Volume 67 1958 > Volume 67, No. 2 > Maori genealogies, by Pei Te Hurinui, p 162-165
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- 162

THE STUDY OF Maori traditions, based on our genealogies, appears to be giving some Europeans trouble, and it might be helpful if one of the race, who oftimes sat at the feet of our departed tohunga elders, were to give a lead. To my mind the difficulty stems from the fact that the non-Polynesian is confronted at the outset with a lot of strange names in our lines of descent, and when he attempts to follow the tribal accounts of historical events and marriages, and he encounters unfamiliar names of contemporary ancestors whose genealogies show a variation in the number of generations, he becomes rather confused in his thinking and makes wrong deductions.

The Maori placed great importance on his genealogies and on the genealogical method of fixing the sequence of events. Variations in the number of generations is a common feature and can all be explained but, for this purpose, it is necessary that a wide knowledge of the tribal lines of descent should be acquired. Before attempting a critical evaluation of the traditions of our people as handed down through successive generations, the whakapapa lines should be carefully examined in conjunction with the history.

Andrew Sharp, 1 when dealing with this aspect in an article by J. B. W. Roberton, 2 and in commenting on the variations in the number of generations from the Fleet ancestors in the lines of descent of the late Maori King Mahuta, cast doubt on the authenticity of the Maori account that the Migration canoes—Tainui, Te Arawa, Matatua, Kurahaupo, Tokomaru, Takitimu, and Aotea—arrived in Aotearoa (New Zealand) at the same time.

My study of our genealogies extends over a period of more than forty years and the variations in the generations in the tribal whakapapa was one particular aspect I have checked and rechecked with my Tainui elders. I learnt our hapu (sub-tribal) whakapapa as a school boy and the wide variations in the number of generations from a common ancestor to myself was a feature which I soon noticed. As the result of persistent questioning and careful study of our whakapapa I was convinced that: firstly, our lines of descent from the Fleet was authentic; and secondly, my elders' explanation for the long and short lines as being the result of a preponderance or lack of female progenitors in the various lines of descent was a valid one.

- 163

In the case of the lines of descent of the Maori King Mahuta his male line of descent is the Arawa line and it is his shortest whakapapa. It is an invariable feature that male lines of descent are of fewer generations. The women of our race married early and it is quite common to find sisters with grandchildren of the same age or older than the children of brothers. It was also usual for the old time chiefs to have several wives and the younger wives were often of the same age or younger than the grandchildren by the senior wives. These are factors which result in the wide variation in the number of generations in our lines of descent from a common ancestor. A Maori can trace several lines of his whakapapa with a different number of generations in each line. As a matter of fact on account of the increase in recent times of inter-tribal marriages we often fix our tribal affiliation on a eponymous ancestor from whom we can trace the most lines of descent.

In the Maniapoto tribal history there are the well known marriages of the eponymous ancestor, Maniapoto; firstly, to the great-grand-daughter, Hinewhatihua, of his elder half-brother, Te Ihingarangi; and later, to the daughter, Paparauwhare, of Hinewhatihua by a former marriage. History relates that Te Ihingarangi was already a grandfather when his half-brother Maniapoto was born. This is the whakapapa:

Family Tree. (First Wife) Rangianewa=Rereahu=Hineaupounamu, Te Ihingarangi, Maniapoto, Uehaeroa, Waerenga, Uetarangore=Hinewhatihua=Maniapoto, Paparauwhare=Maniapoto, Tutakamoana, Rora

Uetarangore was the son of Tutarawa, a younger brother of Hineaupounamu, the mother of Maniapoto. The descendants of Tutakamoana and Rora have inter-married and under their hapu names of Ngati Tutakamoana and Ngati Rora are the most numerous of our Maniapoto sub-tribes with their main marae, Te Tokanga-nui-a-noho, at Te Kuiti. The writer is a member of both hapu.

- 164

In our Waikato tribes we have in the Hekemaru line two instances of grand-uncles—Mahuta and his son, Uerata—marrying grandnieces—Kiringaua and Puakirangi:

Family Tree. 1. Hekemaru=Hekeiterangi, 2. Paretahuri (F), Mahuta, 3. Tuteiwi (M), 4. Kiringaua=Mahuta, 5. Huapiri (F), Uerata=Puakirangi, 6. Tiki-o-rere-ata (F), Tapaue (M), 7. Te Rangapu (M), Puakirangi (F), Te Putu (M), 8. Takiri (F), Hinematua (F), Tawhia-ki-te-rangi (M), 9. Parewhakahau (F), Irohanga (M), Tuata (M), 10. Korako (F), Maungatautari (M), Te Raungaanga (M), 11. Waenganui (F), Poutama I (M), King Potatau, 12. Mataumoeawa (M), Poutama II (M), King Tawhiao, 13. Hotumauea (M), Paretekorae (F), King Mahuta, 14. Pakaruwakanui (M), Pei Te Hurinui, King Te Rata, 15. Tokohihi (M), King Koroki, 16. Parengaope (F)=Te Rauangaanga, 17. King Potatau, 18. King Tawhiao, 19. King Mahuta, 20. King Te Rata, 21. King Koroki

In this whakapapa it will be observed that the marriage of Te Rauangaanga to Parengaope provides another wide variation in the lines of descent of contemporary forebears of King Koroki.

Through Huapiri and Rangapu there are twenty-one generations; through Huapiri and Puakirangi there are seventeen; and through the male line of Uerata there are but fifteen.

From these whakapapa we can see what a difficult thing it is to fix any figure of years per generation for the purpose of approximate dates as between the lives of various ancestors. What earlier European writers appear to have done after a close study of a large number of whakapapa, was to make allowances for the early marriages of female progenitors and the widely spaced marriages of male ancestors—extending into their old age—and they arrived at twenty-five years per generation.

- 165

The writer suggested to the late Princess Te Puea the idea of celebrating the sextennial of the arrival of the Fleet, and the Tainui Canoe, in particular, and in fixing the year 1950 for the celebrations at Ngaruawahia we examined several lines of descent of King Koroki from Hoturoa and other leaders of the Fleet Migration. (Several other Canoe areas followed suit.) The average number of generations worked out at twenty-four and multiplying this figure by the customary twenty-five years we got the same result as Percy Smith and other writers did of 1350 being the year the Fleet arrived at Aotearoa. To my mind this method of fixing dates for our Maori history is as good as any other.

I would emphasize that it is a fallacy to deduce from the variations in the number of generations in the lines of descent in our whakapapa that there must be some missing links or—as Sharp seems eager to assert—that certain events in Maori history did not take place. 3

Roberton's postulation that there were “frequent elimination of whole branches in the fighting” 4 cannot have had any connection with extant lines of descent. These lines are intact and there has been no elimination of progenitors of present-day descendants. This is the case in our Tainui whakapapa anyway. If Roberton's postulation is intended to imply that the short lines of descent indicate that progenitors, some generations back in the whakapapa, were killed, and their names forgotten or eliminated from our lines of descent on that account, I am bound to say he is mistaken. Deaths in battle are remembered and act as milestones in the passing generations. Songs and laments were composed to commemorate such deaths, and a traditional balance sheet as it were was kept for the vendetta which followed the killing or which led up to it.

Of course, if Roberton really meant that in some short lines on record, the last person traced down was killed in fighting generations back from present-day descendants from a common ancestor—and there were no children to carry on the line from that point—then nothing more need be said.

Sometimes mistakes in the order of births of members of a family may be found but such errors are due to faulty recording, or incomplete knowledge of the whakapapa. In perhaps one or two cases a younger son may variously be given as the son of an elder brother, or a son is recorded as the younger brother of his father. Only one such case occurs in the line from Hoturoa of the Tainui Canoe, where Hotu-awhio is shown in Ngati Raukawa, and in some Ngati Maniapoto and Waikato whakapapa, as the younger brother of his father, Hotu-matapu.

  • ROBERTON, J. B. W., 1957. “The Role of Tribal Tradition in New Zealand Prehistory.” Journal of the Polynesian Society, 66:249-263.
  • SHARP, Andrew, 1958. “Maori Genealogies and Canoe Traditions.” Journal of the Polynesian Society, 67:37-38.
1   Sharp 1958:37-38.
2   Roberton 1958:39-57.
3   Sharp 1958:38.
4   Roberton 1957:256.