Peter Buck (Te Rangi Hiroa)
Peter Buck was born in the Taranaki region of New Zealand of an Irish father and a
Maori mother. He was educated at Te Aute College and Otago University, from
where he graduated as a doctor in 1904.
Peter Buck worked closely with Maui Pomare in the Department of Health, helping
out in the vaccination and sanitisation campaigns to reduce the Maori mortality rate.
He too, supported the assimilation policy.
In 1909, he decided to enter Parliament, and make his ideas heard in the house, and
won the Northern Maori electorate.
In 1914, he enlisted in the army, and served in Gallipoli and France as a medical
officer with the much respected Pioneer Battalion (which was renamed as the Maori
Battalion in 1917, and was also a respected battalion in WWII). He rose to the rank of
Captain, and became second-in-command of the Pioneer Battalion.
When Peter Buck returned to New Zealand after the war, he resumed his career in the
Health Department, but in 1927, he resigned (as he had become interested in the
material culture of indigenous peoples of the Pacific), and joined the staff of the Bishop
Museum in Hawai’i. He eventually became the Director of this museum, and was also
a Professor at Yale University. He was known as a world expert on the history and
culture of Pacific peoples, and two of his most famous books are ‘Vikings of the
Sunset’ and ‘The Coming of the Maori’. In 1946, he was knighted.
Peter Buck died in Hawai’i, but his ashes were returned to NZ, where they were
placed under a symbolic canoe (waka) prow at Okoki, near his birthplace.
Maori and Pakeha (Race Relations 1912-1980) :- Mark Sheehan