Wednesday, 24 May 2017

'The Great War for New Zealand' Te Awamutu Event

The Te Awamutu Museum is proud to be bringing New Zealand Historian and Author Vincent O’Malley to the Waipa District in May 2017.

His most recent publication is The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800-2000.
The publisher Bridget Williams notes: “Spanning nearly two centuries from first contact through to settlement and apology, ​Vincent ​O’Malley focuses on the human impact of the war, its origins and aftermath. Based on many years of research and illustrated throughout, The Great War for New Zealand is a groundbreaking book written in the conviction that a nation needs to own its history.”

The Museum team is hosting An Evening with Vincent O’Malley on Tuesday 30th May. Vincent will provide an overview of his book, followed by a panel discussion with local participants including Tom Roa, Councillor Susan O’Regan, Alan Hall and Kaawhia Te Muraahi.

Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the event ($80, cash only) and Vincent will be available to sign books between 6.15pm-6.45pm before the event.

The event is free to attend, although registration is essential.

Contact the Museum to register now! 


Monday, 22 May 2017

'The Great War for New Zealand' Mangere Event

On Friday 9 June I will be discussing the Waikato War at Mangere Bridge School, starting at 7.30pm. This is a public event. All welcome and admission is free.


Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Book Review: Arthur J. Ray, 'Aboriginal Rights Claims and the Making and Remaking of History'

Author: Arthur J. Ray
Reviewer: Vincent O'Malley

Arthur J. Ray. Aboriginal Rights Claims and the Making and Remaking of History. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2016. 360 pp. $29.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-7735-4743-8.
Reviewed by Vincent O'Malley (HistoryWorks)
Published on H-Empire (March, 2017)
Commissioned by Charles V. Reed

At the Interface of Law and History
It has been said that if history is endless argument, then law is the end of argument. One seeks finality and closure, the other is constantly searching for new opportunities for debate. So what happens when law and history intersect? Although historians have long been employed as expert witnesses in a range of legal cases, over the past half century or so a major focus across several countries has been the use of historical evidence in various courts, commissions, and tribunals concerned with indigenous claims or cases against the state.

Arthur Ray’s new book aims to provide “a single-volume introduction to the use of historical evidence in the varied aboriginal rights and treaty claims settings of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States” (p. xxvi). Besides introductory and concluding sections, the work consists of a chapter on each of these countries, besides Canada, where the unique claims of the Métis people merit a separate chapter of their own. Given the scale of the issues involved, Ray emphasises that it has not been possible to provide comprehensive coverage. Consequently, in most cases the focus is on selected aspects of the claims history only.

The chapter on the United States concerns the history of the Indian Claims Commission established by Congress in 1946 on a five-year mandate that was renewed multiple times until 1978. But here Ray’s narrative is mainly concerned with the commission’s early years through the 1950s. And in this instance it is anthropologists rather than historians at the fore of the story. What emerges is just how slipshod the whole process was in its initial phase. In some cases expert witnesses for the federal government presented evidence on reports they had no hand in preparing. After being forced to concede as much under cross-examination, one witness described the lawyers involved as “real sons of bitches and undiluted bastards” (p. 39). Meanwhile, lacking the resources available to the federal government, in some instances the Indian tribes were forced to find creative ways of hiring their own experts, including some engaged on a contingency basis, thereby setting up a vested financial interest in the outcome of the cases.

Matters improved over time. The Justice Department soon learned that it was not good practice to put up witnesses who knew nothing of the cases. Meanwhile, a fund was created to resource Indian petitions before the commission. The advent of the Indian Claims Commission transformed the discipline of anthropology in the United States. With substantial funding available for the first time, anthropologists were able to explore the experiences of American Indian tribes in detail. The new interdisciplinary field of ethnohistory (and the journal Ethnohistory) emerged directly out of this context. At the same time, the process divided the academic community down the middle, between those happy to appear on behalf of the government and others committed to presenting evidence for the tribes. In theory the distinction ought to make no difference as the first duty of expert witnesses is always to the court or commission that they appear before. Yet in reality it appeared to matter a great deal, with witnesses more often than not presenting vastly different accounts of the past depending on who had commissioned them.

