Maui Pomare was born of the Rangatira iwi (Maori tribe) in the North Island Taranaki
region of New Zealand. His grandmother was one of the few women to sign the
Treaty of Waitangi. He was educated at St Stephens College, Christchurch Boys High
and Te Aute College, and supported assimilation.
Nearing the end of his education at Te Aute College, Maui Pomare became a Seventh
Day Adventist, and in the mid 1890s travelled to the US to study medicine. When he
graduated in 1899, he was the first Maori doctor.
Maui Pomare returned to New Zealand, and became the medical officer in the Health
Department, and was responsible for Maori health. He worked with Te Rangi Hiroa
(Peter Buck), and vaccinated against contagious diseases as well as campaigning for
the building of latrines in Maori villages.
In four years, he burnt 1256 unhygenic Maori buildings, and replaced these with 2103
new houses and over a thousand latrines. In doing so, he helped to reduced the Maori
mortality rate, which was so high that the Maori were considered to be a race that
would become extinct.
In 1911, Maui Pomare entered Parliament, and won the Western Maori seat. In 1912,
he was a cabinet minister in the new Reform Government led by William Massey.
Maui Pomare firmly supported assimilation, and urged Maori to sell their land and
adopt Pakeha culture and practises. He held the portfolios of Health, International
Affairs and Minister in charge of the Cook Islands from 1912-1928. As Health
Minister, he also tried to overhaul NZ’s backward mental hospitals.
He was accepted and popular in Pakeha circles, and was knighted in 1922. His
assimilation views made him unpopular in Maori circles, but endeared him to Pakeha
colleagues, who referred to him as ‘Pom’.
"There is no alternative but to become a pakeha... There is no hope for the Maori but
in ultimate absorption by the pakeha. This is his only hope, if hope it be to find his
descendants merged in the future sons of the Briton of the Southern Hemisphere. Sons
who will not forget that in them runs the warrior blood of unconquered chieftans of
centuries, and who, on the other hand, will be imbued with loyalty and imperialism,
proud of being members of the Empire to which belong their fathers."
- Maui Pomare
Maori and Pakeha (Race Relations 1912-1980) :- Mark Sheehan