Thursday, 24 January 2013

SUMMER SNIPPETS: ‘When Two Cultures Meet: The New Zealand Experience’

Here are a few more snippets from my summer reading, this time ‘When Two Cultures Meet: The New Zealand Experience’ by John Robinson. I feared from the title it would be painfully worthy, but couldn’t have been more wrong.  Calling itself “a direct assault” on today’s revisionist histories of colonisation, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Email: for purchasing info.

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Thomas Sowell observes that one reason we originally and voluntarily choose to associate in a particular cultural group is the hope or expectation of safety therein. Yet in pre-European Maori society, there was none.virtually the only way to resolve disputes was in battle.
Disputes could quickly build into violence.  Thus the fighting following a quarrel among some girls bathing off the beach at Korarareka [Russell] in 1830, knows as the Girls’ War, resulting in thirty dead and seventy wounded.
    “Fickle insults could lead rapidly to violence.  Shortland tells such a story of insult and retribution, illustrating the angry manner of dealing with argument and conflict. 
        ‘When a chief, Hanui, and his companion
     Heketewanga met an old chief Korako, who was sitting under a tree, Heketewanga decided to mock
     Korako by climbing a tree and peeing on his head.  Soon, Korako told his son of this, and he was very
     angry.  He gathered a war party of 340 men and set off to ‘kill those men.’ 
         [Shortland, E., 1882, Maori Religion and Mythology]
    “ They attacked the pa at Hanui and, after a fierce battle the defenders (some 600 men) were overcome and most were killed.  The rest remained as a ‘rahui’—a tribe reduced to a dependent condition by a conquering tribe and made to do the work of dependents, cultivate land for food, catch eels, carry wood etc.  The land is not in their possession.
    “Maori were traders who were ‘skilled in the arts of the market place.’  However, as during the intertribal wars, trading parties might fail to return, being killed by belligerent tribes.
    '”Thus, in the absence of any codified law or higher authority, there was no rule of law, no guarantee of safety.*  The response to a perceived wrong would be either to attack and thus to revenge that wrong or to face one another, starting with warlike challenges, and following with argumentative dispute.  The outcome would then depend on one side recognising right of the other or by one side asserting its greater strength and showing that it had the power to force its wishes. 
[There is a fascinating contrast here with English law contemporary to the development of Maori society, which had grown out of efforts, from Anglo-Saxon times on, in which the law was specifically expected to quench vengeance and prevent a long chain of killing, woundings and injuries.”: “The purpose of the verbal, combative procedure [of the medieval law courts] is the settlement of a dispute which might explode into violence if it were not channelled through a court. The law of medieval England was not much influenced by Christian doctrines of the duty of forgiveness and turning the other cheek. It assumed that a deliberate wrong would be resented … it assumed the desire for vengeance was natural and proper [and the law’s job was to draw the teeth of that desire].]

* * * * 

“The lack of certainty applied in particular to the ownership or control of land. ‘[Erueti, A. in Boast et al’s 1999, Maori Land Law writes] According to Maori land custom, no one individual or kinship group owned land in the sense that they held virtually all rights in land to the extinction of other levels of kinship or adjacent groups.  Rather, different levels of the hapu social order exercised different kinds of rights in the same area of land.’
[A fascinating almost-parallel here with ownership or control of land in a common law regime, where individual land ownership was recognised, along with rights to occupation, etc., but these were not usually or necessarily to the exclusion of other rights that might remain to, for example, logging, harvesting, birding and the like. But in the common law system, all these rights were formally recognised and protected by law in order to avoid them remaining hostage to warlike eruptions.]

* * * * 

‘…there were five ways in which rights to land were acquired in customary Maori society: ‘take tupuna’ inheritance from one’s ancestor’s, ‘take rauputu’ (conquest), ‘take tuku’ (gifting), ‘take tanaha’ (naming during discovery and exploration, and ‘take ahika’ (keeping the home fires burning). These take complemented each other and a claim of right required a mix of different take.’[Erueti, A. in Boast et al’s 1999, Maori Land Law ]”
[It is unclear, in this 1999 whitewash of Maori land ownership, in which place such a “claim” could ever be made except on the field of battle. An ivory-tower gloss is obviously being given to what at the time would basically be causes for further grievance.]

* * * *

There is a  context in which we can understand that the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi as just as important a document in freeing the slaves of this place as Abraham Lincoln's 1865 Emancipation Proclamation was in the United States:
“[In his 1990 novel Once Were Warriors, Alan] Duff pointed out not all Maori were chiefs.  A history of this country must pay due regard to the experiences and fates of all Maori, including the dispossessed, the lower ranks, the slaves—and the women.  Then efforts can be made to improve the lives of all and longer focus on righting supposed wrongs to the few chiefs who benefited from tribalism.  The glory of traditional Maori society, it seems, was the domain of only a few whereas for characters such as [Alan Duff’s’ Jake, the legacy of Maori society was one of slavery.”

“[Prior to the Treaty] there had been much profit for Maori from European visitors, but that income shrank rapidly took charge and levied its own customs duties… ‘[As historian Keith Sinclair observes] where once chiefs had levied anchorage tolls on shipping, the British now imposed customs duties; where they had sold land directly to Europeans, they could now sell it only to the Government, which resold at a huge profit.  The Maoris were poorer, and their poverty was a direct result of the increase of British power.’”

* * * *

Initial widespread Maori support for British rule quickly foundered on British disinterest in the colony and local administrative disinterest in policing and keeping order led to the formation of the Maori King movement to fill the vacancy. 
While there was considerable support for such separate government, not all chiefs agreed [however].  Temuera to Amohau, for example, would not support such a king.  He refused, saying, ‘One of our chiefs, Timoti, was the only man of the Arawa people who signed the Treaty of Waitangi, but we shall not depart from the pledge he then gave.  We will not join the king tribe.  My king is Queen Victoria.’
    “The initial intention was to work with the British in setting up a system of government.  [The Southern Cross newspaper of 1857 reported]
        ‘In the beginning the natural desire of the natives for a better system of government could have been turned to
    beneficial account by a prescient Administration.  At a large meeting at Paetai, near Rangiriri, on the 23rd April,
    1857, Potatau, Te Wharepu, and other chiefs asked the Governor, Colonel Gore Browne, for a Magistrate and laws,
    and runanga or tribal councils.  To this request the Government responded by the experimental establishment of
    civil institutions in the Waikato, under Mr F.D. Fenton, afterwards Judge of teh Native Land Court.  The new
    machinery, however, was not given time to develop into a useful system before Mr. Fenton was recalled, and the field
    was left free for the exponents of Maori independence to develop their own schemes of government.’
    “Discussions concerning the idea of a Maori King in 1857  covered a wide range of views, with a division of attitudes towards the settlers.  [Wiremu] Tamihana emphasised the Maori need for law and order, saying,
        ‘The king could give use these better than the Governor; for the Governor has never done anything except when
    a pakeha is killed; he lets us kill each other and fight.’

    “Opinion was divided [writes Cowan in 1922]: ‘there was considerable opposition to the whole movement by Maoris who became known as the Queen’s party.’  At around that time, in 1860, many Maori gathered at Kohimarama to express support for the Treaty, and for the new Christian religion, against the previous traditional barbarity…”

