So you enjoy epic tales of love and war, solving puzzles, have a liking for writing, and no recollection of life before WiFi. Sounds like writing online histories could be your thing. Ngati Porou history enthusiast Walton Walker explains why technological advances are changing the way we preserve our stories and whakapapa.
A quick Google of the word genealogy suggests it's one of the most popular 'hobbies' in the world. Genealogy is a multi billion dollar industry in America, Mormons have vaults filled with it, and in true Gen X fashion, there's been an explosion of 'who am I?' reality TV shows like Who Do You Think You Are? Even Maori Television has got in on the act with Tatai Hono.
But while the average genealogist is content to search for great grandpa's final resting place, Walton Walker's reversioning the feats and whakapapa of 16th century ancestors. There's warrior chief Tuwhakairiroa who was probably closer to 50 when he avenged the murder of his mother's father Poroumata in Whareponga - that's a long time considering he was willed to do so while still in the womb.
Then there's Iranui, better known as Hauiti's mum - or Kahungunu's sister if you're from the Hawkes Bay. Iranui's dad was the famous explorer Tamateapokaiwhenua - aka the guy responsible for the longest place name in the world. Iranui also had a life in Tauranga before kids with future hubby Hingangaroa.
Walton says the key to examining our collective history as Ngati Porou is to look beyond whanau and hapu boundaries, citing Iranui as an example. "All these things you can start to link up because you're looking at the story outside your immediate rohe. There's a body of knowledge that resides with other iwi and she's a case in point. A story can be created not just by looking at the obvious, but by looking at their whakapapa and just how broadly that whakapapa can extend".
Walton has written an online series called Nga Maunga Korero, a collection of stories about the mountains of the Tairawhiti district. It's all about repatriating people back to their own stories using the Internet. "Of course you invite all sorts of opinions and perspectives, but it's really the robustness that we apply to our stories that will bring about something that's consolidated and probably a bit more accurate".
Traditionalists may baulk at the idea of sacred knowledge appearing with a double click, but Walton reflects on something Apirana Ngata said.
"There's a quote of Apirana Ngata's where he talks about the need to get our stories out there and put them in bookshelves. I'm sure if he were alive today and could see the application of the Internet and Facebook and the like, he would've been a fan of that. He's saying don't hold on to these stories so that when you die they die with you... and no one will know anything".
4 Tips to Writing Online History:
- Take a tour around ngatiporou.com There are many sources of reference information within this site that may be helpful to you.
- Google. Repositories of korero like Te Ao Hou, Pipiwharauroa and the Journal of the Polynesian Society are all online, search indexes for material to follow up on.
- Check out the Maori Land Court. Walton has spent days on end sifting through minute books and court records from the 1880s - 1890s. Keep in mind that information may be presented with a vested interest.
- Talk to people around you. The real gems reside in the minds of those who may not realise the importance of the knowledge they have.