Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Remembering the Northern War

The battle of Ruapekapeka, fought in January 1846, was the final engagement in the war that Britain lost, as James Belich famously described it. But whether that means Ngāpuhi won the Northern War that had begun nine months earlier is in some ways a moot point.

After 1846 the Crown turned its back on the north, which was left to become a backwater as the rest of the New Zealand economy boomed. Arguably, it has never really recovered.

And so the story of the war is one of neglect, but also of remembering those who died in the conflict and the enormous damage it caused.

It is said that many generations of Ngāti Manu women have been named Te Noota, after HMS North Star, the naval vessel that destroyed their pā at Ōtuihu on 30 April 1845.

The conflict also serves as a reminder of the remarkable leaders from this period and their efforts to protect and defend their rangatiratanga.

And that is relevant today as Ngāpuhi contemplate a path ahead with their Treaty settlement. That’s a reminder of how this history resonates across generations. And the overall casualties – perhaps as many as 200 Ngāpuhi killed and wounded – are still grieved and remembered.

At the heart of the Northern War (and indeed an overarching theme of all of the New Zealand Wars) is this tension between Article 1 of the English translation of the Treaty of Waitangi, under which the Crown assumed full rights of sovereignty over New Zealand, and Article Two of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Maori-language document that Ngāpuhi signed and which confirmed ‘te tino rangatiratanga’ over their own affairs.

Sunrise from Waitangi. Photo: Vincent O'Malley


The Waitangi Tribunal concluded in its 2014 He Whakaputanga me te Tiriti: The Declaration and the Treaty report released as part of its Northland inquiry that Ngāpuhi never ceded sovereignty to the Crown.

They expected to continue to exercise full chiefly authority over their own internal affairs and to work in partnership with the Crown on matters affecting both peoples.


Instead, after 1840 the Crown started acting unilaterally on issues of vital concern to Māori, outlawing private land dealings, prohibiting the felling of kauri, imposing customs levies, shifting the capital to Auckland, and taking other actions that were seen as undermining the promises held out in Te Tiriti.

And these concerns were widely shared among Ngāpuhi rangatira, including those who would ultimately – for their own, carefully calibrated, reasons – join forces against kin considered to be ‘rebels’ by the Crown.

Hone Heke decided to fell the flagstaff on Maiki Hill at Kororāreka (Russell) as a bloodless protest against the Crown’s actions, doing so three times between 8 July 1844 and 19 January 1845.

In the early hours of 11 March 1845 Heke and others set out to fell the flagstaff for a fourth time. Although they succeeded, what followed was a disaster for Ngāpuhi.

Memorial at Christ Church, Russell. Photo: Vincent O'Malley


Confronted with the world’s great superpower, those Ngāpuhi who now found themselves pursued by the British imperial forces nevertheless demonstrated remarkable military prowess. For the British, a primary goal was to take advantage of their superior numbers, artillery and technology.

If they could not fight Māori in the open, then siege warfare was thought the likely path to success – surrounding and bombarding the pā before overrunning them when the defences had been breached sufficiently.

What they didn’t count on was the efficiency of the anti-artillery bunkers at Ōhaeawai and Ruapekapeka. Ngāti Hine rangatira Kawiti designed and built both and his military genius was such that some British officers refused to believe that Māori could have constructed these pā without external aid.




At Ōhaeawai on 1 July 1845 British troops were routed when they attempted to storm the pā, convinced that its prior bombardment would ensure minimal resistance.

Despite that humiliation, a similar outcome was only narrowly averted at Ruapekapeka because of the presence of Governor George Grey, who countermanded initial orders to charge the pā.

There’s a rich story here but one that reaches too few people. And that matters. Pākehā who lack awareness of the history of this country also lack the means to fully understand the present.

Contemporary Māori poverty, for example, so evident throughout much of Northland, makes little sense without an understanding of this historical context, leaving some to resort to deficit theories blaming Māori themselves for their predicament. There’s a backstory those people need to hear.
 
It is vitally important that we remember this history and we acknowledge these darker episodes from our past. That’s not about finger pointing.

