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Come along to our Public History talk on Wed 07 June

Please join us on Wednesday 7 June to hear Dr Monty Soutar speak on The Māori War Effort at Home and Abroad 1917

(please rsvp to with  Māori War Effort in the subject line)

Māori Contingent soldiers at No 1 Outpost, Gallipoli, Turkey, 1915. Photograph taken by James Read. Image courtesy of National Library.

One hundred years ago in June 1917, the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion was toiling in the war torn environment around Messines in Belgium. The Pioneers had over a year’s experience as a mixed-race battalion (i.e. Māori, Pakeha and Pacific Islanders) and before that as the Māori Contingent and Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment at Gallipoli.

This talk is based on a paper recently delivered at the Myriad Faces of War Conference at Te Papa. It invites the audience to contemplate the development of three processes and their results during 1917, so that they may understand the Māori situation after the First World War. The first is the reaction of Māori leaders to the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion’s casualties, which led them to focus more sharply on financial support for returning soldiers. Fundraising towards a Māori soldiers’ war fund took on new meaning. The amount raised in 1917, £20,000 (around $2 million in 2016 terms) and a total of more than £50,000 by War’s end, was impressive. Moreover, the development of the modern action-song was accelerated as a consequence of their fund-raising activities. 

In parallel, after valuable work at Messines, the Pioneers had a name change and became known as the Māori Battalion. By the end of the year the unit had morphed into an almost wholly Māori organisation. What were the implications of becoming the Māori Battalion and how did this impact on the perception of those involved, on recruitment, and on Māori representation in the Second World War?

A third process, perhaps the most important in 1917, the Military Service Act was extended to include the conscription of Māori, “especially the Waikato tribe,” who the Minister of Defence claimed, “had not answered the call to enlist voluntarily.” This move had long-lasting consequences that dominated political activities after the war and led to the investigation of Māori grievances that, as one politician put it, “had arisen from unfulfilled promises, arbitrary acts of Government land-purchase officers or, most serious of all, from the punitively excessive confiscation of Māori land.”

About the speaker: Dr Monty Soutar, ONZM (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Awa, Ngai Tai)

Monty Soutar is an Historian with the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and World War One Historian-in-Residence at the Auckland War Memorial Museum he specialises in Māori history.  He has worked widely with iwi and Māori communities as demonstrated by his book Nga Tama Toa (Bateman, 2008), which told the story of the 28th Maori Battalion in the Second World War through letters, diaries and oral testimonies from over a hundred veterans and their wives. Next year (April) he publishes Whitiki, another major work about Māori in the Great War. Currently he is leading a digital project on Treaty of Waitangi Settlements in New Zealand. He has been a teacher, soldier and lecturer and has held a number of appointments on national advisory boards, including the First World War Centenary Panel and the Waitangi Tribunal.

When and where?       

-          Wednesday 7 June 2017 at lunchtime 12.15pm to 1.15pm

-          Please come to Te Ahumairangi (ground floor), National Library Building, corner of Molesworth and Aitken Streets, Thorndon, Wellington. 

These free public history talks are a collaboration between the National Library of New Zealand and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. We look forward to seeing you at the Library on Wednesday 7 June at 12.15pm.  

Remember to RSVP with Māori War Effort in the subject line.

Note: these talks are recorded and will be available online at:


Updated on 7th June 2017