Executive Award for Outstanding Contribution to Māori History

Kia ora koutou,

At the Prize Giving session during the recent NZHA Conference, the Executive announced it was making a special award for an Outstanding Contribution to Māori History. This award was presented to Aroha Harris (Te Rarawa and Ngāpuhi) of the University of Auckland.

The citation given by the NZHA’s President, Michael Belgrave, is as follows:

‘Aroha has been throughout her career a tireless supporter of Māori history, often spread across a wide range of different communities and locations, as a historian, an academic, a health researcher, a supervisor and a researcher for and member of the Waitangi Tribunal. As a historian she has always been on the edge of Māori application of history, whether in exploring the protest movements of the 1970s, looking at the day-to-day experience of Māori women dealing creatively the challenges of urbanisation, or listening to Māori voices share their histories before the Waitangi Tribunal. Whatever she has done, she always thought of its impact on Māori, on Māori students, Māori academics and on the broader development of Māori history. One of her colleagues has described her as the poutokomanawa of Māori historians.

She has taken her turn in a wide range of different leadership and administrative responsibilities, from president of the New Zealand Historical Association, co-editor of Te Pouhere Korero and president of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA). In all these roles, she not only brought considerable organisational skill, but also a commitment to the kaupapa of each, and a critical view on how indigenous knowledge and approaches can be better applied through these organisations.

Her role as a supervisor and mentor continues to take Māori history to a new generation of Māori researchers. Two of her doctoral students have gone on to produce highly acclaimed and award-winning books.

She began her research career working for the Waitangi Tribunal completed a particularly useful research report for the Taranaki Inquiry on the Crown acquisition of confiscated land. In 2008, she became a member of the Waitangi Tribunal and worked primarily on the Rohe Pōtae inquiry, making a major contribution to its substantial six volume report.

She joined Atholl Anderson in producing the much acclaimed, and superb looking, Tangata Whenua: an illustrated history, in 2014.  Judith Binney was the third author, but Aroha and Atholl were responsible with Bridget Williams for posthumously updating Judith’s much earlier draft.  The book won the 2106 Okham illustrated book of the year award in 2016, was awarded the 2015 Royal Society of New Zealand science book prize and won the Te Kōrero o Mua (History) Award at the 2015 Ngā Kupu Ora Aotearoa Māori Book Awards.  The publication of the book, its critical attention to detail, and ensuring Māori participation in the images chosen for inclusion reflect Aroha’s attention to the craft of history in its broader responsibility to enhance social well-being, particularly of iwi and hapū.

She was a founding member of Te Pouhere Korero and co-editor of its journal. She has been responsible for keeping the organisation and its Journal at the critical edge of Māori history, a place where Māori historians can work collectively on the way their approaches to history make a contribution to indigenous knowledge and approaches to understanding the past.

She is generous in time and considered in her advice.’