Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Māori Urban Migrations and Identities, ‘Ko Ngā Iwi Nuku Whenua’: A study of Urbanisation in the Wellington Region during the Twentieth Century

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posted on 2021-11-14, 08:43 authored by Keenan, Erin

Māori urbanisation and urban migrations have been the subject of much discussion and research, especially following World War Two when Māori individuals, whānau and communities increasingly became residents of towns and cities that were overwhelmingly Pākehā populated. However, Māori urbanisation experiences and urban migrations are difficult topics to address because kaumātua are reluctant to discuss ‘urban Māori’, especially considering its implications for Māori identities. The original contribution this thesis makes to histories of Māori urban migrations is that it explores these and other understandings of urbanisations to discover some of their historical influences. By discussing urbanisations directly with kaumātua and exploring historical sources of Māori living in, and moving to, the urban spaces of Wellington and the Hutt Valley through the twentieth century, this thesis is a ‘meeting place’ for a range of perspectives on the meanings of urbanisations from the past and the present. Although urbanisation was an incredible time of material change for the individuals and whānau who chose to move into cities such as Wellington, the histories of urban migration experiences exist within a scope of Māori and iwi worldviews that gave rise to multiple experiences and understandings of urbanisations. The Wellington region is used to show that Māori in towns and cities used Māori social and cultural forms in urban areas so that they could, through the many challenges of becoming urban-dwelling, ensure the persistence of their Māoritanga. Urbanisations also allowed Māori to both use traditional identities in urban areas, as well as develop new relationships modelled on kinship. The Ngāti Pōneke community is used as an example of the complex interactions between these identities and how many Māori became active residents in but not conceptually ‘of’ cities. As a result, the multiple and layered Māori identities that permeate throughout Māori experiences of the present and the past are important considerations in approaching and discussing urbanisations. Urban Māori communities have emphasised the significance of varied and layered Māori identities, and this became particularly pronounced through the Māori urban migrations of the twentieth century.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Hill, Richard S.; Roberts, Evan; Locke, Cybele