaps and silences? How do we negotiate these? In what ways might a comparative approach (across colonial societies) expand or limit our understanding of colonial childhoods and adolescence? What are the significant challenges and opportunities in this field of academic enquiry?

If you are interested in attending the symposium, please contact by the end of the month.


CFP: Children & Young People in British Colonial Contexts

Dr. Hugh Morrison, with support from the Centre for Research on Colonial Culture, will be hosting a 2-day symposium on 24 & 25 August at the Hocken Collections on the histories and experiences of children and young people. The Call for Papers is below:


Unpicking the Tapestry: Children & Young People in British Colonial Contexts

Children and young people were ubiquitous and significant players on the stage of national and colonial formation, yet this remains a significant gap in the history and historiography of British world colonial societies like Aotearoa New Zealand. Therefore an exclusive focus on the historical place of children and young people in comparative colonial contexts is timely in terms of further development; both in the New Zealand context and that of the wider British world. Such discussion can inform a better historical understanding that is locally, nationally, and transnationally configured.

This symposium is sponsored by the Centre for Research on Colonial Culture at the University of Otago, New Zealand. It aims to bring together scholars (from New Zealand and beyond) who are interested in a range of aspects of colonial children and young people under the rubric of ‘unpicking the tapestry’. If colonialism is the overall tapestry holding together children’s and young people’s lives, then what is revealed when we begin picking away at the individual strands of this tapestry? In particular the symposium is interested in addressing a number of key questions which include: What does it mean to talk about ‘colonial childhoods or adolescence’ or to think about children and young people in relation to colonialism? What colonial sites were significant or influential for children’s and young people’s lives, and in what colonial sites were children influential? To what extent were children and young people constrained by boundaries or moved fluidly across boundaries (eg. gender, race or ethnicity, nation, class, religion), and to what effect? What are the sources for excavating and interpreting colonial childhoods? What are the gaps and silences? How do we negotiate these? In what ways might a comparative approach (across colonial societies) expand or limit our understanding of colonial childhoods and adolescence? What are the significant challenges and opportunities in this field of academic enquiry? These are some of the questions we wish to explore further over two days of keynote address, paper presentations and round-table discussions.

The keynote speaker will be Canadian historian Professor Kristine Alexander, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Child and Youth Studies at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta. She will be joined in round-table discussions by education historian Professor Helen May (College of Education, University of Otago) and one further person to be confirmed. Up to a further 16 paper presentations are anticipated in plenary session form (half hour sessions per paper).

Paper proposals should be sent by email to Dr Hugh Morrison ( in the form of a 300 word (maximum) abstract, accompanied by a paragraph giving academic or professional background by Tuesday 31 March, 2015. Accepted papers will be notified by Friday 24 April at the latest. There will be no registration/symposium costs for presenters, but travel and accommodation costs will need to be individually paid for. It is anticipated that symposium papers will be published as an edited book collection or special journal issue.

Eugenics in British Colonial Contexts

posterThe Centre’s year has kicked off to a good start with “Eugenics in British Colonial Contexts: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa” in the comfortable facilities of St Margaret’s College, on 7-8 February. This single-stream conference was organized by Associate Professor John Stenhouse (History, and CROCC) and Professor Hamish Spencer (Genetics, and Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution), and Professor Emerita  Diane Paul (University of Massachusetts Boston, Research Associate, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, and currently William Evans Fellow at Otago).

After the event was opened by PVC Humanities, Professor Brian Moloughney, Tony Ballantyne (Otago) spoke first on “Colonisation and the problem of Population”. Tony began with the question, when did the Eugenics begin in New Zealand, as its history has various possible beginning points. It was an issue that had significant discursive importance to the big questions of the day, in particular with regard to population, immigration, and political economy.

After the event was opened by PVC Humanities, Professor Brian Moloughney, Tony Ballantyne (Otago) spoke first on “Colonisation and the problem of Population”. Tony began with the question, when did the Eugenics begin in New Zealand, as its history has various possible beginning points. It was an issue that had significant discursive importance to the big questions of the day, in particular with regard to population, immigration, and political economy.


Assoc Prof John Stenhouse

John Stenhouse (Otago) spoke on William Pember Reeves, the Liberal politician of the late nineteenth century. Reeves, celebrated for his Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration legislation, is less well known for his efforts to restrict the immigration of undesirables, including those deemed to be physically or mentally defective. Reeves was one step beyond public opinion, and his efforts stalled. A watered-down bill, principally anti-Asian, was more successful.

Sir Robert Stout, eminent New Zealand politician and jurist, was the focus of Emma Gattey’s (Otago) talk.   A Freethinker and advocate of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, Stout’s interest in eugenics is less well known. An active member of the Eugenics Society, Stout pushed for the segregation of mental defectives from society. Even his own daughter, an epileptic, was held at Seacliff Lunatic Asylum for a number of years.

