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Heather’s Homestead/Marotahei: The Invasion of the Waikato and Ways of Knowing Our Past in Aotearoa New Zealand

Hugh Campbell
1,* and
William Kainana Cuthers
School of Social Sciences, University of Otago, Dunedin 9010, New Zealand
Independent Researcher, Hamilton 3206, New Zealand
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Genealogy 2021, 5(4), 101;
Submission received: 9 July 2021 / Revised: 15 November 2021 / Accepted: 23 November 2021 / Published: 28 November 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Settler Family History)


The British invasion of the Māori region of the Waikato in 1863 was one of the most pivotal moments in the colonisation of Aotearoa New Zealand. It has been the subject of multiple authoritative histories and sits at the centre of historical discussions of sovereignty, colonial politics and the dire consequences of colonisation. This article approaches this complex historical moment through the personal histories of a Māori/Pākehā homestead located at the political and geographic epicentre of the invasion. This mixed whanau/family provides the opportunity to explore a more kinship-based ontology of the invisible lines of influence that influenced particular actions before and during the invasion. It does so by mobilising two genealogical approaches, one by author Hugh Campbell which explores the British/Pākehā individuals involved in this family and uses formal documentation and wider historical writing to explain key dynamics—but also to expose a particular limitation of reliance on Western ontologies and formal documentation alone to explain histories of colonisation. In parallel to this approach, the other author—William Kainana Cuthers—uses both formal/Western and a Māori/Pasifika relational ontology of enquiry, and in doing so, allows both authors to open up a set of key insights into this pivotal moment in the history of Aotearoa New Zealand and into the micro-dynamics of colonisation.

1. Introduction: Critical Family Histories and the Scholarship of De-Colonisation

Christine Sleeter’s call for us to write critical family histories (CFH) is both challenging and liberating for scholars and researchers working and living in colonised worlds (Sleeter 2011, 2015). It is challenging, because the deep history of colonisation had often been airbrushed out of older orthodox historical accounts prompting what is now an increasingly powerful movement for de-colonisation of scholarship and official orthodoxies about the past. In the same way, as Sleeter argues, personal family histories also become highly selective, focusing on heroic individuals, while rendering invisible the unpalatable actions and consequences of individual actions during colonisation, as well as pleasantly individualising history and avoiding bigger structural questions about colonisation and race. For colonised countries such as Aotearoa New Zealand1, a scholarly approach informed by critical family history becomes a powerful tool for re-visibilising the traumas and inequities of the colonisation of Māori by Britain.2
However, critical family history (CFH) is also potentially liberating because it suggests one pathway towards opening up those invisible colonial histories. CFH points back to our own families, our own whakapapa/lineage. It gives us the chance to re-think and re-build identities and relationships that were fractured and separated by the colonising work of previous generations, including previous generations of formal scholars and family genealogists. It gives us the chance to explore stories that can then be placed inside wider narratives being generated by the recent work of historians interested in colonisation and de-colonisation. Additionally, by situating our families in the colonising world, we also create the opportunity to situate ourselves as participants in de-colonising worlds. It provides an opportunity to re-engage, re-examine and consider how, as Sleeter puts it, we find ‘a place to go to do things differently’ (Sleeter 2011, p. 430).
This article attempts to follow this kind of trajectory and it does so by making the authorship and ancestor research that informed it as explicit as possible. As two authors, we have the same story to tell, but we journeyed towards our collaboration in revealingly different ways. In terms of contextualising family history within critical accounts of settler history, we want to recount the story of a small whanau/family3 in colonial Aotearoa New Zealand in the 1850s and 1860s who were situated at one of the great fracture points of Aotearoa New Zealand history: the rise of a Māori sovereignty movement—the Kīngitanga—followed by the British invasion of the Waikato region in 1863 to annihilate any possibility of shared sovereignty. This story in itself is interesting and describes how this particular space and this particular whanau/family—Unaiki te Watarauhi (Ngāti Tamainupo/Ngāti Hine) and Dennett Hersee Heather (a British colonial subject—or Pākehā) and their children—ended up establishing a farm right at what would become the key geographical fracture point of the invasion. At the height of this drama, the Heathers and their farm briefly became a subject of wider negotiations and discussion between the Kīngitanga and colonial authorities before being destroyed in the fighting that followed. That is a story worth telling, and one that speaks to the complex kinship politics, emerging political alliances and fractures in the Māori sovereignty movement, and relations to land that shaped that moment in colonial Aotearoa New Zealand history.
However, this particular excursion into CFH was only possible because a second journey had also taken place. As the two authors of this article, we found each other due to a search for the missing ‘other’ in this sundered family of the 1850s. Hugh Campbell is a descendant of Dennett Hersee Heather (through Arthur Heather—his Pākehā child from his first marriage to Mary Ann White), and William Kainana Cuthers is the direct descendant of Dennett and Unaiki te Watarauhi through their son, Stanley Heather. Both of us began our search for one half of this colonial family, and in doing so found the other.
For Hugh, Unaiki was a mysterious figure who appeared in Dennett’s will, but had been largely ignored in his family history, a potentially unfortunate alliance between the founder of a prosperous Auckland business family and the colonised other. For William, Unaiki was initially a mystery, who became the nexus point of an emerging new sense of identity.4 After first exploring and learning about his identity as a Cook Island Māori, a challenge from an elder in the Cook Islands about Unaiki drew him back to even more deeply buried connections to New Zealand Māori, linking him to her Tainui whakapapa (lineage) through her Ngāti Tamainupo hapū (subtribe). In that search, he looked beyond orthodox evidence of formal documentation in family history, and centred relations of kinship as a better ontological frame for understanding indigenous worlds. His search for Unaiki and for her true kinship place in Ngāti Tamainupo, opened up a lost set of kinship links between the individuals, hapū (sub-tribe) and political factions that shaped that complex moment in colonial history. It allowed both a better understanding of this colonial family, and also provided insight into the wider conflict they became embroiled in. Even more, it has been an integral part of enlarging William’s own sense of Pasifika/Māori identity.
As authors Hugh and William initially met in 2019 during the writing of Hugh’s book Farming Inside Invisible Worlds which includes a brief account of the story of Unaiki and Dennett’s farm in the 1850s (Campbell 2020, pp. 52–56). By following both Western and Māori/Pasifika traditions of exploration of whanau/family knowledge, our collaboration has been generative for us both. For most of this article, we will write in a ‘shared’ voice reflecting the discussions and shared writing we have carried out to elaborate this account. However, for two important sections, we revert to each of our individual voices to help demonstrate the kinds of different pathways taken by us as, respectively, a Pākehā scholar and as a New Zealand Māori/Cook Island Māori scholar.
Our narrative is not just a dialogue between two researchers. It is also shaped by other voices in the study of colonial history, the place of families in histories, and a call for recognising indigenous approaches to understanding colonial history. There has been a recent burst of interest by Pākehā historians and other researchers in locating family history within wider dynamics of colonisation and de-colonisation. Historians such as Anna Green (2019) have begun exploring the transmission of historical memories through multiple generations of Pākehā families, a project with interesting and productive challenges.5 A similar task is taken on by Miranda Johnson in her reflection on the role of prosecuting and then memorialising the New Zealand Wars by multiple generations of her own family (Johnson 2019). Pākehā voices are also emerging directly in relation to the challenge of creating accounts framed by CFH. Recent issues of Genealogy have approached such challenges in a range of ways in the context of the colonisation of Aotearoa New Zealand: with Avril Bell, Richard Shaw and Carolyn Morris all engaging and prodding the silences and gaps left by orthodox Pākehā family histories of colonisation (Bell 2020; Shaw 2021; Morris 2021).6
All this new work by Pākehā scholars has emerged, in part, as a consequence of a much deeper turn in the scholarly consideration of colonisation and de-colonisation in Aotearoa New Zealand prompted by the work of indigenous scholars and others. The publication of Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s Decolonising Methodologies in 1999 opened up space for a new wave of indigenous scholarship to challenge both the dominant Western epistemologies of understanding our past and present life, but also the deeper ontologies—the shape and relationality—of that which we seek to understand in colonised worlds (Smith 1999). Smith’s book stands alongside a growing body of post-colonial history that recognises the different agencies and connectivity of colonised indigenous worlds. A similarly large influence is exerted by the major corpus of work produced by Dame Anne Salmond who has undertaken a monumental accounting of the nature of Māori/Pākehā encounters throughout early colonial history (Salmond 1992, 1997) and provided the baseline for any anthropological engagement with the history of cultural difference and the slow negotiation of cultural understandings between Pākehā and Māori in Aotearoa New Zealand. She takes up the notion of ontology in her most recent book Tears of Rangi (2017) to explain the way in which Māori and Pākehā, in effect, inhabited different realities and colonisation involved the near-total erasure of Māori forms of relational, kinship-based, ontology to be replaced by European modernist, unitary ontology.7
Furthermore, in the context of the specific subject of this article—a Māori/Pākehā household in colonial New Zealand—important new histories have been produced by indigenous scholars which provide influential insights for this article. Damon Salesa’s book Racial Crossings (Salesa 2011) provides a nuanced history of inter-racial dynamics—including marriages and partnerships—in colonial Aotearoa New Zealand. He directly considers the colonial invasion of the Waikato and the key strategic importance of the mixed race households living there as well as the obvious trauma they experienced. Angela Wanhalla in her book Matters of the Heart (Wanhalla 2014) dives even more deeply into marriages and relationships between Māori and Pākehā in colonial Aotearoa New Zealand and explores the ways that formal methodologies have often resulted in Māori women in these relationships being either invisibilised or robbed of individual agency.8
Finally, for scholars engaging in CFH, or directly with the concerns of journals such as Genealogy, a recent Special Issue brings these matters of indigenous scholarship, epistemology and ontology directly to bear on how we understand our own whanau/family pasts (see Mahuika 2019; Mahuika and Kukutai 2021). The editors of that Special Issue—Nepia Mahuika and Tahu Kukutai—elaborate a key set of insights that William also used in his search for understandings about his forebear Unaiki Te Watarauhi: how does a more relational and connected view of the world and its human relations shape the way in which we can better understand colonised indigenous worlds? The approach pursued by William in this article strongly reinforces the insights of Mahuika and Kukutai (2021): that our own whanau/family histories during colonisation make more sense if they are understood relationally, both in terms of how we find the key connections in colonised worlds but also in terms of how we understand the harms and traumas of colonisation.
The following narrative follows the path set out by all this new body of scholarly voices: starting with formal modes of documenting history, and then examining how ontologies of connected kinship provide a way to recognise and understand the invisible threads and obligations linking key players. These relational threads help us better understand both key moments in our colonial histories as well as the ways that our own families participated in them. They also enable us to start to grasp the nature of what was lost: the connectivity and shared kinship obligations that bound people and place that were separated and destroyed by the motions of colonisation. That separation was both a real material effect of the invasion of the Waikato in the 1860s, but also rolled forward into the present in multiple ways, including in the separated and formalised ontological framing of much family history in colonised worlds.

