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Native Schools Project records.

Identifier: MSS-Archives-2008/15

Scope and Contents

Between 1993 and 2001, researchers from the Research Unit for Maori Education, later the International Research Institute for Maori and Indigenous Education, based at the University of Auckland, recorded over 240 oral testimonies from former teachers and pupils of Native, or Maori, schools. Termed the Native Schools Project, it aimed to address a perceived lack of general knowledge about the Native Schools system of education, operated by the state between 1867 and 1969, by gathering recollections and supporting documentary resources, and then analysing the information. Appeals through public media generated responses from numerous would-be informants and direct approaches to marae-based groups, such as at Nuhaka in 1994 and Ngati Moko Marae in 1996, resulted in fruitful interviews.

The fact that some informants passed away during the project confirmed the urgent need to collect information while those who had been involved in the Native Schools system, Maori and Pakeha, were still able to tell their stories. Initially interviews focussed on those associated with the schools in and before the 1930s. They were then extended to the 1960s.

Key roles in the project were undertaken by Judith Simon, Linda Tuhiwai Smith, and Kuni Jenkins, supported by a group of at least 25 researchers who assisted in conducting interviews, locating documentary resources and collating the information. Research essays by Department of Education students, a course prescription for which may be seen in Item 15, also contributed to the investigation, along with some theses. Examples of these may be found in Series 5 and 6.

Funding for the project came from grants-in-aid from the University of Auckland and a Marsden Fund grant.

The native schools system = Nga kura Maori no nga ra o mua : research project progress report 1994 (Matauranga Maori 371.829 S59n) was produced, followed by two books, planned from the project’s outset: Nga kura Maori = The native schools system 1867-1967 (1998) (Matauranga Maori 371.829 S59) and A civilizing mission?: perceptions and representations of the Native Schools system (2001) (Matauranga Maori 371.829 S59c). All three works contain further information about the project and those involved. Series 4 comprises papers pertaining to their production.

Central to this collection are the oral histories recorded on sound cassettes. These are located in Series 8 and comprise separate subseries of Pakeha and Maori interviews, reflecting the original boxed arrangement. Some cassettes involve more than one named interviewee and some interviews are recorded on more than one cassette. Where individuals had been pupils and teachers, recollections of each experience were recorded on different tapes. Interviewees chose to be interviewed in English or Maori and those who chose the latter left a valuable resource for scholars of the language. Transcripts of Maori interviews are located in Series 5, along with consent forms and other relevant material. It should be noted that labelling on some cassettes may be inaccurate and variations occur in names of some Maori interviewees. In addition, there are master and working copies of the sound cassettes and sometimes content may vary slightly between the two due to editing differences.

Also important are numerous primary and secondary sources, which are found within separate subseries of Series 6. School logbooks and illustrated pupils’ letters are features of Subseries 6/1. Subseries 6/2 contains information about particular native schools, staff and school activities gleaned from a wide range of sources. Included are clippings, published school histories, the Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives of New Zealand (AJHR), Te Waka Maori : the journal of the Native School Teachers’ Association, and material from Native School teachers in the 1930s-1940s, Len and Grace Wallbridge, donated to the Native Schools Project by their daughter, P. Kendall. A larger group of resources from Native School teachers, Mary and Joseph Lowe, comprises Subseries 6/3. Donated by their daughter Fay Fransham, these items provide a broad picture of practical issues faced and the kinds of resources necessary for teachers in the Native School system in the 1920s-1940s. Oral interviews with Grace Wallbridge and Fay Fransham, herself a former Native School teacher, are found in Series 8, and obituaries for Joseph Lowe are in Subseries 6/2, Item 104. Subseries 6/3 also includes a notebook of District Nurse Joy Alley, sister of Rewi Alley and friend of Sylvia Ashton Warner. Where present, alphabetical order and file names have been retained in Series 6.

Numerous photographs in original, reprinted and photocopied formats were gathered for the project, largely with a view to inclusion in the planned publications, and are found in Series 7. These were sourced from individuals, existing publications, and museums, libraries and archives throughout New Zealand. Restrictions on some photographs prohibit further copying without permission from the holding institution.


  • 1993 - 2001


Language of Materials

Parts of the collection are in Maori.

Conditions Governing Access

RESTRICTED. The written consent of informants is required before publication of material which identifies individuals.

Conditions Governing Use

Restrictions on some photographs prohibit further copying without permission from the holding institution.


5.5 metres (31 boxes plus sound cassettes.)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Professor Alison Jones of the University of Auckland’s Te Puna Wananga, School of Education, in July 2008.
Inventory of the records of the Native schools project of the Research Unit for Maori Education, 1993 - 2001.
Yvonne Sutherland and Stephen Innes.
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, The University of Auckland Repository

5 Alfred Street
Private Bag 92019
Auckland 1142 New Zealand