Monday, 17 December 2012

Maori and the Race Relations Act 1971

When Bruce Stirling, Wally Penetito and I put together The Treaty of Waitangi Companion: Maori and Pakeha from Tasman to Today (AUP) back in 2010 some material never made the final text, simply for reasons of space. The Race Relations Act 1971, passed into law on 17 December 1971, was one such topic. What follows is our unedited entry on this (compiled by Bruce):

The Race Relations Bill was introduced with some reluctance, with a view to implementing the United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, signed by the government five years earlier. In its original form it was intended not so much to protect Māori from the racism they had long endured but to eliminate the Maori Affairs Department and all other special Maori agencies, furthering the goals of existing assimilation policies. That was how the government perceived its obligations to the UN, but Nga Tamatoa and the older leaders of the New Zealand Maori Council lobbied the government to shift its focus to the forms of racism affecting them.

1. The ‘best race relations in the world’ revisited

James Ritchie, ‘Race Prejudice – How much here?’, New Zealand Listener, 17 April 1970.

The problem of prejudice in New Zealand is the denial of prejudice. Our biggest problem is we do not know how serious a problem we have.

2. Maori reject assimilation and seek self-determination…

Dr Ranginui Walker and New Zealand Maori Council, ‘Manifesto of the New Zealand Maori Council on the Race Relations Bill’, 1971.

…the Race Relations Bill represents an opportunity to recapture the ideals embodied in the Treaty of Waitangi, and set the course for the future of our nation. … the New Zealand Maori Council submits that the urban migration has brought about a new challenge between Maori and Pakeha. The present generation of Maori youth is putting to the test our reputation for racial harmony and our ideal of racial equality. In order to survive that test, the New Zealand Maori Council has made an exhaustive analysis of the Race Relations Bill and reinterpreted it in relation to the [UN] International Convention [on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination] and the needs of the Maori people. Accordingly, the following principles are embodied in our recommendations:

1.             The Maori people regard their identity as sacrosanct. Although Maori share their country with a majority group they reserve the right to be different.
2.             Maori social and cultural institutions support their identity. Maori want self-determination within the framework of their own institutions.
3.             For the Maori, equality with the Pakeha means increased participation in the decision-making processes of the country.

3. …linking the Race Relations Act to the Treaty…

Pei Te Hurunui Jones, ‘Manifesto of the New Zealand Maori Council on the Race Relations Bill’, 1971.

If there is a Maori point of view emerging in our submissions, it is that which asks for a legislative recognition and support for Maori institutions, values, goals, organisations, and aspirations so that the rights which the Maori people now have be not eroded deliberately or unwittingly by legislation; legislation which affects all New Zealanders and is assimilative by nature.

... it is our considered view that the Race Relations Act be a charter of human relations at least as inspiring as the first Race Relations Bill, the Treaty of Waitangi. The Maori people still seek legal recognition of that Treaty, and a comparison of its intentions with those of the Bill under review would show that the parallels are in fact close. One of the intentions of the Treaty of Waitangi was to formalise relations between two diverse groups and bring them under the mana of one sovereign. Another was to protect those Maori interests which the Maori people did not want alienated.

4. …while a new generation of Maori express themselves more bluntly

Nga Tamatoa, ‘Submission of Nga Tamatoa to the Statues Revision Committee’, 1971.

The bill in its present form is sheer tokenism, a pusillanimous gesture in an area where bold and intelligent government is long overdue. At worst, it is a cheap and dirty insult both to the UN and the Maori people of New Zealand; a pandering to an international reputation in the field of race relations which widely departs from domestic realities.  … Why is there no cohesive Government policy in respect of the Maori people? … Integration is a non-answer…it is a screen for the practise of an ostensibly forgotten doctrine of assimilation.

…Nga Tamatoa is prepared to accept a Race Relations Act but we will challenge any Bill which may be camouflage to deprive Maori of their fundamental rights. This is such a Bill. ...We will NOT be assimilated, we will NOT be discounted by your policies, and we are tired of tolerating your political arrogance.

5. The first Race Relations Conciliator explains the 1971 Race Relations Act…

Race Relations Conciliator Sir Guy Powles speaking to the 20th Conference of the Maori Women’s Welfare League, Auckland, 1972, ‘Polynesians and the Law’, Te Ao Hou, no. 72, 1973, pp.25-34.

The principle of this Act is that it is unlawful to discriminate against any person by reason of his colour, race, or ethnic or national origins. …The Act applies to four specific areas. The first is access by the public to places, vehicles, and facilities. No one can, on the ground of any person’s race or colour, refuse to allow that person to use any place or vehicle which members of the public are allowed to use. Similarly, no one may, on this ground, refuse to supply goods, facilities, or services to any person: no one may, on this ground, refuse to employ any person: no on, on this ground, may dismiss him. Finally, in the area of the land, housing, and other accommodation, no one may, on this ground, refuse to lease or let any land, house, or shop...

Finally, there is the over-riding provision that nothing in the Act prevents anything being done if it is for the assistance or the advantage of particular racial groups. This…protects that wide range of the law…making special provision for the preservation and advancement of various Maori institutions.

6. …and considers race relations in New Zealand

…how much racial discrimination is there in New Zealand? Some think that there is not very much, and nothing to worry about, and others say that there is a great deal, much of which is under cover, not brought out to light and yet just as socially harmful and causing just as much personal distress, and that more publicity should be given to it. ...The Race Relations Act 1971 has been deliberately passed by Parliament with the object of uncovering discrimination if it exists, and of making a strong attack on it, if it does exist, so that the law had indeed now been brought into play to help us in the attainment of the ideals of a multi-racial society.

... Is there any racial discrimination in housing matters in New Zealand? I think you will agree with me that there probably is. ...I know of several cases, not only in Auckland but also in Wellington, and a few days ago I heard of a case in Invercargill.

7. Subsequently, many complaints to the Race Relations Conciliator come from Pākehā opposed to any special provision for Maori, but Maori defend their parallel institutions

Ranginui Walker, ‘A Maori Parliament’, Listener, 28 September 1979.

The conventional wisdom would no doubt condemn...a Maori Parliament as separatist, but this argument is merely a rationalisation for the status quo. It also exemplifies the intellectual bind of a monocultural person who insists on perceiving such an institution as separatist instead of as a parallel system. ...While there are critics who would abolish the Maori team on the grounds of separatism, they fail to perceive the contribution that Maori rugby has made to the national game. ... Maori rugby is inextricably part of New Zealand rugby.