* * * *

When European settlers arrived in New Zealand, Taranaki was deserted (the population having been either swept away or enslaved by raiding Waikato tribes), and most of the original population of Otaki and the Kapiti Coast had been swept away or enslaved in a series of bloodthirsty raids by Te Rauparaha—a supporter of the Treaty, who holed up on Kapiti Island cynically waiting for the new rulers to give him title to all he had plundered.  But those original populations returned under the safety of British rule, causing problems in determining who should have title to what.  Not the least of the problems, which remain to this day, were the multiple sales to multiple buyers of the same pieces of land.
“In July 1860, when the situation at Waitara [in the Taranaki] was coming to a head, one of the main protagonists and a supporter of the Government, Ihaia Kirikumara, wrote a letter in conjunction with his friend Tamati Tiraurau, addressed to the settlers in New Plymouth.  This provides a summary of some key happenings, including multiple sales of land and the on-going disputes among Maori.
        ‘Friends, formerly we, the Maoris, lived alone in New Zealand; we did wrong to one another, we ate one another,
    we exterminated one another.  Some had deserted the land, some were enslaved, and the remnants that were
    spared went to seek other lands.
        ‘Now this was the arrangement of this Ngatiawa land [for which yet another Waitangi settlement has just, this
    summer, been agreed].  Mokau was the boundary on the north, Ngamotu the boundary on the south; beyond
    were Taranaki and Ngatiruanui.
        ‘All was quite deserted; the land, the sea, the streams, the lakes, the forests, the rocks, were deserted; the food,
    the property, the work were deserted; the dead and eth sick were deserted; the landmarks were deserted.
        ‘Then came the Pakeha hither … to a place whose inhabitants had left it.  There were few men here—the men were
    a remnant, a handful returned from slavery.
        ‘And the Pakeha asked, ‘Where are the men of this place?’ and they answered, ‘They have been driven away by
    war; we few have come back from another land.’  And the Pakeha said, ‘Are you willing to sell us this land?’  And
    they replied, ‘We are willing to sell it that it might not be merely barren; presently our enemies will come, and our
    places will be quite taken from us.’
        ‘So payment was made; it was not said, ‘let the place be simply taken,’ although the men were few; the Pakeha
    did not say ‘let it be taken,’ but the land was quietly paid for.
        ‘Now … the Maoris living in [slavery] and those that had fled, heard of it; they heard that the land had been
    occupied, and they said, Ah ! ah ! the land has revived … let us return to the land.’ So they returned.  Their return was
    in a friendly manner.  The thought of the pakeha was, ‘Let us dwell together, let us work together.’
        ‘The [newly-returned] Maoris began to dispute with the Pakeha.  When the Governor saw it he removed the Pakeha
    to one spot to dwell.  Afterwards the Pakeha made a second payment for the land, and afterwards a third; then I said
    ‘Ah !  Ah ! very great indeed is the goodness of the Pakeha, he has not said that the payment ceases at the first time’ …

    “Many Maori were fascinated and much pleased by the multiple sales, with repeat payments for the same land consequent on the many claims by different Maori and the desire by the British to honour the Treaty and make sure that nothing underhand occurred.  The efforts to sort through the mess at Waitara, and the outbreak of hostilities there, were crucial in the evolution of the colony. 
        “[Historian Keith Sinclair writes in 1957,] ‘It is easy to understand why the Waitara came to be an obsession, the
    fatal word in Maori and European history alike…  It must be one of the most purchased areas in the country.  It was
    ‘purchased’ in 1839 and 1840.  It was to be ‘purchased’ in 1859 and 1860 (paid for in blood during the wars, returned
    to the Maoris, and then confiscated in 1863, and bought from them again in 1873.’
   “Such multiple purchases were common in those times.
          [Writing in 1842, explorer Ernst Dieffenbach observed] ‘Kapiti and the adjacent islands have been sold over and
    over again to different parties, and posts may be found to which half a dozen different persons lay claim.’
    “Much of the South Island was sold several times, sometimes by the same chiefs and also with the purchase of overlapping rights.”

* * * * *


  1. John Robinson's book, The Corruption of New Zealand Democracy, is also very good.

    The more you study the early history of New Zealand, particularly as recounted in contemporaneous sources, the more you realise how much common Maori benefited from British and colonial government and law. The overwhelming partiality of the Waitangi Tribunal and settlement process is creating new injustices - to Maori as well as to all other New Zealanders. One injustice does not right another but rather creates new grievances. I fear New Zealanders will discover this to the detriment of social and political stability in the not-too-distant future.

  2. Wrong wrong wrong wrong!!!

    As everybody knows, the evil British, in their bloodlust, raped, slaughtered and disposessed the gentle, meditative, benign society of these wonderful people who were bathed in Aroha.

    How can you believe such lies???

    Rawiri Te Mann


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