2. The Kīngitanga and the Invasion of the Waikato—1858–1864

The formal written history of the colonisation of Aotearoa New Zealand points towards the British invasion of the Waikato in 1863/64 as a pivotal moment in shaping the eventual trajectory of British colonisation. A brief review of that historical moment can provide some important wider context to the narrative that follows.
Historian James Belich—in his influential accounts of the initial colonisation of Aotearoa New Zealand (Belich 1986, 1996)—describes three phases of negotiation and contestation of sovereignty in the new colony. The first phase was exploratory. European contact with Māori Aotearoa had commenced in 1642, and escalated after the ‘discovery’ of Aotearoa New Zealand by James Cook for Britain. A number of decades of increasing levels of commerce, war and imperial rivalry followed, culminating in a formal agreement of British colonisation—the Treaty of Waitangi signed in 1840—between colonial authorities and Māori chiefs (see also Salmond 1992, 1997). From the signing of the Treaty, a second phase of colonisation began to unfold—from 1840 to the early 1860s—with many potential outcomes at play. Māori still controlled the vast majority of Aotearoa New Zealand with British colonists (Pākehā) inhabiting the margins of a great Māori world. Many futures were possible during this phase. Belich (among the vast majority of New Zealand historians) argues that the key crisis that eventually solidified one pathway forward was a confluence of two great pressures: first, the rise of a new style of Māori political mobilisation around the idea of a single, pan-tribal Māori King (the Kīngitanga), and second, conflict over unrequited desire for farmland by the arriving horde of British settlers. The collision of these two forces culminated in the colonial invasion of the great Māori economic and political world known as the Waikato.9 It was here that Belich’s ‘second phase’ of what could have been a potentially more collaborative sovereignty ended. From this point forward, total Pākehā hegemony took shape. The invasion made possible the third phase of colonisation: a process of erasing all potential alternative arrangements, futures and also memories of the past, which began to occur from the immediate moment that the Waikato fell to colonial forces.
The key years in this crisis in the Waikato ran from 1858 to 1864 and directly concern the Māori sovereignty movement called the Kīngitanga (King Movement). In 1858, a great hui (gathering) took place in Ngāruawāhia—just a short canoe ride from the family and farm who are the central interest of this article—which declared the existence of a Māori King to act as sovereign partner to Queen Victoria in the co-governance of the new country of New Zealand. This initiative—called the Kīngitanga—triggered significant alignments of iwi (tribes) and hapū (subtribes) in various positions for and against the movement and became central to British justifications for invading the Waikato and illegally stealing Māori land. It was, at heart, a large and complex mobilisation of the politics of kinship. The history of the emergence and politics of the Kīngitanga and the complex politics and dynamics that flowed towards an eventual British invasion of the Waikato in 1863 has been the subject of multiple historical accounts and is pivotal to any understanding of the eventual war over sovereignty in the colony. We will not traverse that whole complex history, leaving it to key authoritative accounts such as those by Belich, Walker and O’Malley (Belich 1986, 1996; Walker 1995; O’Malley 2016) to survey the complex motivations and outcomes of the invasion. They speak to a series of important phases and moments leading up to the invasion and then a set of battles and negotiations that achieved the British formation of ‘real sovereignty’ through defeat of the Kīngitanga. These include the formation of the Kīngitanga in 1858 and the hugely complex kinship alliances of iwi (tribes) and hapū (subtribes) that began to take shape around different strategic options for Māori sovereignty, the justifications and deceits that led to Britain’s breach of the Treaty of Waitangi through the invasion in 1863, the complex motivations and scheming of colonial Governor George Grey and the complex sets of negotiations and deceptions that characterised the conduct of key British figures and the key members of the royal family in the Kīngitanga, the hysteria whipped up by the colonial press in Auckland and elsewhere, and then the hugely unjust outcomes of land confiscation and alienation—known as the raupatu—experienced by Waikato Māori after the invasion.
In the midst of this political and military storm, a small number of British settlers—some of them mixed Māori/Pākehā households—had established farms deep inside the Māori world of the Waikato. They play a small, but important, part in this great crisis that shaped the future of Aotearoa New Zealand. The story being narrated (twice) in this article explains the background to the Heather whanau/family prior to this critical historical moment. It also explains the way in which Hugh and William constructed and evaluated knowledge about the Heathers, their farm and the invasion they became caught up in. Understanding these dynamics required us to move beyond both the broad sweep of family oral histories, and the formalism of most Pākehā genealogy and family history. To do this we initially pursued two investigative ontologies: Hugh’s history of his ancestors informed by more formal (and contextual historical) explanations, and William’s history informed by both formal sources and kinship relationalities.

