JUDITH BINNEY
Historian
1940-2011

World-renowned historian

When Tūhoe iwi won its historic $170 million settlement with the Government in 2013, including co-management of Te Urewera and unprecedented rights of self-governance, signatories on both sides owed much to Judith Binney's painstaking record of the tribe's interactions with European settlers.

Although born in Australia, Binney came here aged 6 and devoted her life to helping both Māori and Pākehā New Zealanders to understand our shared past. A pioneering historian, Binney was recognised as Professor Emerita by the University of Auckland in 2004.

She told Herald journalist Chris Barton that writing her first book, on the missionary Thomas Kendall who learned Māori and wrote the first printed book in te reo, "made me realise that I belonged here".

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In 1975, tramping with friends in Te Urewera, she discovered Maungapōhatu, where the prophet Rua Kenana had built a village in 1907.

"A shiver went up her spine," Catherine Masters wrote later in the Herald. "She could feel the history - a strong sense that here was 'a very present past'."

She found old pictures of Rua and showed them to Tūhoe people to research her 1979 biography of Rua. She told writer Kennedy Warne that a photo of Rua's arrest in 1916 "became crumpled and stained with tears from those she showed it to".

Later she wrote a biography of Te Kooti (1995) and a monumental history Encircled Lands: Te Urewera 1820–1921 (2009), which grew out of 10 years of research for the Tūhoe Treaty of Waitangi claim.

At the launch of Encircled Lands, Tūhoe gave her the name Te Tōmairangi o Te Aroha, or "the dew of love".

When she died, a dame of the British empire, Tūhoe leader Tāmati Kruger said: "We remain astounded that she had evolved this regard and curiosity about Tūhoe and its history, and I think what made her slightly different from other historians is that she disclosed and revealed her feelings in her works."