‘Our ultimate duty’
In 1991, Tipene O’Regan stood before New Zealand’s leading historians and delivered the J. C. Beaglehole Lecture. It was a pivotal time. The dust had barely settled on the sesquicentenary of signing Te Tiriti and the government had granted the Waitangi Tribunal retrospective powers of enquiry a mere six years earlier.
Difficult questions were being asked of those who researched, wrote and taught New Zealand history; members of Tipene’s audience chief amongst them. Then, as now, these people were overwhelmingly Pākehā. And they were being variously called out for “white-washing” New Zealand history – which is to say continuing to exclude the Māori past – and cultural appropriation – which is to say “doing” Māori history.