Professor Stephen Garton

Stephen Garton (Sydney) talked on the illiberalism prevalent in early twentieth-century Australia, a time now seen when medicine particularly infected by ideology. Ultimately, however, liberal safeguards survive and all efforts at sterilization of mental defectives fail in Australia, and without a scientific consensus, politicians were reluctant to pass contentious legislation. Jane Carey (Wollongong) took a wide view of the issue of eugenics, arguing that race, class and gender are interlinked into eugenist discourses. Eugenics is often seen in terms of national historiography, but was a transnational discourse. Although for some it was about the “English race”, others took a different view, prepared for example, to “breed out colour” through intermarriage.


Click to enlarge. From left, Caroline Daley, John Stenhouse, Hamish Spencer, Stephen Garton, Angela Wanhalla, Jane Carey, Diane Paul, Barbara Brookes, Erika Dyck, Charlotte Macdonald, Susanne Klausen, Rosi Crane.

Baby contests began first in the US in 1854, but soon spread to other countries, including New Zealand. Caroline Daley (Auckland) discussed how initially these shows attracted considerable opposition, but they also appealed to those with proto-eugenic sentiments as indicators as to the quality of the racial stock. Shows took on a more scientific edge, with doctors weighing and measuring the babies. However, Caroline cautioned at reading too much into the eugenist angle, as consumerism was often a motivation for these events, and they continued to be held after eugenics declined in popularity.


Professor Emerita Diane Paul

Truby King is famous as a health reformer, both in terms of treatment of the mentally ill, and infants’ and children’s health, and as the founder of the Plunket Society that promoted his theory of mothercraft. Diane Paul (Massachusetts Boston) noted that more recently King (and the Plunket Society) have been labelled as eugenist.   While it is possible to find some eugenist ideas in his writing, King was also critical of eugenics at times,  believing that environmental factors, rather than hereditary, were more important, and how we classify King’s ideas really depends on how we define eugenics.

All the way from Canada, Professors Erika Dyck and Susanne Klausen

Susanne Klausen (Carleton) spoke first on the second day, looking at the impact of eugenist theories in South Africa that emerged in the late nineteenth century. One issue that troubled some in South Africa were the poor white Afrikaners, who migrated into the cities, living in slums together with black South Africans. Deemed as less intelligent than other whites, the Race Welfare Society tried to curb their high fertility rate. However, ultimately the eugenics movement in South Africa was relatively weak. In the face of large non-white populations, a white ethnic nationalism prevailed over biological imperatives, with poor white Afrikaners deemed salvageable in the interests of race unity.

Although eugenic discourses percolated through all of Canada, it was only in Western Canada that two provincial parliaments, in British Columbia and Alberta, passed laws legalizing sterilization of the mentally defective.   Erika Dyck (Saskatchewan) discussed the situation in Alberta, where most of the sterilizations took place, between 1928-73. It was agrarian feminists who initially pushed for sterilization, but the legislation was strengthened by the Social Credit government, who removed informed consent. More recently it has been claimed that the government targeted indigenous women, but historical evidence for this is lacking, with indigenous health care, run by federal authorities, in general being provided at the most minimal levels.

Charlotte Macdonald (VUW) looked at the history of eugenic discourse in New Zealand. The high point of New Zealand eugenics was the Mental Defectives Amendment Act in 1928, which established a Eugenics Board. “Experts” could be powerful, for example Dr Theodore Gray, the Head of the Mental Hospitals Department, who recommended the sterilization of the mentally unfit, which became Clause 25 in the 1928 Bill. But this legislation was not palatable to all, and was watered down in its final form. Charlotte also looked at the Healthy Body Movement that appeared in a number of the “white” colonies in the 1930s. Although there is an assumption that this reflected eugenist ideas, this was not actually the case, although the perception may have led to its eventual demise.

Angela Wanhalla (Otago) discussed how marriage was also a concern in the discussion leading up to New Zealand’s 1928 legislation. The initial bill included Clause 21 that would have prohibited the marriage of the mentally or socially defective. While some newspapers were broadly supportive, the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches opposed any state interference in the institution of marriage, and the Labour Party’s Peter Fraser led the fight against the worst aspects of the legislation in parliament. Eugenic discourse did influence divorce law, with insanity grounds to dissolve a marriage, although few used it due to the length of time required. New Zealand’s response was to segregate the mentally unfit rather than sterilization or marriage prohibition.

