It is common knowledge that historically Maori did not have a written language. What is a fact is that their written language was developed in or around 1815. Thomas Kendall, an early missionary, travelled from New Zealand with Ngapuhi chief Hongi Hika to England where they met linguist Samuel Lee. The purpose of the visit was to develop a written Maori language.
Following this, in 1820, Kendall published a grammar and vocabulary of the language of New Zealand, which contained the orthographic foundations of written Maori. This book was titled A Korao no New Zealand. This was New Zealand’s first book, though it was printed in Sydney. So it was at this point that Maori could document Maori
It is not certain when Maori first stepped ashore here in New Zealand but general consensus suggests it was between 1330 and 1350. As a recognised rule of thumb we accept that an average generation is twenty-five years. Accepting that, Maori went through twenty generations without a written language.
Now we are all aware of “Chinese Whispers” in which a piece of information is passed from one person to the next and
This poses the question that when preparing the syllabus of “The History of New Zealand”, will this idiosyncrasy be considered when determining the authenticity of pre-European Maori history? There is every likelihood it won’t. So what could be announced as an accurate account of pre-European history could be a load of