He Wahine, He Whenua I Ngaro Ai? Maori Women, Maori Marriage Customs and the Native Land Court, 1865-1909.
The aim of this study is to investigate and identify the effects the Native Land Court and native land legislation had on customary Māori marriage practices from 1865 to 1909. While researchers have produced a variety of important understandings of the court’s role in promoting land loss in Māori society, Māori women’s involvement in the court and its effects upon them is just beginning to be examined. This thesis makes a contribution to Māori women’s history by accounting for the role the Native Land Court and associated land legislation played in reshaping customary Māori marriage practices in nineteenth and early twentieth century New Zealand. Even though native land legislation was one of the key mechanisms by which the state governed Māori land as well as marriage, this connection is rarely examined within the same frame. The Native Land Court is a forum where land and marriage did interact. Focusing on a case study of Ngāti Kahungunu, I situate prominent Māori women in the Native Land Court, and use their experiences to further understandings of how Māori marriage, which is often examined in a pre-European context, was shaped by land title investigations and succession cases. This study was conducted utilising statutes, colonial newspapers and the Napier Minute Books. In the first chapter, this thesis uses ethnographic material to describe and interpret marriage customs prior to European contact, its draws upon missionary understandings of customary marriage upon arrival to Aotearoa, and also traces how colonial law managed marriage prior to the Native Land Court 1865. This provides vital contextual information for the later chapters. The next chapter discusses native land and marriage laws between 1865 and 1890 and how they affected customary Māori marriage practices. Chapter Three examines three prominent Māori women involved in well-known legal cases. The final chapter discusses Māori women’s political organising and traces their attempts to protect and retain land during the 1890s. The thesis ends with a discussion of the Native Land Act 1909, a significant consolidating act. Focusing on the overarching structures of the law and its effects on customary Māori marriage allows this study to consider the broader effects it had on Māori society. What emerges from the study is how whakapapa and kinship structures underpin and inform Māori marriage, and how Māori forms of celebration continued to be practiced into the early twentieth century. Nonetheless, a main driver of change lay in assimilation policies that directed native land legislation towards individualisation of title, which undermined Māori women’s access to own and manage land.
Advisor: Wanhalla, Angela; Seymour, Mark
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: History and Art History Department
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: customary; marriage; maori; women; court; legislation; succession; inheritance; whakapapa; mana; kinship; tribal
Research Type: Thesis