Dr George S Evans : a life

Recently I breathed in the gentle gentility of the Wellington Club, The Terrace, whilst held in awe of Helen Riddiford’s meticulous and deeply researched account of the New Zealand Company’s finest member, Dr George Samuel Evans.

geo1By evening’s end, there were surely more than the just the two of us who would attest to his right to be named Wellington’s founding father, – a man who stood tall on the principles and the application of the Company’s constitution and held a desire to include tangata whenua in te ao hurihuri, / an evolving new life. In the words of one of our two official languages – here was a man truly worthy of the description: he kōtuku rerenga tahi.

For all the sentiments expressed above – how many people , today, remember any details of this man who gave his name to that inner bay (Evans’s / Evans Bay) and whose contribution to the settlement placed him second only to Colonel Wakefield, in his roles, which included that of chief judicial authority for the new colony.

When Edward Gibbon Wakefield accompanied Lord Durham to Canada, it was Dr Evans who stepped forward to place his hand firmly on the tiller of the colonial ship.

But who was this man? George Evans grew up in a household where civil and religious liberty was embraced. He was a brilliant scholar who excelled in Latin, Greek and Hebrew – His later work spanned the fields of education, judiciary and journalism. In 1928 he became, briefly, headmaster of Mill Hill School, London.

(Source: School House at Mill Hill School : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mill_Hill_School)

It was here that he met school matron Mrs Riddiford, whose husband passed away in 1829. George and Harriet married, 16 January 1930, and George became the stepfather of Amelia (13 years) and Daniel (16 years) – he, Daniel, who was to become the founder of the Riddiford farming dynasty at Orongorongo and the stations around the Wairarapa coast of New Zealand.

There is so much detail of Evans’ life within the pages of this book. There’s the interesting story of his involvement with Nayti and Hiakai, two passengers on the Mississippi who became stranded at Le Havre, were rescued by the New Zealand Association and provided with lodgings by Wakefield and Evans, in the 1830s. With Hiakai’s help George Evans was introduced to Māori customs and reo. He began a grammar of Te Reo Māori, which was completed in 1839, but never officially published. Wellington City Central Library holds a copy of this Manuscript of a Maori grammar.

The top view stretches across Thorndon Flat with Dr Evans’ house on the left, a range of early houses and businesses along the waterfront and on the right, Colonel William Wakefield’s house with flagpole.


(Source: Brees, Samuel Charles, 1810-1865 :Pictorial Illustrations of New Zealand. London, John Williams and Co., Library of Arts, 141, Strand, 1847.. Ref: PUBL-0020-22. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22816178)

Dr Evans fulfilled a designated role as advocate for Māori in all legal disputes – with varying degrees of success. Helen’s easy- read documentation of Dr Evans life and work in the new colony makes this book an absolute must for those of us mindful of the view – that you must first understand and embrace the past in order to move forward.

The study of the settlement of Wellington is a very complex exercise – but – don’t be confined only to those official publications — the reports and commissions, and records of deeds of release – Here lies, within these pages, the flavour of that era. This is a far more interesting journey by way of Helen’s archival research and her detailed account of Dr Evans work.

Dr Evans returned to England, 1846-52, and was dealt to harshly by the Company, in clearing the debts on his town and country sections in Wellington. It was an example of Wakefield’s ‘ability’ to turn against his closest allies.

George Evans and Harriet moved to Melbourne, 1853. He planned to undertake legal work but also began working with the Melbourne Morning Herald. He later gained a seat in the legislative assembly. His journalistic output was legendary. George and Harriet returned to New Zealand, 1865, but Harriet died 31 March 1866, and Dr Evans’ death followed in 1868.

In the words of Helen Riddiford “In the colonies he was head and shoulders above many of his peers in education and ability. He operated within an influential network of men, but was always independent in his views, which isolated him from many of his contemporaries. He was viewed as a ‘singular character’ a gentleman almost unique in this setting. His many visionary ideas were handicapped by a volatile temperament and principles that were compromised by circumstances, an unpredictable man of reckless courage whose steadfast commitment to the creation and success of Wellington was fully acknowledged after his death. Amongst others, The Independent noted that he was ‘one of the founders, if not the real founder of this colony. There is scarcely an official document of the period in which [his] name is not conspicuous”.

