Transgressing Boundaries: A History of the Mixed Descent Families of Maitapapa, Taieri, 1830-1940

Transgressing Boundaries: A History of the Mixed Descent Families of Maitapapa, Taieri, 1830-1940

University of Canterbury, New Zealand
393 pages

Angela Wanhalla, Lecturer in History
University of Otago, New Zealand

A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in History at the University of Canterbury

This thesis is a micro-study of intermarriage at the small Kāi Tahu community of Maitapapa from 1830 to 1940. Maitapapa is located on the northern bank of the Taieri River, 25 kilometres south of Dunedin, in Otago. It was at Moturata Island, located at the mouth of the Taieri River, that a whaling station was established in 1839. The establishment of this station initiated changes to the economy and settlement patterns, and saw the beginning of intermarriage between ‘full-blood’ women and Pākehā men. From 1848, Otago was colonized by British settlers and in the process ushered in a new phase of intermarriage where single white men married the ‘half-caste’ and ‘quarter-caste’ daughters of whalers. In short, in the early years of settlement intermarriage was a gendered ‘contact zone’ from which a mixed descent population developed at Taieri. The thesis traces the history of the mixed descent families and the Maitpapapa community throughout the nineteenth century until the kāika physically disintegrated in the 1920s. It argues that the creation of a largely ‘quarter-caste’ population at Maitapapa by 1891 illustrates the high rate of intermarriage at this settlement in contrast to other Kāi Tahu kāika in the South Island. While the population was ‘quarter-caste’ in ‘blood’, the families articulated an identity that was both Kāi Tahu and mixed descent. From 1916, the community underwent both physical and cultural disintegration. This disintegration was rapid and complete by 1926. The thesis demonstrates that while land alienation, poverty, poor health and a subsistence economy characterized the lives of the mixed descent families at Maitapapa in the nineteenth century, it was a long history of intermarriage begun in the 1830s and continued throughout the nineteenth century which was the decisive factor in wholesale migrations post World War One. Education, dress and physical appearance alongside social achievements assisted in the integration of persons of mixed descent into mainstream society. While Kāi Tahu initially welcomed intermarriage as a way of integrating newcomers of a different culture such as whalers into a community, the sustained pattern of intermarriage at Maitapapa brought with it social and cultural change in the form of outward migration and eventual cultural loss by 1940.


  • Abbreviations
  • Note on Dialect
  • Glossary
  • Graphs
  • Tables
  • Maps
  • Illustrations
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: Literatures
  • Chapter Two: Encounters
  • Chapter Three: Boundaries, 1844-1868
  • Chapter Four: Assimilations, 1850-1889
  • Chapter Five: Recoveries, 1891 164
  • Chapter Six: Identities, 1890-1915
  • Chapter Seven: Migrations, 1916-1926
  • Chapter Eight: Destinations, 1927-1940
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix One: Taieri Native Reserve Succession List, 1868-1889
  • Appendix Two: Taieri Native Reserve Succession List, 1890-1915
  • Appendix Three: Taieri Native Reserve Succession List, 1916-1926
  • Appendix Four: Taieri Native Reserve Succession List, 1927-1940
  • Appendix Five: SILNA Grantees: Taieri
  • Bibliography


  1. Composition of the Taieri Kāi Tahu Population, 1874-1886
  2. Kāi Tahu Census, 1891
  3. Kāi Tahu Mixed Population, 1891
  4. Kāi Tahu ‘Racial’ Composition, 1891
  5. Application of national census categories to the 1891 Census
  6. Composition of Taieri Kāi Tahu and mixed descent population, 1891-1911


  1. Whakapapa of Patahi
  2. Mixed Community, Maitapapa, 1849-1852
  3. Census of Maitapapa, 1853
  4. Taieri Native Reserve Owners’ List, September 1868
  5. Marriages (Maitapapa Women): 1850-1889
  6. Marriages (Maitapapa Men): 1879-1889
  7. Kāi Tahu Mixed Population, 1891
  8. Kāi Tahu ‘Racial’ Composition, 1891
  9. Family Size
  10. ‘Racial’ Composition of Taieri Kāi Tahu Population, 1891
  11. Marriages (Maitapapa Women): 1890-1915
  12. Marriages (Maitapapa Men): 1890-1915
  13. Marriages (Maitapapa Women): 1916-1926
  14. Marriages (Maitapapa Men): 1916-1926
  15. Marriages (Maitapapa Women): 1927-1940
  16. Marriages (Maitapapa Men): 1927-1940


  1. Location Map of Whaling Stations in Otago and Southland
  2. Lower Taieri Place Names
  3. England’s Topographical Sketch Map of Taieri Native Reserve, 1860
  4. MacLeod’s Survey Map of the Taieri Native Reserve, 1868
  5. Sketch Map of Lake Tatawai (Alexander Mackay)
  6. Location Map of Destinations


  1. William Palmer
  2. Edward Palmer
  3. Ann Holmes
  4. Peti Parata and Caroline Howell
  5. Eliza Palmer
  6. Sarah Palmer
  7. Robert, William and Jack Palmer
  8. James Henry Palmer
  9. George Palmer and Mary List
  10. Helen McNaught and George Brown
  11. Taieri Ferry School Pupils in the mid-1880s
  12. Harriet Overton and her son George
  13. Thomas Brown, 1885-1974
  14. The Joss Family at Rakiura
  15. Tiaki Kona/Jack Conner
  16. Robert Brown, 1830-1898
  17. Te Waipounamu Hall, 1901
  18. Official opening of Te Waipounamu Hall, 1901
  19. Hangi at opening of Te Waipounamu Hall, 1901
  20. Wellman Brothers and Band at Henley
  21. William George Sherburd
  22. Wedding of Thomas Garth and Annie Sherburd
  23. The Drummond Family
  24. James Smith and Emma Robson
  25. Matene Family
  26. Ernest Sherburd and Isabella Mackie
  27. George and Caroline Milward
  28. William Richard Wellman
  29. Elizabeth Garth, Thomas Garth and John Brown
  30. The Crane Family at Waitahuna Teone Paka Koruarua and the Maahanui Council, 1905
  31. Lena Teihoka, Waitai Brown and Mere Teihoka
  32. Teihoka family gathering at Taumutu, c. 1930s
  33. Tuarea
  34. Portrait of Jane Brown
  35. Portrait of Robert Brown
  36. Portrait of Mere Kui Tanner

Read the entire thesis here.

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