Kahu Kuranui (Nick) Karaitiana

Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tahu

1909 - 1979

Kahu Karaitiana was born beside the Cam River in North Canterbury, the son of Wiremu Ihakara Karaitiana and Ruiha Titapu Taituha. His father’s tribe was Ngāti Kahungunu of Heretaunga and Wairarapa and his mother belonged to the paramount hapu Te Rangiamoa of Ngaitahu. Karaitiana was educated at Tuahiwi School and Hikurangi College at Carterton. He won the 40-mile cycling competition in the 1934 Canterbury Championships. Karaitiana was an ardent student of Māori history, mythology and genealogy, having been taught by his father who was the compiler of the historical records of Ngaitahu at that time. Karaitiana married Violet Coulthurst in Auckland in 1939 and had three sons. They moved south to Christchurch where he worked as a carpenter and he also carved for pleasure. He sang on stage and radio and travelled to the Far East as a tenor with the Katherine Dunham Show in 1957. Karaitiana was a tenor with Porgy and Bess Opera which featured the late Inia Te Wiata and was performed throughout Australia. He was a member of the Three Tuis with Martin Winiata and Monty Graham; they sang on Radio 3ZB and gave concerts in the Civic Theatre in Christchurch. Karaitiana wrote a number of stories but only two were published. One of his stories was included in a Japanese publication. He died 26th June 1979 aged 69 years.

Biographical sources

  • Phone calls and visit with Violet Karaitiana, 12, 17 and 25 June, 1998.
  • Correspondence from Bob Karaitiana, June 1998.
  • Conversation with Mereharwood (Tommy) Williams, 30 June 1998.
  • Te Ao Hou 49 (1964): 10.
  • Te Ao Hou 50 (1965): 24.


  • "Lest We Forget." Te Ao Hou 49 (1964): 7-10. Rpt. in Contemporary Māori Writing. Comp. Margaret Orbell. Wellington, N.Z.: Reed, 1970. 63-68.
  • In this story the narrator recounts a dream composed of many sequences in which he signs up for the Māori Battalion, goes overseas and fights to the death, and in his dying moments is comforted by a divine being, part god of war and part Christ.
  • Non-fiction

  • "History of a Great River." Te Ao Hou 52 (1965): 50-53. Rpt. in Te Karanga: Canterbury Māori Studies Association 3.2 (1987): 31-35.
  • Karaitiana gives a historical background to the areas around the Waitaki River, its seven feeding lakes and the surrounding mountains. He provides the meanings of the Māori place-names and recounts tribal stories concerning these areas. He also includes a brief history of the Waitaha people being driven off their land in the late 1870s.