Māori historian, Waitangi Tribunal member and award-winning author Dr Aroha Harris will deliver the University of Auckland's Keith Sinclair Memorial Lecture at the old Government House tomorrow.

Harris (Te Rarawa, Ngapuhi), who won the inaugural Royal Society Te Aparangi Early Career Researcher Award in Humanities last year for Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated History, will speak on the politics of whanau life - how Māori have maintained their resolve and aspirations for whanau ora while negotiating with and pressing beyond the state's policies for Māori.

"This lecture will address that question for a project ranging across the 20th century, from the goals of Māori autonomy in the 1900s to the push for biculturalism and Māori-state partnership from the 1980s," she said.

"The setting off point is the younger lives of my parents, as read through a collection of whanau letters carefully filed in a shoebox."


Grounding her broader research question in the whanau dynamic was a practical reminder of unshakeable underpinnings in her history practice: "the inseparability of the past, the present and me, and the centrality of whakapapa and subjectivity," she said.

Harris, who co-wrote Tangata Whenua with the late University Professor of History, Dame Judith Binney FRSNZ, and Atholl Anderson FRSNZ, was lead author of the final section, Te Ao Hurihuri: The Changing World, which explores the socio-cultural history of 20th century Māori.

It was praised for providing new insights into lived reality for Māori, emphasising the creativity, resilience of Māori communities in the face of socio-cultural and economic challenges such as racism and poverty.

Harris is a historian with the Waitangi Tribunal, and president of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association. Her research-based teaching at the University of Auckland focuses on Māori policy and race relations, Maori historical methods, including oral histories, and Māori perspectives of the past.