During the Second World War the Army created the Maori War Effort Organisation to work with Maori tribal committees... to raise thousands of pounds for the national cause. An even greater contribution was made through the creation of a special unit known as the Maori Battalion. ... Maori rugby, the King Movement, the Maori War Effort Organisation and the Maori Battalion are examples of parallel institutions where the Pakeha permitted some measure of self-determination and reaped appropriate dividends.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

History, Literature and the AUP Anthology



It hasn’t even been officially launched yet, but already the AUP Anthology of New Zealand Literature is generating considerable controversy. Critics reckon Maori, South Islanders and other minority groups are underrepresented, while graduates of the Manhire school, among others, are supposedly overrepresented. For Bookman Beattie, the most surprising omission is Michael King. Paula Green has noted the less than adequate coverage of New Zealand historians generally: no Judith Binney, James Belich, Anne Salmond or Claudia Orange. Keith Sinclair does get a look in, but only as a poet. Apirana Ngata is here, but not Ranginui Walker.

I doubt that even the editors would suggest they have provided anything like representative coverage of non-fiction New Zealand history writing. But that got me thinking about the relationship between history and literature. If the former is a subset of the latter, then surely it is entitled to fair representation in works such as this; if it is not, then why include it at all?



Perhaps the problem lies in how we define ‘literature’. My Concise Oxford Dictionary provides a number of definitions, including one whose measure is largely subjective (‘written works, esp. those whose value lies in beauty of language or in emotional effect’) and another that is purely descriptive (‘the writings of a country or period’). So if we apply the latter definition then all history writing is part of some body of literature. The aesthetic definition is a more exclusive club. Basically, the answer to whether history is literature is that it depends what you mean by literature.

The problematic relationship between history and literature is summed up in Creative New Zealand’s funding criteria. Writers applying for an arts grant are required to submit projects that will result in ‘publication of high-quality New Zealand literature’. In practice what that seems to mean for authors of non-fiction is: biographies of poets and novelists — good. A history of combine harvesters in South Taranaki from 1940 to 1967: don’t give up your day job, mate.

What it comes down to is the age-old debate about whether history is art or science. All manner of historical methodology textbooks ultimately end up with a variant on the answer that it is a bit of both. For all of the science behind rigorous research methodologies, in the end the act of writing involves a creative or artistic element. As Richard Evans says in his brilliant work In Defence of History, ‘History is not only a science in the weak sense of the word, it is, or can be, an art, in the sense that in skilful hands it can be presented in a literary form and language that achieves comparability with other literary works of art’.

A number of current or recent New Zealand historians whose works approach such status are mentioned above. But if we went back much further cases could also be made for the likes of James Cowan, Elsdon Best, Te Rangihiroa, and George Rusden. Perhaps we need an Anthology of New Zealand Historical Writing? No doubt the arguments over who was included or excluded from that (and the criteria for deciding) would prove just as heated as those over the AUP Anthology are shaping up to be!

Monday, 19 November 2012

Flying the Flag: The Maiki Hill Flagstaff, Kororareka



Hone Heke was a man of his word. He had promised the governor he would put up a new flagstaff on Maiki Hill after felling the old one in July 1844. But that didn’t mean he wouldn’t chop it down again if necessary. And again, and again. Down she came. For the fourth time. It was March 1845.

Heke Fells the Flagstaff at Kororareka, A-004-037, ATL


Pandemonium ensued. A smoker dropped ash on some kegs of gunpowder, causing the whole magazine to blow. Heke had no truck with the settlers. His warriors even helped some of them flee town. But now it was too late to go back. It was a question of mana.

Kororareka. The Hell-hole of the Pacific, they reckoned. Today it is refined, posh Russell. But the past lingers everywhere. It’s like a living museum.

The British never did re-erect their flagstaff. Maori did it instead, in 1858. They had made their point. The flagstaff would be a token of reconciliation, not a symbol of sovereignty. They called it ‘Te Whakakotahitanga’, the binding together. The government preferred to see it as a sign of submission. Ngapuhi had finally decided to bow to a superior power.

The Flagstaff before its partial destruction in 1913
 
But Maori were being driven out of the town. By the 1860s the land had nearly all passed to the Pakeha. The dodgy grog-sellers of old had given way to a more respectable class of settler — god fearing and upright, unfamiliar with the old days when Maori were a force to be reckoned with. Back then, it wasn’t a case of political correctness. You could get into a lot of trouble if you didn’t abide by the native ways. Tapu and all that.

Now they were virtually invisible. And the flagstaff? Like the Treaty that was stashed away in the basement of Parliament, to be nibbled away at by rats, it could safely be ignored. It made a handy shipping signal station for a while, though a gorse fire in 1913 left it considerably shorter than before.

They touched the flagstaff up for the Queen’s visit in 1953. Drunken sailors played out an old naval joke on the eve of Waitangi Day the following year. Not so funny in the morning perhaps. The four naval ratings (three of them Maori) had just about succeeded in felling the flagstaff.     

Vandals, property developers and political protestors. It is hard to say who did the most damage. A road was built up the hill after the war. A housing subdivision followed. One bureaucrat reckoned it wasn’t a good look having the flagstaff surrounded by backyards, clotheslines and cars. No RMA back in the seventies though. And no one thought to ask Maori about it.

Somewhere along the way, history got lost in the wash. Folks forgot who had put up the new flagstaff. In the 1980s it became the site for new acts of protest. Chopped down twice in 1981. Two years later they tied sticks of gelignite to its base. The explosion was heard three kilometres away. A note was found. ‘The Treaty is a Fraud’, it said.

The base of the flagstaff after the 1983 explosion, Northern Advocate


By 1992 Te Whakakotahitanga was near terminal. Rotted and beyond repair. They took it down for a closer look. Not as sick as first feared. There were speeches and prayers and feasting when Te Whakakotahitanga went up again the following year.

The flagstaff today, doc.govt.nz
 
The local iwi had no marae in the town to prepare for the occasion. Some folks didn’t want them back. Things got nasty for a bit. Haratu marae opened in 2009, under the shadow of Te Whakakotahitanga — a flagstaff that silently tells the story of the town beneath it. 

Monday, 5 November 2012

The Invasion of Parihaka, 5 November 1881: An Eyewitness Account



On 5 November 1881 Native Minister John Bryce led 1600 Armed Constabulary into the South Taranaki settlement of Parihaka, arresting leaders Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi. Over the following weeks the remaining residents were forcibly dispersed and the settlement destroyed. The ‘crime’ of the people of Parihaka had been to peacefully resist the confiscation of their lands.

Over the years, these events have been described — and the enormous injustice that occurred — exposed in a number of secondary works. These include George Rusden’s 1883 History of New Zealand, Dick Scott’s influential account Ask That Mountain (1975), Hazel Riseborough’s Days of Darkness (1989), and Rachel Buchanan’s The Parihaka Album (2010).

Yet our knowledge of these events would be much the poorer were it not for the actions of two journalists, Samuel Crombie-Brown (or Croumbie-Brown in some versions) and a Mr Humphries, who both, defying Bryce’s extraordinary efforts to prevent any reporters from being present, made their way into the pa and provided a first-hand account of the invasion. Crombie-Brown (who was born in Russia and had fought in the Union Army during the American Civil War) appears to have been a colourful figure. Prior to the invasion, he had provided the government with a detailed report on how Parihaka might best be taken.

