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No. 31 (June 1960)
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Maharaia Winiata, at Turangawaewae Pa, Ngaruawahia, 1950. (PHOTO G. H. BURT LTD.)


Dr Maharaia Winiata, New Zealand's foremost Maori scholar, possibly the most outstanding of contemporary Maori leaders, died in Tauranga Hospital on April 6th, aged 48.

He collapsed on 3rd April at Judea Pa, Tauranga, where he was taking an active and leading role in organising a mass meeting of the followers of the Maori king movement (Pokai). Dr Winiata collapsed soon after making a spirited speech. He was taken to hospital but did not regain consciousness.

He was the first Maori to become a doctor of philosophy and the only Maori to gain his doctorate at Edinburgh University. The work that he did while in the United Kingdom has become famous. Tales are told of how he regularly closeted himself in his room for nine or ten hours at a time so that he could devote himself to his studies without interruption. He brought the same concentrated, intense, thorough approach to all his work, and his thesis for his doctorate, “The Changing role of the Leader in Maori Society” was widely acclaimed. A tribute from Dr Kenneth Little, Head of the Department of Social Anthropology, Edinburgh, appears below.

Born at Ngahina Pa. Ruatoki, in September 1912, Dr Winiata was educated at the Tauranga primary school and District High School. After gaining his University Entrance, he studied at Auckland University College as a part-time student for his B.A. degree. He later taught at several secondary schools. Two years later, he gained his M.A. degree also as a part-time student, and taught at Rotokawa Maori School, Rotorua, and at Wesley College, Paerata. In 1949, he was appointed the first Maori education officer in Auckland, a position he held until his death. Three years later, he became the first Maori to win a Nuffield Fellowship, which enabled him to study at Edinburgh University. While in the United Kingdom, Dr Winiata was associated with the production of the film “The Seekers”, from the late John Guthrie's novel. In it, he played the old tohunga.

Dr Winiata was an ordained Methodist Minister. Before taking up teaching, he had completed the Trinity College course for the Methodist Ministry, and was in active Ministerial work for a time. He remained a devout Methodist to the end.

A brilliant speaker in the highest and best traditions of Maori oratory, Dr Winiata was also a forceful and fiery personality, and an incisive thinker. He was a magnificent fighter and advocate, a great champion for the Maori people. Much had been expected of him in the difficult days that lie ahead for the Maori people.

Dr Winiata is survived by his wife and five young children.

Tributes to Maharaia Winiata have come from all over the world; some of them appear below.

From Dr Kenneth Little, Head of the Department of Social Anthropology, Edinburgh:

“As you know, his dissertation entitled “The Changing Role of the Leader in Maori Society” was accepted for the University Ph.D. and Winiata was the first Maori to win a doctorate from a United Kingdom University. Winiata came to us without any very extensive training in Social Anthropology and what strongly impressed me from the start was his willingness and determination to equip himself for his sociological task. He worked very hard at this as well as at his material, so hard in fact that he became quite ill for a time. The fact, therefore, that he eventually made up the leeway in this respect and succeeded in turning out a really useful contribution to the theory of race relations in New Zealand is extremely commend-

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able. It was due, not only to his unceasing energy and conscientious spirit, but also to his abiding interest in the history, the present and the future of his people. The latter interest is reflected very strikingly in the form in which he wrote his thesis. Winiata impressed my colleagues and myself not only by his determined acquisition of methods of scholarly research but by his charm and unfailing friendliness. We gained great affection for him and were looking forward to the time when he would pay a return visit to Edinburgh.

I was in correspondence with Winiata some little time before his death about the publication of his work and it is my sincere hope that ways can be found of getting this study into print. It would be a fitting memorial to him not only as a scholar but to the indomitable spirit which I am sure is activating many other Maoris as it did Winiata himself.”

From G. Blake-Palmer, Director, Division of Mental Hygiene, Department of Health:

“Maha had the happy gift of retaining friendships which he formed in the ‘two worlds’ in which he was able to move so freely. His gifts, scholarship and eloquence in expressing his many and fertile ideas left a very strong impression on those who heard him, whether he spoke among his own people or on a more academic occasion, before a learned society.

“At the A.N.Z.A.A.S. Science Congress held in Dunedin in 1957, he gave a brilliant and stirring address which was the occasion of many warm tokens of appreciation from all who had the privilege of listening to him. As Secretary of the Anthropology Section of the A.N.Z.A.A.S. Conference, I have been in touch with the President of the Section, Professor Andrew Abbie, now at the Department of Anatomy, Yale University School of Medicine, and with Professor Raymond Firth of the London School of Economics, both of whom attended the Conference. Professor Firth also remembered Winiata well as a student in London.”

Professor Abbie writes:

“It was my privilege to be Chairman of Section ‘F’, A.N.Z.A.A.S. 1957, when Dr Winiata gave his most eloquent and memorable address on the Maori. It was my opinion at the time—and this was supported subsequently by other listeners—that he was an unusually talented man, clearly destined to become the spokesman and leader of his people.

“The Maori must feel that his untimely death, hastened perhaps by his untiring efforts on their behalf, is a tremendous personal loss. At the same time, every European New Zealander must regret equally the loss of such an ornament of their University and the most able interpreter of Maori ideals to the European. In comparison, my own personal regret must seem very small, but it is very real.”

Professor Firth writes:

“I had indeed heard of Maha Winiata's death. What a tragic loss.

