Unearthing the story of Māori from a Māori perspective

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Leading Māori historian Monty Soutar is writing a new series of epic historical adventure novels that will reveal insights into Māori culture, and the impact of colonisation. Soutar aims to provide education about New Zealand history that textbooks in mainstream schools have missed.

“I want to show young people and Pākehā how Māori lived in this land. The crux of these books is colonisation, the bad, and the good that came from the Crown's colonisation of Māori.”

The series delves into Māori customs and protocols in older times, and how they've changed over the years.

“We still hold some of those tikanga, while some were relinquished by our ancestors, I want to show our young people those Tikanga because in my view the majority of our young Māori in the towns, their connections to their marae and their ancestral lands have been severed. They want to pursue their Māori identity, and the stories handed down from our elders, but they can't. The goal is that these books will provide that for them.”

Three novels will be published over three years. The name of the series is Kāwai.

The Roots of Māori

“I'm following the narratives about my ancestors, the first one being born before the arrival of Captain Cook to Aotearoa, to see how Māori lived in this land before Pākehā arrived, and over nine generations up until now.”

“If you've seen the film Roots, it was about black people in America written by Alex Haley. This is the Roots story about Māori.”

Soutar says it's for Māori to write the narrative about Māori.

“If you're not Māori, you can't write the thoughts of Māori, whether it's based in modern or old times. Racism is difficult for Pākehā to write about because at the end of the day they're not Māori, they don't see the racism in New Zealand, so it’s better that Māori write these stories.”

Soutar has reconnected with Bateman publishing group, which supported his previous books Whītiki and Ngā Tama Toa.

“He (Paul Bateman) knows I'm an expert at writing books about history, but new to writing fiction but he had said to me 'if you write a novel, I'll publish it' and he has kept his word. Now the path before me, the gate has opened, and what's left is for me to do the work.”

The first novel will be published this year.