His relations with ministers deteriorated rapidly thereafter, and it would seem that he determined to report the events as fully as possible by way of payback. But whatever his motivations, Crombie-Brown provided a compelling account of the shameful actions of that day. An event that could have easily been clouded in obfuscation and denial was therefore brought to public attention as a result.

Here is the eyewitness account that appeared in the Star (the evening newspaper that was a sister publication to the Lyttelton Times for which Crombie-Brown was special correspondent) on 7 November 1881. It makes for a riveting, poignant and disturbing read.

Star, 7 November 1881
   

Dismay and consternation spread through the ranks of newspaper correspondents at Pungarehu on Friday when it became known late in the day that all civilians were forbidden to follow the advance of the forces on Parihaka, and would be arrested if found there on the entrance of the troops. Several journals had gone to great expense in sending men to the front; and the wrath of these may be more easily imagined than put into polite language. The occasion was one of such extreme interest to people, whatever their opinions in the matter, that specials had been despatched by some papers for the express purpose of being on the spot during the one eventful day alone. Every effort was made to obtain a relaxation of the Draconian law, but in vain. To no purpose did the ambassador of the Otago Daily Times and the representative of a round dozen of evening papers call upon the generalissimo and the Defence Minister. Colonel Roberts was unwilling, and the honorable John was as inexorable as he is popularly supposed to be honest. Your chief correspondent was told point blank by the former that he or any other European caught in the manner described, would be arrested and kept in durance vile till next day, adding that such were Mr Bryce’s orders. However, “collaring Native orderlies and stopping Englishmen in the execution of a duty fully recognised by all civilized commanders and educated statesmen, are two different things.” It became a point of honour to defeat the common enemy, so baying worked out a scheme by which he might possibly be circumvented, it was resolved to take a look at the camp, and then turn in. The morrow and the morrow’s deeds were being discussed beforehand very freely, the obstructive measure meted out to the papers being strongly condemned on all hands, the more so as it was known to be the result of spite on the part of the authorities against the representatives of one daily, which need not be mentioned. If the old story be true, the Defence Minister’s ears must have tingled from something more than mosquito bites that evening. Of the Taranaki contingent it was said, with a frankness that made the blood run cold, that twenty men were sworn to shoot down the first Maori that chance placed it within their power to kill. It is true that Taranaki men have homes laid desolate, slaughtered brothers and friends Blain in Maori warfare, to mourn; still the sentiment, savoured more of the savages’ law of the Utu, at which men wonder so exceedingly, than of any feeling creditable to the hearts of civilised, not to speak of Christian men. The Constabulary were less blood-thirsty in their ideas, and contented themselves with a grand illumination and some uproarious choruses. To the others happily the excuse they wished for never came. The battle of Parihaka, the most successful on the bead-roll of famous fights, till the bill shall have been paid (three prisoners on one side), was won without the firing of a shot.

John Bryce, 1/4-004946-G, ATL
 
Our plan for the morning was a simple one, and proved eventually more effective than our wildest hopes could have anticipated. It was a start in the grey dawn, and by paths and various ways to gain such positions before the array of skirmishers was thrown out, that we should be able to observe with ease all that passed, in spite of arrests or detentions. Your other correspondents will tell in detail how well we succeeded, the fact being that the two people whose absence was most desired saw and heard more collectively of what took place than any other two observers of the scene. The fates are grimly humorous at times, and so it proved in the present instance. In company with Captain Dawson, an ex-Imperial officer, and Mr H. Vere Barclay, who had undertaken to be our guide, both being desirous of seeing what passed, and Mr Humphries, correspondent for the Press Association, we started at early morn. One of us and Mr Humphries had decided to enter Parihaka, and take the risk of arrest, when the Riot Act should be read to the quiet assemblage of tranquil Maories; the other three were to skirmish by themselves, and be guided by circumstances. On the homeopathic system barbarous regulations had to be met by uncivilised procedure, so like Indians on the war-path, we slunk along under cover, for fresh horse tracks were seen everywhere, and we feared the patrols of our hostile friends and the eyes of the tall blockhouse. It was one of those beautiful mornings that our favoured clime enjoys, when the mere act of living in it, under ordinary circumstances, delights, but the diamond drops of dew upon the fern, so pretty in the distance, are drenching upon near acquaintance. The hoary head of old Taranaki rose before us in all the virgin beauty lent it by the new born day, but who could admire it wading knee deep in a swamp, switched across the eyes by “lawyers,” climbing Maori fences, and plunging over potato beds? The slur cast upon the Maories by their rabid foes, that they do not cultivate the land they hold, proceeds from deep ignorance of the facts. There are square miles of potato, melon and cabbage fields around Parihaka; they stretch on every side; and acres and acres of the land show the results of great industry and care.

Our pilot, a thorough bushman, whoso name is known as the hero of the Queensland and South Australian boundary-line expedition of a few years back, took us through fern and forest safely up close to Parihaka, before the dew began to dry upon the leaves. At seven o’clock the strains of the band were heard playing the force out of Pungarehu. “Up to time at all events,” says some one, allowing the enemy the merit of punctuality. The Native Minister is not in the odour of sanctity with us. We have all wet our legs fording streams, and spoilt our rest to get to windward of his flanking parties, and there is a decidedly revengeful tone about the conversation. Half-an-hour after, having scaled the defences of an old pah, our gallant guide, who knows every inch of the ground, brings us to where we can peer into the village; thence our ways lie apart. We worked round towards the back of the kainga, and soon had the satisfaction of chuckling in our sleeves as we heard the bugle call “from the left extend,” which meant skirmishing for the especial benefit of beating up newspaper men. From the hill, where we finally decided upon taking up our position, we had a complete view of the whole village. Few people were astir, except the children who were clustered in a band at the entrance. All the Natives moving about wore white feathers, but there was little unusual stir, except the loud baying of the dogs as the columns drew near. Those who were not sitting massed in the spaces between the whare’s went peacefully about their usual occupations, but an air of sadness hung about the place, and there was none of the usual gaiety and singing.

Children of Parihaka, 1/1-006430-G, ATL
 
The first of the Armed Constabulary appeared about eight o’clock, and were greeted with loud cheers by the children, who afterwards kept up the haka and skipping with great vigour. Colonel Roberts, on a black charger and Mr Bryce on a white one soon appeared, with Mr Rolleston on foot. A position was taken up on a hill at the entrance, and more and more companies strengthened those which had already arrived. That the cordon was nearly complete was soon made evident by the appearance of Major Pitt, with the Nelson men and the Thames Scottish on the north-west side. At 9 o’clock the latter came within a few yards of us, and it was amusing to hear the Sergeant warning his men in a strong accent to keep a sharp look-out for enemies in the rear. At his very feet almost were three. Next time he advances on a dangerous stronghold he will have had more practice. From our vantage ground, we watched the lines drawn closer and closer till the outside fences were surrounded. Watching every face on the hill opposite, and the movements of our rulers, to our intense surprise we discovered three civilians beside Mr Bryce, who took complete direction of the whole affair out of the Colonel’s hands. Their faces were well known to at least one or two. Perhaps it was only a curious coincidence that they should all have been electors of Wanganui. The events that followed the entrance of the arresting companies, my fellow correspondents will describe. Colonel Roberts was kind enough to tell a civilian who went up with the troops and asked if he was going to send him to the rear, that he did not object to his presence — only to that of newspaper men. At the same time it is proper to add that Colonel Roberts is a man possessed of far too much discrimination, and has nothing to be ashamed of that he should object to the presence of correspondents. He was simply acting under orders. Until Mr Bryce’s advent, correspondents were always well received in camp, and treated with the utmost courtesy.