Professor Hamish Spencer

The last speaker, Hamish Spencer (Otago) also focused on the Mental Defectives legislation of 1928. The first Act, which distinguished between mental illness and defect, was passed in 1911. In 1924, a Committee of Inquiry convened to look into Mental Defectives and Sexual Offenders. A number of academics urged eugenic controls, such as the registration and sterilization of mentally defectives and immigration control, which the commission broadly agreed to. The 1928 legislation also came out of Dr Gray’s Report on Mental Deficiency, compiled after a world tour looking at how other countries dealt with the issue. As noted above, Peter Fraser was a vehement opponent of sterilization. Although the government had the support in parliament to pass this, it was not confident of wider public support and amended the original bill. But it was a very close thing.

All participants felt that this event was extremely productive.  Despite differences in how each country applied eugenist ideas, the discourse was transnational.  The organizers are now investigating publication options to get their research to a wider audience.

Mobilities in a ‘Dangerous World’

Call for Papers

Sixth New Zealand Mobilities Symposium: Mobilities in a ‘Dangerous World’

25 and 26 June, 2015, University of Waikato

The contemporary world and its real and imagined ‘dangers’ offers us with a variety of challenging themes to explore in this Sixth New Zealand Mobilities Symposium, including sustainable mobilities, climate change and human mobility, mobility justice, historical mobilities in new perspective, the mobilities of disease and war, and mobilities and the borders of the nation state. We have conceptualised ‘danger’ as the risk and threats that mobility might pose in the contemporary world, such as climate change refugees, pandemic disease transmission via people and movement, among other aspects of perceived dangers in our shared mobile world. We are also inviting papers relating to various other topics, including sport, leisure, health and tourism mobilities; human and object transport and mobilities; refugee and migration, especially Pacific peoples; mobile media technologies; and moving methods.

We expect to conclude the conference with a panel focused on theorizing mobilities/moving methods. This conference places additional emphasis on capacity building for research among emerging researchers and postgraduate students in mobility studies. We are aiming to keep all sessions as plenary sessions, so spaces will be limited at the time of the selection of abstracts.

Keynote presenters will include

Dr Holly Thorpe (Sport and Leisure Studies, University of Waikato, and author of Transnational Mobilities in Action Sport Cultures, Palgrave 2014): ‘Youth and Sporting (Im)mobilities in Disrupted and Conflicted Spaces’.

Professor Mimi Sheller (Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology, Director, Center for Mobilities Research and Policy, Drexel University, Philadelphia): ‘Connected Mobility in a Disconnected World: Moving people, information and aid after disasters’. [Please note: Mimi Sheller will present a virtual keynote.]

Other invited speakers to be advised.


Abstracts due: Friday 6 March 2015. Please send a 250 word abstract and a 100 word biography to

Decisions on paper offers will be made by 1 April 2015.

We are hoping to offer student bursaries to support postgraduate students from beyond the Waikato to attend this conference. More information will be made available in April of 2015.

Contacts and organisers:

Professor Cathy Coleborne (History Programme, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences):

Dr Holly Thorpe (Sport and leisure Studies, Faculty of Education)      

Dr Gail Adams (Geography Programme, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences)

Placing the Personal Essay

Last week CROCC participated in the ‘Placing the Personal Essay Colloquium’, held at Puke Ahu in Wellington, aka the Massey Wellington campus. Convenors Ingrid Horrocks and Cherie Lacey put together academics and creative writers, and asked them to talk about place and the form of the personal essay. This was an invitation to migrate across borders, and many of the speakers did. From the academic side Lydia Wevers talked about ‘dirty books’, her dirty five-year experience of working at Brancepeth Station as she researched Reading on the Farm, Tony Ballantyne’s fish and chip shop (chop suey pattie for $1.60) anchored his argument for attention to the local, and Sally Blundell offered an insider’s account of what home means after the Christchurch quakes. The ‘creatives’ for their part got fairly theoretical: Martin Edmond’s keynote on ‘Riding the Ghost Train’ initiated a writing-as-ghostly metaphor which ran through the colloquium. (Alex Calder got spooked in Southland; Annabel Cooper revisited some old haunts.) Lynn Jenner brought place and the personal together in confessing to a childhood in a small red or pink painted room in imagined Vienna, before going on to make a plea for greater freedom in prose forms. Ian Wedde was surprised to be the first to point out that we all live now in a kind of Middle-Earth Truman Show, and Jack Ross and Harry Ricketts also took up elements of this theme, and Giovanni Tiso’s remarkable concluding account of what happened when he uploaded images suggests this is just the kind of world that Google Plus is taking us to. Alice Te Punga Somerville, both an ‘academic’ and a ‘creative’, countered such hyper-reality by pointing out that far below us in the concrete pipes which now channel an ancient stream under Puke Ahu, eels gathered, as they have for a very long time, a story of the persistence rather than the ephemerality of place. Even the eels, though, migrated to Twitter in the course of the day.