Here was a man truly worthy of the title bestowed by his Māori friends – Nui, Nui Rangatira

He Manu Karere | The Early Māori Newspapers

Masthead of Te Puke ki Hikurangi.
From teara.govt.nz

What do you get when you cross Gutenberg’s printing press with the communal, oral storytelling of Māori tradition? When New Zealand’s first printing press arrived at Waitangi in the 1830s, the answer soon became clear: you got a print revolution.

The first book produced in New Zealand followed soon after this, an edition of Biblical epistles produced by CMS missionaries in the Bay of Islands. Many publications of various kinds followed, and by 1842 the first newspaper (niupepa) in Māori, Ko Te Karere o Nui Tireni, produced by the government, was already in production. Estimates of Māori literacy in the middle of the 1800s varied, but it is fairly certain that in many areas, rates of those able to read and write in their own language were at least as good as of the English population. The Niupepa found a ready-made readership and, and plenty of demand for news of events and other articles.

te karere
The masthead of Ko Te Karere o Nui Tirene.
From nzdl.org

Te Karere was quickly followed by around 34 more Māori newspaper publications in Te Reo, many publishing at the same time in the 1850s. Around 70% of content was published in Te Reo Māori only, 27% bilingually, and 3% in English only. Some papers were published by government, particularly through what was then the Department of Native Affairs, some by churches, particularly Anglicans and Wesleyans, and some by Māori movements including the Kingitanga and Kotahitanga. The different sponsors of the newspapers greatly influenced the content they published, which could range from collections of pēpeha, Māori proverbs, to government exhortations for allegiance to the crown. Inevitably, worsening frictions between iwi and settler government were reflected in the newspapers, and some operated in direct opposition.

The most notable government paper Te Pihoihoi Mokemoke and its Kingitanga counterpart, Te Hokioi, both of which sought to win the minds of people nationwide to their position at the height of the Waikato War. The competition escalated to the point where a group of Kingitanga warriors went to the press of Te Pihoihoi in Te Awamutu, took the entire printing press, and removed it from its printing works, effectively putting a stop to the war of words.

Many niupepa were highly nuanced, and drew on traditional metaphor to communicate their purposes. The imagery of a newspaper as a bird, bringing information to readers just as migratory birds brought their first birdsongs to signify summer and renewal, was very popular. Many niupepa expanded the metaphor, drawing parallels between subscriptions and “food for the bird”, sad news of accidents and deaths as mournful birdsong, and wrote of “our bird” frequently. A bird can be seen in several intricate masthead images, as in the image from Te Pipiwharauroa – a shining cuckoo soaring down over a peaceful home and a family sitting reading.

The masthead of Te Pipiwharauroa.
From nzdl.org

As well as news from both Aotearoa and internationally, the niupepa often published stories, anecdotes of daily life, and translated English or foreign texts including poetry by Robert Brown and William Cowper, and excerpts from Shakespearean plays. Te Pipiwharauroa also published translations of, for example, Hawaiian songs, with Māori translation by the editors.

A song translated from Hawaiian to Māori, featured in a copy of Te Pipiwharauroa in 1924.
From nzdl.org

Māori newspapers peaked in number in the 1850s, and declined to just three by the beginning of 1900. None of the niupepa from this period are still in production, having been replaced from the 1970s with other forms of media. However, many have been preserved in libraries and archives, and are available to study today as a fascinating insight into Māori history and society during this time.

Wellington City Libraries holds microfiche reproductions of many niupepa, available for viewing on the second floor of Central Library. We also hold several books about Māori newspapers, printing, and literacy.


Further Reading:

Syndetics book coverColonial discourses : niupepa Māori, 1855-1863 / Lachy Paterson.
“Paterson examines nine Maori-language newspapers in New Zealand over an eight-year span, starting with the revitalization of the government newspaper, Te Karere Maori, and ending with its demise. Examining the material, social, cultural, and political content, Paterson finds that the Maori-language newspapers were used for propaganda purposes and that those run by European settlers, while possessing different agenda, effectively spoke with one voice regarding religious, social and political issues. He also argues that the newspapers informed and influenced Maori readers but at the same time provided a platform for the Maori to voice their opinions and debate issues of the time with the European settlers…” (adapted from the Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRere atu, taku manu : discovering history, language and politics in the Māori language newspapers / edited by Jenifer Curnow, Ngapare Hopa and Jane McRae.
“Collection of articles by scholars of Maori language who have researched Maori language newspapers from the 1840s into the twentieth century. The book uncovers Maori opinions on such matters as Maori representation in Parliament, the philanthropic and religious messages between Pakeha and Maori and Maori oratory and skilful use of the language.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBook & print in New Zealand : a guide to print culture in Aotearoa / edited by Penny Griffith, Ross Harvey, Keith Maslen, with the assistance of Ross Somerville.
“A guide to print culture in Aotearoa, the impact of the book and other forms of print on New Zealand. This collection of essays by many contributors looks at the effect of print on Maori and their oral traditions, printing, publishing, bookselling, libraries, buying and collecting, readers and reading, awards, and the print culture of many other language groups in New Zealand.” (Syndetics summary)


