Ancestry site sheds light on major Māori historical events

By Jessica Tyson

New information from New Zealand Police Gazettes made available on has shed light on major historical events affecting Māori. 

The collection from 1878 and 1945 is digitised for the first time and it includes records about the Māori prophet and land activist Rua Kenana and the Parihaka attack in 1881. content acquisition manager Jason Reeve says Rua Kenana's story is one of the most interesting.

“It's one of those you kind of want to keep digging deeper and deeper into,” says Reeve.

“He was a very industrious fella.  He was a prophet and also a land activist as well so he had a following of about 600 to a thousand people”.

Records show in 1915 Kenana was charged with illicitly selling alcohol.  After he failed to appear before a magistrate when summoned, the government seized the opportunity to punish him. 

“He basically encouraged his followers to reject European government, or white government and obviously that caused a lot of problems.  So he was eventually arrested by the government. They essentially set him up to arrest him“.

During his arrest at the Tuhoe settlement of Maungapōhatu two Māori were killed including his son Toko. 

Records show Kēnana was sentenced to 12 months hard labour and 18 months imprisonment.  In 1918 he was released but the Maungapōhatu community never recovered. 

“Some of the atrocities that took place- reading about those now and trying to understand how these things occurred.  I mean we're talking a different time of course but it does help you understand a history of a location and in this case New Zealand,” he says.

“So bringing those records to light and letting people learn that history, not just the good stuff but that bad stuff too is really important”. 

Reeve says people can look into the online collection to find out more about their own ancestors.

“They might have an ancestor that went off somewhere as a free settler when really they were a prisoner or a convict.  I’ve seen that in my own family so it’s one of those things that especially a collection like this might shed light on”.