Congratulations to Cherie and Ingrid for putting such a diverse group of speakers together, and posing us the dilemma of talking about place, the personal and the essay form. The challenge produced a very lively day. The venue had to be changed to accommodate all the people who wanted to attend, and the tea breaks fizzed with conversation.

‘Placing the Personal Essay’ was held under the auspices of the W.H. Oliver Humanities Research Academy of Massey University, the Stout Research Centre of Victoria University of Wellington, and the Centre for Research on Colonial Culture, University of Otago. Tony Ballantyne and Annabel Cooper represented CROCC at the event.

Annabel Cooper

Colonial Worlds Elemental Histories Symposium

A one-day elemental histories symposium, a Centre for Research on Colonial Culture event, was held on 31st October, at the Hocken Collections. ‘Colonial Worlds Elemental Histories’ began with a keynote address  from Grace Karskens, Associate Professor, UNSW. Her stories of early settlers (1802-1830s) who farmed the fertile but flood-prone Castlereagh region west of Sydney, revealed dogged determination in the face of repeated devastation. The settlers developed a culture of risk-taking and opportunity that underlay their fatalistic attitude towards the Australian bush.

Professor Tom Brooking’s paper ‘Yeotopia Gained: New Zealand 1840-1914’ explained how by 1914 most farming in New Zealand was carried out by family concerns but on someone else’s land. The changes in land ownership revealed a fracturing of a flawed dream.

‘Elementally United: The Case of Canterbury’s Nor’west Wind’ by Katie Pickles exhorted us to think with our senses. The wind, a dominant force in shaping emotion is both felt and seen in the landscape.

Dr Michael Davis’s paper entitled ‘Entangled Knowledges: Indigenous and Environmental Histories across the Tasman’, featured the botanical explorations and friendships between New Zealander William Colenso, Australian Allan Cunningham and Englishman Joseph Dalton Hooker.

In ‘Getting to Know You: People and Rabbits in Southern New Zealand’, Emeritus Professor Peter Holland presented a collation of information culled from diaries and ledgerbooks of rural farms and stations. Across southern New Zealand rabbit densities varied with swings in weather and climate, and interactions between people and rabbits changed.

By contrast Dr Vaughan Wood examined a single but detailed diary for his paper ‘Mapping the network of a nineteenth century Canterbury farm.’ He was able to plot, trips to the store, post office, friends and relations. Asymmetric patterns of movement across farms were governed by swampy land. These farming men, he concluded were an integral part of community.

After lunch Dr Michael Roche gave us an exposition on ‘The Forest as an Elemental Natural Resource in Colonial New Zealand and the First Failure of Scientific State Forestry, 1874 to 1877.’ These three years saw the introduction of scientific forestry brought by Captain Campbell Walker, who had a career with the Indian Forest Service in Madras and had studied orthodox German practice.

Continuing with the forestry theme Dr André Brett provided us with ‘Forests and Provincial Abolition: Did Conservation Kill the Provinces?’ Forest conservation enjoyed prominent supporters in the political and scientific communities during the provincial era, but it failed to capture the public imagination.

Dr James Beattie’s paper ‘Expanding the Horizons of Chinese Environmental History: Cantonese gold-miners in colonial New Zealand, 1860s-1920s’, used the experiences Chinese working alluvial gold in Otago to explain how their traditional knowledge of water management techniques coupled with hard work and tenacity changed the landscape. One entrepreneurial family Choie Sew Hoy was particularly important in the dredging boom of the 1890s.

PhD Candidate Lucy Mackintosh shared her research on Auckland’s several park-scapes. Her paper ‘Shifting Grounds: Narratives of Identity in Auckland Landscapes’ examined the urban environment with its monuments. ‘Our parks’ she claims ‘so often valued for their natural features, are also rich repositories of stories about the past.’

Continuing the theme of public spaces, Dr Joanna Cobley’s paper ‘The Nineteenth Century Landscape: economics, heritage and national identity’ looked at the heritage site of Tongariro National Park. Gifted to the nation in 1887 this first National Park is still viewed within the frameworks of useful and beautiful.

In the final paper of the day Eric Pawson ‘Writing environmental history’ asked the delegates for their input on an article he was finishing for the International Encyclopedia of Geography.

At a small function also held at the Hocken the book James Beattie and Matthew Henry launched their book Climate, Science, and Colonization: Histories from Australia and New Zealand, by James Beattie, Matthew Henry and Emily O’Gorman (eds). Palgrave MacMillan, London, 2014. Emily O’Gorman was unable to attend the function.

Thanks to Rosi Crane for supplying this report.


Indigenous Mobilities Symposium


The beautiful historic setting of Ōtākou


From left, Michael Stevens, Angela Wanhalla, Jane Carey, Kristyn Harman, Regina Ganter, Rachel Standfield, Shino Konishi, Tiffany Shellam, Tony Ballantyne. (Lachy Paterson photographer).

