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New research on Maori genealogy raises questions

Published: 6:08AM Wednesday December 29, 2010 Source: ONE News/Newstalk ZB

A New Zealand historian says the idea of Maori being indigenous may need to be reconsidered.

Research led by Janet Wilmshurst from New Zealand's Landcare Research, and Atholl Anderson, from the Australian National University, suggests Maori first settled in New Zealand between 1210 and 1385 AD.

That is in contrast to Maori genealogy, which traces the first arrivals back to 800 AD.

The research, published in the American journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, claims previous studies used radio carbon-dated materials that carried a high level of error. It says the research it has done on radio carbon-dated plant fossils dramatically shortens the "chronology for the colonisation of East Polynesia".

Professor of History at AUT, Paul Moon, said the evidence uncovered is based on 1400 radiocarbon dates from 47 Pacific Islands.

"There are some academics who've said that Polynesians first arrived here in 800AD and that figure now looks to be unlikely," Moon told ONE News. 

He said if Maori reached New Zealand just 300 years before Europeans, there may be questions from some quarters over the idea of Maori being indigenous.

"Some people will say if they've 'only' been here for 700 years, 600 years, some people might say 'well they're not really indigenous', and that's a dangerous argument," said Moon.

Moon also said people need to accept Maori oral histories are open to interpretation, and may not be entirely accurate.

Piri Sciascia, of Ngai Tahu and Ngati Raukawa descent, says finding an exact date is irrelevant

"We're the indigenous race of this people and a big part of this nation. What makes New Zealand is the interface between Maori and Pakeha and that's not changing because someone said something according to some research," Sciascia told ONE News.

That's despite concerns a more recent arrival could affect Treaty of Waitangi claims.

"It will affect some of the details of those claims relating to how long people have occupied certain areas, and I think it's very important to try and be as accurate as possible," Moon said.


 

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