Finding Māori in the New Zealand Wars
From 1845 to 1872, the North Island acted as the backdrop for a series of conflicts and fierce battles. Tensions erupted when interests of the colonial government and settler society conflicted with Māori striving to maintain their mana. Also called the Māori Wars and Land Wars, these encounters are now widely known as the New Zealand Wars. Records at Archives New Zealand document events connected with the wars, including Māori involvement both for and against the Crown.
For Māori researchers tracing whānau and iwi histories they are a rich resource. Information about Māori and the New Zealand Wars can be found in medal applications, registers, correspondence, and on lists of those killed or taken prisoner.
This guide is an introduction in how to find Māori in some of these records.
Ingoa Māori and Archway
The best place to start is with keyword searches on Archway, our online finding aid. Some Māori are mentioned by name in record titles and can be found with a keyword search of record titles. The record titles are listed as they were written at the time. As a consequence Māori names are often spelled incorrectly or are run together as one word. Many spellings and phrasings have also changed over time, or a person’s name might be entered using initials or an alias.
So, when searching for people, places, landmarks, or events it is best to try different possible variations, without macrons.
Ngai Tahu/Kai Tahu/ Ngaitahu / Kaitahu
hauhau/ hauhaus / hau haus / hau hau
New Zealand War Medal
This medal was awarded to most British who served in New Zealand in the 1840s and 1860s. However, it was only awarded to colonial troops, including Māori, who applied and could prove they had come under enemy fire. Many files contain character references and information about the battles fought in.
Within the Māori War Series are applications from some Māori who fought for the Crown within the Māori Contingent, 1845-1847 and 1860-1872. The Wellington office holds an alphabetical New Zealand War Medal card index for soldiers who applied for or were awarded the medal. These cards have been listed and can be found with keyword searches on Archway, using a person’s name.
19th Century Correspondence
Government correspondence to and from departments, including letters, field reports, and despatches, also often mention people by name. These are likely to be prominent people or militia leaders. However, most Archway listings do not include the names of people, so searching by name doesn’t work for a lot of material.
The New Zealand War Medal Card Index may note if a person is mentioned in Series 8638 [AD1]. If you can’t visit the Wellington archive it’s worth asking an archivist to check the card index for you.
Another option is an advanced Archway search using events or places as keywords, and limiting the date range. For example, ‘Rangiriri’ and ‘list’, 1860-1870:
This brings up two results, both with lists of Māori taken prisoner.
Most files need to be viewed in-person at our office. In this case both records can be viewed on our Flickr page:
There are many other records that give insight to Māori involvement in the New Zealand Wars. More information can be found in our War research guides and in the New Zealand Wars album on our Flickr page.
If you can’t visit our reading rooms you can send us a research request .
Last updated on 19 March 2020