On Thursday and Friday (20-21 Nov) scholars assembled at Ōtākou marae, on the Otago Peninsula near Dunedin, for a pre-read symposium, “Rethinking Native Spaces: Indigenous Mobilities Across and Beyond the Antipodes”, co-organized by the Centre for Research on Colonial Culture of University of Otago and the Monash Indigenous Centre of Monash University. Attending were Tony Ballantyne, Michael Stevens, Angela Wanhalla and Lachy Paterson from CROCC and Rachel Standfield of MIC as well as Shino Konishi (University of Western Australia), Kristyn Harman (University of Tasmania), Tiffany Shellam (Deakin University), Regina Ganter (Griffith University) and Jane Carey (University of Wollongong). Unfortunately Lynette Russell of MIC was unable to attend. Research presented focused on a number of different aspects of Māori and Aboriginal travel in the colonial period, both within New Zealand and Australia but also further afield. A publication is planned. CROCC would like to acknowledge Rachel Standfield in particular for her hard work in bringing this event to fruition.

Speech to text: Missionary endeavours “to fix the Language of the New Zealanders”

A paper given by L.Paterson at the “Dialogues: Exploring the Drama of Early Missionary Encounters” symposium, Hocken Collections, Dunedin, 7-8 November, 2014.

In this paper I am looking mainly at Thomas Kendall, a member of the first batch of missionaries to New Zealand, and his efforts to create an orthography for te reo Māori. This is of course a topic that other scholars have covered in the past, not least Judith Binney and Jane McRae, but the theme of this symposium is “Dialogues: exploring the drama of early missionary encounters”, held as part of the launching of the new online archive of the Hocken Library’s Marsden Collection, so my paper makes an effort to utilize some of the discussions on orthography from that archive.

I perhaps need to state that I am a historian with some Māori-language skills rather than someone with expertise in linguistics, and I am straying a little outside of my normal period, the 1850s to the early twentieth century, to look at this early missionary period. It is also good that Kuni Jenkins and Alison Jones’s paper at this symposium on the early Missionary-Māori encounter, and their reflection on their 2012 book, He Kōrero: First Maori- Pakeha Conversations on Paper, gives a good insight on how Māori contributed to the development of the orthography. The archive, compiled from missionary letters and journals, is less revealing on their input. The “dialogues” that follow are largely between Thomas Kendall, an on-the-ground missionary, Samuel Marsden, his immediate superior in Sydney, and the Church Missionary Society officials in London. What these texts do showcase is the ease with which historical material can be gleaned from the wealth of material contained in the Marsden Online Archive.

One thing that was important to the early missionaries was to make the scriptures available to Māori in their own language. If Māori were able to read the Bible in their own language, then it would be easier to convert them to Christianity. For this to happen missionaries would have to learn not only how to speak the language, but also to develop a system for writing it down. This would then make it possible to teach Māori how to read, as well as to translate and print the scriptures.

Although not yet ordained, Kendall was the best educated of the missionaries, and as can be seen on a letter written to one of the CMS Secretaries when on his exploratory trip to the Bay of Islands in early 1814, he was well aware that the task would not be easy.

As far as I am concerned, I should know but little of myself, did I not feel conscious of my own inability. Even an attempt to fix the Language of the New Zealanders so that they may be instructed in their own Tongue is a great work; and cannot in the very nature of things be accomplished for some years to come…

[Thomas Kendall to Josiah Pratt, 25 March 1814. MS_0054_035and036.]

We can see here some of Kendall’s early efforts at collecting vocabulary from that first trip.

Ire mi kiki                             (Come & eat)

Haere mai kaikai [Haere mai [ki te] kai.]

Emmera Ho my why           (Bring me some water)

E mara homai [he] wai.          

Yahheeyahee pi                     (A fine night)

Ahiahi pai

[Thomas Kendall to Josiah Pratt, 15 June 1814. MS_0054_043.]

When you compare his renditions with how they might be spelled now (in italics) – we can see that he has utilized English vowel sounds in his spelling.   However, he has not been consistent, for example writing the AI sound, as in kai, wai and pai, with either an I or a Y.

The whole process was going to be slow, but the CMS was hopeful. We can see here a letter from one of their secretaries less than a year after the mission was first planted expecting Kendall to be making a start at translating some scripture.

We shall hope to hear that you have made proficiency in the New Zealand tongue; and that the way will be thus prepared by you for the Translation of the Scriptures, when you are joined by a Clergyman who understands the originals. In the mean while we hope that you will prepare portions of Scripture, as well as you may be able; and that the little New Zealanders will, under your kind and paternal care, first learn the rudiments of their own tongue out of the Book of God.

