The development of a digital atlas of Ngāi Tahu history – Takerei Norton #open17

Hope to launch Kā Huru Manu | Ngāi Tahu Atlas this November. Opportunity to tell their own stories instead of having their stories told by others. When gathering evidence for the Waitangi tribunal hearing, a principle was that if it fell through (as claims had so often before), they’d at least have their chance to tell their story to New Zealand.

Gathering evidence, was important to show how tupuna viewed the land early on before any written evidence. The names of places carry heritage and history – mnemonics for knowledge about the places and stories.

Started the mapping project in one area, then extended to whole Ngāi Tahu takiwā. Started with sticking dots on large topographical maps; later digitised. Probably 100,000 pages worth. Technology, Google Earth, streamlined it heaps and made it much easier. Get a name, locate it on the map, add the data/story behind the name.


1/10 of South Island are Crown-owned low-rent leases in the high country to Ngāi Tahu – and government wanted to freehold it. Tenure Review involved visiting farms, interviewing people, identifying sites of cultural significance. Manuhaea needed to be protected – famous mahinga kai site for gathering tuna and birds; later flooded as Lake Hāwea was raised. But when told this to the Crown, the Crown kept saying they needed more information. Went to Trevor Howse, developed relationship, and he provided a pile of papers full of evidence. Wrote a 30-page report and the Crown agreed to protect the site.

Get to the point where they want to identify what sites are key to be protected. Started mapping hui where people would bring info and map on topographic maps with colour-coded dots. Decided to visit each site – mapping hikoi for 2-3 years with guest speakers, archaeologists, parents and kids. Nearly finished mapping the high country and then decided to do one more small job: map the whole of the South Island. Because had always wanted to do it, just hadn’t had the resources; Tenure Review was a way in.


5000 placenames: mahinga kai, ponds, lagoons, streams, mountains, pā, travel routes, native reserves. Names that are pre-Ngāi Tahu, Ngāi Tahu, incorrect names put in by Pākehā, everything – and every name must be referenced. Mostly from 19th century manuscripts, maps, books, newspapers.

“The east coast was state highway one, and the rivers were highways into the interior”

Used old maps but some mistakes eg Beattie misread/parsed sources, so working to find other sources and correct them.

Nervous about putting out the full 5000 placenames in case used by council against them, so starting by putting out 1500.


Informant gets credit as well as collector. Another problem with Beattie: “an old Māori man told me this” but who? In one case Teki Pukurakau = ‘Jack Pukuraki’.

“This has been done by the ordinary Ngāi Tahu person.” – Trevor Howse  Done by Ngāi Tahu for Ngāi Tahu. If any institutions have information related, this project wants it!

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