Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription Access

Māori kinship and power: Ngāi Tūhoe 1894–1912

Steven Webster

JPS, Vol 126, No 2 pg (145-180)


The large Urewera National Park of New Zealand, recently returned to control of the Tūhoe (and other Urewera) Māori, was originally established (1896–1907) as the Urewera District Native Reserve under their virtual home-rule. Discovery of extensive marriage alliances between clusters of Tūhoe hapū ‘ancestral descent groups’ involved in the 1899–1903 investigation raises the relationship between kinship and political economic power in the context of New Zealand colonisation. Guided by Eric Wolf’s exploration of the kin-ordered mode of mobilising social labour, a detailed ethnohistorical study of the establishment of the reserve is reviewed here in terms of Tūhoe leaders’ exercise of power in relation to one another, as well as the colonial government. In order to consider Wolf’s conclusion that especially in the context of colonisation such leaders are likely to break through the bounds of their kinship order, confrontations from 1900–1912 between several well-known Tūhoe leaders, an extensive marriage alliance, and three hapū are reviewed in some detail. It is hoped that an ethnohistory of this example of Tūhoe kinship and power at the turn of last century can complement the current resurgence of Tūhoe (and other Urewera) control over their original reserve.


Māori kinship, political economy, Tūhoe, Urewera District, land claims ethnohistory, colonisation and resistance

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.

The Polynesian Society (Incorporated)
Department of Māori Studies, The University of Auckland
Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand
t +64 9 373 7599 ext 88506 | email
fb logo Please click on the logo to follow our updated Facebook profile and Society news and events.