Māori historian Ross Calman granted honorary doctorate for work revitalising te reo

8:03 pm on 28 March 2023
Ross Calman and his family, including his wife Ariana Tikao.

Ross Calman and his family, including his wife Ariana Tikao. Photo: Heeni Collins / Supplied

One of the country's leading Māori historians is being awarded an honorary degree in recognition for his work revitalising te reo Māori.

Ross Calman (Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāi Tahu) will receive an honorary doctorate from Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha, the University of Canterbury, for his work revitalising te reo Māori as a researcher, translator, writer and editor.

Calman has authored more than a dozen works, including books on the Treaty of Waitangi and the New Zealand Wars.

One of his most well known works is A Record of the Life of the Great Te Rauparaha, published in 2020 - a book which held a deep personal significance to Calman, a descedent of Te Rauparaha.

Calman said when he first enrolled at university he had only a superficial knowledge of te reo and his whakapapa.

"When I started at UC in 1990, I didn't really know what my whakapapa was. It wasn't until a couple of years later after talking to my grandmother that I found out about my iwi, and that I was descended from Te Rauparaha."

While he was studying in the university library, he came across a bound photocopy of a manuscript about the Ngāti Toa leader written in te reo Māori by his son Tāmihana Te Rauparaha.

Ross Calman.

Ross Calman. Photo: Heeni Collins / Supplied

Seeing the record of his tīpuna sent him on a journey to learn te reo, which culminated in him translating the manuscript.

"It was over 20 years later before I picked up that manuscript again, in 2014, and started trying to decipher it. The resulting book is my biggest achievement and the thing that means the most to me and has the most personal significance in terms of the journey I've been on," he said.

Calman's wife Ariana Tikao, a writer and taonga puoro musician, has shared parallel interests to his own, he said, and been a huge support to his career.

UC Ngāi Tahu Centre pou whakarae Te Maire Tau said over the past two decades, Calman has become a pre-eminent researcher, editor and translator who has enriched New Zealanders' understanding of the Māori past.

He said Calman's career is all the more remarkable given that he only had a superficial understanding of te ao Māori when he first came to UC.

"However, in collaboration with his wife, Ariana Tikao, who is also Ngāi Tahu and prominent in related disciplines, Ross is now a leading scholar in the field of Māori history."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs