“Maori Memories,” Ensign, Mar. 1999, 68
Rangi Parker of the Cowley Ward, Temple View New Zealand Stake, has spent the last four years compiling a collection of thousands of photos and other visual media, some over 100 years old, of early New Zealand and Maori life. Many of the early Maori-speaking missionaries from the United States who served in New Zealand kept meticulous journals and photo records detailing the Maori communities where they served. With the help of these missionaries and their families, who offered mementos and memories, Rangi has compiled a significant historical collection.
The collection has grown to include nine hours of film footage, several thousand photographs, and numerous journals. One unique discovery from the footage is the origin of a Native American blanket that belonged to the late Maori princess Te Puea Herangi. Present-day tribal leaders had no idea where the blanket had come from until one of the missionary’s films showed a Church hui (conference) held at Te Puea’s Marae (meetinghouse) in the 1940s in which the mission president presented her the blanket as a gift from President George Albert Smith.
National galleries and media organizations have heaped praise on Rangi for her efforts, along with those of the early missionaries, because sources for the study of Maori history from the 1880s until the mid-20th century are hard to find. Many museums are interested in housing the collection.
Collating the records has become Rangi’s labor of love. “This work has not only given me an opportunity to feel closer to my ancestors, but I’ve had experiences that I will treasure for the rest of my life. Thanks to the recorded legacy of many early elders, their missionary work is still continuing and touching those who view it,” she says. The collection is still growing, and Rangi is archiving the material on CD-ROM for galleries, museums, universities, and other interested parties.
In addition, Rangi’s recent production for Maori Broadcasting and Television New Zealand, Hiona (Zion), was assessed as one of the top three shows in the Waka Huia (Maori program) series in New Zealand for 1998. The program highlighted the lives of Maoris in Utah and their involvement in the Church and included Maori-speaking American missionaries who served in the 1930s and ’40s. The show received such accolades that it has already been slated for rebroadcast.—DeWayne Transfield, Temple View, Hamilton, New Zealand