For much of women’s history, memory is the only way of discovering the past. Other sources simply do not exist. This is true for any history of Māori women in this century. All the women in this book have lived through times of acute social disturbance. Their voices must be heard.
Judith Binney, 1992
In eight remarkable oral histories, Ngā Mōrehu brings alive the experience of Māori women from the mid-twentieth century. Heni Brown, Reremoana Koopu, Maaka Jones, Hei Ariki Algie, Heni Sunderland, Miria Rua, Putiputi Onekawa and Te Akakura Rua talked with Judith Binney and Gillian Chaplin, sharing stories and memories. These are the women whose ‘voices must be heard’.
The title, ‘the survivors’, reflects the women’s connection with the visionary leader Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki and his followers, who adopted the name ‘Ngā Mōrehu’ during the wars of the 1860s. But these women are not only survivors: they are also the chosen ones, the leaders of their society. They speak here of richly diverse lives – of arranged marriages and whāngai adoption traditions, of working in both Māori and Pākehā communities. They pay testimony to their strong sense of a shared identity created by religious and community teachings.