It’s the basis for genuine reconciliation and understanding, through dialogue and through an open and honest engagement with our past. Taking ownership of our history and our stories, including those surrounding the wars fought on our own shores, is critical.  

[Originally published by RNZ as part of its NZ Wars: The Stories of Ruapekapeka documentary] 

Monday, 2 October 2017

'The Great War for New Zealand' at Tauranga Arts Festival

The Waikato War was the defining conflict in New Zealand history, says historian Vincent O’Malley in his seminal new work. It was a war that inflicted a huge number of casualties (more per capita than World War 1), destroyed a thriving regional economy and set back Māori-Pakeha relations by generations.

His bold, new work The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800-2000, has been acclaimed by Māori and Pakeha. Here, O’Malley discusses the book with Guyon Espiner.

 
When: Saturday, 28 October 2017

Where:  Carrus Crystal Palace, Tauranga Waterfront

Tickets:  www.taurangafestival.co.nz/writers/the-great-war-for-nz-vincent-omalley-216

See also: 'Our Place to Stand'

Six speakers have 7 minutes each to explore what it means to be a New Zealander, whether by birth or adoption, and the identity that comes with breathing the air of this chain of islands between Polynesia and Antarctica. Their notion of tūrangawaewae – places where we feel especially empowered and connected – will also be discussed. Questions from the audience encouraged.

Friday, 1 September 2017

'The Great War for New Zealand' at Manawatu Writers Festival

Author Vincent O’Malley writes with the conviction that a mature nation needs to own its history, warts and all. In this session of the Manawatu Writers Festival he explains how an open and honest reckoning of our past is vital to genuine reconciliation. 

Moving confidently into the future, Vincent argues, requires a robust understanding of where we have come from and been.




When: Sunday, 10 September: 2:45 PM - 3:30 PM
 
Where: Paper Plus, 35 Manchester Square, Feilding (see map)



Thursday, 24 August 2017

Reminder: 'The Great War for New Zealand' at Scorpio Books

A reminder that tomorrow night I will be discussing The Great War for New Zealand with Philip Matthews at Scorpio Books, BNZ Centre, 120 Hereford Street, Christchurch.

Refreshments from 5.30pm for a 6pm start.

For those not able to attend, RDU 98.5FM will be live streaming the event in full over Facebook. Click here for the link.

By way of a taster, this morning I talked to James Dann, host of RDU's breakfast show, about the book and tomorrow night's event. Take a listen here.




See www.facebook.com/events/871154789709189/ for more details.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

South Auckland and the 9 July 1863 Proclamation



On 9 July 1863 a proclamation was issued by the government addressed to 'the natives of Mangere, Pukaki, Thirmatao [sic - Ihumatao], Te Kirikiri, Patumahoe, Pokeno, and Tuakau', warning that:

All persons of the native race living in the Manukau district and the Waikato frontier are hereby required immediately to take the oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen, and to give up their arms to an officer appointed by Government for that purpose. Natives who comply with this order will be protected.

Natives refusing to do so are hereby warned forthwith to leave the district aforesaid, and retire to Waikato beyond Mangatawhiri.

In case of their not complying with this order they will be ejected.

MA 1/1863/186 (Box 835), Archives New Zealand


On the same date magistrates were despatched to the various settlements to deliver the notice and demand that Māori take an oath of allegiance to Queen Victoria or leave. As discussed in The Great War for New Zealand (and also in a 2013 article in the New Zealand Journal of History: ‘Choosing Peace or War: The 1863 Invasion of Waikato’) few took the oath. Many of those to whom it was read feared they might be forced to fight against their own kin in the Waikato if they did so. Others read it ‘a positive order to leave’. The overwhelming response was one of bewilderment.