McRae, Jane, ‘Māori newspapers and magazines – ngā niupepa me ngā moheni’, Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 22 Jul 2014.
URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/maori-newspapers-and-magazines-nga-niupepa-me-nga-moheni
Licensed by Manatū Taonga for re-use under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand Licence.

New Zealand Digital Library (University of Waikato): nzdl.org: Niupepa Māori online database of Māori newspapers.

Rauemi: Ko wai tō ingoa? / What’s your name?

Tēnā koutou! Nau mai, welcome to the first Rauemi blog post. This blog series looks at different resources, highlighting new, useful or unusual sources of Māori information.

A lot of people ask us at the wharepukapuka for help researching their family tree or their whakapapa. We have many nifty resources at the library; some stowed away at our information desks, some on the public shelves, and some available through our website. Here are just three rauemi (resources) that might help you in looking up names for your whakapapa – whether for places, people or objects.

An amazing rauemi available online is the Fletcher index of Māori names. This can be found through our Māori website Rauemi page, under the “History” header. The Fletcher Index is “from an unpublished manuscript compiled about 1925 by the missionary Rev. Henry James Fletcher (1868-1933). In its original form it was 987 pages long, a vast index of Māori names referred to in books and journals, including the names of boundaries, Māori individuals, canoes, trees, landmarks and geographical locations. It was Fletcher’s greatest piece of work, and one that merited improved access.” (from website). It has searchable, browsable access to a wide range of pre- and post-Pākehā names of people, places, and more, and provides the details of where those names are found in other sources. This makes it an excellent resource for finding a name’s provenance, or discovering new contexts and information about a name or place previously unknown.

A second rauemi available on the internet is this page of Pakeha (European) / Māori Transliterations. A common raru (problem) in trying to research whakapapa is that, particularly in older records, people could be known, recorded, and written about by more than one version of their name. This is where the Transileration page comes in. This page lists an amazing variety of Māori names with their reo Ingarihi (English) transliterations, and also English names and their Māori transliterations, and is searchable both ways. It also includes a huge number of Māori transliterations of Biblical names, which were very popular in early colonial times. For example, the Pākehā missionary William Colenso was known as “Colenso”, “Koroneho”, “Koreneho”, “Te Koreneho” and “Te Koroneho” formally, and “Neho” colloquially. Searching for just one of these names might bring up only a fraction of the material available for this person under his other names, and without knowing the transliteration, you might never find that data. Now, due to the handy magic of transliteration lists, your searching might become a little broader, and a little easier.

And finally, one from our shelves. If you’re looking for more information on Māori names for places, look no further than A. W. Reed’s dictionary of the same, Illustrated Māori Place Names, for a comprehensive etymology of places around Aotearoa.

Syndetics book coverIllustrated Maori place names / A.W. Reed

What’s in a name? It really all depends on the name – and I hope these rauemi might help you discover more about the names that mean something to your whakapapa or research.

Kōrero Nehe: Kete Taniko

Kia ora and welcome to our first kōrero nehe blog post here on he kōrero o te wā – a fortnightly feature where you can learn all about the history of objects and places around the Wellington region. This month our focus is on items which are part of the Taonga Māori collection at Te Papa.

I would like to introduce you to an item which is attributed to my own iwi, Ngati Porou. The item below is known as a kete taniko (a bag with fine embroidery or weaving in a geometric pattern). It is a rare example as it has a variety of geometric designs. It is made of dyed muka (flax fibre) and is dated at 1800–1900. The weaver is unknown.

Image and information used with permission from Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

This kete taniko was acquired in 1907 from the high-ranking East Cape chief Matutaera (Tuta) Nihoniho (Ngäti Porou), along with a collection of other Māori taonga.

If you’re interested in checking out other items from Te Papa’s Taonga Māori collection, I suggest you check out this book from our catalogue:

Syndetics book coverIcons nga taonga : from the collections of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

28th Māori Battalion Christmas 1943

In honour of the festive season, I thought I would share with you some images and clips of Māori Battalion Christmases past from the National Library & Māori Battalion websites (along with a book if these photos inspire a culinary experience!).

