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Maggie papakura of geyserland


Ngāti Wahiao

Makereti Papakura, also known as Guide Maggie, was born Margaret Pattison Thom in 1873 at Matatā. She was a Tūhourangi woman of mana.  She was a guide, a scholar and a writer. Her father was English and her mother was a Te Arawa woman of Ngāti Wahiao, Tūhourangi.
Makereti was very little when she was taken to  the small village of Parekarangi to be raised by her aunt and uncle. They taught her to recite her whakapapa and the history of her mother’s iwi.
Makereti spoke only te reo until she was 10 years old. She then began learning English and the skills that gained her the respect of both Māori and Pākehā. After leaving school, school, Makereti lived at Whakarewarewa, the traditional home of her people where the famous guide Sophia (sew – fire) Hinerangi helped Makereti become an accomplished guide and entertainer. Makereti was beautiful, talented and clever so she was very popular.
Makereti adopted the name Maggie Papakura herself. She was guiding some visitors one day at Whakarewarewa. They asked what her Māori surname was. The Papakura geyser was nearby and gave her the idea to take that name for her own. It stuck and she was known by it for much of her life.
Makereti became famous in Rotorua and then more widely when, in 1901, she welcomed the Duke and duchess of Cornwall and York on their visit to Rotorua. Noticed by the press, she became a favourite for photographers. You can see photographs, taken at the time, of her wearing both Māori and Pākehā clothing. She was said to be so well-known that you only had to address a letter to ‘Maggie Papakura of Geyserland’ and it would easily find its way to her!
As she was very interested in the welfare and independence of her people, and she often asked her influential friends for help in making their lives better. She could see that increasing tourism would create jobs and opportunities for her people. One way she did this was by establishing a concert party, with her sister Bella, which performed waiata and poi. The party of around 40 family members travelled to Sydney in 1910 and then onto England in 1911 to perform. This was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for many of the concert party members.
The group made a big splash in London and it was there that Makereti met the man who later became her husband.  It was where she met and married her second husband, a wealthy landowner. Richard Charles Staples- Browne was a wealthy landowner and after their marriage in 1912, Makereti lived at Oddington Grange in Oxford.
During World War 1 Makereti opened Oddington Grange to New Zealand troops serving in England at that time. The home had many carvings, cloaks and greenstone ornaments that Makereti had brought from Whakarewarewa. She also entertained guests giving them lectures on Maori history if they were interested in learning more about her people.
In 1926, Makereti became a student at Oxford University where she studied anthropology. Her many notes, journals and diaries were the basis for her thesis, a long academic essay, rather like a book.  
Sadly, Makereti died suddenly in April 1930, just before she finished her studies. Her thesis was published eight years after her death and was called ‘The Old-Time Maori’. It tells of the life and customs of Te Arawa people from a woman’s perspective and it was the first published work of a Māori scholar.
It was said that the secret to her success was being proud and confident in both the European and Māori worlds.  This was also probably what made her such a popular guide and why her work and memory is still important to the people of Te Arawa today.

Qualities: innovation, scholarship, identity

More to watch:

See a tiny clip from the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York’s visit to New Zealand in 1901:


More to read:

Makereti’s book ‘The old-time Maori’ is available to read at Rotorua Library


More to listen to:

Hear this amazing radio documentary called ‘Remembering Makareti’ made by Paul Diamond and broadcast

as part of the Te Ahi Kaa series:


Hear an interview with composer Alfred Hill talking about Māori music and including special memories of Guide Maggie and her sister Bella:


This entry is related to these other entries:

Guide Sophia: Te Paea Hinerangi and the birth of tourism; June Northcroft Grant


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