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Once Were Pacific

Maori Connections to Oceania

Alice Te Punga Somerville

Publication Year: 2012

Native identity is usually associated with a particular place. But what if that place is the ocean? Once Were Pacific explores this question as it considers how Māori and other Pacific peoples frame their connection to the ocean, to New Zealand, and to each other through various creative works. Māori scholar Alice Te Punga Somerville shows how and when Māori and other Pacific peoples articulate their ancestral history as migratory seafarers, drawing their identity not only from land but also from water.

Although Māori are ethnically Polynesian, and Aotearoa New Zealand is clearly a part of the Pacific region, in New Zealand the terms “Māori” and “Pacific” are colloquially applied to two distinct communities: Māori are Indigenous, and “Pacific” refers to migrant communities from elsewhere in the region. Asking how this distinction might blur historical and contemporary connections, Te Punga Somerville interrogates the relationship between indigeneity, migration, and diaspora, focusing on texts: poetry, fiction, theater, film, and music, viewed alongside historical instances of performance, journalism, and scholarship.

In this sustained treatment of the Māori diaspora, Te Punga Somerville provides the first critical analysis of relationships between Indigenous and migrant communities in New Zealand.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ii-v


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p. ix-ix

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Ngā Mihi: Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiii

A few years ago, I asked my Nana for a specific book, and she gave me the family copy of Te Rangihiroa’s The Coming of the Maori instead. I wonder now if this gift was a challenge or prophecy. My whānau has always been my strength, inspiration, and accountability: Nana and Grandad, Mum and Dad, Auntie Jill and Uncle Mike, Daniel, Amy, Rose, the uncles ...

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Introduction: Māori and the Pacific

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pp. xv-xxx

For Māori at Uawa in 1769, the usual European trade goods and trinkets that had been prepared for exchange by the Europeans on board the Endeavour were trumped by large sheets of tapa recently acquired in Tahiti. Although we might be tempted to delve into this moment of “first-encounter” for so-called precolonial, first-contact descriptions of ...

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Part I. Tapa: Aotearoa in the Pacific Region

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pp. 1-10

In Tupaia’s painting of exchange between Māori and European men, the European extends a piece of tapa recently acquired in Tahiti. The plant from which tapa is made, the paper mulberry tree (Broussonetia papyrifera), which Māori know as aute,1 could not thrive in Aotearoa’s colder climate, and so the production of the cloth had all but diminished ...

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1. Māori People in Pacific Spaces

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pp. 11-36

Aotearoa is clearly a part of the geographical region of the Pacific, and Māori are Polynesian and therefore culturally connected with other Polynesians and, beyond that, the whole Pacific. But where does connection take place? What does it look like? How is it articulated? What is the relationship between individual and collective connections? On what basis are ...

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2. Pacific-Based Māori Writers

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pp. 37-59

A great deal of energy, both contemporary and historical, has been expended on exploring the historical migration of Māori people through the Pacific to Aotearoa. The Māori poets Vernice Wineera, Evelyn Patuawa-Nathan, and Robert Sullivan all write about and demonstrate journeys in which Māori start at Aotearoa and venture out into the ...

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3. Aotearoa-Based Maori Writers

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pp. 61-80

If, to paraphrase Vernice Wineera, one does not stop being Māori when one is living in the Pacific, does one stop being Pacific when one is living in Aotearoa? Although Aotearoa-based Māori writers tend to focus either on Māori connections with Europe or Pākehā, or on Māori-centric configurations, a small group of Aotearoa-based Māori writers have ...

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The Realm of Tapa

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pp. 81-87

Chantal Spitz’s L’Ile Des Reves Ecrases was the first novel published by an Indigenous writer from Polynesie Francais (French Polynesia), and sixteen years later, in 2007, the Māori publishing company Huia launched Jean Anderson’s translation of the novel as Island of Shattered Dreams.1 Of the several characters in the novel, Tetiare is the most creative and least ...

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Part II. Koura: The Pacific in Aotearoa

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pp. 89-100

Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum, opened its new exhibition Tangata o le Moana: The Story of the Pacific People in New Zealand in October 2007. Such a major permanent exhibition requires compelling, clear, and “Pacific” branding, and a photograph titled “Double Afro” taken by Glenn Jowitt outside Hillary College in Ōtara during the Māori and Pacific ...

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4. Māori–Pasifika Collaborations

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pp. 101-121

This chapter focuses on three specific collaborations in which a single text has been produced by a group made up of Māori and Pasifika people. Before focusing on more recent texts, it is worth considering a slightly earlier creative alliance. A single archived program for the Takapuna Free Kindergarten’s 1943 fund-raiser provides a quite different ...

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5. “It’s Like That with Us Maoris”: Māori Write Connections

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pp. 123-137

When Witi Ihimaera’s Tangi was reviewed alongside Albert Wendt’s Sons for the Return Home in Rongo, there was a striking difference between the presence of Māori in the Pasifika text and the absence of Pasifika in the Māori novel. It is unproductive, uncurious, and intellectually bossy to admonish texts for not being what one hopes them to be, and certainly Tangi ...

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6. Manuhiri, Fānau: Pasifika Write Connections

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pp. 139-153

Pasifika communities are in two places at once: in New Zealand, as citizens and residents of a settler nation, and in Aotearoa, as manuhiri in a group of islands in the Pacific populated by relatives. The corpus of published Pasifika writing is uneven but weighty, and like many areas of Pasifika creative production in New Zealand, the literature has enough ...

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7. When Romeo Met Tusi: Disconnections

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pp. 155-175

The relationship between Indigenous Pacific (Māori) and migrant Pacific (Pasifika) communities in the neighborhoods of New Zealand’s metropolitan centers has been less than smooth. At its most innocuous, this disconnection might be merely implied and reinforced by separation and invisibility. At its most acute, it can take the form of undermining, ...

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The Realm of Koura

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pp. 177-189

This is the realm of koura, of Māori, of Aotearoa. Located at the center of the Kelburn campus of Victoria University of Wellington, Te Herenga Waka was the first university marae in Aotearoa New Zealand when it opened in 1986. The marae complex includes an ornately decorated house that was largely carved under the guidance of Takirirangi ...

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Conclusion: E Kore Au e Ngaro

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pp. 190-211

It is tempting to try to imagine what Tupaia was thinking as he painted one specific moment of trade between an Englishman bearing tapa and a Māori man bearing seafood in 1769. Yet Robert Sullivan’s poetry about Tupaia and Mai in voice carried my family reminds us of the tension between desiring to extol such historical figures and knowing that this itself is a form of ...

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Epilogue: A Time and a Place

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pp. 213-215

In August 2008, a deed of settlement was signed between the Port Nicholson Block Claim and the Crown.1 At Pipitea, marae leaders from Taranaki whānui spoke on behalf of the whānau, including my own family, who had been repeatedly mistreated by successive New Zealand governments. In response, ministers representing the Crown offered an apology ...


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pp. 217-248

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Publication History

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pp. 249-250

Portions of chapter 1 were previously published as “I Belong to That Stock: Te Rangihiroa’s Application for US Citizenship,” in The Racial Politics of Bodies, Nations, and Knowledges, ed. Barbara Baird and Damien W. Riggs, 211–27 (Newcastle upon Tyne, U.K.: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2009). Published with permission of ...


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pp. 251-265

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About the Author

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p. 267-267

Alice Te Punga Somerville is senior lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

E-ISBN-13: 9780816681501
E-ISBN-10: 0816681503
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816677573

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2012