New book to cover history of Māori Parliament

By Maiki Sherman

The author of a new book about the history of the Kotahitanga group, which formed the Māori Parliament, expects his work will help improve the amount of information available about the movement.  

Basil Keane (Ngāti Kahungunu, Rangitāne, Ngāpuhi) is hoping to finish the book next year.  The New Zealand History Trust Fund Awards have granted him $12,000 through the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

Using new technology to research old newspapers is bringing the history of New Zealand's Māori Parliament to life. 

Keane says, "As I was searching through those articles I stumbled upon the Kotahitanga Movement, the Māori Parliament so to say, and it sparked my interest as to what this group was all about."

According to Keane, the Māori Parliament was established in the late 1800s, one of the major focuses being to put a stop to Māori land sales.  

"The government was selling much of the land and so they (Kotahitanga) sat down with the government who agreed to put a stop to the sale of land in the late 90s," says Keane.

It's believed around 39,000 Māori signed their allegiance to the movement, an impressive figure according to Keane given the estimated Māori population at the time was only 45,000.  But the fight for self-governance was much harder.  

"One of their goals was to establish a Māori Parliament whereby Māori could pass laws regarding Māori.  That was not achieved," explains Keane.

Although the ban on Māori land sales would not be permanent, two other pieces of legislation were implemented at the time - the Māori Land Administration Act and the Māori Councils Act.  

Keane says, "I'm happy to have been granted the funding so that I can spend this year rewriting my thesis into a book."

The goal is for the book to be published next year.

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