Tamati Ngapora asked whether the ‘day of harvest’ had arrived and was told it had. His request for an inquiry into the conduct of the Tainui tribes was rejected outright. As John Gorst described the scene in his 1864 book The Maori King:

They were Maories and relatives of Potatau. Underlings of the Native Office were despatched in haste to call upon them to give up their weapons and take the oath of allegiance to the Queen, or, in default, to retire beyond Mangatawhiri under pain of ejection. The first native to whom this cruel decree was made known was Tamati Ngapora, the uncle of the Maori King, who lived at Mangere, in European fashion, receiving a large income from letting his lands as grazing grounds to the neighbouring farmers. After a short silence, Tamati asked — “Is the day of reaping, then, at hand?” Being told that it was, he observed — “Why has not the Governor put Waikato on her trial, before stretching forth the strong hand?” Tamati and the other Mangere natives quite understood the alternatives. They must submit to what they regarded as an ignominious test, or lose the whole of their property. And yet, to their honour be it said, they did not hesitate for a moment.

They all thanked the Pakeha for this last act of kindness in giving them timely warning of the evil that was to come upon Waikato, and an opportunity of themselves escaping; but they could not forget that they were part of Waikato, and they must go and die with their fathers and friends...All the old people showed the most intense grief at leaving a place where they had so long lived in peace and happiness, but they resolutely tore themselves away.

And so hundreds of Māori living at Māngere and elsewhere gathered up what belongings they could carry and trudged south to join their relatives in the Waikato. The invasion began three days later. The Tainui communities of South Auckland saw their lands confiscated, their property looted or destroyed and their once flourishing economy destroyed almost literally overnight.


Vincent O'Malley in conversation with Dave Veart, Mangere Bridge School. 9 June 2017 (Photo: Paul Janman)

In 1927 the Royal Commission into Confiscated Lands (known as the Sim Commission) concluded with respect to the Tainui communities of South Auckland that ‘a grave injustice was done to the Natives in question by forcing them into the position of rebels, and afterwards confiscating their lands’. Nearly sixty years later the Waitangi Tribunal reached a similar conclusion in its 1985 Manukau Report. 

I spoke about the impact of the Waikato War on Māori in the South Auckland region at a public talk at the Mangere Bridge School last month. Meanwhile, marking the 154th anniversary of these events, a group of people are marching from South Auckland to the Mangatāwhiri River, depositing alternative plaques commemorating this history along the way.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

He Whakaputanga - The Declaration of Independence


A Declaration. A Treaty. A Petition.

  • He Whakaputanga/The Declaration of Independence, 1835
  • Te Tiriti o Waitangi/The Treaty of Waitangi, 1840
  • The Women’s Suffrage Petition/Te Petihana Whakamana Pōti Wahine, 1893
 
These three iconic New Zealand documents are now on public display at the National Library of New Zealand in the He Tohu exhibition held jointly with Archives New Zealand.

Three books, published by Bridget Williams Books with the Department of Internal Affairs, take the story of these three foundational documents out to readers throughout the country.  Each book contains full colour facsimiles of the original document, and wide-ranging new research, led by Archives New Zealand, introduces us to many of the signatories. Texts by historians sets each document in context.

Having served as an historical advisor in the preparation of the He Tohu exhibition content, I was delighted to be asked to contribute to the book on He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni (the Declaration of Independence of New Zealand). 

He Whakaputanga, printed version, 1837, ZZZZ 6249 W5243 Box 1, Archives New Zealand

  
He Whakaputanga / The Declaration of Independence, 1835 

RRP: $29.99 | paperback
May 2017 | 70 pages | 202 x 302 mm
  • The Declaration of Independence is a little known document – and it is shown here in full colour
  • The foreword by Dr Aroha Harris is followed by an introduction by historian Dr Vincent O’Malley
  • Fifty-two northern chiefs signed the Declaration, and all their biographies are included here 
                 







He Whakaputanga/The Declaration ofIndependence presents the lesser known story of the Declaration of Independence of New Zealand, which was signed by fifty-two rangatira from 1835 to 1839. It was a powerful assertion of mana and rangatiratanga, made after decades of Māori and European encounters that had been steadily expanding – both within Aotearoa New Zealand and elsewhere on the globe as Māori travelled abroad. He Whakaputanga can mean ‘an emergence’, referring to the birth of a new nation but also marking steps towards unified forms of governance among the many different rangatira, their hapū and iwi.