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Lore and history of the South Island Maori


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Writers on pre-European Maori history and culture have done less than justice to the Maoris of the South Island. European settlement found an original population of fifteen thousand reduced to less than half that total by the raids of Te Rauparaha and shipborne diseases. The survivors made no effective cultural resistance to the new order, and at this Centenary of the Canterbury settlement there is probably no Maori child whose mother tongue is not English.

Yet the South Island is the largest land mass which Polynesian's settled, a settlement which commenced at least one thousand years ago. The story of this occupation is in its own right as worthy of telling as that of Easter Island, Mangareva, or any other small community in the vast Polynesian archipelago.

Mr W. A. Taylor deserves our gratitude for recording so much, so late. Within the historical and cultural limits he sets himself, the author erects a genuine and worthy edifice. For his origins he goes back to the fabulous ancestor Rakaihautu; thence he traverses the nine centuries to the fatal nineteenth century, which saw Te Rauparaha usher in the first half-century of European occupation. From Maoris who grew up within that half century Mr Taylor received at first hand many facts which are set down here for the first time. Certainly Wohlers, Shortland, Stack and Mackay learned from an earlier generation, but only Stack set out, as the author does, to cover the whole of the South Island. In addition Mr Taylor has travelled over all the districts he describes, he has seen and photographed the historic sites the place-names commemorate, and in doing so he has added immeasurably to our knowledge. From the much neglected newspaper as a source of contemporary history he has saved from oblivion many recent incidents in the history of Ngai-tahu.

Mr Taylor's devotion to his subject has been selfless and without the incentive of financial reward. Over the greater part of his life he has explored and recorded the footsteps of the South Island Maoris. Only recently has he given the Canterbury public such pamphlets as "Banks Peninsula, Picturesque and Historic", "Waihora" and "Maori Art in Canterbury".

It is my privilege to introduce to the wider public this book which is the final and comprehensive expression of his life-long study and devotion.

Roger Duff,

Canterbury Museum, Christchurch. May 30th, 1950.
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