Tēnā koe Hēmi Kāwana: A Ngāti Maniapoto Half-Caste from Kihikihi Greets Mr James Cowan
This article explores and evaluates, from an iwi/Māori perspective, the presence of James Cowan in the early twentieth-century collection and recording of Ngāti Maniapoto’s tribal knowledge, past narratives and Pākehā encounter history on the “frontier” border around the Pūniu River. This includes the extent to which Cowan empathised, identified with, and participated in the lives of the Māori people he studied, and recognised them as subjects and not objects of their history. The article argues that Cowan, the early oral historian who connected “places, people and memories” and captured Maniapoto voices speaking in their cultural present, has enriched our shared understanding of the tribe’s past and traditions. The author, a Ngāti Maniapoto half-caste from Kihikihi, illustrates Cowan’s contribution by locating his own personal journey of historical curiosity about his Maniapoto-Pākehā identity in the life and works of James Cowan.
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