In 1895 a meeting took place in the rugged Urewera ranges – Tuhoe country – that would have lasting effects on our views of traditional Maori society. Elsdon Best, a self-taught anthropologist and quartermaster on the road past Lake Waikaremoana, was sought out by a leading Tuhoe chief, Tutakangahau of Maungapohatu. The stories he gave to Best to be recorded for future generations are with us today. Best went on to become a noted Pakeha authority on a people he would style as the last of 'the oldtime Maori'. How much did the old man tell him? Was it freely given? Can Best's writings – so pervasive today in our understanding of Maori culture – be truly relied upon? In his unique examination of this historically significant relationship, Jeffrey Paparoa Holman poses such searching questions, further informing a vital national debate on the shared identity – and destiny – of Maori and Pakeha.
'This is our history at its best.' --Matthew Wright, Sunday Star-Times