3. Hugh’s History: Dennett Hersee Heather and Mary Ann White and Their Formal Historical Narratives

Whether understood through formal documents or through family oral history, I (Hugh) always understood that Dennett Hersee Heather had experienced a compellingly interesting life.10 For members of both my (fifth generation descendants) and William’s (sixth generation descendants) families, the story of Dennett Hersee Heather has been known and repeated in oral history. For my family, this narrative was usually framed by a particular emotional tonality: of ‘bad luck and adversity’ versus ‘character and persistence’. In the Pākehā telling that I grew up with, Dennett is a very early arrival into the colony of New Zealand. He becomes a character surrounded by ghosts—the survivor of a dramatic shipwreck and the drowning of most of his family—who endures to go on to found a prosperous business family in Auckland through the success of his son Arthur Heather. It clearly falls into a reasonably familiar narrative pattern of epic challenges and tragedy overcome at the frontier, followed by settled business and social success and, by implication, deserved prosperity.
For many of us who were interested in Dennett Hersee Heather, the recent proliferation of digitised online sources and easier access to historical records has kept his story, more or less, intact, as long as certain gaps and omissions were overlooked. As Pākehā settlers arriving into the colony, and coming from reasonably affluent backgrounds, Dennett Heather and his English wife Mary Ann White left a significant trail of documentation to follow and that search for documentary evidence of their lives became easier as online sources became more readily available. However, even as their history became more easily researched and relatable in orthodox terms, there were, in hindsight, some important gaps and omissions. If you look carefully enough, there are hints towards another story: one of a movement from white England to Pākehā New Zealand and then into an increasingly complex set of entanglements and collaborations with the Māori world. These are harder to find in formal records, particularly when the story moves ‘off the map’ and into those parts of Māori New Zealand in the 1850s and 1860s where the kinds of colonial newspapers that are now easily accessible in the National Library’s Papers Past database had less reach. Therefore, for many of my family’s genealogists, sticking strictly to ‘formal’ documents and records allowed for a particular kind of story to be told, but it was a dramatically incomplete story.
The formal version of the story supports the following: Dennett Hersee Heather was born in the village of Broadwater, Sussex, England to James and Hester Heather (nee Hersee) in 1817 and was the 12th of 13 children. The family were recorded in the census and in marriage certificates as farmers. Dennett potentially was not born far enough up the birth order to be close to taking on any of the family’s privately owned or leased land in Sussex. This formal record of his personal history implies knowable claims: farmer; Sussex; unlikely to obtain land; decides to emigrate to the colonies.
Mary Ann White comes from a more upwardly mobile class background, with her parents moving from successful ‘trade’ in London to becoming farming land-owners—squires of the land—connected to a notable estate in Buckinghamshire. The White family rapidly accumulate businesses and capital—including a Covent Garden coffee house—during the boom decades of the early Industrial Revolution in London. Mary Ann White is one of five children from William White’s marriage to Elizabeth Weeks. She was born in 1816 and early in her childhood, after her mother dies, her father moved from their London businesses to take possession of Ditton Farm, the home farm of Ditton Park Estate in nearby Buckinghamshire only a short ride from Windsor Castle. Her background is interesting: the coffee house, upward mobility into ownership of land, even an unexpected visit by Queen Victoria.11 However, formal records also show that her mother died young, her father re-married, and the children of the first marriage are eventually cut out of his will—implying antipathy between the new wife and Mary Anne and her siblings. Reflecting this, she marries Dennett soon after and they emigrate to the British colony of New Zealand. She sets out for an entirely different, and tragic, future on the other side of the world.
Because they arrive into the new colonial settlement of Auckland (in 1841) with plenty of financial resources, they undertake the kinds of activities that leave a strong footprint in formal documents. The arrival of their three children—including my forebear Arthur Heather—‘one of the first white children born in Auckland’—are recorded, they obtain land12, build a house, Dennett pursues multiple, slightly elevated, occupations in places such as the Post Office or as Inspector of Cattle, and their farm in Epsom becomes productive. Dennett becomes a regular correspondent and mixes with the rising Pākehā political class in Auckland. Mary Ann may have too, but the formal documents do not report it.
This is a very orthodox Pākehā story that speaks to the arrival and establishment of white settlers in a new land. However, Auckland is also closely engaged with the Māori world. Two large centres of Māori power and prosperity were situated in Northland and Waikato, encircling Auckland. The British settlement is surviving almost entirely because of the tolerance and support of the surrounding Māori iwi (tribes) who were, as James Belich and Vincent O’Malley describe it, establishing and negotiating a new set of major tribal alignments due to the huge disruptions and chaos of the Musket Wars a few decades earlier (Belich 1986, 1996; O’Malley 2016). One of the most successful confederations of hapū (subtribes) that emerged from those wars lived in a sequence of villages up the Waikato and Waipa rivers to the south of Auckland. This vast region immediately beside the Auckland settlement was unquestionably Māori land and, in the 1840s and 1850s, all British settlers understood it as such. This tension/collaboration between Māori and Pākehā worlds becomes a central dynamic in a fuller story of the Heather family.
A sense of British/Pākehā reliance on and thus vulnerability to Māori massively escalated when iwi (tribes) in the far north began to contest British sovereignty and war broke out in 1845. The rising in the north caused panic and pandemonium in Auckland. As my family history recounts, the Heathers decided to hastily leave and spend some time in England, although some of their properties are retained in Auckland suggesting to me that they probably planned to return. The trip back to England became the pivotal point in the Pākehā family history—a voyage out of danger but then overtaken by disaster. In a much recounted family narrative, they first go to Sydney and then, in May 1845, embark on the ill-fated Mary to sail to England. The vessel is later found in an official enquiry as having been unseaworthy. The Naval Chronicle account describes the event in detail, Captain Newby reporting: ‘I have suffered one of the most distressing shipwrecks which has happened in this quarter of the globe for some time.’13 The official report tells of how the ship strikes a reef off the coast of Tasmania foundering in the middle of a dark, calm night. The ship breaks in half, with a desperate scramble into the two small boats—a ‘quarter boat’ and a longboat. Women and children are placed on the quarter boat which then capsizes due to a jammed tackle as it was being lowered. All fall into the water and only two are subsequently pulled back on board—including second son Arthur Heather. The well-educated, affluent, but ill-treated Mary Ann drowns with two of her small boys beside her.
The wreck of the Mary is narrated in several detailed accounts by survivors, and then revisited on later anniversaries in newspaper stories elaborating ‘the perils of life at the frontier’. It is also the centrepiece of Pākehā family oral history of the life of Dennett Hersee Heather, his doomed first family with Mary Ann and the lucky survival of Arthur (and by implication, all his descendants such as me).
The formal story continues: Dennett leaves Arthur with his grandmother in England, and returns to his properties in Auckland. By the time Arthur returns to the colony as a 17 year old in 1858, the Heather relationship with the colonial world has dramatically altered. Dennett’s life begins to shift in orientation only a short time after returning to Auckland in 1847. Documents show him selling his Auckland properties and heading south into the Waikato region and Māori territory. In doing so, he joins a very small group of British settlers trading and farming deep inside the Māori world. His journey away from being an orthodox British settler and into something new has begun. However, this journey also takes him away from the easy reach of the formal documentation of his settler history. Here, for me as a researcher with an interest in the dynamics of colonisation and farming, Dennett’s story starts to become interesting just as the formal documents start to become more scarce and mentions of Dennett more cryptic.
There are important clues. Documents show that Dennett’s familiarity with Māori stretches back to their first arrival in Auckland. At some stage in these years, he starts to become competent at speaking te reo (Māori language). By 1851, (at the latest), his name is listed as having ‘unclaimed letters’ in Auckland suggesting Dennett is now spending extended periods of time in the Waikato. By 1853, he is naming himself as a resident of Waikato/Waipa, being the first signatory on a petition to the government to improve transport access from Auckland south into the Waikato.14 In 1854, the transitional moment has arrived in terms of Dennett’s official footprint in the Waikato. A surveyor’s map of a block of land on the Mangaotama Stream is witnessed by ‘Mr Heather and his Natives’. Interestingly, the deeds that are registered in 1854 name this property by an existing couplet of names: Heather’s Homestead and a Māori name Marotahei. To me, this signifies that British administration is catching up with something that has already happened: Dennett has a ‘homestead’, not a property, which signifies the presence of both Māori consent to inhabit the land, as well as the presence of a family. Additionally, it has both an English and a Māori name. At some stage after 1847, Dennett has transitioned into a new life deep inside the Māori world. He is clearly not quite the same person who comfortably inhabits most family narratives about his life and colonial adventures. Knowable Dennett—what might be called Auckland Dennett—has become someone less knowable and understandable: he is now, as reported in the surveyor’s notes, ‘Mr Heather and his Natives’.
For some descendants from Dennett and Mary Ann’s only surviving son Arthur, this transition is mysterious and even baffling. The Waikato period in Dennett’s life clearly involved significant other people. His will names a surviving Māori son—Stanley—and Stanley’s mother, Unaiki. However, who exactly this Unaiki is poses problems of evidence and understanding. Among my family, for many years, details have been debated and disputed and motives contemplated as to why Dennett had this interlude in the Māori world, but much of this remains lodged in a great void of unknowing: things that cannot be informed by formal documents and thus are deemed to be ‘speculation’. This builds on one apparently immovable ‘fact’: Unaiki was seemingly non-existent in formal records. She exists in Dennett’s will, and her child Stanley is very much in evidence. However, formal records prove deceptive. Much focus was put by both me in my early research into Unaiki and by all my wider Pākehā family on one of the very few formal documents that existed from this period: the official deeds to Heather’s Homestead/Marotahei, which included the words ‘Under Ngatimahanga Sufferance’. According to much of the popular understanding of such matters, these relationships and marriages were highly transactional: the farm was bought from its tribal owners—Ngāti Māhanga—and thus Unaiki had to be either from that land, from that hapū (subtribe), or directly related to the seller.15 She could only be, by our logic, Ngāti Māhanga. Yet, in the extensive records and whakapapa (lineage) of the Ngāti Māhanga hapū (subtribe), no-one called Unaiki (or any similar name) existed anywhere near that time period.
The trail went dead, speculation could be left to drift onwards without destination (and this lack of any formal documentary trail seemed to imply to some of my family that she was lowly, or unconnected, a waif or stray). In truth, for some of my relatives this was potentially the safest outcome: why trouble an interesting Pākehā history with unknown elements from the indigenous world? If there are no formal records, then nothing reliable can be known or needs to be understood. There are no other relationships between Dennett Hersee Heather and the wider unfolding of colonial New Zealand that need to be known or accounted for in our family story of how we came to be in New Zealand and what legacies we inherit.
The mystery thickens when Dennett bursts back into the view of colonial newspapers in the months leading up the invasion of the Waikato in 1863. He is reported in newspapers as fleeing from the Māori ‘rebels’, bringing his children with him. He then engages in a barrage of letter writing to various colonial authorities, including Governor Grey, making a series of claims and observations about the invasion, and his farm is mentioned in newspaper accounts of important Kīngitanga gatherings which were attempting diplomatic resolution of the crisis. However, none of this made much sense to us as Pākehā descendants. It told us that Dennett was caught up somehow in the drama and had important connections. However, his motives, the connections he was drawing upon, and the outcomes he was seeking are deeply opaque. They remain as much of a mystery as the identity of Unaiki. Mr Heather of the Waikato is something of a closed book that many Pākehā descendants feel no need to open.
The rest of this article contemplates the degree to which that closure prevented a much deeper and even more interesting account of the family’s colonial history from emerging. However, in order to find Unaiki and reveal her story with Dennett, I needed to step back from the formalisms and documentation of Pākehā histories, and look for a more kinship-based and relational set of connections between people, land and identity. To do that, I (Hugh) had to complete my search for the full story of my origins by meeting my fourth cousin, William.

4. William’s History: Unaiki Te Watarauhi and the Connectivity of Kinship

Within the Pākehā/Western search through genealogy, our search is often driven by documents, formal texts, things that add up to what we consider to be reliable evidence. This helps create certainty, but maybe also misses key connections, or in the case of Unaiki Te Watarauhi, it erroneously assumes a connection that is not actually there. In Māori/Pasifika worlds, connections through kinship are the primary connection of the world. Finding kinship connections is the centre of any search in our worlds and is central to our identity and our connection to other peoples, places and times. I (William) will now tell the story of my search for Unaiki te Watarauhi. It is a search that had initially failed using only formal Western methods because both groups searching for a key link were operating with the same mistaken assumption about one piece of formal information. By searching through kinship linkages, a new hapū (subtribe) connection was made, and then many new important relationships opened up which helped us understand the relationships, the dynamics and the outcomes of this key moment in the history of Aotearoa New Zealand.
As a child, I knew of no familial connection to te iwi Māori, the people of Aotearoa New Zealand. I understood my whanau/family as having a relationship to the Cook Islands, and the journey to expand and understand my whakapapa (lineage) and identity in the Cook Islands has been an important part of my personal and academic research (Cuthers 2018a, 2018b, 2019). However, I had a few New Zealand Māori friends growing up and that influenced the scope of my knowledge and connection to Māori. Growing up in South Auckland, my life was centred around Auckland City. As a result, I considered anything beyond Auckland rural.
In 2006, my wife and I moved to the Waikato to begin our married lives in a new place. I knew very little about the Waikato. To me it was a place for farming, and I knew nothing more than that. It was the country, it was rural. It was nothing special. Although I carried out the same job I had in Auckland, the culture of Waikato was very different to that of Auckland.
The demographics were different in Waikato, I saw Māori people everywhere. I heard te reo Māori being spoken or at least bits of the Māori language used every day. At any event or ceremony, Waikato Māori were up the front leading the way. I had no idea what the Kīngitanga was about. However, living here I could see it was a hugely significant part of Waikato, in its history and in the present. At these events and ceremonies, I always heard acknowledgement for the Māori Queen and the Kīngitanga.
As a child, I thought wars only existed offshore but once living in the Waikato I soon learned of wars that were fought right here in Aotearoa New Zealand. More specifically, the Waikato war. This place, this land, the Waikato sparked an interest within me.
My wife and I took a trip to my home village in the Cook Islands for a holiday and while I was there, I had a conversation with one of my elders. At that time, I remember being proud that I had made the move out of Auckland and felt as though I was somewhat of a family pioneer venturing into the Waikato where no one in my family had gone before. I mentioned this and my elder was happy and said that I had returned to the place where our ancestor Stanley Heather was born. It was at that point I realized that I was far from being a family pioneer. I was actually a member of the family that had huge knowledge gaps and that the Cook Island story was only the beginning of the journey.
Stanley Heather is a very important person in our whakapapa. His descendants number in the thousands across the Cook Islands and Samoa. I am descended from his first Cook Island wife—Rangitai—who was the granddaughter of Tinomana, the paramount chief of the Cook Islands. However, my elder now explained that Stanley’s mother was actually Māori of Aotearoa and that she was from the Waikato. I remember saying “so we are Māori as well?”. I also remember saying, “I could have trialled for the Māori All Blacks!” and my elder saying “no you were not good enough”.
My elder further explained that Stanley’s mother was possibly from the tribe Ngāti Māhanga. She was unsure how she had come about that information. She further explained that Stanley’s father Dennett Hersee Heather had met Stanley’s mother at Ngāruawāhia on the river because Dennett was a trader. They lived next to the Waipa River and that was the place of Stanley’s birth and a connection to the land of his mother’s people.
In this one conversation, my elder was able to draw on oral tradition, passed down through families in the Cook Islands, to tell me some very important things. She named the Waikato (Tainui) as the wider iwi (tribe) Stanley’s mother came from. She named a place, Ngāruawāhia, and the Waipa River. We all could name Stanley’s Pākehā father as Dennett Hersee Heather. However, here, the trail went cold. As I will go on to tell, there was a disconnection shared between the formal Pākehā records and the oral tradition in Rarotonga. My elder and many others (such as my cousin Hugh) looking for Stanley’s mother had the wrong hapū (subtribe). Additionally, in those Ngāti Māhanga records she did not exist, so we could not find her.
I returned to the Waikato with new eyes and a deeper interest in the Waikato. The Waipa River was suddenly significant being the place that my ancestor was born. I had driven past this river several times with my work and had never given it a second thought. However, now I stopped in Whatawhata and looked off at the Waipa from a bridge. I remember being somewhat captivated by the river. I wondered if I had the capability to travel up and down that river today.
Ngāruawāhia was significant to me because it was at this place my ancestors met each other. Ngāruawāhia was part of my story. So, when I drove past on the motorway, I would take time to look at the landscape and visualise my ancestors. My interest in Waikato history now was tied up somehow with the Tainui waka (original tribal ancestors) and the great history that descended from it. I thought just maybe I was fortunate enough to be part of that rich history. Waikato had become something special.
I began researching my ancestor Dennett to identify Stanley’s mother. However, looking in Papers Past, I found articles about Dennett living by the Waipa River but no mention of a Māori wife. I established that Dennett lived in the vicinity of Rangiaowhia: a new place and name that added to my ever-growing list of significant places in the Waikato. I learnt that Rangiaowhia was a special place in the past that had a thriving Māori economy. Furthermore, I learnt that Rangiaowhia was a place of an infamous massacre of Māori during the British invasion, a place that still held much mamae (hurt) to this day. The timeline of these significant Waikato events provided a possible explanation as to why Dennett and Stanley left the Waikato.
I established that Rangiaowhia was close to Te Awamutu and that the Te Awamutu Museum may hold documents relating to Dennett and his family. I made the journey to the Te Awamutu Museum to search their archives. I learnt a lot more about Rangiaowhia and I located the block of land that Dennett lived on called Marotahei. I could see where Marotahei was situated in relation to Rangiaowhia and the Waipa River. Marotahei was the place that Stanley was born.
All these documents were old, and I had to wear gloves when handling them. I was able to view Dennett’s will and here written by his hand he named Stanley’s mother:
“My son Stanley a natural child born of the body of Unaiki an aboriginal native woman of New Zealand.”16 
Unaiki was her name and she was real. It was true I had Māori whakapapa, so I was connected to Aotearoa New Zealand more so than ever before. Again, I started to see everything with new eyes. These places and landmarks all had new meaning to me because they were part of my whanau/family story.
Now, I needed to identify where Unaiki was from and who her hapū (subtribes) was—I needed to understand the fundamental relations of kinship that she was involved in. I was sure Māori people remained close to their land and whanau, therefore, Unaiki was very likely to be from the Waikato. I assumed, as did many others before me, that this talk of her being from Ngāti Māhanga was true because the Waipa River is of significance to them. However, as it turned out, they were not the only hapū (subtribe) that had a connection to the Waipa River.
I asked Māori people I worked with for help. I approached Waikato University lecturers for help. I approached Waikato kaumātua (elders) for any knowledge that could help connect me to Unaiki’s whakapapa, my whakapapa. A kaumātua from Ngāti Māhanga confirmed the name Unaiki was not a Ngāti Māhanga name. This made sense, as any other searching on whakapapa databases or records simply could not find anyone from Ngāti Māhanga with the name Unaiki. A suggestion was made to look at Native Land Court minutes, to identify hapū (subtribe) that had a connection to Ngāti Māhanga. I made the journey to the University of Waikato library to research these minutes.
My focus was Ngāti Māhanga land interests because that was a connection that elders seemed to know, but in doing so I discovered another hapū (subtribe) called Ngāti Tamainupo which is sometimes referred to as Ngāti Tamainu. I had never heard of this hapū (subtribe) but they appeared to be geographically located around the same lands as Ngāti Māhanga. I wondered why this was, so I researched these hapū (subtribe) and learned their interconnectedness.
Many years ago, the great Waikato Rangatira (chief) Mahanga who was the progenitor of Ngāti Māhanga had a daughter Tukotuku. Tukotuku married a rangatira called Tamainupo who was the son of Kokako a Mataatua man and Whaeatapoko a woman from Kawhia. Once married, Tamainupo and Tukotuku settled in the Waipa. As a result the hapū (subtribe) of Ngāti Tamainupo sprung from that union. I understood the connections between the hapū (subtribes) were genealogical and that was why they were very close to each other. That is the reason that they share many marae today. I viewed the original tribal boundaries of Ngāti Māhanga and Ngāti Tamainupo and the tribal boundaries would cross over each other. The landmarks such as the Waipa River, Ngāruawāhia and Rangiaowhia connected with Ngāti Tamainupo as well as Ngāti Māhanga.
I began to research the Ngāti Tamainu Land Court minutes and for the first time since Dennett’s will, I saw the name Unaiki.17 Her surname was written as Te Watarauhi which I assumed would be the name of her father.18
I read letters at the National Archive where Dennett Heather mentioned a close connection to Māngere and local Māori living there.19 At that time in Aotearoa New Zealand history Ngāti Mahuta and the Kīngitanga were living at Māngere. I was not sure how Ngāti Tamainupo fitted in here so I began to research Ngāti Mahuta documents to see if I could locate Unaiki there as well. I found a survey document by British colonial bureaucrat F. D Fenton which listed members of Ngāti Mahuta and listed a male by the name of Te Puke Te Watarauhi so I thought possibly her father was also Ngāti Mahuta. This connection could have provided a reason as to why Dennett was communicating with people in Māngere. However, an elder from another Waipa hapū (subtribe) that I then talked to actually had a copy of the death certificate for Unaiki that listed her father as Te Watarauhi ‘a Ngāti Tamainu man’ and her mother as Maikara ‘a Ngāti Hine woman’. The connection to the Kīngitanga and Māngere was actually through her mother: Ngāti Hine refers to the Waikato Ngāti Hine which is a sub-hapū of Ngāti Mahuta. Maikara made Dennett’s connection to Māngere make sense. At that time in history Unaiki’s mother’s people lived at Māngere so Unaiki and Stanley had whanau there.
By this stage I was sure Unaiki Te Watarauhi was Stanley’s mother so through my connections I made contact with a Ngāti Tamainu kaumātua (elder) and whakapapa expert David Huirama. I spoke with David on the phone and explained the history of my ancestor Stanley. I explained that that I had been searching for Unaiki and I was sure that I had found her. To be honest, I believe David was a bit taken back by my story, which does sound far-fetched—a long lost Tamainu son founding a dynasty in the Pacific—and we left our conversation at that. A couple of days later I received a phone call from David. David told me that sometimes the names in whakapapa will speak to you and ‘let you know’ and he had thought over the conversation we had and he went through his extensive whakapapa records and located the name Unaiki daughter of Watarauhi. He concluded that she was indeed the same person I was looking for. He had been deceived because, in his records, her whakapapa stopped there—she had no listed children and no direct descendants in the Waikato. She was an ancestor who lived, but left no future generations in the Waikato who would have enabled Ngāti Tamainupo to remember her.
Pondering this later, it is no surprize that knowledge of her child with Dennett was lost locally. Dennett and Stanley fled the Waikato during the invasion when he was only a child and Stanley himself died relatively young in the Cook Islands (but not before two marriages and four children). In the chaos and destruction of the invasion, Unaiki’s child disappeared from known memory and was never reconnected to his tribal whakapapa until 160 years later.
Ngāti Tamainupo, Ngāti Tamainu is where she came from and that was my connection to the Waipa River, to a piece of land beside the river, to the Waikato, to Aotearoa New Zealand. Everything became different to me.
Unaiki is my connection to Te Ao Māori.
While this journey was initially personal for me, by re-linking the whakapapa (lineage) of Ngāti Tamainupo/Tainui to a lost son and his thousands of descendants in the Cook Islands and Samoa, this is more than personal: peoples are reconnected, and relationships rediscovered and reinforced between Pasifika and Māori descendants. These bonds of kinships are important to how we connect the world. But, there was another relationship left to rebuild: between descendants of Stanley Heather and descendants of his Pākehā half-brother Arthur Heather. In 2019 I received an email from Hugh—claiming to be my distant cousin—asking if I knew anything about Unaiki, the partner of Dennett Hersee Heather and mother of Stanley Heather. The collaboration and friendship we have now formed has allowed for a much wider consideration of the role played by Unaiki, Dennett and the many kin connections that link their farm in the Upper Waipa to wider political forces and factions in the lead-up to the invasion of the Waikato in 1863. For the rest of this article, we will now return to speaking in a ‘shared’ voice.