I remember his brilliant and warm speech at the Dunedin Conference. What I do remember much more vividly is his period with us in London. With Kenneth Little's permission, he came down to spend a term with us and was a most active and respected member of our seminar. It was a delight to see how he entered into the spirit of theoretical enquiry and how rapidly he absorbed and used effectively the conceptions of social anthropology. He read several very good papers and was able to contribute very pertinent illustrations of aspects of social change from his own wealth of experience. We all liked him for his intelligence and enthusiasm. It is a tragedy that, partly due to his many other preoccupations and especially to his early death, he was not able to pursue his genuine interest in anthropological matters.”


The reaction at Tauranga when the news was known was stunned unbelief, but the members of the Ngati-Ranginui of Judea, in spite of still being tired from their work over the week-end for the Kingi-Pokai, manned Tamatea Pokaiwhenua and swung into action for what eventually turned out to be the biggest tangi ever held in the district.

The action of the New Zealand Broadcasting Service in following the nine o'clock news broadcast on which the death was announced by a eulogy from Mr Jones, and a passage of quiet music, was deeply appreciated by those who had time to listen, and especially by Mrs Winiata, who, with her family listened privately on their car radio.

It is difficult to compute with accuracy what the number of mourners was; ten thousand has been suggested, as it is known that thirteen thousand meals were served over the four days. At the service, it was estimated that 2,500 people were present. The action of the Waikato King contingent, in manning the whare-kai towards the end of proceedings was appreciated by the local people who by that time, were suffering rather severely from strain and fatigue.

There came to the marae the Hon. E. T. Tirikatene and the official government group: Mrs Tirikatene, Messrs M. R. and P. Te H. Jones and others, W. H. Cocker, Chancellor of the Auckland University, S. G. Morrison, Director of Adult Education; M. te Hau, W. G. Rosenberg, of the School of Architecture; Dr M. Groves, Mr Bilmer, School of Anthropology; J. Waititi, K. Dewes, Colonel Awatere, Mrs Wright and Mrs Cooper, of the Maori Women's Welfare League; Bishop Panapa, the Mayor of Tauranga, the Mayor of Auckland, and many other distinguished people.

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The funeral oration was given by Rev. A. Everil Orr, Auckland, president of the Methodist Church of New Zealand. He said that with the death of Dr Winiata, one of God's good men, a prince had fallen. The loss was great and could not be described. Dr Winiata had made a great contribution to New Zealand and had seen his own influence grow and his ideals begin to spread. A man of many qualities, he was fearless in acknowledging what he believed to be right and because of these qualities, his stature would grow with the years, said Mr Orr.

Dr Winiata had found his religion and his works a release from his great energies and abilities, both of which were given without stint.

“His gifts of humanity and sincerity had helped him to break down many barriers. He had love in his heart and compassion in his soul. He died bravely and well and we say farewell with gratitude for the long days we were privileged to spend with him.”


Entries are invited for the fifth Te Ao Hou competition series. This year, there are three sections: stories in English, stories in Maori, and black and white drawings, and the prize for each section will be ten guineas (£10 10s.). Stories must have a length of at least 1,000 words, on any subject of the author's choice, although it is hoped that many of the contributions will be related to some aspect of Maori life. Persons and places may be either true or fictitious.

Manuscripts should be sent to the editor of Te Ao Hou, P.O. Box 2390, Wellington, clearly marked COMPETITION in block letters, before the closing date, September 30th. The judges will be Mr M. R. Jones for the Maori section, the Editor of Te Ao Hou for the English.

Black and white drawings should be made on clean white paper, and the subject may be anything the artist choose, though again, we hope that it will relate to Maori life. The judge will be the well-known New Zealand artist, Eric Lee-Johnson. Drawings should be clearly marked COMPETITION in block letters and sent to The Editor, Te Ao Hou, P.O. Box 2390, to reach him before September 30th, 1960.

The prize stories and drawings will be published in the December issue of Te Ao Hou.


Till the pakeha made a more effective effort to understand the Maori people, there would be no successful solution to the Maori's problem, said the Reverend I. J. Cupwell, headmaster of St Paul's Maori College, Parorangi, Feilding.

Addressing the annual conference of the Association of the Heads of Independent Schools of New Zealand, Father Cupwell said that there was an implicit obligation on the Maori to understand the European, but little in the other direction.

The pakeha attitude to the native race was largely emotional and sentimental, somewhere between the views that the Maori was the victim of exploiting whites and that the Maori was incapable of being helped.

“The truth,” he said, “is that the Maori is human like ourselves and had his problems too—but his big one is adjustment to a way of life far removed from that which shaped his.”

The old life of the Maori had a strong cultural core based on the marae, the meeting house, and the dwelling, all of which embodied his ancestral lore. Family life was strong.

The Maori did not want to return to the old ways, but a lot of them were necessary and of value. “He recognises that modern life has a lot to offer, but he resents the pakeha feeling that there is nothing in Maoridom to admire and no interest in his language, songs and lore.”

When Maoris held huis all over the country, the pakehas smiled; but they did not comment on Scots, Irish or Welshmen meeting together and keeping alive their traditions.

The Maori entered school with little or no culture because his old family life had gone. In competition with pakeha children, he was at a disadvantage. That was why he set such store on Maori boarding schools.

“Don't judge the Maori race by those you see hanging on street corners. They no more represent their race than the pakehas on the same corners represent theirs. We pity the Maori because he won't fuss or fret. The Maori pities us for doing that. I think he may be right,” concluded the Rev. Cupwell.