(Thus far our own correspondent. The thread of the story is now taken up by our well-known special, who, it will be seen, contrived to get into Parihaka, despite the Native Minister.)

[FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT.]

Arrived at the summit of a small hill overlooking Parihaka, at a distance of about 300 yards, the party separated; Captain Dawson, Mr Barclay and my brother correspondent remaining to watch the movements of the troops from the point gained; Mr Humphries and the writer proceeded to Parihaka. There I found the Natives gathered together in a large open space between two rows of houses to the number of at least 2500. They were addressed at intervals by Te Whiti and Tohu, the tenor of their speeches in no way differing from that of other speeches recently telegraphed to you. Both enjoined peace and forbearance under any insults or oppression. The Natives were more than usually grandly dressed, most of them wearing white feathers in their hair. In a large square at the entrance to the pah about a hundred young girls were assembled amusing themselves with skipping ropes. Beyond them, on the road leading to Pungarehu, some hundreds of boys were gathered, awaiting the arrival of the hoia (soldiers) with great glee. I strolled round the pah, and found the women engaged in their usual occupations and as cordial in their welcome as ever. I noticed, however, that amongst the adults — the women especially — there was a prevailing sadness, as though they felt a great calamity was approaching. The attempt to reply to a joke or bit of chaff was piteously feeble. The whole spectacle was saddening in the extreme; it was an industrious, law-abiding, moral and hospitable community calmly awaiting the approach of the men sent to rob them of everything dear to them. As the time approached when the troops might be expected to make their appearance at Parihaka, Messrs Humphries, Thomson, and I went down the road as far as we deemed safe in view of the order to arrest newspaper correspondents, and then stole back behind stones and fences. At 7.15 a.m. we first noticed some skirmishers extending from the left (our right), and as it was evident that, if we remained there, we would be outflanked by them, we retreated from hillock to hillock, keeping well out of sight. I afterwards ascertained that they were hunting the dreaded newspaper men, and succeeded in arresting four or five. At 8 o’clock the head of the column appeared round a bend of the main road. Slightly ahead of them rode Colonel Roberts, commanding, and Mr Bryce, with their respective staffs, followed by the Armed Constabulary, volunteers, infantry, and mounted rifles. Owing to the obstacles thrown in the way of Press men, I cannot get hold of the details; but I understand that about 650 men of all ranks left Pungarehu, and were joined at Parapara by about 1000 men, under Major Goring, from Rahotu.

Armed Constabulary at Parihaka, 1881, 10X8-1070-G, ATL


As they proceeded towards Parihaka, pickets were left at various points on the road, with instructions to stop all civilians. Within about 400 hundred yards of Parihaka a halt was called, and the staff rode up a slight hill on the road, from which the pah could be viewed. They remained about ten minutes. All this time we were lying hidden about midway between the position occupied by the staff and where the Maories were assembled. The position was a most curious one, so far as we correspondents were concerned. We were actually hiding from, and retreating before the European invading force, to which we ought to have been attached, and retiring for safety upon the supposed enemy. Shortly another move forward was made, the head of the column making direct for the principal entrance to the pah. Across this were drawn up in two lines about 200 nearly naked boys, who vigorously danced the haka, and sang songs in derision of the invaders. It was mere child’s play to break through these. At this stage the Armed Constabulary were within 150 yards of where we were, and we considered it advisable to get into Parihaka and secrete ourselves where we could observe the subsequent proceedings.

Volunteers in Camp, Parihaka, PA1-q-183-13

 It had previously been explained to the Maories that we had been forbidden by the Pakehas, under pain of arrest, to witness the proceedings ; but, nevertheless, we were determined to run the risk. They replied: “We quite understand why the Government are ashamed that the country should know what it is doing, but we have nothing to be ashamed of, and you are welcome.” They then proposed that we should sit in the centre amongst them, and they would prevent our arrest. The impropriety of this was pointed out to them, and finally arrangements were made for our occupation of a cooking whare from which we could hear and see all that might transpire. In the meantime the troops were advancing steadily in columns of four, companies of volunteers being thrown out so as to nearly surround the pah. At 8.45 am. the Constabulary entered the pah, halting just within the first row of whares. Mr Bryce, who rode a white horse, looked exceedingly anxious. Mr Rolleston was on foot, and seemed to regard the whole affair as a good bit of fun. At this moment Tohu commenced speaking, but in so low a tone that we could not hear what his words were. By this time Mr Humphries and myself and our interpreter, Thomson, had taken up our position in the whare, from between the slabs of which we could observe everything. Mr Bryce, Colonel Roberts and the staff now took up a position on a slight eminence near the burial ground, about thirty yards to the rear of the whares. Precisely at 9 35 Major Tuke, accompanied by Mr Butler, as interpreter, came up to the edge of the Maori gathering, and without speaking a word waited for five minutes. The Maories had previously been warned that he would come to day for their answer to the Proclamation. On the expiration of the five minutes Major Tuke read the Riot Act. Mr Butler translated it, and both then withdrew, the Maories still paying not the slightest attention, but maintaining a dead silence. This was perhaps the most exciting period of the whole proceeding. Whatever Te Whiti might direct would inevitably be done. The whole assemblage sat with eyes fixed on Te Whiti. His slightest variation of countenance was reflected in the faces of all, and any words that he addressed to those close to him were whispered from one to another, until they reached the uttermost circle of the densely-packed meeting. At 10 o’clock a company of picked men, numbering ninety-five, under the command of Captains Newell and Gudgeon, marched further into the pah, and took up a position within a few yards of the assembly. Captain Newell briefly addressed the men, telling them to be firm, but to use no unnecessary violence. They were armed with loaded revolvers, and carried handcuffs. Just about this time some conversation took place respecting the absence of newspaper correspondents, while, as a matter of fact, I could have touched Captain Newell with a walking stick. Tohu now addressed the Natives briefly. He said: “Let the man (Bryce) who has raised the war finish his work this day. Let neither men nor women cook. We have already eaten, and will wait where we are. Do not let any be absent. Stay where you are; even if the bayonet be put to your breasts do not resist.” Until 10.50 a period of deep suspense and suppressed excitement followed. At that hour the bugle sounded “advance skirmishers,” and the skirmishers swarmed down the surrounding hills towards the pah, forming in a line round it. Major Tuke again came towards where the arresting party were drawn up. Some conversation passed between him and Captain Newell, when the latter again spoke a few words to his men, telling them that if they were to put on the handcuffs they were to “clinch them tight.” Major Tuke addressed the men, cautioning them against excitement, but telling them that if any Maori flashed a tomahawk to shoot him down instantly. He then called to the interpreter:— “Butler, can you point him (Te Whiti) out ?” Mr Butler did so. Captain Gudgeon remarked: “I think that Grey of No. 6 Company would be handy here,” meaning that Grey could identify the men who were wanted. Grey was then called forward.