5. Elaborating Lines of Kinship and Relationality

Both our families’ oral traditions had given us a name, a place, a river, a moment in history and a lot of important gaps. We also had a lot of formal documents about Dennett Heather and their farm. However, now having established a more secure understanding of Unaiki’s whakapapa (lineage), some of the wider drama and significance of the farm and the whanau/family of Dennett and Unaiki could be understood in new and revealing ways. The kinds of absences and silences that had frustrated Hugh’s search through formal documents to learn about his ancestors, now started to become more visible and connections could start to be made. By returning to more formal histories and accounts, but this time with more explicit focus on relationalities and kinship, we could use this more hybrid formal/relational approach to re-write a narrative of Dennett and Unaiki which placed key relationships at the centre of a much more textured and yet also comprehensible understanding of their life and the significance of the wider events which swirled around them and their farm. Where once we’d both found dead-ends through relying solely on formal documents and ‘facts’, a relational view now made a different way to understand our shared history possible.

5.1. Relations to This Piece of Land

The piece of land, and its existence ‘under Ngatimahanga sufferance’ makes more sense in terms of these new understandings. This was not simply a transaction between a Pākehā settler and a tribe wanting to sell land. In terms of the politics of kinship to land, the Heathers were part of a carefully selected group. The significant Ngāti Māhanga chief Te Awaitaia (baptised Wiremu Nera) began a process of allowing a small number of Pākehā settlers access to land in the tribal rohe (territory). His actions are much discussed by some historians and descendants characterising him negatively as a ‘seller of land’ to Pākehā and also as the leading voice speaking against the Kīngitanga and in support of loyalty to Queen Victoria. Others, such as Vincent O’Malley, provide a more nuanced account of the politics of accepting settlers and selling land (O’Malley 2012, 2016). In effect, Te Awaitaia sought to control the arrival and incorporation of Pākehā settlers through accepting only a small number to ‘inoculate’ the landscape against government pressures to purchase larger areas in single blocks. Even though Pākehā mainly recognise the key dynamics of private ownership and commercial value when seeing a farm title from 1854, for a farm in the Upper Waipa in the 1850s, this title came with an added layer of kinship and political obligations between this piece of land and Ngāti Māhanga.

5.2. Relations with Other Settlers

In terms of their social relationships with other settlers in the Upper Waipa, it was clearly entirely possible to be a good settler and also be a Māori/Pākehā household. Damon Salesa argues that colonial intermarriage was not socially shunned in Aotearoa New Zealand but was integral to a wider cultural and political agenda of ‘racial amalgamation’ in which Māori would be beneficially absorbed into the larger Pākehā world (Salesa 2011, p. 26). This seems to be reflected in the case of the Heathers. By the time the title to the farm is issued in 1854, Dennett and Unaiki have been established there for some years. The Rev. John Morgan’s mission station nearby in Otawhao records the birth of a child—Albert Heather—in 1851.20 Annie Shepherd, the wife of the schoolteacher, writes in 1854 that: “Another great friend of ours was Mr. Heather of Heather’s Creek, a gentleman who was much liked and respected.”21 Both these indicate that Dennett and Unaiki have been on their land long enough to have children and for their farm to have given the Mangaotama Stream its (temporary) English name.22 A passing traveller McGauran writes in his journals that Heather’s Homestead is one of the most beautiful and impressive farms he sees in all his journeys.23 In 1858, Arthur Heather returns from his schooling in England and increasingly spends time with Dennett’s new whanau/family in the Waikato. What we can draw from this is that the understanding locally is that the mixed-race Heather household is doing well, is respected and accepted. As a Pākehā household they are prosperous and have a beautiful farm, as a Māori household they are connected in several important directions, and, as a farm in a specific location, they are under the protection of an important Ngāti Māhanga chief.
Both the dynamics of land ownership from Māori, and the mixed Māori/Pākehā household that they established, are expressions of particular kinds of kinship that had important meanings and effects in the Waikato in the 1850s. Then, once the Kīngitanga is formed in 1858, two other lines of kinship become immediately more salient: to the pacifist movement in Ngāti Tamainupo and directly to the Kīngitanga itself.

5.3. Relations to Ngāti Tamainupo (Unaiki’s Father)

Through her father Watarauhi, Unaiki is Ngāti Tamainupo. However, she is also, consequently, connected to the unusual village of Karakariki which was situated on the Waipa River on the opposite side, and only slightly downstream, from the Mangaotama Stream where Heather’s Homestead/Marotahei is sited. Unaiki’s existence and kinship ties, create a very close connection between these two places that is worth exploring more.
Contemporary academic (and Ngāti Tamainupo descendent) Anaru Eketone has made Karakariki his special focus (Eketone 2020). It was a village created by two forces: (1) the pacifist initiatives of Methodist lay preacher Wiremu Patene (William Barton) and his search for an alternative to warfare as a solution to the tensions of many factions in the Waikato, and (2) an initiative by the colonial government to place some kind of outpost for colonial functionaries—especially F D Fenton—inside Māori territory in the Waikato to create an interface between Māori and British administrative and justice systems.
Karakariki was flourishing in the early 1860s because, due to the tensions emerging around the Kīngitanga, British Government authorities saw the opportunity to establish a parallel set of institutions where: ‘law and order can be carried out without interruption from the Kingites’ (F D Fenton, quoted in Eketone 2020). In 1857, F D Fenton was sent as Resident Magistrate for the Waikato to set up legal institutions and frameworks to establish Māori justice systems. Fenton, working with hapū (subtribes) such as Ngāti Tamainupo, looked for a neutral venue that was nevertheless strategically placed on a main transport route. They chose the Karakariki Stream running into the Waipa River.24 He and other chiefs chose the impressive Wi Patene to set up a church, school and flour mill. Patene was a charismatic Methodist convert who also became a leader of Ngāti Tamainupo. He became firmly convinced of the need to eschew armed conflict and to aggressively pursue peace and renounce war (Eketone 2020). Fenton also chose a small group of ‘probationers’—leaders of Patene’s group who were literate and respected in the community—to act as Queen’s Magistrates for local Māori. Records from Karakariki show that one of these probationers was Unaiki’s father Watarauhi. He was an important enough individual to be chosen as one of the representatives of the Waikato tribes at Governor Gore Browne’s great hui in Auckland in 1860, where he is listed alongside a who’s who of important Māori.25
Consequently, through this connection, we see two things. First, that Watarauhi was obviously literate and educated and socially important and likely so was his daughter Unaiki. She was, when she was living with Dennett across the river, the daughter of an important person for both British and Ngāti Tamainupo interests in the British administrative hub of Karakariki. Second, it helps explain why the Heather’s might be characterised as a respectable settler household by other settlers in the Waikato. Dennett is an affluent British settler who has suffered misfortune and started a new life. Unaiki is the daughter of a Māori magistrate who works with F D Fenton—the most important British official in the entire Waikato at that time—just across the river.

5.4. Relations to the Kīngitanga (Unaiki’s Mother)

The great hui of 1858 that launched the Kīngitanga took place very close to Heather’s Homestead/Marotahei. It is quite likely that Dennett and Unaiki were in attendance, although records only describe the presence of ‘many local settlers’. There are three immediate kinship effects arising from the Kīngitanga that have a direct bearing on the Heathers.
First, after complex negotiations, the important hapū (subtribe) Ngāti Mahuta in Māngere were elevated to the position of royal family of the Kīngitanga with Pōtatau Te Wherowhero being made the first king in 1858. He would only live a couple of years before his son Tāwhiao would succeed him in 1860. In one royal coronation, Unaiki’s kinship connections through Ngāti Hine to Ngāti Mahuta transform from a connection with a well-positioned hapū (subtribe) on the outskirts of the new colony of Auckland into being a connection to the royal household itself.
Second, by nominating the strategically placed but not overly significant village of Ngāruawāhia—at the junction of the Waikato and Waipa Rivers—as the site of the new royal residence, the political fulcrum of the next half a decade will now pivot around a locality that is very closely proximal to Heather’s Homestead/Marotahei. Dennett is no longer off the British map, the map is rapidly pivoting towards him and Unaiki.
Third, of the various factions that emerge around different strategic options for the Kīngitanga, Ngāti Mahuta will endeavour to find a peaceful solution to the enacting of Māori sovereignty, but will eventually be forced into war by the fighting chiefs of other powerful tribes—such as Rewi Maniapoto—in the Kīngitanga alliance. Ngāti Mahuta may be the royal household of the Kīngitanga, but they are also very closely connected to British settlers and British government officials in Auckland and will act to use those connections in the upcoming crisis.
As the crisis unfolds, these three important lines of kinship obligation through Unaiki mean that Dennett and Unaiki—and their farm—will become actors in the drama.