Two men from the Maori Battalion digging up a hangi of pork and potatoes for Christmas Dinner at the Maori Training Depot, Maadi. Shows three soldiers pushing dirt aside with spades, while others look on. Photograph taken on 25 Dec 1943, by George Robert Bull.
Bull, George Robert, 1910-1966. Uncovering the Christmas hangi at the Maori Training Depot, Maadi Camp, Egypt – Photograph taken by George Bull. New Zealand. Department of Internal Affairs. War History Branch : Photographs relating to World War 1914-1918, World War 1939-1945, occupation of Japan, Korean War, and Malayan Emergency. Ref: DA-04877-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22828401

Members of the 28th (Maori) Battalion taking food from an uncovered hangi used to cook Christmas dinner at Maadi Camp in Egypt, during World War II. Photograph taken on 25 December 1943 by George Robert Bull.
Bull, George Robert, 1910-1966. Members of the 28th (Maori) Battalion with uncovered hangi at Maadi Camp on Christmas Day, Egypt – Photograph taken by George Robert Bull. New Zealand. Department of Internal Affairs. War History Branch : Photographs relating to World War 1914-1918, World War 1939-1945, occupation of Japan, Korean War, and Malayan Emergency. Ref: DA-04882-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22895567

Members of the 28th (Maori) Battalion eating potatoes after opening the hangi used to cook Christmas dinner at the Maori Training Depot in Maadi, Egypt. Photograph taken on 25 December 1943 by George Robert Bull. Far right; Dave McClutchie.
Bull, George Robert, 1910-1966. Members of the 28th (Maori) Battalion eating hangi-cooked potatoes on Christmas Day, Egypt – Photograph taken by George Robert Bull. New Zealand. Department of Internal Affairs. War History Branch : Photographs relating to World War 1914-1918, World War 1939-1945, occupation of Japan, Korean War, and Malayan Emergency. Ref: DA-04878-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23176964

Looking along one of the tables well laden with Christmas dinner at the Maori Training Depot in Maadi Camp, Egypt. Photograph taken on 25 December 1943 by George Robert Bull.

Bull, George Robert, 1910-1966. Looking along one of the tables laden with Christmas Dinner at the Maori Training Depot, Egypt – Photograph taken by George Robert Bull. New Zealand. Department of Internal Affairs. War History Branch : Photographs relating to World War 1914-1918, World War 1939-1945, occupation of Japan, Korean War, and Malayan Emergency. Ref: DA-04887-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23102454

If these images inspire you to make your own Christmas hangi, check out our collection. We have many books that will help you out.

Hangi / Wena Harawira.
“The cooking of a hangi meal on a marae is explained, with full colour photographs of an actual hangi and its preparation. The history of the hangi is explained, ingredients identified, and a step-by-step timetable given. A recipe for potato bread is also included.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverKai time : tasty modern Māori food / Peter Peeti.
“Drawing from the abundant fare that the New Zealand land and sea have to offer, charismatic Maori chef and television personality Peter Peeti shares his culinary knowledge and favourite recipes in this wonderful book. Based on the popular show on Maori TV, Kai Time on the Road (now in its sixth season), Peeti reveals not just a flair for cooking but also his passion for hunting, fishing and procuring ingredients direct from the source. Including such delectable dishes as: Eel and Whitebait Omelette; Venison with Blackberry Jus, Kumara and Potato Rosti and Pikopiko; and Roast Garlic and Thyme Prawns on Coconut Jasmine Rice, Peeti redefines Maori cuisine by blending traditional Maori ingredients and practices with the many modern culinary styles of New Zealand. The end result is overflowing with melt-in-the-mouth flavour and all recipes are remarkably easy to create. The best way to cook up a feed, according to Peeti, is directly after the fishing or hunting trip, on a makeshift stove on the beach or in the bush as the sun starts to go down ¿ the food simply couldn¿t be fresher or tastier or the surroundings more inspiring.” (Syndetics summary)

And finally… I highly recommend you listen to this song clip, on the 28th Māori Battalion website. Recorded in North Africa in 1942, it is a recording of ‘Silent Night’, sung by wounded soldiers of the 28th Maori Battalion at the No 2 New Zealand General Hospital. The Māori version is sung by Ngati Toa nurse Wiki Katene.  Moving and truly beautiful, it is well worth a listen.

Best wishes for a safe and happy Christmas to you all.