Te Whiti Surrendering to Mr Bryce, Non-ATL-0164, ATL


A few moments after Colonel Roberts said: — “Call Te Whiti.” Mr Hursthouse (another interpreter) did so. Te Whiti replied that he would not come to him. Mr Rolleston replied that he would not go to Te Whiti, but that Te Whiti must come to him, where he was standing by the burial place. Te Whiti replied that he would remain with his people. He had nothing to do with the fight of that day; it was not his fight, but that of the pakehas. Te Whiti then intimated that he was prepared to see Mr Bryce if he had anything to say to him. For his part he had nothing but good words to say to Mr Bryce. Mr Bryce replied in a tone that those who heard considered harsh, that he would not come to him unless he made a path among his people, through which he (Mr Bryce) could ride. The Natives, it must be remembered, were so compactly packed that to do this was an impossibility. Te Whiti replied quite calmly that the horses’ feet might hurt some of the children. Mr Hursthouse, interpreting for Mr Bryce, said the horse was a quiet one. Te Whiti replied that if Mr Bryce wanted to speak to him, he must come on foot. Mr Bryce said the day for talking was past. Te Whiti immediately retorted: “When did you find it out ?” Mr Bryce: “This morning.” Almost immediately afterwards, Mr Bryce ordered Colonel Roberts to carry out his instructions. The latter, addressing Major Tuke, repeated the command, adding “Do not touch any of the women or children.” Major Tuke ordered Captain Newell to have Te Whiti arrested, and two of the arresting constables instantly made their way through the crowd to where Te Whiti sat. Instead of resistance being offered, way was made them, and Te Whiti quietly awaited their approach. The moment they laid hands on him he rose and Colonel Roberts, evidently thinking the constables must use unnecessary violence, called out “Let him walk if he will.” He came away in a very dignified manner, his wife following closely. Tohu was arrested in a similar manner, and also Hiroki. Te Whiti and Tohu were arrested by Constables Willis and Woodward. Constable H. Mulholland, who knows Hiroki well, and shortly after the M’Lean murder was employed in chasing him, was detailed to arrest him. As Mulholland approached him, Hiroki folded his arms across his breast, and Mulholland, suspecting he had weapons concealed, ordered him to throw his arms up. This Hiroki immediately did, and was handcuffed and searched. Nothing was found upon him. He was then passed to the rear, orders being given to the guard to keep him separate from Te Whiti and Tohu. These are being treated as State prisoners, Hiroki as an ordinary criminal. At this stage Colonel Roberts gave the order to “search the whares.” Many of them were searched, and we were in momentary dread of being discovered and arrested, but fortunately our hut was passed over, notwithstanding, as I afterwards ascertained, that your correspondent was strongly suspected of being about somewhere. After their arrest, both Te Whiti and Tohu were allowed to address the people. Te Whiti said: “Be of good heart and patient. Today’s work is not of my doing; it comes from the hearts of the pakehas. Upon my fall the pakeha builds his work. Be steadfast in all that is peaceful.” Tohu said: “This is the doing of war. Be not sad this day. Turn away the sorrowful heart from you. We go away as fools and as captured men. We looked for peace and we find war. Be steadfast and of large heart. Keep to peaceful works. Be not dismayed; have no fear but be steadfast.” They were then led away, and one woman just outside our whare expressed her sorrow, when another replied, “Why are you sorry? Look! he is laughing as he goes away with the Europeans.” While still within ear-shot Te Whiti turned round and called out to his people: “Let your dwelling be good in this place, oh my tribe. Works such as those will be finished this day.” He and Tohu, together with Te Whiti’s wife, were driven to the Pungarehu block-house. Subsequently I learned that passing a whare on the way he called out, “Keep your spirits up, and keep to your whares. I will be with you again.”

Parihaka, November 1881, PA1-q-183-18, ATL

Shortly after the prisoners had been taken, Kina, a Taranaki chief of some standing, briefly addressed the people. He said: “Continue to follow the teaching of Te Whiti and Tohu, even if we are all arrested on the land that has come to us from our forefathers.” It was expected that more arrests would be made, as it is known that a large number of warrants had been signed, but nothing further was done up to the moment of my leaving. The people remained in the same position, looking very disconsolate, and the troops still surrounded them. About an hour after the arrest, my fellow correspondent, who had been told of my hiding-place by a half-caste, slipped a piece of paper through one of the interstices, on which was written that he thought we might come out. It appears that after the arrests had been effected, correspondents, who had previously been arrested and sent to the rear, were permitted to come up to the front. Shortly afterwards we emerged, and if anything in connection with one of the saddest and most shameful spectacles I have witnessed could be ludicrous it was the expression on the faces of the authorities when they saw that their grand scheme for preventing the Colony from knowing what was done in the name of the Queen at Parihaka had been completely frustrated. Not an action escaped observation; not an order given was unheard or unrecorded.

The opinion amongst those who are best qualified to judge, is that the position of the settlers is now worse than before, especially if the large armed force is disbanded. Te Whiti’s restraining influence has been removed, and the more turbulent, excited by today’s events, may take revenge after the Maori fashion. To-day the kindness of the Parihaka people to me was great, and their satisfaction at knowing that the proceedings would be recorded, very marked.

Since writing the foregoing, I have heard that the Maories intend to recommence fencing to-morrow, and will resist interference.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Indigenous Agency versus Enforced Assimilation: The Role of Maori Committees in the Nineteenth Century



Satirical analyses of New Zealand culture and society have often poked fun at the fondness of New Zealanders for forming and joining committees. As Austin Mitchell wrote in 1972, ‘[g]ive them a problem and they’ll set up a committee’. And although it is rarely mentioned in such contexts, Maori were early and fervent converts to this apparent national trait. Their problem was a big one: how to find a place for themselves in the colonial era following the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 that did not involve being entirely subsumed by this new order. At stake was the very survival of Maori society itself.