6. Re-Examining the Invasion through Kinship Ties and Obligations: Protecting the Heathers

As the Kīngitanga began to debate and position itself in response to British threats of war, the situation of Pākehā settlers in the Waikato became strategically important. From newspaper accounts and Dennett’s letters, it becomes clear in the political negotiations leading up to the moment of invasion in 1863, that key figures in the Kīngitanga are directly concerned with the fate of the Heathers. One of the most significant players was Ngāti Mahuta princess—Te Paea Tīaho (Princess Sophia)—who began to increasingly act in a diplomatic capacity for her father King Pōtatau Te Wherowhero and—after his death in 1860—for her brother King Tāwhiao in the complex negotiations and strategies to both elevate Māori claims for a sovereign power to partner with Queen Victoria as well as avoiding any eventual martial confrontation.
As tensions escalated, Te Paea Tīaho engaged in several diplomatic engagements. She met the Governor to pledge the peaceful intentions of the Kīngitanga, and then with Rewi Maniapoto to ask him to downplay threats of war. However, she also made the settlers in the Waikato her special project, visiting and holding meetings in the Upper Waipa in 1862—which included the Heathers.26 As tensions were escalating, numerous colonial newspapers were agitating for invasion by invoking the possible dire fate of the Pākehā settlers in the Waikato as a spur to action—making particular mention of potential murder of ‘half caste children’ and implied threats to Pākehā women.27 Countering this narrative was an important part of Kīngitanga strategy to avoid war.
At a large tribal meeting in Peria in late 1862, Te Paea’s diplomatic mission to reassure the Waikato settlers of her personal protection is articulated directly in relation to the Heathers.28 As a symbol of good intentions, speakers mention that she has offered a land swap between Heather’s Homestead/Marotahei and Kīngitanga lands in Māngere to demonstrate how the Kīngitanga wants no settlers to suffer any potential losses due to war:
“Mr. Heather is going to leave Waipa, and he is sending away his cattle and sheep; the Honorable Mr. Tomati Napora, ambassador from the Court of Ngāruawāhia to the Government at Auckland, having negotiated, and Her Highness the Princess Sophia… having consented to exchange land in the neighbourhood of Auckland for Mr Heather’s farm at Waipa.”29 
This particular moment reveals a number of wider dynamics. At a personal level, Te Paea either knew the Heathers directly through kinship to Unaiki, or at least came to know them as she visited the Upper Waipa settlers on numerous occasions when venturing forth from Ngāruawāhia. Either way, they are clearly involved in each other’s lives. So when Te Paea began to advocate and claim protection for settlers, she directly names the Heathers. This is potentially expressing not just a friendship and/or kinship relationship. It is the wish of the particular Kīngitanga faction she belongs to that Māori and Pākehā enjoy true partnership with equal sovereigns. The response from the settler government is to characterise Kīngitanga intentions as only for the benefit of ‘rebellious Māori’. Heather’s Homestead/Marotahei and its whanau/family, therefore, act as a political proxy for something important: they are the actual physical manifestation of a successful and prosperous Māori/Pākehā collaboration. The farm makes real the potential shared political future that this faction of the Kīngitanga is advocating for the whole colony.

7. Destroying Kinship and Relationality: The Invasion of the Waikato: 1863–1864

The year leading up to the invasion in July 1863 witnessed an escalating set of tensions and actions concerning the Heathers. The politics and strategies put in place to avoid war eventually fail, and General Cameron crossed the Mangatawhiri Stream on 10 July 1863, which was understood by both sides as the threshold for declaration of war.30 Shortly afterwards, the first significant and much storied Battle of Rangiriri takes place and Cameron proceeds south towards Ngāruawāhia, but with his eyes set on capturing the ‘breadbaskets’ of the Kīngitanga—the farming areas of the Upper Waipa. During February 1864, Heather’s Homestead/Marotahei spends a month featuring in newspaper accounts as a site of intense interest—positioned directly in between General Cameron’s encampment and the formidable Paterangi defensive line of the Kīngitanga. By the end of the month, however, the farm had been burned and looted, and through a dubious manoeuvre, British forces have crept across the abandoned farm, skirted around Māori defences and committed the infamous massacre at Rangiaowhia.31 Shortly afterwards, the forces of the Kīngitanga surrender at Orakau and the leaders of the Kingitanga go into exile to the south.
While that wider story is told in major histories of the moment, the smaller story of the Heathers demonstrates some of the effects that are being unleashed. One key effect is that kinship ties are being ripped apart. Salesa (2011, pp. 200–3) and Wanhalla (2014, p. 88–89) describe how the events leading up to the invasion played out for some of the mixed race couples in the Waikato (including specific discussion of a number of Dennett and Unaiki’s neighbours). They both argue that the mixed families became the subject of newspaper propaganda claiming atrocities committed by the ‘rebels’. Additionally, they also document how, leading up to the moment of invasion, a great separation took place as Pākehā settlers fled for Auckland (or were asked to leave) while Māori leaders demanded that Māori wives and their children remain with their Māori kin in the Waikato.
These historical accounts are directly reflected in the events that unfolded at the farm. In a short period of time Heather’s Homestead/Marotahei disintegrated as a whanau/family unit. Arthur was already now working in Auckland. In May, 1863, Dennett and Stanley, as predicted at the great hui in Peria the previous year, retreated to Otahuhu, taking most of their stock up the river with them.32
Despite the claims of colonial newspapers at the time, Salesa (2011) argues that no reliable histories of the invasion have recorded any retribution against Māori who had lived with Pākehā—they were, as mentioned, given specific protection by the Kīngitanga. However, that does not make Unaiki’s situation comfortable: historians report that there were enormous pressures to stay and not leave their homelands with their Pākehā husbands. Furthermore, Heather’s Homestead/Marotahei stands on Ngāti Māhanga land, but is increasingly bounded by a huge fortified line of pās inhabited by Rewi Maniapoto’s warriors/kinfolk. Ngāti Māhanga and Ngāti Maniapoto are deeply hostile to each other and engaged in outright warfare, hence it is hard to know which is likely to be less sympathetic to a Ngāti Hine/Ngāti Tamainupo woman who is daughter of a pacifist magistrate in Karakariki living on their doorstep.
We do not find any formal record of Unaiki until many decades later when she appears in the Native Land Court records that William found. By then, she is married to a Ngāti Tamainupo man. The intervening time can only be inferred. Anaru Eketone reports that Karakariki became a neutral safe haven as hostilities moved closer and then arrived right into the Upper Waipa. It is almost unthinkable that Unaiki, especially if forbidden from leaving the Waikato, would not have simply moved across the river to Karakariki and taken shelter with her father and Ngāti Tamainupo kinfolk. She is, however, separated from Stanley which enacts a brutal separation of a primary kinship tie.
Back in the Auckland settlement, Dennett sets himself up in the Commercial Hotel in Onehunga and commences a campaign of letter writing. These letters in the National Archive had previously been a baffling element of his personal history for his descendants. By filling in the backstory of kinship ties, obligations and protections that stemmed from both the Māori relationship to their land and Unaiki’s relationships with her two parents’ kin groups, Dennett’s letters make perfect sense. He writes to the Governor and to the Colonial Secretary and names particular hapū (subtribe) in Ngāti Tamainupo lands as potentially aligning against the Crown. He also reports on things around the southern border of Auckland, suggesting who can and cannot be trusted to be telling government officials the truth about their intentions. In sum, he has a lot of information about what is happening on the Māori side of the crisis, and is writing as someone who seems to have inside contacts in Ngāti Tamainupo (Unaiki’s father’s kin) and the Kīngitanga in Māngere (Unaiki’s mother’s kin). In this way, Dennett’s actions are not baffling: he is actually acting in perfect alignment with the kinship politics that have mobilised around the farm and its whanau/family.

8. Aftermath: Losing a Relational World of Kinship and Obligation

The story of the Heathers in the Upper Waipa reveals, in microcosm, the way in which a kinship-based world of alliances and influences was destroyed during the invasion and then progressively replaced by a hegemonic Pākehā world. Salesa (2011) describes this destruction in the Waikato in a very specific way, characterising it as the annihilation of whanaungatanga: ‘Invasive colonial practices were pushed into the realm of the hearth, and colonial institutes and practices began to contest not only indigenous politics but one of their key animating forces—whanaungatanga (family relationships, kinship, sense of family connection and responsibility).’ (Salesa 2011, p. 181). This perfectly captures the nature of what is happening to the Heathers, and more widely across the Waikato during the invasion.
First, many of the Māori/Pākehā marriage alliances that were nurtured and protected in the Waikato by powerful chiefs are disintegrated. Immediately after the invasion, a great theft occurs—the raupatu (confiscation)—and lands are seized excepting only the private titles of the few dozen pre-invasion settlers which includes Heather’s Homestead/Marotahei. Within a decade the farms of the Upper Waipa and wider Waikato are almost entirely populated by soldiers and a flood of new Pākehā settlers lured south by a coalition of Auckland business leaders who have used their access to credit to speculate in the purchase of many thousands of acres of land.
Along each of the lines of influence around the farm traced out above, the potential for a complex, shared future between Māori and Pākehā is destroyed. Despite being vociferously loyal to the Crown, Ngāti Māhanga have their lands confiscated anyway. Similar crises happen for Ngāti Tamainupo (although later they do controversially accept token monetary compensation for illegally stolen lands). Karakariki continues as a British administrative centre, until the arrival of roads makes the Waipa River less important as a transport route, and a major flood devastates the village. By 1880, it is gone, as are F D Fenton’s plans for an alternative justice bureaucracy for Māori.
Even more significant is the lost opportunity for wider shared Māori/Pākehā sovereignty in places such as the Waikato. The shared Māori/Pākehā farm at Heather’s Homestead/Marotahei was a microcosm of a wider political project: collaborative life in partnership between settlers and Māori. Te Paea Tīaho fails in her quest to protect the Heathers. The wider Kīngitanga is utterly crushed after the invasion and the careful and negotiated politics of kinship that bound together both the land and many and various people cannot be easily re-established after the fighting is over.
In sum, the invasion creates the opportunity for total Pākehā hegemony over the Waikato. As O’Malley characterises it:
“Without the war, many of these things [roads, telegraph, economic and social development] might have taken place on a negotiated basis over time. Waikato iwi might have shared in the colony’s growing prosperity. The Waikato War instead enabled settlers and the Crown in many instances to act unilaterally, condemning the tribes to a destitute existence on the fringes of colonial society. The old era of the ‘middle ground’, based on a kind of rough and ready balance of power between Māori and Pākehā, in which the path ahead was decided through ongoing dialogue and negotiation, gave way to relentless settler hegemony”.
For the argument being made in this article, that lost opportunity for ‘dialogue and negotiation’ was implicitly grounded in relations of kinship, as Salesa (2011) characterises it, a world that was bound in whanaungatanga: kinship within settler families, between families, hapū (subtribes) and iwi (tribes), and between people and the land. The reconstituted world of the colonised Waikato replaces kinship with private ownership, individual citizenship and formal commerce and in doing so it also renders invisible the old kinship ties and Māori relationalities that made the Waikato pre-1863 make sense. Salmond (2012) describes this moment in the Waikato as the most obvious and grievous example of what then began to happen across the wider landscape of Aotearoa New Zealand.33
Dennett and Unaiki’s story does not play a part in this great replacement. By the end of the invasion, their lives are in ruins. Dennett will try to return to the Waikato but soon dies of cancer in Onehunga. His relational bond to the Māori world is broken and never repaired. Unaiki returns to her father’s whanau and never re-engages outside Ngati Tamainupo. Their last visible footprint in the Waikato is the burned and looted farm itself, which stands abandoned until 1874 when it is sold by the trustees of Dennett’s estate to a notable land speculator and leader of Auckland’s new business elite—James Williamson—who incorporates Marotahei with some thousands of acres of farmland that he purchased across the ‘confiscated lands’ of the Waikato to create the Rukuhia Estate.34
A bond remains between the two half-brothers—Arthur and Stanley—who end up working in the same trading company after Dennett’s death. Stanley is transferred to the company’s agency in the Cook Islands, where he marries Rangitai the granddaughter of the paramount chief and founds a dynasty. Shipping records show Arthur and his wife Mary visiting Rarotonga twice—likely to attend Stanley’s two marriages (Rangitai died in childbirth). Eventually, Arthur is ruined by the collapse of the Kauri gum industry and leaving his now successfully established children in Auckland, returns to England in disgrace, and the Māori and Pākehā sides of the family lose touch and never reconnect. One family story then flows forward as two. The family stories of the success of Arthur’s Pākehā children in Auckland—from which Hugh descends—and the story of Stanley and his dynasty in the Cook Islands and Samoa that fill up the whakapapa (lineage) of William, become two different families. At all levels, colonisation eventually results in the separation and erasure of relationalities and bonds of kinship. The potential for a shared world between Pākehā and Māori in Aotearoa New Zealand is extinguished.

