Encountering Te Waimatemate : an historical investigation of engagement with a local landscape : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in History at Massey University
In his historiographical work The Past is a Foreign Country, David Lowenthal wrote "the past's traces on the ground and in our minds let us make sense of the present."1 1 David Lowenthal, The Past is a Foreign Country, Cambridge, USA: Cambridge University Press, 1985, p. 39. To understand these traces, the routes and resting places of life gone before, we travel reflectively. This is the journey undertaken when making history. Human beings need to belong and feel connected with the life around them. We have done this by anchoring ourselves in space and time. The process of making space a place of belonging has been influenced by experiences and perceptions that change over time but that are also woven together by threads of continuity. The refashioning of space into places of belonging constitutes stories about encounters with the land that vary according to personal, cultural and historical contexts. The New Western historian, Patricia Nelson Limerick, has described this as the layering of many stories of discovery and rediscovery and maintains it is an ongoing process.2 2 Patricia Nelson Limerick, 'Disorientation and Reorientation: The American Landscape Discovered from the West', Journal of American History, December 1992, pp. 1021-1049. These layers are interconnected in the 'big' narrative about a place. In this context, the land becomes the historical storehouse that holds the memories of encounters with it. The land is the meeting ground that melds past and present together in its material form. The many stories of human encounters are reflected in the landscapes conceptualised and fashioned over time. Landscapes become texts written on to the land from which stories about place can be read. This thesis investigates aspects of intergenerational constructions of landscapes within a particular area that have served to redefine space as 'our place'. It explores ways people have 'sung their own songs', 'drawn their own pictures' and 'written their own scripts', in projecting their needs, beliefs, aspirations and fears onto the land in the crafting of their stories. This in no way presumes the land is passive and that the engagement is merely akin to a monologue. As Limerick has suggested, the land was never "serenely, passively awaiting and accepting discovery but on the contrary it was offensive, [and] actively intruding" on those encountering it.3 3 Patricia Nelson Limerick, p. 1040. Maori have a saying, "Whata ngarongaro he tangata, toitu he whenua" - the people disappear but the land remains. Human beings will always be vulnerable to nature. Philip Temple has referred to our engagement with the land as a "conversation".4 4 Philip Temple (ed.), Lake, Mountain, Tree, Auckland: Godwit Publishing, 1998, p. 10. That such a dialogue exists between culture and nature is a 'given' in this thesis.