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Tauhere UC Connect: Reframing History in Aotearoa & Polynesia

03 October 2022

As noted by Māori scholar Dr Nēpia Mahuika, “New Zealand history is Māori history” first and foremost. Despite this, the histories of Aotearoa New Zealand are often examined in connection to Britain and discussed in terms of colonisation.


Image caption: From the front cover of Polynesia 900-1600: ‘Reading the Swell’, an artwork by John Bevan Ford, 1993. Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū.

While this is an important feature of our colonial history, focusing on this alone neglects the wealth of other connections and serves to erase the vast and rich histories of Māori and links back to Polynesia. The histories of Aotearoa are more accurately situated in a Polynesian context. 

By examining the period of Polynesian arrival and settlement in Aotearoa, the rich history of the people and land prior to the arrival of Europeans is illuminated. What insight is gained by reframing our history in this way?

Based on University of Canterbury historian Dr Madi Williams’ 2021 book Polynesia, 900-1600 (Canterbury University Press, $24.99)her upcoming Tauhere UC Connect public lecture explores notions of identity and connection in Aotearoa history. In Reframing History in Aotearoa & Polynesia, Dr Williams will take a longer view of the history of these islands and place them in their Pacific, Polynesian context.

Reviewer Paul Moon said of her first book: “Perhaps Williams’ greatest feat is the alchemic way she takes base history, and turns it into something that challenges, informs, provokes, and ultimately, shapes our thinking on the subjects she addresses. And in an age with an appetite for instant answers, and a growing fetish with the eternal present, this considered view of a long history, carefully curated, and wonderfully articulated, is just the sort of cultural corrective we need at this moment.”

About the speaker:

Dr Madi Williams (Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Kōata) is a lecturer in Aotahi – School of Māori and Indigenous Studies at the University of Canterbury. Dr Williams’ research focuses include iwi histories, philosophy of history, and historical perspectives. Her first book Polynesia, 900-1600: An overview of the history of Aotearoa, Rēkohu, and Rapa Nuilooks at the European Middle Ages in South PolynesiaShe is currently working on transforming her PhD thesis into a book entitled Ngāti Kuia: Stories About the Past.

  • Tauhere UC Connect public lecture: Reframing History in Aotearoa & Polynesia, Presented by History Lecturer Dr Madi Williams, Aotahi – School of Māori and Indigenous Studies, Toi Tangata | Arts, Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury, 7pm – 8pm, Wednesday 5 October 2022, in C1 Central Lecture Theatres, Ilam, Christchurch. Register to attend free at: Tauhere UC Connect public talks are also livestreamed on the UC Facebook page, and available afterwards on YouTube.

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