9. Reflection: Knowing Our Ancestors

While the story of the Heathers, once fully realised, speaks to the micro-level effects of colonisation, and their lives exemplify a very important kind of colonial transition from shared to separated worlds, there is a second dynamic that requires reflection: how we know these stories and how the search for family histories shapes our understanding of a shared or separated past and has the potential to enact its own small moments of de-colonisation. These are the kinds of questions being wrestled with by both Pākehā and Māori researchers, including the current crop of historians examining Pākehā family histories—most recently Green (2019), Moodie (2019) and Johnson (2019)—who are using family history as a lens to understand deeper colonial and gender dynamics, alongside Māori historians such as Mahuika and Kukutai (2021) who are arguing for a different ontological lens for enquiry into family pasts, placing relationality into the foreground of enquiry and in doing so creating a fuller understanding of our ancestors and the indigenous/colonised worlds that they experienced. This body of work in Aotearoa New Zealand is highly informative for the pursuit of Critical Family Histories as a mode of enquiry, and the special dynamics of critical family history at key frontiers in the Antipodes are now beginning to be brought into clearer view through the work of Bell (2020), Shaw (2021) and Morris (2021) in recent issues of Genealogy. The story that is told in this article, speaking to the precursors, formation and then destruction of Heather’s Homestead/Marotahei, sits firmly within this emerging strand of CFH enquiry into colonial frontiers.
When we (Hugh and William) eventually met and decided to collaborate to search for a shared understanding of our whakapapa/family past, there was a key dynamic that became immediately obvious: we had started that walk inside separated worlds. For a Pākehā and an indigenous Cook Island/NZ Māori researcher, the search for knowledge about ancestors ran down slightly different paths. As individuals, we’d grown up with strong oral histories of our families, and as researchers we both had a high level of respect for formal sources, but after that, our approach was increasingly divergent.
First, our respective oral histories were revealing in what they did not relate. Our familial accounts were clearly leaving much of interest to one side or simply not seeing things that we did not know to look for. For both the Pākehā and Māori lines of descendants, when previously trying to understand these lives, the focus seemed to fall on either side of the pivotal Waikato years. For Pākehā descendants of Dennett’s son Arthur, what happened to Dennett before and after he went to the Waikato are the most dramatic and important parts of his story. His doomed marriage to Mary Ann White, the much-narrated shipwreck, the ups and downs of his colonial fortunes (and eventual success of his Pākehā descendants in Auckland) tell a totally satisfying but, in hindsight, crucially incomplete story of his life. For Hugh, even after the writing of a book (Campbell 2020) that included the story of Dennett and Unaiki and during discussions with cousins during the writing of this article, some of them expressed surprise at hearing, for the first time, that their much-storied ancestor Dennett Hersee Heather had any contact at all with the Māori world, let alone that they have thousands of Māori cousins.35 For the descendants of Unaiki Te Watarauhi, her son Stanley is revered in the Cook Islands and Samoa. However, as William found in his early enquiries into his famous ancestor, Stanley’s mother, as a Waikato Māori woman, was relatively unknown, and his Pākehā father Dennett was knowable, but more of a historical curiosity than a key ancestral figure. For them, the story starts with Stanley, an able and well financed young man arriving in the Cook Islands and winning the hand of the granddaughter of the paramount Chief Tinomana. The dynasty of Ngati Tanere is what happens from that point forward, not what happened before Stanley arrived in the Cook Islands from the Waikato.
Both accounts, grounded mainly in oral history, or basic documentary evidence, left significant gaps. The recent broader availability of historical texts and documentation through online databases, started to fill in those accounts and they did so, particularly for Dennett’s Pākehā descendants, in ways that often ended up simply reinforcing the narrative structure of family oral history. It seemed the more that formal documented sources of information came to light, the absence of much information from his Waikato life with Unaiki resulted in that period remaining subordinated in family accounts. What existed was confusing and opaque and ended up concealing more than it revealed. It was a mystery, and served good narrative purpose when left as such. For Hugh, Dennett’s disappearance off the formal record of the Auckland settlement and down into the Waikato resulted in the trail going cold just when it was starting to become interesting.
William, when faced with these same barriers, turned in a different direction to Hugh. He turned towards records of kinship—of whakapapa (lineage records), tribal databases of membership, genealogical knowledge held by kaumatua (tribal elders), Native Land Court records and testimony and maps of tribal rohe (territory)—and these provided the bridge into a more coherent and elaborated account of Dennett and Unaiki’s lives. Once revealed, the Waikato years not only situate these two ancestors at the heart of one of the most compelling crises of the colonisation of Aotearoa New Zealand, they also speak to something important about a prior version of early colonial Aotearoa New Zealand. As Salesa (2011) and Wanhalla (2014) demonstrate, mixed marriages, relationships and children between Māori and Pākehā individuals and the enterprises such as farms and small businesses that they created together, provide a compelling material and social shape to something that is now unfamiliar: a shared and collaborative world. Colonisation rips apart these connected worlds with real consequences for how we try to understand them. For the Heathers at Heather’s Homestead/Marotahei, the many and deeply connected ways in which the two branches of the whanau/family lived together and knew each other prior to the invasion were ripped apart by the invasion and that separation had long consequences. Even though the Māori and Pākehā half-brothers—Stanley and Arthur—stayed in touch throughout the life of Stanley, after his death at a young age, our familiarity was lost and our knowledge of each other became partial and opaque. For the Māori descendants, Dennett Heather became a name in their past. For the Pākehā descendants, Unaiki became, at worst, something even less than that.
Our argument is this: the invasion of the Waikato had dire immediate consequences and erased many possible futures in Aotearoa New Zealand. It enacted and then embedded a separation, an alienation and a great unknowing of what had been a collaborative and prosperous union that was enacted between many Pākehā and Māori. It also hastened the alienation and destruction of a deeply connected and bonded Māori world of kinship and relationality. The Heathers, on one small farm, demonstrate those dire processes of separation and loss of knowing. However, how we think about and characterise our family history, and where we look for evidence, also makes its own contribution to maintaining those separations.
What we have come to understand about our two inherited family histories is that histories grounded in formal documents can enact particular, closed-off, outcomes, while oral histories are fun and informative, but also often end up telling the story we want them to tell. For us, by looking for a relational history, grounded in kinship and relations of significance, both the formal and the oral histories that informed our prior family history-making began to make more sense and actually became, for the two of us, something slightly more transformative. In short, what that collaborative work did for us was more than just a mechanism to fill in important gaps and silences in our history. By embracing the more indigenous, kinship-oriented, approach to understanding our ancestral families being advocated by Māori scholars—especially, for this discussion, Mahuika (2019) and Mahuika and Kukutai (2021)—and bringing this sense of whakapapa (lineage) alongside the new vogue of family genealogical research into newly available databases of formal documentation, we then have the potential to see a different ontological politics of key moments such as the invasion of the Waikato: a politics of connectivity and responsibility, a different way of understanding farms and land, and a different way of understanding the negotiation and eventual destruction of hopes of a collaborative Pākehā/Māori future.
If formal documents and genealogical enquiry driven by the search for hard ‘facts’ seem to inevitably spiral towards establishing the ‘one true and accurate account’ of our family histories, then in the writing of this article we have tried to demonstrate the important effects of taking a more collaborative and hybrid approach. The dynamics of colonisation in Aotearoa New Zealand may have had the effect of dividing, segmenting and controlling a world of knowable people and historical events, but in this account, we have attempted to follow Christine Sleeter’s challenge to find ‘a place to go to do things differently’ (Sleeter 2011, p. 430). In our case, this involved searching for a more hybrid and collaborative pathway to knowing our ancestors, and in doing so reveal once again the centrality of partnership and kinship as fundamental dynamics in the history of land and people in Aotearoa New Zealand. For both of us, finding the relationship of kinship that bound us together, helped open up and remind us of the foundational shaping effect of kinship in not only our own shared history, but also in wider early colonial worlds. Additionally, for us, personally as researchers and as descendants of colonised worlds, we had the chance to reconnect and start to repair the great separation that happened to our whanau/family around 150 years ago. Our one family may have become two families that lost anything but token knowledge of each other, but the challenge of writing critical family history provided the chance for two distant cousins to re-establish that lost connection. In this, we have come to celebrate that by finding our one shared family, and reconnecting kinship ties that were severed during colonisation, we can embrace both the confronting and hopeful elements of our shared history and say: this is what we have lost, and this is what we stand to regain.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, H.C. and W.K.C.; methodology, H.C. and W.K.C.; investigation, H.C. and W.K.C.; writing—original draft preparation, H.C. and W.K.C.; writing—review and editing, H.C. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research received no external funding.

