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Makereti Papakura

Ethnographer (1873-1930)

A famed Māori guide of the latter 19th century, Makereti Papakura was born Margaret Pattison Thom to a Māori mother – who had her immersed in the traditional Māori world for her early years – and an English father, who sent her to a boarding school when she was ten. Effortlessly moving between the two cultures, Papakura became an accomplished tourist guide.1  

After touring England with a concert group, Papakura moved there permanently. Then when her marriage broke up in the 1920s, she enrolled in the new discipline of anthropology at Oxford University. Her thesis for her BSc was scholarly, yet informed by her upbringing in a traditional Māori setting and approved by the kaumatua of her tribe. Tragically, she died just a couple of weeks before it was examined, and it was published posthumously as The Old Time Maori.2


1. Charlotte Macdonald, Merimeri Penfold, and Bridget R. Williams, The Book of New Zealand Women (B. Williams Books, 1991), p. 491.

2. New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu Taonga, ‘Papakura, Makereti’, Web page, accessed 8 August 2017, /en/biographies/3p5/papakura-makereti.

This profile is part of the series 150 Women in 150 Words that celebrates women’s contributions to expanding knowledge in New Zealand, running as part of our 150th Anniversary.