Decades of research gifted
April 01, 2024 | Stories
Pip Tremewan, Tā Tipene O’Regan, Tanya Tremewan and Thane Tremewan

This is a story from our monthly newsletter, Heritage this Month.

Niki Partsch | Ōtautahi Christchurch 

A delicious afternoon tea in the Ngāi Tahu Archive in Wigram, Christchurch acknowledged many hundreds of dedicated research hours by Christchurch couple Drs Christine and Peter Tremewan. 

The small but significant gathering on Wednesday 13 March was a heartfelt celebration honouring the late Peter and Christine for providing the foundations of the Ngāi Tahu database of 19th century ancestors.

Christine and Peter Tremewan

In the 1980s, Peter, a well-known academic in the French department at the University of Canterbury, began researching the role of the French in the colonial history of Aotearoa. At the same time, he carefully collected names and other recorded information related to Ngāi Tahu individuals and whānau who lived during the 19th century.  

Christine, also an academic whose career included achieving a PhD and lecturing in Māori studies at Canterbury University, then applied her meticulous skillset to the supervision, review and cataloguing of the data. Daughter Dr Pip Tremewan recalls helping occasionally during her early university days by, “recording information on dozens of little cataloguing cards.” Later, all the information from the many cards was entered into a digital database. 

This collection, ‘Kaitahu’, is described by Ngāi Tahu Senior Archivist Jill Durney as, “a taonga and an incredible feat of work.”  

‘Kaitahu’ encompasses information and source referencing for around 4,000 ancestor names. It has close to 1,000 pages of information that Peter and Christine painstakingly recorded and referenced over many decades. The Tremewan duo selflessly gifted a copy of the database to Ngāi Tahu in 2016. “Their instinct was always to share their knowledge so that others could build on it,” says their other daughter, Tanya Tremewan. “They hoped that the information they passed on would be a useful resource, such as for tracing whakapapa.” 

Family of Christine and Peter Tremewan outside the Wigram Archive

Over subsequent years, Ngāi Tahu worked to incorporate the Tremewans’ database into their own and, “everything in it has been verified,” says Jill. 

The Kaitahu collection is now part of Kareao, the official Ngāi Tahu online archival database, which comprises some 30,000 items including photographs, manuscripts, maps, taonga, biographies, oral histories and audio-visual material.  

“Peter was hugely respected within Ngāi Tahu,” says Tā Tipene O’Regan, who was present for the occasion.  

Most of the Ngāi Tahu archival collections are now based and stored at the purpose-built Archives New Zealand facility in Wigram thanks to a partnership between the Ngāi Tahu Archive team and Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga Archives New Zealand. The Ngāi Tahu Archive includes the collections of the Ngai Tahu Māori Trust Board, the records of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, and the personal papers of selected individuals.  

Distinct from the Archives New Zealand Crown collections, the Ngāi Tahu collections are managed and stored separately within the shared facility. This resource is available for everyone to use and can easily be accessed online

Partsch, Niki (author)
Tremewan, Peter
Tremewan, Christine
Ngāi Tahu

Niki Partsch | Kaitohutohu Whanake - Māori Heritage Advisor
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