Institutional Review Board Statement

Ethical review and approval were waived for this study due to the investigation being solely directed at historical sources.

Informed Consent Statement

Not applicable.


The authors would like to thank Carolyn Morris and three reviewers for their positive feedback on earlier versions of this paper. We would like to acknowledge some invaluable insights from Mick Strack on farm title and farm ownership after the land confiscations in the Waikato. We would also like to thank Avril Bell for her encouragement to us to attempt this partnership in writing about our shared history in the Waikato.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


How to name Aotearoa New Zealand in the context of specific political and historical moments is, in itself, a challenging task. For this article, the general name will be Aotearoa New Zealand, although there are moments in the narrative in which the relatively separate worlds during colonisation are indicated using the terms Pākehā New Zealand and Māori New Zealand and in which the formal name at the time ‘New Zealand’ is the most historically accurate. All this adds up to a necessary diminution of the impression that Aotearoa New Zealand was a single coherent ‘thing’ through much of its history.
For a couple of excellent examples in this journal, see Bell (2020) and Shaw (2021).
When working inside colonised worlds, and attempting to use indigenous ontologies, the very word ‘family’ is problematic. The Māori term for family is ‘whanau’, embedded in wider kinship relations to ‘hapu’ (subtribe) and iwi (tribe). Critical Family History in its very name, is inscribed with a Western term and implies a Western ontology. To try to make this a bit more fluid, we use a particular strategy for this article. We use ‘family’ when discussing its use in formal scholarship, British historical usage, or when it is used as a simple adjective in discussion. However, when talking about specific Māori usage we use ‘whanau’ and for the mixed household of the Heathers, we use ‘whanau/family’. Both Unaiki te Watarauhi and Dennett Heather could speak in English and in te reo (Māori language) and would have recognised the same word in both languages. Their meeting point, and the collaborative world they enacted, is the core focus of this article and they deserve to be recognised as a whanau/family.
A search narrated in Cuthers (2018a, 2018b, 2019) and reflected on by Rangiwai (2021).
For Pākehā family histories, these wider historical discussions are well-exemplified by a 2019 Special Issue of the Journal of New Zealand Studies including useful articles/essays written by Green (2019), Moodie (2019) and Johnson (2019) that all inform some of the argument in this article.
Bell (2020), Shaw (2021) and Morris (2021) are all writing in the specific context of Critical Family Histories, but these accounts sit alongside a wider exploration of the nature of family and history in the colonising of Aotearoa New Zealand—particularly those being generated by feminist historians. How the new interest in Critical Family Histories will interact with more established approaches to family history being generated by discussions in feminist history will be an interesting dynamic for the emerging CFH approach to traverse.
The theorisation of ontology in Salmond (2017) (and in Salmond 2012) differs slightly from that which informs this article (and is outlined in depth in Campbell 2020). Salmond (2012, 2017) follows recent anthropological debates in prioritising the way that ontology supersedes ‘worldview’ as a more nuanced and potentially methodologically challenging way of addressing ‘reality’ as an aspect of cultural worlds. In Campbell (2020), similar ideas about ontology are pursued through the work of anthropologist Annemarie Mol (2003), along with various assemblage thinkers, to emphasise the role of both human and non-human agencies in generating ‘reality’. In the context of this article, the effects of human agencies in generating understandings of family history are important, but so are the segmented and ontologically reductive agency of non-human objects such as formal documents, dates, modernist ‘facts’, and written accounts that can have the tendency to provide a problematically authoritative and reductive basis for claims about history.
Wanhalla (2014, p. xix) argues that when considering the historical narrating of mixed Māori/Pākehā relationships, many of the participants: ‘left only a faint imprint on the historical record. The unevenness and silences of the written archive make tracing the emotional interior of personal lives, as well as everyday practices of sentiment, difficult. Of all the actors in this story, though, it is Māori women who have left the faintest trace in the written archive, often appearing as the subject of discussion but rarely the authors of their own story.’
Of the many historical accounts of the invasion, the most recent book-length history is by Vincent O’Malley (2016) which we draw on extensively to provide some historical context for our family narratives.
Dennett Hersee Heather is a well-discussed and debated individual among the wider Heather descendants and I[Hugh] acknowledge the significant body of Pākehā genealogical work which often predated my own and was very useful for building up a picture of much of his life. In particular: Peter Wakeman, Bruce Heather, and Jo and Alison Mewett all contributed to a significant archive of material on Dennett Hersee Heather. (The Mewetts have also been responsible for making connections and providing new insight into the life of Mary Ann White). The interpretation I place on some aspects of Dennett’s life is not shared by them all, so I take full responsibility for those moments where my understandings and interpretations vary from theirs.
A local newspaper tells the story of Queen Victoria taking shelter at the farm when caught in a storm during a ride from Windsor Castle (Bucks Gazette 13 January, 1838).
In the same pivotal auction that Avril Bell describes in detail in relation to her ancestor George Graham (Bell 2020).
Naval Chronicle, 1854, (No. 1, Vol. 15) pp. 48–49. ‘Wreck of the Mary in Bass Straits’.
Petition to Governor and Lt. Governor of New Ulster, New Zealand. 27 May 1853.
These are exactly the kinds of Western assumptions that Angela Wanhalla sets out to challenge in her book on the history of Māori/Pākehā relationships during this period (Wanhalla 2014). Wanhalla’s account moves well beyond the ‘transactional’ interpretation which dominates Western accounts to bring the agency of Māori women, in particular, and the genuine affective ties between couples, back into consideration as an important dynamic in these relationships.
In the legal language of the time ‘aboriginal native woman’ was the formal terminology used to distinguish between indigenous Māori and those described as ‘half caste’ in legal documents (Salesa 2011).
It helped that Unaiki is not a common Māori name. I found only one other Unaiki and she was in the Wairarapa, no-where near Waikato.
Watarauhi is a baptised name—taken from the baptiser Rev John Waterhouse who was superintendent of the Wesleyan Mission in New Zealand—which is also spelled Watarauihi and Waitarauhi in some records.
D H Heather to Governor George Grey, 12 August 1863.
Wanhalla (2014, p. 29) notes that Rev. Morgan was not licensed to perform marriages. Hence, there is no record of whether Dennett and Unaiki formally married, or lived together under any one of what both Wanhalla (2014) and Salesa (2011) describe as a range of ways in which Pākehā and Māori households formalised their relationships.
Her story of life in the Upper Waipa—A True Tale of the Early Days (By a Waikato Lady)—was serialised in the Waikato Times, with the quote coming in a retrospective on colonial life which published extracts from her book on 6 November 1890. She also observes that her Te Awamutu classroom was ‘attended principally by half castes, many of them the children of Auckland merchants.’
There is a measles epidemic reported by Annie Shepherd which kills most of the children in her classroom in 1854—which may account for no further mention of Albert Heather. Stanley Heather is estimated to be born in 1855.
Daily Southern Cross, 9 May 1862.
By choosing the Waipa River itself, Fenton was choosing the main travel route between Taranaki iwi (tribes) and the centres of Waikato power. It was the key diplomatic and military pathway linking two centres of Māori participation in the Kīngitanga (Eketone 2020, p. 188).
Minutes of proceedings of the kohimarama conference of native chiefs. Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1860 Session I, E-09.
Otago Witness, 24 October 1862.
Just one example, which directly mentions the Heathers, being the Daily Southern Cross. 5 May 1863.
The hui took place on 17 November 1862 and was widely reported shortly afterwards through the testimony of participants: e.g., Taranaki Herald, 13 December 1862.
Taranaki Herald, 13 December 1862.
The complex details of this moment as a political and military campaign are detailed in Belich (1986) and O’Malley (2016, pp. 229–59).
The story of the role of the farm at this particular moment is recounted in more detail in Campbell (2020, pp. 52–56).
Daily Southern Cross. 5 May 1863.
“The land was divided into blocks with boundaries and lists of owners, survey costs were awarded against them, the shares of individuals were sold, and millions more acres passed out of Māori hands. ...over time, the kinship networks were cut up into bounded units, their members treated as autonomous individuals voting for management boards, registering their interests in land blocks, and often living at a distance from their ancestral territories. The relational expectation that in order to retain use rights active occupation must be upheld was annulled by legislation and, as a result, land claims became so fragmented that they were almost impossible to manage for practical purposes, and much of the land lay idle. As the links between people and land became attenuated, ancestral land was increasingly treated as private property and sold, or aggregated under the control of influential individuals and families.” (Salmond 2012, pp. 130–31).
Williamson is listed as the purchaser on the title in 1874, relinquishing it to the ownership of his sons just before being declared bankrupt in 1886.
With a key proviso: some but by no means all. This connection was very well known to the many other genealogists among Dennett’s descendants, and a source of great interest to some of them.


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MDPI and ACS Style

Campbell, H.; Cuthers, W.K. Heather’s Homestead/Marotahei: The Invasion of the Waikato and Ways of Knowing Our Past in Aotearoa New Zealand. Genealogy 2021, 5, 101.

AMA Style

Campbell H, Cuthers WK. Heather’s Homestead/Marotahei: The Invasion of the Waikato and Ways of Knowing Our Past in Aotearoa New Zealand. Genealogy. 2021; 5(4):101.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Campbell, Hugh, and William Kainana Cuthers. 2021. "Heather’s Homestead/Marotahei: The Invasion of the Waikato and Ways of Knowing Our Past in Aotearoa New Zealand" Genealogy 5, no. 4: 101.

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