[Rev Josiah Pratt to Thomas Kendall, 16 August 1815. MS_0055_019]

However, it was clear that they thought authorative translations were probably beyond Kendall’s skills, and a “real” clergyman who understood the Greek and Hebrew versions would be needed. By October, 1815 Kendall wrote back to Pratt ”I can speak to them in their own tongue, as yet, but very imperfectly” and he asked if a clergyman could come to help with “fixing the Native Language”. [Thomas Kendall to Samuel Marsden, 27 May 1815. MS_0055_012.]

No clergyman was as yet forthcoming, and in 1815 he produced A Korao no New Zealand, the first book produced for a Māori audience. His grammar is slightly better than his original collections, but we can see in an extract that his spelling continues on the same basis – using English vowels. The italicised text is as it would be spelled today.

Kámatte aou te eaki    (I am very hungry)

Ka mate au [i] te hiakai.

Iremi taooa kekone kiei (Come let us sit down and eat.)

Haere mai tāua ki konei kai ai.

[T. Kendall, A Korao no New Zealand (1815)]

Kendall was not a trained linguist, and he wrote the sounds as he heard and understood them. Notwithstanding that Māori may have simplified their expressions to make comprehension easier for Kendall, as can be seen in an example he collected in early 1814.

Shoroe ahaw Dingha Dingha Matta

(Wash your hands and face)

Horoia ōu ringaringa [me tōu] mata.

[Thomas Kendall to Josiah Pratt, 15 June 1814. MS_0054_043.]

But why does it seem so different to modern Māori? We should compare his efforts with modern-day language learners. If you asked an average Japanese people today to say “red” he may well say “led” or “red”. That is because the Japanese language does not distinguish between these sounds, and either L or R can be used in Japanese without changing the meaning at all. Indeed, many Japanese people cannot really hear the difference.   Similarly many English speakers have difficulty with other languages, such as Russian or Arabic, that distinguish between sounds that English does not.

Ngāpuhi simply did not differentiate between SH and H, or between D and R. Here in Southern New Zealand, Kai Tahu did not differentiate between L and R, which is why we have Lake Waihola just down the road.  But H and SH sounds did sound different to Kendall, so he wrote them down as he heard them.

It is well known that Professor Samuel Lee, the famed linguist at Cambridge University, collaborated with Kendall, Hongi Hika and Waikato in 1820 to create an orthography for te reo Māori.  But Lee’s involvement had began several years earlier. In 1818 Lee was already working on Māori grammar, with the aid of Kendall’s A Korao no New Zealand, as well as the services of two Māori travellers, Tuai and Tītere.  [Edward Bickersteth and Josiah Pratt to Thomas Kendall, 12 March 1818, MS_0056_076]

It is clear too that Kendall was now leaning towards what were called the “continental” vowel sounds, such as used in Italian. In 1819 he wrote “The Taheitians … pronounce the sounds of the letters and vowels after a similar method very readily.”  [Thomas Kendall to Samuel Marsden, 21 April 1819. MS_0056_150.]

Although the missionaries in Tahiti had serious disagreements about an orthography for the Tahitian language, one of their number, John Davies, had developed a system based on “continental vowels”, which Kendall was referring to (Davies, p.77).   Kendall wrote later,

On the Sunday after easter I had an opportunity to examine some Taheitian sailors belonging to the Ship King George, and they read the Works of their Missionaries both in print & Manuscript very readily, whereas I am told, the Society Islanders [Tahitians] could never be taught by our [English-based] method.

[Thomas Kendall to Josiah Pratt, 20 May 1819. MS_0056_162.]

In another letter to Pratt he wrote,

Tell Mr Lee that in writing the New Zealand Language I have first fixed the Sounds of the vowels and then formed those sounds, without paying regard to the English or any other orthography.

[Thomas Kendall to Josiah Pratt, 17 May 1819. MS_0056_159.]

Several of Kendall’s manuscripts were subsequently sent to Lee and the CMS. The Secretaries wrote to Kendall,

The New Zealanders first Book [A Korao no New Zealand] has greatly pleased us. Our Orientalist, Mr Lee, is making use of Tooi & Teeterree (who have recently arrived) to form a complete Grammar & Vocabulary of the New Zealand Language.

[Edward Bickersteth and Josiah Pratt to Thomas Kendall, 12 March 1818. MS_0056_076.]

However Bickersteth and Pratt were a little more critical of Kendall’s efforts, when they wrote to Marsden.

Mr Kendall appears to have adopted too many marks of aspiration &c. His system would puzzle the New Zealanders. The whole will require deliberate investigation; and time spent herein in the outset will probably save a great deal in the end.

[Edward Bickersteth and Josiah Pratt to Samuel Marsden, 3 August 1819. MS_0056_188.]

