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A Brief History of Whakapapa: Māori Approaches to Genealogy

History Programme, The University of Waikato, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand
Genealogy 2019, 3(2), 32;
Received: 14 May 2019 / Revised: 8 June 2019 / Accepted: 12 June 2019 / Published: 14 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Indigenous Perspectives on Genealogical Research)
PDF [589 KB, uploaded 22 June 2019]


Whakapapa is the Māori term for genealogy. It has been described by some as the skeletal structure of Māori epistemology because all things have their own genealogies. In research, whakapapa has been presented in tribal histories, Māori Land Court records, and consistently as a framework for mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) and Māori research methodologies. This essay offers a brief overview of the ways in which whakapapa has been understood and negotiated in research particularly after the arrival of Europeans. Some early ethnographers, for instance, applied their own genealogical methods of dating to whakapapa, which influenced various Māori approaches from the twentieth century. With the advent of literacy and print, Māori experimented with new ways to record genealogy, and yet the underlying oral, ethical, and cultural practices that are crucial to whakapapa have remained integral to how it still lives and operates in Māori communities today. View Full-Text
Keywords: whakapapa; indigenous history; research ethics; genealogical method; decolonisation whakapapa; indigenous history; research ethics; genealogical method; decolonisation

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Mahuika, N. A Brief History of Whakapapa: Māori Approaches to Genealogy. Genealogy 2019, 3, 32.

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