Over the years I have written extensively on the history of Maori komiti (committees), and related runanga (tribal councils), exploring the legacy of efforts on the part of nineteenth-century Maori to establish new institutions of self-government in the colonial context. My first book Agents of Autonomy: Maori Committees in the Nineteenth Century, published by Huia in 1998, was on this topic. Some six years later I completed a doctoral thesis on the same subject, followed by articles in the Journal of the Polynesian Society, Ethnohistory and elsewhere, along with another book (co-authored with David Armstrong) that featured the various tribal komiti of Te Arawa extensively (The Beating Heart). For the purposes of the present discussion I have adapted the introduction to my thesis (sans lengthy footnotes and some extraneous material), in order to provide an overview of some of my main arguments on this topic.

A primary focus of my work with respect to komiti and runanga has concerned the nature of Crown responses to these, ranging from periodic efforts at co-opting officially recognised but grossly weakened komiti and runanga into the framework of machinery governing Maori, to studied indifference, and, at the other extreme, occasional outright persecution of such institutions. On the other side of the coin, I argue that the runanga and komiti of the nineteenth century were a remarkable response to colonisation on the part of those Maori men and women who formed them and that the importance of these institutions of self-government in the post-contact history of Maori society can scarcely be exaggerated.

Such a conclusion is not premised on romanticised notions of Maori ‘resistance’ to colonisation. Indeed, regardless of the broader historiographical merit or otherwise of such labels, notions of ‘resistance’ versus ‘collaboration’ strategies have little currency in the context of a study in which komiti-style mechanisms of self-government were utilised by nearly all Maori communities, be they supposedly ‘loyalist’ or ‘rebel’ in inclination and outlook, in pursuit of the overriding objective of cultural and political survival. Put simply, runanga and komiti provided a mechanism for the preservation of intra-group cohesion, and a model for inter-group unity, at a time when Maori society was under severe danger of succumbing to the threat posed to its very existence by the new colonial order.

At one level the nature of this threat was very simple: Crown politicians and officials saw no place for Maori customs and institutions within the newly-British colony. Assimilation remained the bedrock ideology underpinning all Crown policy with respect to Maori in the nineteenth century. From this perspective it was axiomatic that runanga and komiti had no future. In its purest conception, then, such a dogma could have only one possible policy outcome: active suppression of such institutions. Yet for pragmatic Crown officials, concerned with maintaining order, such an approach, as a general policy, remained potentially disastrous right up until the 1870s, and risky thereafter. Maori were simply too strong, militarily and demographically (despite a population base which was in decline through until the 1890s) to make active suppression a realistic option, except in a targeted or selective way.

Given the spontaneous developments within Maori society over much of the nineteenth century to establish or revive stronger institutions of self-government, and the inherent risks involved in trying to suppress these, two further policy avenues remained open to Crown officials. The first of these, ignoring the runanga and komiti, was much less risky in the short term, but on the face of it did little to advance the assimilationist agenda. It was also not without its own dangers over time. Gains made in extending substantive British sovereignty into formerly Maori-controlled districts could be jeopardised by robust runanga and komiti acting as a counter to the diminution of Maori autonomy. Left unchecked, such institutions could simply become too powerful for the Crown to ignore.

Co-option of unofficial runanga and komiti, or rather of the Maori aspiration to have legalised institutions recognised by the Crown, therefore remained a viable alternative. If such bodies were going to be established regardless of whether they received official endorsement, it was better by far, so this argument went, to have these under the control and direction of the Crown than outside of it. Active but unofficial runanga and komiti were an unpredictable and unmanageable element. Co-opted institutions, on the other hand, were not intended as mechanisms of self-government, but rather of indirect rule. They could, in fact, be utilised to further the assimilationist aims and serve as an instrument of the Crown rather than a threat to it. Yet this, too, was a risky strategy. Critics feared that, having achieved Crown recognition, Maori communities would employ such bodies to further their own ends, rather than those of the Crown. The risk lay in the possibility that Maori might reappropriate the intended mechanisms of co-option in altogether unexpected, or rather unwanted, ways.

Thus while the assimilationist ideology remained straightforward, and was widely-shared by Crown representatives and ordinary settlers alike, its policy implications were keenly contested. Targeted suppression, containment and co-option, and studied disregard, each had their supporters as preferred policy and were reflected in the actions of different officials and politicians over time. Prior to the 1860s (and in some areas thereafter) Britain’s paper sovereignty over New Zealand, and the desire of Crown officials to assert the primacy of British institutions and enforce the rule of law throughout the country, competed with the reality that substantial parts of the North Island remained under Maori control. The establishment of a highly formal, and Pakeha-controlled, Native Land Court in 1865 (a product of increased settler hegemony, and Pakeha demographic dominance, in the wake of the Waikato War of 1863–1864) constituted a new and significant threat to Maori society.

Proponents of this new court envisaged it not simply facilitating the direct purchase by settlers of large areas of Maori land, but through individualising land titles and severing the bonds between rangatira and their people, also furthering the assimilationist agenda. Some Crown officials supported a role for komiti and runanga in undertaking preliminary investigations of land titles, thereby essentially facilitating the work of the Native Land Court. Others worried that such institutions would act as a barrier to both the alienation of lands and to the court’s role as an agent of assimilation. It was precisely because the Native Land Court was perceived as such a successful mechanism of alienation and assimilation that many Crown officials feared taking any steps to legally recognise runanga and komiti. Left unaided, through a policy of deliberate indifference, such institutions might die a natural death, hastened in no small way by the work of the Native Land Court. From a Crown perspective, there were good arguments on both sides of the debate, however, and the policy outcomes were again subject to fluctuation.

Maori communities were fully aware of the threat posed by the Native Land Court, both in terms of the havoc it had the potential to cause to their social organisation and the substantial reduction in their landed base it promised to bring about. It was largely, though not solely, with these threats in mind that the 1870s witnessed a major revival and reinvention of komiti to act as a counter to the Native Land Court, just as the 1850s had earlier seen runanga undergo a similar transformation when confronted for the first time with the General Assembly and settler government. Revamped runanga and reappropriated komiti remained at the forefront of Maori efforts in the nineteenth century to establish a relationship with the Crown posited on partnership, rather than on acceptance of the primacy of Pakeha institutions and ideas.

These mechanisms of self-government were not, as many settlers at the time believed, a mere imitation of Pakeha institutions, but nor were they simply a reversion to ‘traditional’ structures, however these might be defined. Instead, the runanga and komiti of the post-Waitangi era had distinctly bicultural pedigrees to them, even whilst being employed in pursuit of identifiably Maori aspirations. Runanga and komiti began as culturally distinct institutions, the former of Maori origins and the latter a missionary-imported mechanism of social control, later reappropriated by Maori to serve new ends. In blending indigenous and exotic influences runanga and komiti became, by the later nineteenth century, more or less indistinguishable from one another. Distinct new institutions of self-government which remained identifiably Maori, yet with other cultural roots as well, had been developed. This was not tacit deference to a superior civilisation, or acceptance of the assimilationist agenda. It was rather evidence of a spirited and resilient society responding to the challenges which confronted it with the best means available. All successful cultures throughout human history have had the capacity to absorb new technologies, resources and ideas from other societies and to adopt and adapt these in ways that aligned with their own priorities. Maori in the nineteenth century were no exception to this rule.

