Transgressing Boundaries: A History of the Mixed Descent Families of Maitapapa, Taieri, 1830-1940
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis is a micro-study of intermarriage at the small Kāi Tahu community of Maitapapa from 1830 to 1940. Maitapapa is located on the northern bank of the Taieri River, 25 kilometres south of Dunedin, in Otago. It was at Moturata Island, located at the mouth of the Taieri River, that a whaling station was established in 1839. The establishment of this station initiated changes to the economy and settlement patterns, and saw the beginning of intermarriage between 'full-blood' women and Pākehā men. From 1848, Otago was colonized by British settlers and in the process ushered in a new phase of intermarriage where single white men married the 'half-caste' and 'quarter-caste' daughters of whalers. In short, in the early years of settlement intermarriage was a gendered 'contact zone' from which a mixed descent population developed at Taieri. The thesis traces the history of the mixed descent families and the Maitpapapa community throughout the nineteenth century until the kāika physically disintegrated in the 1920s. It argues that the creation of a largely 'quarter-caste' population at Maitapapa by 1891 illustrates the high rate of intermarriage at this settlement in contrast to other Kāi Tahu kāika in the South Island. While the population was 'quarter-caste' in 'blood', the families articulated an identity that was both Kāi Tahu and mixed descent. From 1916, the community underwent both physical and cultural disintegration. This disintegration was rapid and complete by 1926. The thesis demonstrates that while land alienation, poverty, poor health and a subsistence economy characterized the lives of the mixed descent families at Maitapapa in the nineteenth century, it was a long history of intermarriage begun in the 1830s and continued throughout the nineteenth century which was the decisive factor in wholesale migrations post World War One. Education, dress and physical appearance alongside social achievements assisted in the integration of persons of mixed descent into mainstream society. While Kāi Tahu initially welcomed intermarriage as a way of integrating newcomers of a different culture such as whalers into a community, the sustained pattern of intermarriage at Maitapapa brought with it social and cultural change in the form of outward migration and eventual cultural loss by 1940.