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Maori views on European colonisation through French eyes

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A new book published by Canterbury University Press brings to life a crucial period in the history of Aotearoa New Zealand, when European settlers were mixing with Māori people, and gives compelling insight into Māori customs, values and beliefs of the time from a French perspective.

Living Among the Northland Māori: Diary of Father Antoine Garin, 1844C1846 is the first full English translation of the surviving Mangakāhia journals and letters of French Marist priest Father Antoine Garin C known to Māori as Perekara or Père Garin C who was sent to run the remote Mangakāhia mission station on the banks of the Wairoa River.

Garin’s diaries are a human-centred record of life in a Māori community C he describes the relationships he formed with Māori men, women and children, including the chiefs who offered him protection while he lived among them, and also with his European neighbours. Garin came dangerously close to the action of the Northern War C he provides vivid accounts of contemporary events, and writes of prominent figures such as Hōne Heke and Kawiti. Father Garin moved to Nelson in 1850 and died there 39 years later. Nelson's Garin College is named after him.

After the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, European colonisation of New Zealand accelerated rapidly. In the 1840s, European settlers, including French missionaries, were spreading out over the country, reaching remote places such as Northland’s Wairoa River. However, the role of the French in New Zealand’s colonisation has been a neglected theme in our written histories, largely because of the challenge of dealing with French language material.

What did Māori think of this encroaching culture? How were the daily lives and thoughts of tangata whenua influenced by European activities and relationships? As a fluent te reo Māori speaker and astute observer Garin offers a fascinating first-hand account of his conversations with the Māori people he met and lived among. The three years of Garin’s diary have been translated into English and annotated by Peter Tremewan and Giselle Larcombe, making this valuable primary source accessible to historians and general readers.

"We came across French missionary Antoine Garin’s diaries many years ago," Tremewan says. "I discovered some of his writings in Rome and Giselle wrote a biography on him in 2009. All his writing was in French, of course. Over the course of four to five years, we translated his diaries covering 1844-1846 so that English speakers can benefit from these resources."

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