Although Canada flirted with the idea of establishing its own Indian Claims Commission in the 1940s, when such a body was eventually set up in 1991 it had a much more restricted mandate to investigate allegations that specific undertakings to the First Nations had not been fulfilled (on which it could make non-binding recommendations to the government). Broader assertions of aboriginal title would still need to go through the courts, which had been slow to accept the validity of aboriginal claims from the Calder (1973) and Delgamuukw (1997) cases onward. Meanwhile, for the Métis people, simply achieving recognition as an aboriginal people was a big part of the challenge. A distinct people who had emerged out of intermarriage between First Nation communities and the newcomers, for much of their history they were viewed as being “a half-primitive and half-civilized people” destined for extinction (p. 227). But having achieved constitutional recognition in 1982, a major question subsequently battled out in the courts was precisely what aboriginal rights they held that had been protected and just who qualified as a Métis. Ray appeared in a number of these cases as an expert witness for the Métis and describes how the researchers involved were again sharply divided along party lines.

In Australia, legal challenges to the all-pervasive doctrine of terra nullius were launched from 1971 onward, culminating in the Mabo case (1992) and later developments. But Ray devotes much of his attention to less widely known aspects of the story, including the separate process set up in 1976 to resolve aboriginal claims to Crown lands within Northern Territory. He is on more familiar terrain when discussing the backlash against so-called black armband history that arose through the 1990s, fostered and encouraged by Prime Minister John Howard. In Australia the recognition of aboriginal rights continues to be limited, with courts careful (as in the Yorta Yorta case [1998], when the Australian Federal Court ruled that the “the tide of history” had washed away aboriginal title in northern Victoria) to confine these to less valuable lands.

Within New Zealand, in 1975 the Waitangi Tribunal was established as a standing commission of inquiry to investigate Māori claims arising out of acts or omissions of the Crown alleged to be contrary to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi signed in 1840. For its first decade, the tribunal was confined to investigating claims concerning events that took place after 1975. But an amendment in 1985 enabled the tribunal to inquire into grievances under the treaty dating back to 1840, paving the way for thousands of historical claims to be filed. Large numbers of historians have been employed in the process since that time, allowing for detailed historical research to be compiled at a tribal and district level. While much of this research is ground-breaking, some academic historians have debated familiar issues around this alleged presentist or instrumentalist history. Ray summarizes some of the key contributions to that debate, which is usually focused on the Waitangi Tribunal’s own reports, rather than those of the historians to appear before it as expert witnesses. As a judicial body charged with fulfilling particular statutory responsibilities to make judgment on claims against the Crown, the tribunal obviously has a different set of priorities--and a different modus operandi--than most historians. Moreover, much of the debate has been framed around Tribunal inquiries that took place through the 1980s and 1990s. Some observers do not seem to have noticed that the Tribunal has adopted a much more conservative tone in its reports since around 2004, coinciding with a period of intense scrutiny and criticism.

Perhaps the most unique regime examined in the book is South Africa’s post-Apartheid claims process under the Restitution of Land Rights Act of 1994 and later amendments. Ray notes that, unlike the other countries examined in his book, South Africa’s process rejected indigenity as a basis for claims in order to avoid stoking divisions between traditional foes. Instead, the only claims eligible for consideration are those based on racially based land dispossessions under the Natives Land Act 1913 and subsequent legislation. And whereas in some countries the historiography of indigenous and newcomer encounters has been transformed as a result of the claims processes, in South Africa there had been a long record among anglophone anthropologists and historians of exposing the brutality and racism at the heart of the country’s story before 1993. But there was one thing shared in common with other jurisdictions: like most of the other cases considered, South African authorities vastly overestimated the speed at which claims could be researched and resolved.

