Author(s): John White
First published between 1887 and 1890, this six-volume work, containing Maori texts with English translations and commentary, and engraved illustrations, was one of the first printed records of the oral traditions of the Maori. The project was commissioned by the New Zealand government in 1879 when it was observed that, due to the introduction of European culture and education, indigenous traditions were dying out. The material was collected by John White (1826-91), an ethnographer, public servant and writer who had arrived in New Zealand as a boy and first began documenting Maori poetry in the 1840s. The first three volumes focus on myths relating to deities, creation, and the Horouta canoe. The second three include narratives about the Tainui migration, intertribal warfare, and the first European settlers. Volume 6 also records genealogies of gods, ancestors and humans that were recited in ritual contexts such as births and burials.