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Upoko Tapu, Upoko Whakakapowai, Upoko Hokona

Ngāpuhi, a confederation of Māori iwi (tribes) from Te Tai Tokerau, the northern region of Aotearoa, is the largest iwi of New Zealand. They were one of the first iwi to come into contact with Europeans in the early 19th century. During this period of contact, particularly between the years 1820 – 1831, Ngāpuhi had a devastating impact on the history of Māori, as they amassed a fighting force of some two thousand warriors and acquired the use of European firearms. Ngāpuhi then circumnavigated the North Island, waging war on coastal and inland tribes with the purpose of avenging past defeats and losses suffered at the hands of their traditional enemies. This objective was ultimately achieved, but this period of war also saw the emergence of another key event in Māori history, the beginning of the trade in what we now call toi moko, which were used to trade with Europeans for muskets. Given that Māori have always regarded the head as the most tapu part of the human anatomy, this thesis investigates and explores what effect or influence tikanga and tapu had on this trade. It further studies some of the rationales which allowed Ngāpuhi to override that sacred tradition and move into the trade of toi moko. This thesis argues that Ngāpuhi did not desecrate tapu in the selling and trading of toi moko but took advantage of another long-standing tradition that the tapu of the vanquished ceased to exist upon his death. Lastly, it argues that the trade in toi moko was necessary to ensure the safety and continuity of the Ngāpuhi iwi.
Type of thesis
Gabel, R. R. W. (2012). Upoko Tapu, Upoko Whakakapowai, Upoko Hokona (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/6677
University of Waikato
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