Friday 6 August 2010

Blood Sacrifice

Theatre of War: Lake Waikaremoana, in the territory of the Tuhoe people, where the terrorist/freedom-fighter, Te Kooti, based his forces in the early months of 1869. The Crown's pursuit of the warrior-prophet, following the Mohaka Massacre of 10 April 1869, extracted a heavy price from his Tuhoe protectors.

AN ARMED BAND of about 150 terrorists enters an isolated village in a country torn by civil war.

The men defending the village, accepting the terrorist leader’s assurances that they will not be harmed, surrender their weapons. One man refuses, telling the terrorist leader: "If I hand over my gun you will kill me." Shots are exchanged, the man falls.

The terrorists then start slaughtering the defenceless villagers – mostly women and children. Forty are killed – many hacked to death with bayonets and axes. Meanwhile, outside the village, local farming families are also being attacked and killed. About a dozen men, women and children are murdered: some bayoneted; some shot in the back as they fled. Their homesteads are looted and set alight.

Having completed their grisly raid, the terrorists take refuge in the nearby mountains.

What would be your best guess as to what happens next? If you said a small army made up of professional soldiers and local volunteers headed into the mountains in pursuit of the terrorists, you would, of course, be correct.

And if the commanders of that small army discovered that the local inhabitants of the mountainous region into which the terrorists had fled were providing them with food, shelter, ammunition and new recruits? What would your best guess be as to their next move? If you said they’d probably "unleash hell" on the local inhabitants, then, once again, you’d be quite right.

Now, when and where did this terrorist raid take place? Last week in the mountainous border region separating Afghanistan from Pakistan? Not even close.

The incidents I’ve just described took place in and around what is now the Urewera National Park in April 1869. The "terrorists" were Te Kooti’s "Hau Haus". The village was Mohaka. The local tribe which gave Te Kooti and his men shelter was Tuhoe.

The Waitangi Tribunal has so far released over a thousand pages of historical research into the Tuhoe people’s claim to Te Urewera. But you’ll not find anything on those thousand pages remotely resembling the Mohaka Massacre as I have described it.

There is a peculiar reticence on the part of the Tribunal’s historians to acknowledge that the war which spilled over into the Tuhoe people’s territory in the 1860s and 70s was a civil war. Few New Zealanders understand that more Maori died at the hands of other Maori during the so-called Land Wars than at the hands of Pakeha. At Mohaka, for example, two-thirds of the victims were Maori women and children.

Instead, we get statements like this, from the AUT History Professor, Paul Moon, speaking to Radio New Zealand - National’s "Morning Report" host, Geoff Robinson, on Tuesday:

"Well the parts of the Waitangi Tribunal Report that have been released in the last few days show that Tuhoe suffered in a very different way from other tribes. Other tribes were involved in wars and had their lands confiscated, but in parts of Tuhoe the Crown enacted almost a scorched earth policy. They burnt crops, shot people, shot children. They burnt houses, destroyed livestock. They shifted entire communities off their land. So the scale of the suffering and the effect it’s had on the community has been different from just about any other tribe in the country."

And, of course, Professor Moon is right, the Crown did all of those things. What he (and the Waitangi Tribunal historians) neglect to do, of course, is set those dreadful deeds in the context of the equally dreadful deeds that preceded them.

Tuhoe picked the wrong side in the war to decide what sort of country New Zealand would become: a modern, technologically sophisticated, socially progressive and politically democratic state.

So modern and democratic, in fact, that in order to bind up the wounds of the losers, its liberal elite is willing to traduce the historical record and besmirch the reputations of the courageous men and women – Maori and Pakeha – whose blood sacrifice made New Zealand possible.

This essay was originally published in The Dominion Post, The Timaru Herald, The Taranaki Daily News, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Evening Star of Friday, 6 August 2010.


Anonymous said...

Read this in the ODT this morning. You are quite correct that history has been sanitised -- in an Orwellian manner.

Which is silly. For it removes the context behind the Kingitanga movement and the huge efforts made by late 19th Century Maori to get some sense of unity and support -- and why and how it failed for certain groups.

One of these days, a historian will write a history describing the 19th century history in New Zealand as long civil war -- beginning with the escalation of war caused by the introduction of the musket -- from the tribal wars, to asking the Btitish to govern, to the land Wars. This long war (dated 1805 -1880) contributed to the decimation of Maori and the rejection, among Maori, of tribalism.

But this thesis will not be written by the current generation. The Tribunal narrative is accepted, and all others must be suppressed for the benefit of the Collective: He who controls the present controls the past: however he who controls the past will not control the future, because in the end his lies will come out.

jh said...

and of course all the land was stolen too:

"@jh 4:51 PM

Your comment there strengthens, rather than weakens, my case – I should have actually mentioned it myself, but didn’t want to make the comment too long.

Much of the alienated Maori land in many rohe was not acquired by conquest or alienated by confiscation under the New Zealand Settlements Act 1863 – it was alienated through the imposition and non-payment of rates charged on it to pay for services that hardly any Maori owners of the land, but lots of settlers, received.

Other land was alienated by finding some owners who were prepared to sell, without consultation among their hapu, and the Native Land Court accepting the sale without investigating whether those selling actually had the authority of their hapu to do so."

ak said...

Ah geeze Chris.

Not the old "they were cunts, so we could be cunts too" crapola.

Especially when you know full well; twas the pakeha muskets that caused said cuntiness after a millenia's comparative tranquility.

"Traduce the historical record"?

You certainly have.

Welcome you and your good lady to the 1956 Taumaranui Cosmopolitan Club.

Chris Trotter said...

Show me a time in history, AK, when "cuntiness" did NOT beget "cuntiness".

And I'd like to meet this "relative" of the alleged "tranquillity" you insist characterised Maori society in the period before European contact.

Was the Haka just a Maori version of Pilates?

Were all those taiaha and patu manufactured for purely decorative purposes?

And all those pits the archaeologists uncovered - you know, the ones filled with charred human bones - were they just the unfortunate results of children playing with matches?

When it comes to traducing history, AK, you leave me in your dust.

FF said...

I think I would rather be shot by a musket than despatched by a taiaha even when done with 'comparative tranquility'.

Chris Trotter said...

Or even a tranquil relative, FF!

Anonymous said...
Tuhoe await their walk into history

Last April the first instalment of a hefty Waitangi Tribunal report into Te Urewera had been released and had found sweeping injustices against Tuhoe had "echoed down through the generations and explains the anguish and anger evident to this very day".

For Tuhoe, the report vindicated their frustration and fury at the treacherous ways land was taken from their ancestors by the Crown and settlers; for war and death and for a policy of destruction and deliberate starvation which was inflicted in and around the Ureweras.

Earlier this year, Tuhoe's long and winding negotiations for a settlement with John Key's Government were also going well.

Their big claims - of mana motuhake (self-governance) and for the return of what is now the Urewera National Park - were said to be nearly ticked off.

They were so close, says Kruger, Tuhoe historian and chief claims negotiator, that he could smell history in the making.

FF said...

There are undoubted injustices that need redressing concerning Tuhoi, but it is interesting reading the work of Tribunal historians.

The two things that stand out from the report available here is that those tribes who were allied to the crown against Tuhoi, were in many if not most cases were responsible for some of the worst cases of revenge killing. Tribunal historians rarely mention this, the allied tribes are conveniently described as being Crown forces as if any historic enmity they had against other tribes was now subsumed by the greater evil intentions of the British....who always should have known better.

There is also a silly implication by these lawyer/historians that in the heat of battle the Crown protagonists should have been aware of the principles of the treaty of Waitangi!
These reports are written with the benefit of glorious hindsight in that unmistakable finger-wagging tribunalese....all projected back 150 years.

Victor said...

None of my relatives are ever tranquil.

Using a taiaha is outside their normal cultural frame of reference. But I'm sure they'd pick it up quickly.

An interesting item, Chris, although I baulk slightly at your penultimate paragraph.

Chris Trotter said...

To "FF":

Yes, I too noted with rising frustration the Tribunal's tendentious elision of joint Pakeha-Maori expeditionary forces into "Crown Forces" - which dishonestly obscures the traditional tribal animosities in play during these engagements.

It is, however, very important to keep in mind that the conflict was more than a straightforward Pakeha/Maori face-off.

It was a battle between those who knew that, for better or for worse, the country's future would be made by Maori and Pakeha together, and those who still believed it possible for Maori to go it alone.

In that sense it was much more a civil war than a traditional colonial land-grab. That came later, and was effected not with guns and swords, but with pens and printing presses.

Victor said...


I agree that the 'Land Wars, 'Maori Wars' or whatever they want us to call them, have been presented in a mono-hued way, which fails to do justice to their complexity or to the motives of the various parties.

But aren't you propounding another equally sweeping and a-historical myth?

Was anyone actually fighting to make New Zealand "a modern, technologically sophisticated, socially progressive and politically democratic state"?

Chris Trotter said...

Yes, Victor, even in the 1860s and 70s there was a strong conviction on the part of the settlers that NZ would not be like Britain.

Certainly, the drive towards modernity and progressivism was there from the 1880s in an overt and highly politicised form. Maori politicians like Carol and Ngata also preached the progressive cause - albeit adapted to the needs of their Maori constituency.

That contemporary Maori are not enmeshed (at least not unwillingly) in the tribalism that still plagues so many indigenous peoples around the world is, I believe, attributable to the fact that so many threw in their lot with the Pakeha in the 1860s and 70s.

ak said...

....or perhaps said "plague" is attributable to near-annihilation followed by decades of repression and denigration.

"Civil war" implies (as Victor notes) motive far deeper than was ever voiced by kupapa. The ad-hockery and reactive nature (not to mention the summary cessation) of the engagements of the late '60s indicates the far more base motivations of ancient utu and (forced) mercenariness.

Indeed "traditional colonisation" using classic Divide and Rule fits the facts far neater; to whit: apply pressure an entire community to provoke outrage, demonise said groups and individuals (Te Kooti), apply arms and money judiciously. Bring to boil, simmer, and mop up the survivors.

Regardless of which perspective is favoured however, what on earth has it to do with Tuhoe's claim? And why, if it weakens their case as you imply (erroneously in my opinion), should they be obliged to include it?

Tuhoe are not on trial here.

Extreme provocation alert!!!

What's the difference between your post and lurid and fanciful descriptions/interpretation of the victim's past behaviour in a rape trial?

Victor said...


I can certainly buy the notion that New Zealand's Anglo-Celtic settlers tended towards the egalitarian end of the Victorian political spectrum and didn't (despite Wakefield) want to recreate the hierarchical society of the Mother Country beneath the Southern Cross.

But did their notion of a modern state include Maori in possession of large tracts of land, acting as fully participating and equal members of the body politic (and not just on paper)?

The American West and the Boer Republics were more egalitarian than Britain, as far as Whites were concerned. But they weren't necessarily places where indigenous people could thrive.

Chris Trotter said...

To "AK":

Your resort to purely rhetorical tricks - "rape trial" tsk, tsk, tsk - indicates that you are almost out of intellectual ammunition, AK.

Not that you appear to have been carrying very much in the first place.

Do you seriously suggest that the tribes who joined forces with the Pakeha did so without first going through the most agonising deliberation?

Are you really suggesting that as highly skilled warrior-politicians they were incapable of debating the pros and cons of collaboration?

The power and numbers of the Pakeha - not to mention their awesome firepower and superior logistical capabilities - were well known to Maori. Many of their people had sailed to Sydney and Melbourne, and some even further afield to Europe and North America. They understood the nature of the civilisation that was growing up all around them, and they knew there were insufficient resources in the whole of the Maori world to stop it.

Joining forces with the Pakeha - however reluctantly - was a vote for whatever that civilisation might bring. And it was by far the most enlightened choice they could have made.

The path of resistance - had it been the common path of all Maori - would have led to the imposition of a reservation system.

We should all be very glad that the judicious alliances entered into by a majority of tribal leaders spared Maori the fate of Native Americans.

Tuhoe made the wrong choice in 1869 - and paid a very high price. My posting offers no comment on the rights and wrongs of their current case; it simply requires those who use history to justify their claims for compensation to include the whole history of the period under scrutiny - not just the bits that fit.

Chris Trotter said...

To Victor:

No, the Pakeha did not envision a New Zealand in which Maori would retain large tracts of land - at least, not collectively. As children of their time, they offered indigenous peoples only two choices: assimilation or oblivion.

The Maori, to an extent matched by few others (the five "civilised tribes" of the Eastern United States spring to mind, especially the Cherokee) adopted the technology and learning of the European colonisers, fought alongside them, and survived.

The sophistication of the Maori response to colonisation, combined with the more progressive ideology of the local colonial authorities in relation to "their" indigenous tribes, rescued them from the US strategy of strict containment in reservations.

Comparisons with the Boer Republics and British South Africa are problematic. The indigenous peoples there were always more numerous than the colonisers - a fact that prompted a much harsher and more repressive "native" policy.

Victor said...

And did not assimilation involve, in many cases, losing both land and livelyhood?

Didn't this necessarily mean that most Maori could only assimilate to the lower rungs of colonial society?

As to the five "civilised tribes" in the SE United States, they survived as shadows of their former selves, tens of thousands losing their lives to Andrew Jackson's wars of aggression or on the Trail of Tears from their fertile homelands to the barren wastes of Oklahoma.

Yes, by and large, Maori ended up with a better deal than the Choctaws, Cherokees, Chickasaws etc. But their fate in the first few generations of Pakeha dominance was unenviable, irrespective of whether they or their kinfolk had collaborated with the invader.

If you were to argue that the New Zealand wars of the nineteenth century and the claims of tribal feudatories are of very limited relevance to how we construct a fair and prosperous society in the twenty-first century, I would agree with you wholeheartedly.

But I remain wary of replacing a romantic, nostalgic myth of the "Harp that once through Tara’s halls" variety with an equally romantic "history as the onward, upward march of enlightenment" variant, with every minor rivulet, no matter how murky or swamp-ridden, seen as feeding the great ocean of Human Progress.

And my apologies for the longest sentence I have (to the best of my knowledge)ever written.

Scott said...

To argue that Tuhoe should have made peace with the Crown in 1869 is to argue that they should have accepted the confiscation of a huge chunk of their best land that had been carried out, on wholly spurious grounds, in the aftermath of the killing of Carl Volkner several years earlier.

It is hard to imagine an example from history of a people who have been happy to accept the expropriation of a vast tract of their best territory on manifestly unjust grounds. Should the Poles have accepted the partitioning of their country by Stalin and Hitler in 1939?

Perhaps, though, Tuhoe should have made this extraordinary concession, effectively destroying their traditional economic base and losing their access to the sea, because submission to the colonial government in Wellington would guarantee modernisation and development?

We can test this proposition out by looking at the history of Tuhoe Country in the twentieth century, after the government in Wellington finally gained firm control of the region. Far from showering Tuhoe with the fruits of modernity and the Englightenment, successive governments worked hard to block Tuhoe attempts at economic development and education. Again and again, Tuhoe were stopped from developing their land. State help that was extended willingly to rural Pakeha communities was witheld from Tuhoe, and the government deliberately sabotaged the community at Maungapohatu, not only with its infamous 1916 raid, but by systematically
underfunding the community in later decades.

Judith Binney has described the underfunding of Maungapohatu in this essay:
I've blogged about the way that colonialism has hindered, not assisted, Tuhoe development here:

What is true for Tuhoe is true for most other Maori communities in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Wellington stifled, rather than encouraged, economic development. The economic successes of the Maori nations of the Waikato Kingdom and Parihaka were not replicated under colonial rule.

Scott said...

I think Chris can't see what the weight of empirical evidence shows for three reasons. In the first place, he still holds to the view, which was so influential in 'Second International' Marxism and classical social democracy, that imperialism was generally a force for economic development in societies on the periphery of capitalism. In reality, imperialism retarded the productive forces of societies like India and China. I've gone into all this before in argument with Chris at
so I won't repeat myself.
In the second place, Chris underestimates the extent of racism against Maori in colonial New Zealand. Assimilation meant, at best, Maori becoming 'brown Pakeha', and leaving behind their language, their lands, and their cultural inheritance. This was far more than Maori could countenance, and since they 'failed' to 'assimilate', the colonial government felt entitled to discriminate against them in all sorts of ways. As the sad story of Tuhoe's failure to receive a decent road shows, Maori communities certainly couldn't expect the state services and subsidies that their Pakeha counterparts received.
The rampant racism against Maori in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was tied up with their role as a reserve army of labour in that period. In many areas of the country, employers were able to pay Maori wages below subsistence levels, and thus push up profits and undermine Pakeha workers and their unions, because Maori still lived on remnants of old tribal estates, and could therefore engage in subsistence agriculture and farming. The state could afford to pay miniscule benefits to unemployed Maori, for the same reason. For Kiwi capitalism, there was little incentive to fully proletarianise Maori until the 1940s. There are objective economic as well as subjective cultural reasons, then, why Maori could not be 'assimilated' in the late nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century.
Chris may wrap his interpretation of Tuhoe and Maori history up in the rhetoric of hardheaded historical realism, but it is, as Victor point out, remarkably romantic. And if one if going to be a romantic, isn't it better to choose the underdogs to romanticise?

Chris Trotter said...

The key question here, Scott, in both a comparative and an absolute sense, is: How well, or how badly, have the Maori fared after 170 years of Pakeha domination?

Have they, like the indigenous peoples of North America and Australia, become a negligible component of their country’s post-colonial population structure? Or have they, in spite of the ravages of war, disease and cultural demoralisation, emerged as one of the world’s most successful indigenous peoples?

Did their response to the challenge of dealing with an aggressive and overwhelmingly powerful civilisation see them utterly defeated and dispossessed? Or did their leaders lead them through the period of near-fatal population decline to lay the foundations for the Maori people’s spectacular recovery?

And, isn’t it true that Maori not only weathered the worst effects of the economically-driven post-1940 migration from country to city, but also took advantage of their dramatic demographic expansion to broker the creation of institutions of reconciliation and redress that are the envy of indigenous populations all over the world?

Maori have every right to feel immensely proud of these achievements. But Pakeha New Zealanders also have reason to congratulate themselves.

Yes, they were the children of their time, and yes the racist decisions they made are inextricably woven into the nation’s history. But they were also more than the children of their time. The racism and bad faith of the colonial authorities did not go unchallenged. Both at the time, and in the years that followed, the struggle for justice and fair-dealing involved not only Maori - but many Pakeha as well.

Compare the war crime that took place in 1863 at Rangiaowhia, in the Waikato, which you refer to on your blogsite, Scott, with the much greater crime against humanity that took place just a year later at Sand Creek, Colorado. And ask yourself how much resemblance the seizure of Parihaka by armed constabulary in March, 1881 bears to the US Seventh Cavalry’s massacre of 200 Lakota men, women and children at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in December 1890?

History is about what happened – not what SHOULD have happened. Do you think we would arguing about the historiography of a Waitangi Tribunal Report if 19th Century New Zealanders had followed the same path as their counterparts in the United States and Australia?

The debate sparked by this posting bears witness not to New Zealand’s failure – but to its extraordinary success.

Victor said...


I'm only an ignorant Pom. But I always understood that one of the reasons Maori fared less horrendously than other indigenous peoples during the age of European expansion was the skill and tenacity with which some of them resisted.

I would have thought that the history of the Tuhoe in the latter part of the nineteenth century testified to this.

Of course, it wasn't the full story. Other Maori showed similar skill and tenacity in collaborating with and profiting from the expansion of Pakeha influence, both before and after the 1860s.

It probably also helped that large scale British settlement in New Zealand commenced in the high-minded (if quintessentially hypocritical) Victorian 'Age of Reform' and not, as in North America and Australia, in an earlier,less conscience-ridden epoch.

It's certainly always seemed to me that Victorian Liberalism was one New Zealand's most significant cultural roots.

And I would agree with you that both Maori and Pakeha can claim some credit for a comparatively benign and hopeful, long-term outcome, as compared to other places where indigenous peoples faced the onslaught of Anglo-Celtic imperialism.

However, I would venture to suggest that this was not the outcome for which colonial militias or British regulars fought in the 1860s, anymore than the feudal notables who backed Henry Tudor against Richard Plantagenet desired modern capitalism, an industrial revolution or a constitutional monarchy dominated by the middle classes.

Sorry for an even longer sentence

Scott said...

We can play that game another way Chris. Compare the situation of Maori with that of the Tongans, who managed to hold on to their culture, their land, and their political independence, or the Samoans, who held off New Zealand imperialism and emerged with their indepdence and with most of their land still owned collectively. How often do you hear Maori on the streets of Auckland, and how often do you hear Samoan on the streets of Apia, or Tongan in Nukualofa?

In any case, the relative success of Maori in holding off colonisers has little to do with the goodwill or otherwise of the colonisers, and much more to do with objective factors like the weakness of the Kiwi borgeoisie compared to its counterpart in mighty America, and the extreme difficulty of using a hunter gatherer society like the one that existed in Australia as the base for large-scale armed resistance to invasion.

But let's leave these matters aside for a minute. Are you sure you're correct in saying that there is no reference to Maori-on-Maori violence in the TOW report Te Urewera? I was just looking at it and in five minutes I found plenty of references to the civil war inside Ngati Porou in 1866.

Chris Trotter said...

Come on. Scott, I made no reference to the Report's handling of inter-tribal conflicts, what I said was :

"[Y]ou’ll not find anything on those thousand pages remotely resembling the Mohaka Massacre as I have described it."


"There is a peculiar reticence on the part of the Tribunal’s historians to acknowledge that the war which spilled over into the Tuhoe people’s territory in the 1860s and 70s was a civil war."

By "civil war" I was, of course, referring to the conflict over who, ultimately, would exercise sovereignty over the whole of New Zealand: The indigenous Maori tribes, or the British Settlers? And drawing attention to the fact that there were many Maori tribes who understood that it could only be the British, and that the sooner the hold-outs were defeated the better it would be for them all.

As for Tonga and Samoa, these were tropical islands upon which the Europeans never constituted anything like a majority.

That combination: tropical heat (and diseases) plus small numbers of colonists was always a pretty effective protection against cultural obliteration.

The misfortune of the native Americans - and the Maori - was that they inhabited real estate in the planet's temperate zones. When Europeans come to those places - they come to stay.

Scott said...

Thanks for clarifying your remark about civil war Chris, but I'm not the only one who interpreted it as referring to Maori-on-Maori violence. I found out about this article of yours through kiwiblog, where the host and most of the more virulently anti-Maori commenters believe that you were drawing attention to the fact of Maori vs Maori violence.

Do you really think that Te Urewera doesn't see that the wars of the 1860s were a contest about sovereignty? That seems a bit of a tricky argument. Doesn't the report explicitly say the Crown didn't control Tuhoe Country in 1865?

I don't think the kupapa of the 1860s necessarily rejected what we call today tino rangatiratanga. The example of Ngati Porou is an interesting one. They joined with the Crown against Tuhoe and against Te Kooti's army, but they kept the guns the Brits gave them and when the government considered ripping off some of their land as part of the confiscations after the war, as 'punishment' for the actions of the hauhau Ngati Porou, they threatened to start a new war. They also seriously considered invading Northland and getting some utu on Nga Puhi with their flash weapons. These are hardly the actions of a people who feel bound by fealty to the regime in Wellington and its laws.

As an aside, I wonder whether it wouldn't have been better to begin your article in 1865/66, rather than 1869. You can construct reasons for the 1869 invasions by pointing to the fact Tuhoe were hostile to the Crown and sheletered Te Kooti, but can you find any justification, however paper-thin, for the original invasion of Tuhoe Country and the original confiscation of Tuhoe land in the aftermath of the slaying of Volkner? Given the lack of involvement of Tuhoe in that act, the actions of the Crown in 1865/66 seem motivated by pure opportunism. And the aggressive and avaricious actions of the Crown in 1865/66 are what causes Tuhoe hostility in 1869 - they are, if you like, the 'original sin'. By starting in 1869 I feel you rob your readers of the proper historical perspective.

I think Victor's points are quite fair. There was definitely an exterminatory quality to the way some Pakeha thought about Maori in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. This quality manifested itself in some ruthless rhetoric and actions during the wars (Whitmore's genocidal invasion of Tuhoe Country is the classic example of the latter), and in the 'smoothing the pillow of a dying race' attitude of the fin de siecle period. I made this point with reference to Hochstetter a couple of years ago, in a review of an exhibiton devoted to him:

I think the same ultra-racist quality comes out in New Zealand's colonial adventures in the first half of the twentieth century. Our administrators in Samoa and Niue were quite unbelievably racist, and created apartheid-style systems. They were no apostles of the Enlightenment, that's for sure.

Tim said...

Nice blog, Chris. Many learned visitors, obviously.

On a less scholarly note, I note I see no mention of the degree to which some Maori might actually have simply coveted the trappings of the "invading" culture. I mean, blankets are real nice on a cold night, and save a shit load of boring feather plucking. And some folks just love a good old scrap, too. No philosophising, just get into it because it gives them a kick - who knows, might even be genetic (- oooh, I bet that will shake the old ivory tower.)

"agonising deliberation", "highly skilled warrior-politicians", "debating the pros and cons of collaboration" sounds good in an anthropology lecture, but for my money, the immediate gratification of a good piss up should not be ruled out as a motive simply because it doesn't fit with the 'noble savage paradigm' which appears to prevail on this blogsite.

jh said...

I suppose it is the worst sin possible that Chris's post appears on Kiwiblog, after all there is only one side to this story.

Jono said...

Chris, tell that to the Native Hawaiians. Europeans havent had any trouble colonising and all but obliterating the indigenous culture of Hawaii, the northern parts of Australia (and the rest), or the larger and strategically significant islands of Micronesia (Let alone Central and South America). Tonga and Samoa are also well out of the malaria zone and are relatively benign in terms of nasty tropical bugs. I think your argument about climate is weak.

Scott said...

You're right in tune with the Victorians, Tim - the main explanations for Te Kooti's war in the Pakeha press of the 1860s and '70s were his innate Maori savagery and love of violence, and his predilection for alcohol. His discontent could have had nothing to do, of course, with being exiled to a sub-Antarctic island without trial for something he didn't do and with having his land ripped off while he was away.

Victor said...


You are obviously right in suggesting that New Zealand's colonial history was influenced by its distance from the equator.

But whilst latitude ensured the Maori tribes would not prevail politically, topography was a crucial factor in preventing their elimination.

Dense bush, high mountains and rugged wet uplands prohibited recourse to the field howitzers, Gattling Guns or rifle fusillades used with such devastating effect on the American prairies or the High Veldt.

Even when defeated and/or dispossessed, there were always places to go that were hard or profitless for the Pakeha to spend too much time accessing or bringing firmly under the 'rule of law'.


The choice of starting point for judging a cycle of killing and retribution is almost always subjective and arbitrary.

But I would agree that a key factor in making an ethical assessment of the events of the 1860s and 70s is that it was the settlers who were seeking to make a wholesale change to the status quo.

BTW I appreciate your comment about the racism of New Zealand's colonial administrations in the South Pacific.

Some years ago, I had a long chat with a senior public servant and amateur historian in Samoa. He suggested that the replacement of the comparatively benign Imperial German administration with NZ colonialism had been traumatic. History, as we know, is not devoid of irony.

However, for every example suggesting that early twentieth century white New Zealanders were inveterate racists, there is a counter example pointing in a different direction.

If I may share a piece of anecdotal family history with you....long before I ever thought of moving to New Zealand, I knew about the sense of friendship and comradeship between Maori and Pakeha from my father who had served alongside Kiwis during World War Two.

He would tell me with gleeful approval of how, when a cinema in a British colonial outpost, refused entry to Maori servicemen, every New Zealander on the base turned up and wrecked the joint.

That story (plus meeting my Kiwi girl 30 years ago) is probably why I live here.

Victor said...


The good piss-up interpretation of history has a lot to recommend it. But I suspect it applied to both sides in this, as every other, conflict.

maps said...

Yes, Tim seems to think that only Maori got drunk and rowdy in the nineteenth century. Te Kooti was certainly a boozer - he was apparently drunk during the battle at Te Porere - but so were the troops that invaded the Waikato. They trashed virtually every building in their path, whether it was Pakeha or Maori-owned, in a drunken spree that lasted months. When they were sent to Raglan to 'protect' the town from a possible Maori attack they got drunk and looted it instead. After the war the Pakeha government was forced to set up a special commission to organise compensation for some of the Pakeha who got their property trashed by Crown forces.

Victor, I agree that there are lots of good stories about Pakeha and Maori relations too.
But the reason why colonial policy in Samoa, Niue, and the Cooks is so interesting is that it represented the will of the New Zealand state, not the feelings of ordinary Pakeha. And colonial policy, as detailed in books like Michael Field's Mau and Dick Scott's Would A Good Man Die?, was premised on the notion that, for both cultural and racial reasons, whites were vastly superior to the native population.

In Samoa, the Germans had also treated the natives as inferior, but their top administrators were sentimental ethnographers, and they chose to shelter the Samoans from much of the modern world, so that they could continue to live 'like children'. The Kiwis were also determined to keep the races apart, and passed a series of apartheid-style laws, but they also wanted to turn the Samoans into brown Pakeha - and fast. They embarked on a breakneck modernisation programme whose goals included smashing the traditional extended family, breaking up communal lands, and spreading capitalism. As I found when I visited Samoa last year, it's still possible to see some of the bizarre legacy of this modernisation programme, which ended up sparking a very Polynesian sort of national liberation struggle:

I'm sorry to go on about Samoa, when it's not the subject of Chris' post, but I think it's significant because it shows the patent racism of the New Zealand state in the early twentieth century, and because it shows that cultural assimilationism can go hand in hand with discrimination and segregation.

Anonymous said...

Dear Chris,
I couldn't agree more. There were some poor decisions made by some iwi regarding which side they supported in the wars, and the consequneces they endured were sometimes terrible as a result. Maybe the quote of mine you used from the Morning Report interview is a bit out of cintext in so far as I was responding to a specific question.
I hope I have not fallen into the 'Liberal elite' as you put it. Certainly, complaints against me to the Race Relations Office, the Human Rights Commission, and the Broadcasting Standards Authority might suggest otherwise.
All the best,
Paul Moon

RedLogix said...

In reading the first comments I cannot but help be reminded of Michael King's statement that during the period 1800-1840, Maori inter-tribal warfare killed almost 40% of their OWN population. A fact almost completely airbrushed from the contemporary narrative.

Few people ever ask the obvious question as to why so many Maori chiefs so readily signed the ToW at all. Maori were never a politically naive or culturally backward people; they were aware of the immense changes they faced in transitioning from being a collection relatively isolated Stone Age tribes to entering a rapidly changing global Industrial era.

Events were moving rapidly in their world. Muskets, metals and faster transport had rendered the old pa defenses ineffective and shattered the established tribal balances of power. Visitors were arriving in unstoppable numbers. Without legal standing, nor any pan-tribal mechanisms to enforce any form of law outside of the iwi, Maori had no effective means to control their borders.

The record of the French colonials was to be deplored, the Americans had yet to fight the Civil War and it was only a matter of time before internal Maori slavery became an external trade. There was also the dreadful example of what was happening to the Aborigine.

It's easy also to overlook the global context of events. The period 1840-1890 saw an explosion of technology, trade and communication on an unprecedented scale. The world was about to enter it's first and most dramatic round of globalization that would transform life for peoples everywhere. Far-sighted chiefs could see both enormous threat and opportunity.

When the global superpower of the day, England offered a Treaty that offered Maori citizenship, protection from the global slave trade (Victoria had abolished slavery for her subjects), legal rights and status in this rapidly changing world and a means by which they might aspire to navigate a future for their peoples, they jumped at it.

However imperfectly it has been subsequently observed, not signing the ToW Maori would have condemned the 60% remnant of Maori who had survived their own internal genocide to almost certain extinction by external forces over the next 50 years or so.

Aboriginals were all but exterminated in the desirable areas. It was pure geographic good fortune that allowed Aborigines to survive in retreat to the outback. By contrast the Tongans had two advantages, they were a single people united as one political and military entity, and the small island they lived on was not a sufficiently valuable military target worth the effort of conquering them for. There were softer, more rewarding targets for colonisation ...such as New Zealand. And while Maori would have undoubtedly put up a grim resistance, in the end sheer numbers and irresistible technological advance would have eventually pushed them into unviable pockets of deep backcountry.

maps said...

The Musket Wars were virtually over by 1840, Red Logix - have a read of Ron Crosby's book on the subject for a timeline. Once all the iwi were tooled up with guns there was little to be gained from further war.

Chris Trotter said...

Oh, come ON, Scott!

A period as devastating to the Maori people of New Zealand as the Thirty Years War was to the people of Germany, or WWII was to the Russians, fundamentally remakes the country's political geography, lays waste its tribal infrastructure, and kills between one third and two-fifths of the population - and you dismiss it it with an airy: "Once all the iwi were tooled up with guns there was little to be gained from further war."

As a response to Red Logix's argument, this is woefully inadequate.

A social disaster on the scale of the Musket Wars inflicts enormous trauma on individuals and communities. It cannot be put behind them like a bad dream. They cannot simply "move on" - not when so many of their best and their bravest are dead; not when they have been uprooted from their traditional lands; not when so many people are carrying debilitating memories of personal terror, horrific slaughter and sudden devastation.

Your dismissal of Red Logix's case - so lacking in historical sensitivity - does you no credit.

Scott said...

What I was countering Chris was the claim that the TOW ended the Musket Wars, which Redlogix put forward. That is patently not the case.
Redlogix is also wrong in insinuating that Tonga didn't experience its own Musket Wars - they raged over the same period, and only ended when Tupou I came to power, unifying the country. The Tongans didn't need whites to stop them wiping themselves out; nor, I think, did Maori.

Here's what I wrote in a recent discussion thread at Reading the Maps about the nature of the Musket Wars:

The Musket Wars do not tell us much about pre-contact Maori culture. Before contact, Maori warfare was a relatively small-scale affair, and slaves were taken in relatively small numbers. There was no economic basis for a large-scale slave society or massive war.

The huge slave raids of the Musket Wars period occurred because white colonists in cities like Sydney, Port Nicholson, and even San Francisco had created a market for exports of agricultural products. The conquerors of the Moriori put their subjects to work growing spuds for Pakeha, who didn't complain about their methods.

In many areas of the North Island I think that the growing of potatoes for sale or trade, rather than just for domestic consumption, was necessitated by the need to acquire arms, in particular, as well as less destructive commodities offered by traders.

I think the raids on different parts of the country by Nga Puhi, after Hongi Hika returned from his trip abroad with Thomas Kendall with a large supply of new-fangled guns, forced iwi to modernise or die. Hongi slaughtered iwi who had never seen firearms before, and in the aftermath of his raids these iwi cleared huge areas for the cultivation of potatoes so they could have something to trade with or sell to Pakeha, and thereby get their own guns.

Maori therefore began to move away from a pure subsistence economy into a mixed subsistence and cash/barter economy which was reliant for its existence on Europeans, and on the primitive version of the capitalist system Europeans brought to these islands in the early nineteenth century. Eventually Maori in places like the Waikato Kingdom and (later) Parihaka worked out a way to combine traditional methods of social organisation and traditional collective ownership of land with the brave new world of the market, and the system which some scholars have called the Polynesian mode of production was born. There was a discussion about the Polynesian mode of production here: and here:

Chris Trotter said...

No, Scott, that is NOT what Red Logix was saying - if he'll forgive me for speaking for him (her?).

What is being asserted is that the devastating experience of the Musket Wars drove home to Maori leaders their tribal community's acute vulnerability to the effects of the new weapons, crops, animals, implements and economic relationships introduced by the Pakeha.

Yes, a rough "balance of terror" had been achieved by about 1830 - but at an enormous cost - and the tribes were very close to physical and moral exhaustion.

One of the more important responses to the latter was the conversion of an increasing number of tribes to Christianity. It is difficult to see how this process of accepting the Pakeha God could not, at the same time, have been extended to accepting Pakeha notions of a Christian social and political order.

By winning the protection of the British Empire (i.e. by signing the ToW) the Chiefs provided themselves with a breathing-space in which to reconfigure those elements of their culture and politics which no longer made sense within the new world that was opening up to them.

I find it odd, Scott, that you do not seem to be willing to concede that the Maori could or would behave in this way. You appear to be suggesting that it was all "the evil white man's" doing - and that the Maori, like children given too many sweets by an irresponsible care-giver, bear no real responsibility for what happened next.

In other words, all the negative consequences of Maori interaction with European civilisation was the fault of the latter - not the former.

This is a very odd position to maintain, since you are, at the same time, perfectly content to heap praise on Maori for all their positive adaptations to that same civilisation (Waikato flourmills, Parihaka's gardens).

But, maybe, all these contradictions are just an entirely forgivable manifestation of your romantic identification with the underdog ;-)

Scott said...

I don't see how Chris can suggest that adopting Christianity meant becoming friendly to the Crown. There was actually no contradiction between the adoption of Christianity and the development of entities like the Waikato Kingdom and Parihaka. The God of the Bible is not a 'Pakeha' God, anymore than he is a Coptic God. Rather like some of the better-known texts of Marx, scripture radically underdetermines its interpretations. Maori adopted Christianity but adapted it to their own needs and preoccupations.

Consider, for example, the Christainising of the Waikato and Hauraki areas. This took place without much direct input from Pakeha clergy, and it was often spearheaded by Maori nationalists. Near Matamata the great Ngati Haua chief Wiremu Tamihana, who helped bring the new faith into the Hauraki and Waikato regions, established a utopian Christian community called Peria, which also became a focus for discussions about the need for Maori political centralisation and the ned for a King.

Tuhoe offer another example of Christinisation without Europeanisation. By the 1850s most of the Pakeha missionaries were gone from Tuhoe lands - the people who lived there preferred to take their lessons from other Maori. Along with several other iwi, Tuhoe established a 'Council of Seventy' in Opotiki in the early 1860s. The Council's structure was influenced by scripture -seventy was the number of elders of ancient Israel - but its purpose was to advance pan-Maori unity in the face of Pakeha encroachment.

Maori took both Christianity and ideas of political centralisation from Pakeha, but they used both to advance their own agendas - and their own agendas usually involved retaining and extending their autonomy and avoiding assimilation.

Chris Trotter said...

"Consider, for example, the Christainising of the Waikato and Hauraki areas. This took place without much direct input from Pakeha clergy, and it was often spearheaded by Maori nationalists. Near Matamata the great Ngati Haua chief Wiremu Tamihana, who helped bring the new faith into the Hauraki and Waikato regions, established a utopian Christian community called Peria, which also became a focus for discussions about the need for Maori political centralisation and the need for a King."

QED - I think, Scott.

RedLogix said...

Redlogix is also wrong in insinuating that Tonga didn't experience its own Musket Wars

Fair cop history is lightweight compared to yours.

Still the point I was openly making is that the Tongans, after their own internal power struggle, united politically and militarily under one king. The other essential ingredient was the small geographic area of the main islands of Tonga, making communication and effective rule under a united political entity relatively simple to achieve....compared for example to the completely different situation of the Aborigine, who stood no chance of organising an effective pan-tribal alliance against the colonisers across the vast expanses of the outback.

The fact is that the NZ Musket Wars ended, not with Maori united under one leader, but in the unstable 'balance of terror' Chris mentions.

In the aftermath of both WW1 and WW2, nightmares that saw the death of tens of millions, the leaders of a chastened Western civilisation were on both occasions motivated to attempt the creation of first the League of Nations, and then the UN... both global governance bodies in which they invested their hopes to prevent a repeat of the tragedies they had just been through.

The Maori chiefs of 1840 who in their lifetimes had seen the massacre of a huge portion of their own peoples, where no doubt prompted by a similar desire to prevent such a terror from happening again. Given that no one iwi had been able to impose a pan-tribal unity by force, they opted for the far-sighted course... yielding a portion of their sovereignty to a larger, more global entity. In this case the British Crown. For this stroke of faith and foresight all New Zealanders should hold these signatory chiefs in the highest respect.

Neither the ToW, nor the League of Nations, nor even the UN have lived up to the expectations of those who first sponsored their creation. Yet the world would have been a far more dangerous, dissapointing place had they not been brought into existence. While imperfect they have been essential stages of development.

maps said...

I'm not sure if I agree even with your tangential points Redlogix.

The UN gave us the US intervention in Korea, imperialist intervention in the Congo, the first Gulf War and deadly sanctions against Iraq, and the invasion of Afghanistan late in 2001. It's not an imperfect institution - it's an institution dominated by the largest imperialist power, and used by that power for all sorts of unpleasant ends.

At the risk of being pedantic, is Tonga all that compact a place? There's a vast distance between Niaufo'ou in the north of the kingdom and 'Eua in the south. Back in the days of imperial expansion the distance was even greater. The Tongans did have a tradition of centralised power that probably made it easier for Tupou I to unite the country. But Tupou's methods were violent.

My argument is that pan-tribal unity was growing by the 1840s and that British colonialism sowed disunity and conflict, not the reverse. The last thing likely to stabilise New Zealand in the aftermath of the Musket Wars was the arrival of large numbers of settlers from the other side of the world! Armed conflict broke out only three years after the Treaty at Wairau, and a full-scale war was raging in the north before the end of the 1840s.

Chris Trotter said...

And what, Scott, could have stopped those "large numbers of settlers from the other side of the world" from coming?

Once a territory the size of the British Isles, lying in the Earth's temperate zone, had been discovered by Europeans it is pure fantasy to suggest that a neolithic culture, never numbering more than 100,000 - 150,000 persons, could have prevented it's eventual colonisation.

And yet, Scott, you write as if another outcome was possible.

It wasn't: colonisation, be it by the British, the French, the Germans or the Americans could only (at best) have been delayed - it could not have been prevented.

In the greater scheme of things Tonga and Samoa are just specks in a vast ocean. They had a passing utility for the Great Powers as coaling stations, but with the arrival of the Age of Oil that soon ended.

As Henry Kissinger brutally remarked of the United States' Micronesian territories: "There are only 90,000 people out there. Who gives a damn?".

New Zealand, on the other hand, was just too big to ignore, or allow to fall into the hands of a rival power.

After Cook quite literally put New Zealand "on the map", Maori independence was doomed.

Tim said...


I did not say, nor do I think, that "ONLY Maori got drunk..".

Nor did I say that the "good piss up" motivation might only have applied to anti-colonial Maori fighters.

No need to misquote someone just because you might not agree with them.


Piripi said...

Well it started off okay but when I saw the word 'terrorist', a word adopted by the Americans to legitimise their global theft of resources, I knew there would be a nasty White bias from here on out. I read no further. Chris you may want to add words like 'insurgents' and 'evil doers' and phrase like 'mission accomplished' and 'you're either with us or against us'. Who knows - your audience may appreciate it.

Chris Trotter said...

I'm sorry you read no further, Piripi. Not because I believe the posting would have convinced you of anything but because you seem to have adopted an approach to politics which precludes even the slightest attempt to understand the motivations and concerns of your ideological opponents.

George Bush did not invent the word "terrorist", nor is it's use restricted to discussions of American foreign policy. Plenty of people who were (or are) very far from being "White" practice[d] terrorism and, whether you like it or not, Te Kooti was one of them.

Sadly, most of his victims were Maori.