The runanga and komiti which Maori established, reformed, reviewed, co-opted, adopted, adapted and appropriated were indeed, therefore, ‘agents of autonomy’. Yet they were not free agents. As David Chappell has warned, an historiography of indigenous peoples that privileges agency in a well-intentioned backlash against earlier ‘fatal impact’ histories, can, if given paradigmatic status, perpetuate colonial narratives in a new garb. Victims need not be passive, and agents are rarely free from constraints that limit their range of potential actions. Agents and victims are not, as Chappell noted, ‘mutually exclusive categories but contextually signified roles’. This seemingly simple truth is also a highly pertinent one to keep in mind when considering the history of runanga and komiti in the nineteenth century.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Crime and Punishment: Early Maori and Aboriginal Views on British Justice

Different cultures and societies tend to view their own institutions and customs as natural, normal and value free. Take our legal system. Although this emerged from a particular historical and legal context, being based on English common law, it is often seen as a neutral framework for dispensing justice. Whether that is the case today is for others to say (Moana Jackson, for one, would argue that the New Zealand legal system is not value free). My focus here is instead on some fascinating evidence regarding how Maori and Australian Aboriginal peoples viewed British notions of justice in the early contact period.

What I find interesting is that, at a time in the early nineteenth century when many British believed themselves responsible for bringing enlightenment and liberty to ‘primitive’ native peoples, many of the targets of their supposed benevolence were capable of powerful critiques of what was being offered them. Maori exposed to the British judicial system at Sydney or elsewhere sometimes condemned it as cruel and arbitrary. The missionary William Yate wrote in his Account of New Zealand (1835) that:

The punishments of the New Zealanders are not commonly severe. They strongly reprobate the punishments adopted by the white people, as extremely cruel. Theft, if persevered in, is sometimes visited with a severe blow from a stick or paddle across the head; — the breach of a tapu, with the loss of property; — cursing, with the same punishment; — adultery, with death. The exclaim loudly against our method of executing criminals; first telling them they are to die; then letting them lie for days and nights in prison, to think over what is to happen to them; and then leading them slowly to the gallows, and keeping them waiting some time at the foot of it, before they are hanged. “This,” when we upbraid them with cruelty, “this,” say they, “is more cruel than any thing we do.

William Yate, An Account of New Zealand and of the Church Missionary Society’s Mission in the Northern Island, London: R. B. Seeley and W. Burnside, 1835, pp.104-05.

Yate’s description of the general Maori attitude towards British forms of punishment is borne out by a much earlier incident that I describe in The Meeting Place: Maori and Pakeha Encounters, 1642-1840.



William Yate, www.teara.govt.nz

There, I discuss the important visit of northern rangatira Te Pahi to Port Jackson in 1805. While Te Pahi’s trip was an important one, resulting in close bonds being forged with Governor Philip Gidley King, the chief’s experience of British justice in the colony left him angry and appalled. As King described the story:

Two soldiers and a convict were sent prisoners from Port Dalrymple to be tried by a Criminal Court for stealing some pork from the King’s stores at that place. Tip-a-he attended their trial on the Friday, and one of them was ordered for execution on the following Monday. As is usual, they attended Divine service on the Sunday. As everyone was much affected at their situation, Tip-a-he was not wanting in commiseration; but the instant the service was ended he went to the criminals and embracing them accompanied them back to the jail, where it appeared they gave Tip-a-he a petition to present to me. On returning to Government House he came into the room where I was writing, and in a very earnest manner, and I believe from the full force of conviction, he endeavoured to reason with me on the injustice of slaying men for stealing pork, and at the same time shewing the severest sorrow and grief for their fate, which he concluded by taking the petition out of his pocket and giving it to me, at the same time shedding tears. He threw himself prostrate on the ground, sobbing most bitterly. Observing that I did not give him any answer or hopes than by saying I should consider of it he left the room and did not make his reappearance until the hour of dinner, having taken off the dress he had made here, and appeared very violent, exclaiming in most furious manner against the severity of our laws in sentencing a man to die for stealing pork, although he admitted that a man might very justly be put to death for stealing a piece of iron, as that was of a permanent use; but stealing a piece of pork which, to use his own expression, was eat and passed off, he considered as sanguine [i.e., bloodthirsty] in the extreme. With much earnestness he urged his being allowed to take them to New Zealand, where taking provisions was not accounted a crime; and so earnest was he on this expedient that he went to the master of an American vessel, then lying here, to request he would take them to New Zealand, where his ship would be loaded with potatoes as a recompense for their passage. During the three days that the fate of these criminals were pending Tip-a-he would take no nourishment whatever, and in several instances was inclined to be very furious. However, on its being signified that two were forgiven and that neither of the others would be executed at Sydney, he came about by degrees, but would never be reconciled to the idea of men suffering death for taking wherewithal to eat — a natural reasoning for one who inhabits a country where everything of that kind is common, and where their other wants are but few.

Robert McNab (ed.), Historical Records of New Zealand, 2 vols, Wellington: Government Printer, 1908, vol.1, pp.264-65.

From Te Pahi’s perspective, if a person was hungry the appropriate response was to feed them. The British decision to execute a man simply because he had helped himself to food was seen as nothing short of cruel and barbaric (a reaction which serves as a reminder of the much less hierarchical nature of Maori society at this time — resources were for distribution, not to be hoarded by a wealthy elite).



Te Pahi, www.treaty2u.govt.nz

It is interesting to note that many Aborigines responded similarly to British forms of punishment. Inga Clendinnen writes in her excellent book Dancing With Strangers of scenes in which Aboriginal groups summoned to witness the flogging of convicts in punishment for some crime or other (often committed against the Aborigines in question) also broke down in tears and pleaded with the governor to put a stop to it, or else tried to do so themselves. As Clendinnen says, where the British ‘saw right order made visible, with God and King behind whipping post and gibbet, the Australians saw disgusting, wanton cruelty.’ The irony is that the British increasingly came to view Australian Aborigines as belonging to the very bottom rung when it came to a racial hierarchy of peoples (the English, of course, occupying the top spot).



Bungaree, A Native of New South Wales, National Library of Australia

Alan Ward’s A Show of Justice: Racial ‘Amalgamation’ in the Nineteenth Century (1974) remains the best work on later Maori responses to the legal system (and, for the twentieth century, see the two books by Richard Hill). I have also written about nineteenth-century Maori responses to English law. Here is a link to a paper entitled ‘English Law and the Maori Response: A Case Study from the Runanga System in Northland, 1861-65’. Henry Reynolds and others have explored the story of Australian Aboriginal engagement with the law.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Book Review: Alison Jones and Kuni Jenkins, "Words Between Us — He Korero: First Maori-Pakeha Conversations on Paper", Wellington: Huia Publishers, 2011


 Alison Jones and Kuni Jenkins, Words Between Us — He Korero: First Maori-Pakeha Conversations on Paper, Wellington: Huia Publishers, 2011

Words Between Us was published late in 2011, just as the final touches were being put to my own The Meeting Place: Maori and Pakeha Encounters, 1642-1840. That was too late to even note the publication of this new work. It is only now, therefore, that I have had an opportunity to read the Jones and Jenkins book. I’m pleased I have done so. Some books can be a chore to read. This is not one of them.



