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Hoani Te Whatahoro papers.

Identifier: MSS-Archives-C-8

Scope and Contents note

In the nineteenth century, customary Maori knowledge that had previously been transmitted orally in whare wananga began to be recorded on paper. H. T. Whatahoro, also known as Hoani Te Whatahoro Jury, of Ngati Kahungunu and European descent, was one of several who wrote down significant amounts of this oral tradition and history between the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by acting as scribes for tohunga. Copies were made of the writings to ensure preservation and, not unusually, originals and copies passed through a number of Maori and European hands, including those of S. P. Smith, T. W. Downes and Hare Hongi Stowell. As a result, the papers of H. T. Whatahoro are now dispersed in several locations: the Alexander Turnbull Library, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, and the Special Collections section of the University of Auckland Library.

Notebooks of varying sizes, lined and unlined, comprise most of the items and the remainder is loose leaves, probably from other notebooks. Several different handwriting styles in ink and pencil are evident. Biggs and Simmons identified Whatahoro’s handwriting in part or all of Items 3-5 and 9-12. A distinguishing feature of Items 3-5 is that they are annotated with noughts, crosses and ticks, and Item 4 includes a running numerical tally of names listed. Stamps from the Komiti Tupai, one of two committees established in the Wairarapa region around 1900 to collect and verify the written information, appear on selected pages in Item 2. The contents of Items 1-12 are largely whakapapa lists, cosmogonic narratives and historical accounts of ancestors. An exception to this pattern is Item 6, Major H. P. Tunuiarangi’s account of his speech at the opening of a hui whakapapa at Papawai in 1906. It fits well, however, within the general context of the collection.

Tohunga and others are acknowledged as sources of the knowledge recorded. Moihi Torohanga, also known as Te Matorohanga, provided information for Items 11 and 12. The names Nepia Pohuhu, Hikawera Wiremu Mahupuku, Rihari Te Hamutu, Meiha Keepa Taitokokiteuru and Raungaiti are attributed to other Items.

Along with the information recorded, these papers also provide insights into the thoughts, feelings and processes of the informants. Items 10-12 begin by recounting conversations and activities leading up to the writing meetings. A sense of suppression and fear of others’ reactions is evident in Items 1 and 2, but so is the realisation that many of the knowledgeable experts are passing away and that the information needs to be retained for future generations. An instruction on the last page of Item 3 illustrates the ongoing responsibility to preserve the papers of H. T. Whatahoro: Me tiaki tonu tenei pukapuka ‘Keep looking after this book’.


hui whakapapa: genealogy meeting

karakia: prayer, incantation

tohunga: priestly experts

waiata: song, sung or chanted poetry

whakapapa: genealogy, family tree

whare wananga: school of higher learning


  • 1860s-1910



0.03 metres (13 folders)

Language of Materials



Donated by Professor Bruce Biggs, 1983.

Related Archival Materials note

The papers of H. T. Whatahoro are housed in several locations: the Alexander Turnbull Library, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, and the Special Collections section of the University of Auckland Library. For a full description of the extant manuscripts see Simmons, D., & Biggs, B. (1970). The sources of "The lore of the Whare-wananga. Journal of the Polynesian Society, 79 , 22-42.

A translation of 'Whakapapa tuupuna na Hikawera Wiremu Mahupuku' by Pat Hohepa (1995) is held with the collection inventory in the Reading Room.

Publication note

Published descriptions of this collection and the related extant papers may be found in two articles in the Journal of the Polynesian Society. The first, 'The sources of "The Lore of the Whare-wananga"', by Bruce Biggs and David R. Simmons (79:22-42), provides an overview of the manuscript sources that formed the basis of S. P. Smith’s The lore of the Whare-wananga, New Plymouth, 1913-1915, and includes itemised descriptions of the papers in MSS & Archives C-8.

The second, 'The words of Te Matorohanga', by David Simmons (103:115-170), provides additional information and shows how the dispersed sets of papers relate to each other, including the following: A further 12 manuscripts were found in the office of the Ruatoria Dairy Factory, where Apirana Ngata often worked. These are now in the University of Auckland Library. Pasted-on labels and writing identical to that on the Whatahoro manuscripts in the Maori Purposes Fund Board collection leave no doubt that these writings were once part of the Whatahoro collection which Downes had given to the board. The labels seem to be Downes’ own system (p.122). These are the 12 manuscripts which comprise MSS & Archives C-8, along with the addition of Item 13, a photograph and negatives of H. T. Whatahoro. The photograph is identical to that facing the title page of Smith’s The lore of the Whare-wananga.

Inventory of the H. T. Whatahoro papers, 1860s – 1910s.
Yvonne Sutherland and Stephen Innes
August 2008
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections, University of Auckland Repository

5 Alfred Street
Private Bag 92019
Auckland 1142 New Zealand