So Hongi, Waikato and Kendall travelled to England in 1820, and while there they worked with Lee to work on an orthography, vocabulary and Grammar, published as A Grammar and Vocabulary of the Language of New Zealand in 1820.


T.   Na tána wahíne ra óki i ó mai. Ke táwahi ra óki e O’ngi, ke Ingland. Ki á no koe i róngo nóa?

P.    Ki a no ‘au i róngo nóa.

T.    Kóa díro ke ráia; kóa tai ke, méa ka e óki mai.

P.    A’i! k’wai tóna kaipúke i éke ai ía?

Modern orthography

T.    Na tāna wahine rā hoki i homai. Kei tāwāhi rā hoki a Hongi, kei Ingarangi. Kianō koe i rongo noa?

P.    Kianō au i rongo noa.

T.    Kua riro kē rā ia; kua tae kē, meake e hoki mai.

P.    Āe! Ko wai tōna kaipuke i eke ai ia?

Thomas Kendall. A Grammar and vocabulary of the language of New Zealand (1820).

We can see that there is a clear improvement on Kendall’s earlier work. However, the text still sports dropped Hs, and the use of both R and D.   Although there are a few things that don’t look right, most of the vowels are pretty close to modern Māori.

Kendall clearly wanted to take the credit for what was clearly a collaboration between Lee, Hongi, Waikato and himself.   He wrote to Pratt:

I thank you for indulging me with the privilege of the instruction of the Rev.d Professor Lee so long. I have now nearly completed my work. The Professor has assisted me very much I could not have done without him.

[Thomas Kendall to Josiah Pratt, 4 October 1820. MS_0498_094.]

So how did their efforts go down with the other missionaries?   Kendall’s contemporaries did not like it at all, and their main concern appears to be with the use of the continental vowels.   Marsden visited New Zealand in 1823. Kendall had been sacked at this point due to his adultery, and was waiting to leave New Zealand, but he had been told to draw up a vocabulary, using the English vowel sounds.

When I called upon you after our Shipwreck I advised you to employ your time untill [sic] an opportunity for our return to Port Jackson, in drawing up a vocabulary of the New Zealand language in as correct and simple a manner as you could retaining the pronunciation of the English Vowels, as I found the Missionaries met with insuperable difficulties in speaking the language according to the Rules laid down in your Grammer. [sic]

[Samuel Marsden to Thomas Kendall, 14 August 1823. MS_0057_098.]

The debate over English versus continental vowels also occurred in Tahiti, where John Davies was initially outvoted in his attempt to do away with the English vowels (Davies, p.78). As in New Zealand, his contemporaries thought learning a new system would be too hard.

Marsden writing in his journal declared the Grammar to be imperfect, and confusing.

The rules laid down in the Grammer [sic] for the Orthography and Pronounciation of the language is not simple enough for the Missionaries to comprehend— They cannot retain in their memory the sound of the vowels as laid down in the rules of the Grammer— and pronounce them as the Natives can understand them.

[Samuel Marsden’s Journal from 2 July 1823 to 1 November 1823. MS_0177_003.]

I do not see any good reason for changing the sound of the vowels as the New Zealanders can with so much ease sound all the English Alphabet— If in speaking and writing the N[ew] Zealand language the Europeans retain the English pronounciation, the whole difficulty of which they complain, will be removed.

[Samuel Marsden’s Journal from 2 July 1823 to 1 November 1823. MS_0177_003.]

Marsden met with Kendall, who admitted that even he could not follow all the rules. Marsden wrote,

It appeared to me absurd to study Mr Kendalls theory, which he himself could not reduce to practice.

[Marsden’s Personal Copy of the Journal of his Fourth Visit to New Zealand. MS_0177_004.]

Marsden also thought it better if Māori first learnt the English sounds, and then learnt the English language, especially as he thought the Māori language “unchaste”.

I also recommended that all the English terms for such things as the native had never seen, should be introduced into the N Zealand language, that a Sheep should be called a Sheep, a Cow a Cow &c.

[Samuel Marsden’s Journal from 2 July 1823 to 1 November 1823. MS_0177_003.]

Rev Nathaniel Turner, one of the Wesleyan missionaries in the Bay of Islands, also called on Marsden to complain about the 1820 Grammar. Marsden reassured him that it would be going back to the way it was. Turner “expressed much satisfaction” at retaining the English vowels. Marsden opined:

I hope this question will now be at rest, as all are unanimously of opinion that the Vowels should retain the English pronounciation [sic]

[Marsden’s Personal Copy of the Journal of his Fourth Visit to New Zealand. MS_0177_004.]

Marsden’s 1823 visit coincided with changes in the Mission. He brought Rev. Henry Williams to New Zealand and Williams soon after became the effective leader of the Mission. Less than six months after arriving, the new missionary had decided that Kendall’s grammar was a dud.

