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English Professor Christiansen acknowledges Māori ancestors, hospitality across history in upcoming Convocation

English Professor Anna Christiansen headshot wearing a brown shirt

Personal ties to the history and people involved, including her late mother, have made preparation for her upcoming address, “Manaakitanga Here and There: The Case of Eparaima Makapi,” difficult and meaningful, shared Dr. AnnaMarie Christiansen, an associate professor in the Faculty of Arts & Letters.

Christiansen will give the address at Academic Convocation on Thursday, Sept. 30 at 11 a.m. in the Cannon Activities Center, followed by a panel discussion at 3:30 p.m. in the Aloha Center Ballroom.

Sparked by her mother’s death in 2018, Christiansen said she explored FamilySearch and, which led to questions and discoveries that fueled the research for her address. “I’m asking questions and making connections [that] I feel like I should have when [my mother] was alive … I think she’s somewhere around me supporting this.”

Christiansen explained her research deals with a relationship in the late 1800s and early 1900s between a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a small Māori tribe called Ngāti Hine, with whom her mother affiliates.

The missionary’s name, Ephraim Magleby, was transliterated to “Eparaima Makapi” in Māori, explained Christiansen, and used in the naming of their “marae,” or important gathering place. Christiansen said she thought it was strange they named a place that was important to their family after him.

Through further research, Christiansen said she discovered a history of exchanges between Magleby and the Ngāti Hine, including Magleby introducing them to the gospel and the Ngāti Hine offering their land to the Church.

“I’m fascinated by the back-and-forth … exchange of knowledge and hospitality and gratitude. So that’s what I’m going to focus on [in my speech].”

Christiansen said she also connects this exchange of hospitality to her own upbringing and “how these relationships of manaaki, of extending hospitality [and] caring for each other, extend[s] across the ocean and through history.”

Although her mother was born and raised in New Zealand, Christiansen said she considers herself a part of the Māori dispersion, as she was born in Australia but raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. “Connection to our culture and history was tenuous, but [my mother] really tried hard when we were growing up to keep it alive.”

Christiansen received her bachelor’s in English from BYUH and like many students before her, said she lived the complete BYUH experience—from hales to off-campus housing and TVA. She has since earned her Doctorate of Arts degree from Idaho State University and began teaching at BYUH in 1992.