on the World Wide Web


I'm aware that many Maori are seraching the WWW for their whakapapa. People from my own hapu are perhaps luckier than most for I have included quite a bit of whakapapa my from iwi and hapu.

I have done this, against the tide of much Maori opinion, because all of it has already been published in printed form over many years going back to the 1860s. In the Wairarapa region we had a traditional Whare Wananga or house of learning. In the 1860s the last of our fully trained tohunga (schlolar priests) who were trained in the Wananga decided to commit their knowledge to paper, and commission Te Whatahoro Jury to be their scribe.

Over the next few years he committed much of the learning of those tohunga, notably Te Matorohanga and Nepia Pohuhu, to paper. It included an enormous amount of whakapapa. Most of those manuscripts are now in libraries. Later writers have drawn heavily on those works, if not always faithfully.

Given that Maori knowledge was considered tapu or sacred, and was to be restricted to those who needed to know it, this was a remarkable decision. I don't know why they made the decision but perhaps they realised that the Christian momentum would eventually obliterate all or most Maori knowledge unless they wrote it down.

This commitment of knowledge to paper was repeated up and down Aotearoa New Zealand, although most of it was not published in the public domain. Maori manuscripts in libraries and museums, and in the keeping of Maori families, constitute the largest body of indigenous literature in the world today.

However I assess that most hapu and whanau at the moment will have decided against putting whakapapa on the Web, because of the reverence that needs to be shown towards whakapapa, for intellectual property reasons, and for fear that non-Maori will appropriate and misuse whakapapa on the Web.

Therefore, if you are searching for your whakapapa do not expect that you will find it on the Web. The principles of whakapapa research are that you should start with yourself and work backwards through the established genealogical sources.