James Caddell and Adoption

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fl. 1810-26

English captive and Maori chief

Caddell was an English cabin-boy on a sealing ship, the Sydney Cove, in Foveaux Strait, between Stewart Island and the South Island of New Zealand, when he was captured by the local Maori people in 1810, aged about 13-16. He and some other crew members had gone ashore in a small boat and the rest of the men were captured eaten. He escaped because he happened to touch the chief's cloak, and thus became tapu.

He was adopted into the tribe, living on Stewart Island, and became completely acculturated, refusing to return permanently to European society: the first known Pakeha-Maori, or non-Maori who lived among the Maori. His adoptive father was a chief, he married the daughter and sister of a chief, received the moko (one of only about five non-Maori ever to receive the moko), or carved Maori tattoo, was an excellent warrior, and became a chief himself. In 1822 he was part of a Maori group who boarded an Australian ship, the Snapper, and was brought to Australia with his wife, Tokitoki, where he stayed for several months.

The lurid newspaper accounts of his arrival in Sydney stated that he had become a cannibal chief and was virtually indistinguishable from a true Maori; he was even said, quite improbably, to have almost completely forgotten how to speak English. He made another trip to Australia before returning to New Zealand. He was interviewed in 1826 by Thomas Shepherd, but no more was ever heard of him.


McNab, Robert. Murihiku and the Southern Islands ... (Invercargill: William Smith, 1907) "First Known Case of a Pakeha Turning Maori," The Standard [Wellington], 28 March 1952 Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. (Wellington: Allen & Unwin and the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs, 1990). Vol. 1: 1769-1869 Bentley, Trevor. Paheka Maori: The Extraordinary Story of the Europeans Who Lived as Maori in Early New Zealand. (Auckland: Benguin Books, 1999)