We, in Council, have condemned the book called “The Grammar.” I cannot tell what share Professor Lee may have had in the composition thereof, but it certainly appears far from simplicity.

[Henry Williams to the Rev E. G. Marsh, January 27, 1824, in Carleton, p.37.]

The Grammar did however made its way to Hawai’i, where the missionaries there may have used it, as they too grappled with creating an orthography for the Hawaiian language (Schütz, p.251).

Kendall was still living in the Bay of Islands at this stage, but away from the mission, and therefore sidelined from new developments in the orthography.    Williams put more emphasis on learning the language, as his biographer suggested “not in the slovenly style in which it may be learned by conversation, but in a scholar-like fashion, ascertaining the rules by which it is governed, compiling a dictionary, and fitting themselves to undertake a translation of the Holy Scriptures” (Carleton, p.32). In this efforts he was helped by his brother William Williams who arrived in 1826, and Robert Maunsell in 1836.

Over the next few years there was a slow adaptation of Māori-language orthography.  Take, for example this example from 1826: a Proclamation by the NSW governor.

Ná tóna Excelenei, iá Sir Thomasa Brisabane, ko te Captani, ko te tíno Rángatira wáka shau; o ténei káinga, o New South Wales, me óna tíne motu atu óki, &c. &c. &c.

II. Na te méa, e máha ngá páshua tanga o ngá Mótu, kí te Moana Pocifica; a, kí te Moana tudiana, e nga tángata kíno: á ko ugá [sic] tàngata shóko ká máte iá rátou;

[Books in Māori, 6]

The translation was probably done by the John Butler, who had been a missionary at Kerikeri, but by 1826 was living in NSW. We can see the use of some English words and names, and some of the consonants of the older orthographies, such as the W for WH, SH for H, and D for R.

This was also the case in the example below, an extract from the Wesleyan Methodist Mission version’s of the Lord’s Prayer also printed in 1826.

To matu Matua e noho’na koe i dunga ki te rangi, kia tabu tou ingwa.    [Books in Māori, 7]

But it appears that any move to return to English vowels was now over.   As we see from these scriptural selections below from 1829 and 1833, within a few years written Māori had almost achieved its modern form.

Ko te tahi o nga upoko.

1 I te orokomeatanga i hanga e te Atua te rangi me te ’wenua.       

[Books in Māori, 9]

Ko te tahi wahi o te Kawenata Hou o Ihu Karaiti te Ariki, to tatou Kai Wakaora. Me nga upoko e waru o te pukapuka o Kenehi. Ka oti nei te wakamaori ki te reo o Nu Tirani.  

[Books in Māori, 15]

What is notable is that the Williams brothers did not opt for English vowels, but continued with the continental vowels that the 1820 grammar had introduced. The new missionaries, such as the Williams brothers, were far better linguists than Kendall, and developed the orthography to its more usable form.   They were aware that the Māori language did not distinguish between D and R, so opted just for the R. Similarly other unnecessary letters such as B, L, and SH were dropped. The one major exception that remained was the use of W or ‘W for the WH sound, as seen above. As Binney points out Kendall did attempt, unsuccessfully, to republish a revised grammar in the late 1820s, in which the WH sound would have been differentiated (Judith Binney. ‘Kendall, Thomas’, DNZB).   But it was not until the 1840s that the WH was incorporated into the orthography.   It is quite possible that regularizing the spelling, and the spread of literacy, has, over time, also had an effect on how te reo was pronounced, with sounds such as D and L falling out of favour.

In conclusion, Thomas Kendall was right in 1814 when he said that fixing the language would be a great work, and a task that would take some years to achieve.   He struggled initially with his English ear, but together with Hongi, Waikato, and Samuel Lee, created an orthography in 1820 that went some of the way to finding a workable system. Their efforts were not appreciated by the other missionaries, who wanted to keep to the old style of writing Māori down.   It was really the next wave of missionaries, better educated and more methodical in approach, who improved on Kendall’s work, translated considerable amounts of the scriptures, and who had the most success with their evangelical endeavours.




Carleton, H. The Life of Henry Williams, Auckland, 1874.

John Davies, A History of the Tahitian Mission 1799-1830, edited by C.W. Newbury (ed), Cambridge: Hakluyt Society, 1961.

Jones A. and K. Jenkins, He Kōrero: First Maori- Pakeha Conversations on Paper, Wellington: Huia, 2012.

Kendall, T. A Korao no New Zealand, Sydney, 1815.

Kendall T. and S. Lee, A Grammar and Vocabulary of the Language of New Zealand, London, 1820.

Parkinson P. and P. Griffith, Books in Māori 1815-1900: Ngā Tānga Reo Māori, Auckland: Reed, 2004.

Schütz, A. J. Voices of Eden: A History of Hawaiian Studies, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press,1994.





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