The story of early Maori engagement with writing is told with considerable skill. Examining several copybooks in which Maori boys learned to write at one of the missionary schools in the 1820s set the authors off on a journey to discover how Maori first encountered writing and what it might have been like ‘to take up a European technology that, by some obscure power, seemed to be able to speak in the language of the local people’ (p 3). They do so by way of an ‘image-led story’ in which each of the sixteen discrete essays is tied to a particular historical document or set of artefacts that are reproduced in the book and themselves form a crucial part of the narrative.

Those documents include ‘the first collected Maori vocabularies from the eighteenth century; a famous map drawn by Tukitahua in 1793; a letter written to Ruatara in 1814; alphabet letters copied by Hongi Hika in 1814; Tara’s cross on a letter in 1816; ta moko signatures on the first land deeds in 1815 and 1819; the first school roll from 1816; pages from the first New Zealand printed books (1815 and 1820)’, along with the copybook pages from the 1820s noted above. They conclude with what they describe as the first independently written  Maori letter, addressed by Eruera Pare Hongi ‘e te tini rangatira o ropi’ (‘to the many chiefs of Europe’) in 1825.

Ironically, however, especially for a history of early Maori writing, the authors run up against the same problem that confronts all other scholars of this early contact period: nearly all of the primary documents that might help us to make sense of it were written by Europeans. (And as I noted in The Meeting Place, were not even especially representative of the Europeans to reside in or visit New Zealand). Reading against the grain becomes especially important in such circumstances. That is something that the authors do a fine job of, confidently interpreting likely Maori understandings and responses on the basis of these limited and culturally skewed source materials. As Jones and Jenkins note:


It is hard to imagine the shock experienced by Maori who first heard written words speak in the local language. The startling fact about writing was that Pakeha marks could ‘say’ Maori words; Pakeha texts could have Maori meaning. It was one thing that European visitors had strange objects, language and activities; it was quite another that some of those activities could ‘speak’ in the language of the ordinary people. Existing Maori texts such as ta moko (tattoo); markings on rock, wood and sand; and carvings in wood, stone and bone had complex and detailed meanings, but none could speak as directly or literally as words did. Written words must have appeared magical. (p 9).


Many of the historical figures and sources that feature in Words Between Us were familiar to me from my own research. Yet throughout Jones and Jenkins cast well-known incidents in a fresh light through their particular focus on language and writing. They also succeed in casting Samuel Marsden’s Parramatta settlement as a much more crucial site of early Maori and Pakeha encounter than has perhaps hitherto been appreciated.

Jones and Jenkins are careful to emphasise Maori agency throughout. Whereas an earlier generation of historians tended to see things in terms of a one-way transmission of knowledge and new skills (the missionaries bringing literacy to grateful yet largely passive Maori communities), they view the emergence of a written Maori language as a much more collaborative process in which key Maori individuals taught the missionaries as much, if not more, than vice versa. Thus Samuel Marsden’s first sermon on Christmas Day 1814 is recast instead as his patron rangatira Ruatara’s speech, Thomas Kendall and other missionaries are deliberately and patiently educated in te reo and tikanga Maori by the northern tribes, and young Maori children attending the missionary schools improve upon the 1820 Grammar and Vocabulary of the Language of New Zealand (itself the product of extensive Maori input).

The approach is a sound one, and the authors’ achievements are rendered all the more impressive by the fact that neither is a professionally-trained historian (both are educationalists). It is a testament to the quality of their scholarship that this would be difficult to discern if one knew nothing about their backgrounds.

Yet I had a few quibbles with the book. On a very minor note, reference to the ‘hapu Rongowhakaata’ (p 9) should surely be to the ‘iwi Rongowhakaata’. On a more serious note, to suggest that Te Pahi’s involvement in the Boyd affair ‘remains uncertain’ (p 36) runs counter to the considerable body of evidence that the rangatira had no involvement in the killings. As I discuss in The Meeting Place, the weight of evidence points to the fact that he arrived at Whangaroa after most of the Europeans had been killed, unsuccessfully pleading on behalf of those who remained alive.

His complicity or otherwise in the killings was made the subject of detailed investigation by the missionaries and others after 1814. John Nicholas commented that ‘George [Te Ara], the head perpetrator of that shocking deed, and who could have no motive in deceiving us, but on the contrary, would be glad to exculpate himself, by throwing the blame on Tippahee, or any other chief, declared to us most unequivocally, that he had no concern in it whatever.’ Thomas Kendall concluded likewise, observing that ‘The natives of Whangaroa, while they acknowledge their own cruelty, universally assert that when they were killing the sailors Tippahee held his hand over his eyes and shed tears.’ (The Meeting Place, p 62). The evidence also suggests that he was not killed in the revenge attack launched by various Europeans in 1810, as the authors state (p 67), but instead was wounded in that incident, before being killed in intertribal warfare soon after that was an outcome of the Boyd affair.

The other issue I had with this book is that, after some 200 pages spent telling us just how significant Maori literacy was, and what a prominent role Maori took in ensuring it was achieved, the five-page conclusion seems to dismiss the power of Maori writing. Jones and Jenkins comment that ‘The power of writing that Ruatara had understood when he asked for a teacher in 1813 had proved itself largely an illusion; it was not, after all, a tool to ensure tino rangatiratanga, authority and mana in Maori engagement with Pakeha.’ (p 202).

While that is true on one level, it also seems beyond doubt that without Maori writing there would have been no Kingitanga or Kotahitanga movements. And there certainly would not have been the vibrant Maori newspaper scene of the nineteenth century that has been so well explored by Lachy Paterson, Ngapare Hopa, Jane McRae, Jenifer Curnow and others. Newspapers such as Te Wananga proved vital instruments in a vibrant late nineteenth-century Maori political culture that was crucial in ensuring the ultimate colonising goal of total assimilation was never achieved. In my view, the authors sell themselves short in downplaying just what an important story they tell. Maori writing could not halt or reverse the process of disempowerment and displacement, but it did play a role in ensuring Maori survived as a distinct people.

Yet none of this should detract from what the authors have achieved. Words Between Us is a lively, well-written and impressively researched book that deserves a wide readership. Historians of early Maori and Pakeha encounter, besides educationalists and other readers, will find much of value here.

Finally, I should also note that, at a time when many publishers are tempted to cut corners on production values in the interests of cost-savings, Huia Publishers have done full justice to the quality of the scholarship, producing an attractive book, printed on glossy paper and with beautifully reproduced illustrations. All considered, a great book to hold and read.