As Ray notes in a concluding chapter, for all of their differences, the processes established across the several countries for resolving indigenous claims shared a number of similarities. Authorities in each case aimed to establish regimes that were limited, timely, carefully delineated so as to avoid undue disruption to the existing order, and with outcomes aimed at closure or finality. In most cases, highly formal legal processes have been modified to some extent to accommodate indigenous preferences and needs, such as relaxing the hearsay rule that acted as a barrier to oral history testimonies being recounted. In some instances, as with the bicultural Waitangi Tribunal that holds most of its hearings on Māori marae (tribal meeting grounds), with extensive use of tribal protocols and considerable evidence heard in the Māori language, those accommodations had gone further than elsewhere.

For both practitioners and interested observers, Ray’s book provides a useful introduction to the various aboriginal rights and restitution regimes across five countries. While more detailed studies are available for the individual nations, the power of this book rests in its comparative framework, enabling readers to understand how processes for resolving indigenous claims have evolved over time and the strengths and weaknesses of individual regimes. In most cases this is an ongoing story as indigenous peoples and the descendants of settlers renegotiate the terms of their mutual coexistence and reconciliation in the early twenty-first century.

Printable Version:
Citation: Vincent O'Malley. Review of Ray, Arthur J., Aboriginal Rights Claims and the Making and Remaking of History. H-Empire, H-Net Reviews. March, 2017.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Great War for New Zealand in Wanaka

Thanks to everyone who turned out for a packed session at Wanaka's Festival of Colour on Sunday 9 April to hear me in conversation with Jim Bolger and chair Paul Diamond on 'The Great War for New Zealand'.

Jim Bolger, Paul Diamond, Vincent O'Malley

Mr Bolger again reiterated the need for New Zealanders to learn and embrace the history of their own nation, and provided insight into the 1995 settlement with Waikato-Tainui that happened during his time as prime minister. He has previously spoken in favour of the New Zealand Wars becoming a core history subject and talked about this at the time my book was launched last October.

Copies of The Great War for New Zealand sold out following the session, with Paper Plus Wanaka promising to order more stock in for those who had missed out.

Meanwhile, late last month a reprint of the book landed in the country, as heavy demand saw supplies of the large initial print run nearly exhausted.

Stay tuned for news and notice of further book-related talks and events to follow around the country over the remainder of the year.   

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Festival of Colour: The Great War for New Zealand

In April I will be travelling to Wanaka to take part in the Festival of Colour, Wanaka's flagship celebration of the arts and literature. On Sunday 9 April, I will be in conversation with former Prime Minister Jim Bolger at the Central Lake Trust Crystal Palace. Mr Bolger has publicly called for the history of the New Zealand Wars to be taught in schools. Further information, including online booking, available here.   

A former Prime Minister and a working historian discuss not Gallipoli but the Waikato War, a war which in so many ways has done more to shape this country than either of the World Wars. Unlike the US, we know little and do little to commemorate our own wars of the 1860s, the battles and the atrocities. Yet they were a battle between two competing visions of the nation’s future.

Jim Bolger was the architect of the Tainui settlement leading to the Queen signing an apology in 1995 for committing British troops to do battle in the Waikato on false pretences. Vincent O’Malley has carefully documented this landmark conflict, its origins and its aftermath.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Talk: The War that Shaped a Nation

Historian Vincent O'Malley discusses his new book The Great War For New Zealand, an account of war in Waikato between 1863 and 1864. In association with Bridget Williams Books and Bruce McKenzie Bookseller for the Festival of Cultures. 

Where: Globe Theatre, Cnr Main and Pitt Sts, Palmerston North 

When: Sunday 5 March 2017 4:00pm

Admission Free 

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Inglorious Dastards: Rangiaowhia Raid and the 'great war for New Zealand'

A George Grey-inspired attack that killed up to 100 Maori men, women and children to crush a non-existent uprising signalled “a great war for New Zealand” was being waged. 

Today, the only visible remnant is St Paul’s Anglican Church. Further up the road is an old Catholic cemetery where a mission station once stood. The two churches marked the outer limits of Rangiaowhia, a bustling Maori settlement 5km east of Te Awamutu. In the 1850s, it was one of New Zealand’s most important agricultural hubs. But all that changed with a devastating and controversial raid early in 1864. It is a story few New Zealanders know anything about.
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-C2
Throughout the 1850s, the Waikato tribes were among the most prosperous, not only feeding the settlers of Auckland but also contributing a significant chunk of the country’s export earnings through wheat sold to the gold miners of Victoria and California. The area around Rangiaowhia was the country’s granary, and in 1849, two young chiefs from the settlement proudly sent a bag of flour ground at their own mill all the way to Queen Victoria. Crowds of Waikato Maori flocked to view the two lithographs of the royal family the Queen sent them in return.
[Read more at NZ Listener]

Friday, 17 February 2017

Settler Colonial History, Commemoration and White Backlash: Remembering the New Zealand Wars

'Settler Colonial History, Commemoration and White Backlash: Remembering the New Zealand Wars', co-authored with Dr Joanna Kidman, has recently been published in its online version by the journal Settler Colonial Studies.

When students from a North Island secondary school began a petition to Parliament in 2014 seeking a national day of commemoration for the victims of the New Zealand Wars fought in the nineteenth century, they sparked a national debate about how, why and whether New Zealanders should remember the wars fought on their own shores. Although the petition attracted significant support, it also drew its share of criticism. This paper considers the subsequent debate through the lens of public submissions to Parliament on the petition. A particular focus is on the nearly three-quarters of submissions that opposed the petition. These are examined within the context of wider Pākehā (non-Māori) unease at the unravelling of settler colonial forms of national identity since the 1970s, and the emergence of more nuanced and diverse kinds of identification. For many Pākehā New Zealanders these developments were deeply troubling; and although the numbers involved in actively opposing the petition were small, they represented the extreme edge of broader societal discomfort over the increased visibility of Māori interests and concerns over the same period. For those who cried ‘enough is enough’, the New Zealand Wars petition served as a particularly acute rallying point. The backlash that followed was one that harked back to what some Pākehā saw as simpler, more homogenous and harmonious times. By contrast, the young New Zealanders responsible for organising the petition highlighted the need for a more honest owning up to the nation’s settler colonial history.


Monday, 9 January 2017

A Tale of Two Rangatira: Rewi Maniapoto, Wiremu Tamihana and the Waikato War

Following publication of The Great War for New Zealand I continue to write and publish on the Waikato War, including this article published in the latest Journal of the Polynesian Society that takes a more biographical approach, comparing Rewi Maniapoto of Ngāti Maniapoto and Wiremu Tamihana of Ngāti Hauā. Both were great rangatira in their own right but their reputations have contrasted significantly over time and my article critiques the still surprisingly prevalent notion of 'good' Wiremu Tamihana versus 'bad' Rewi Maniapoto (see the abstract of the article below).

I was also delighted to have contributed the cover image for the journal, a photograph I took of the Tohu Maumahara at Rangiriri early in 2015. As discussed in my book, the monument was unveiled on the 149th anniversary of the Rangiriri battle in November 2012.

Abstract: The depiction of Ngāti Maniapoto generally and Rewi Maniapoto in particular as extremists with an almost fanatical determination to fight the British runs deep in the historiography of the New Zealand Wars, all the way from John Featon to G. W. Rusden, James Cowan to Keith Sinclair and others. And a corollary argument is that Ngāti Maniapoto, through their actions and gestures, provoked the Crown (whether justly or unjustly) into launching an invasion of the Waikato district in July 1863, and then escaped virtually scot-free from the subsequent confiscation of lands. Even fierce critics of the government’s actions in the 1860s thus end up at least partly legitimising or justifying war and confiscation by reference to the supposed partial provocation of Ngāti Maniapoto and their leader. Their stance is often contrasted with that of Wiremu Tamihana, who is said to have been leader of the “moderate” Kīngitanga faction. This article argues that the differences between the two rangatira have been overstated. Wiremu Tamihana and Rewi Maniapoto had more in common than divided them. Furthermore, rather than conceptualising this in terms of “moderate” versus “extremist”, the difference between the two rangatira might be better conceptualised as idealist versus realist.  Considered within the context of Māori custom, moreover, both men operated within the accepted limits of chiefly behaviour, which was concerned above all with questions of mana.