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.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

New Zealand Herald Book of the Year 2016: The Great War for New Zealand

The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800-2000
by Vincent O'Malley
(Bridget Williams Books, $80)

Reviewed by Jim Eagles

It is a sad commentary on New Zealand's interest in its own history that the most recent previous book-length account of the conflict in the Waikato, which had such a huge impact on the development of this country, was written in 1879 by John Featon, an artillery volunteer in the war who later became a journalist.

However, Vincent O'Malley's epic volume almost justifies the wait. This is a great book in every way. It is massive in size; its 688 pages printed on high-quality paper weighing in at a mighty 2.5kg (so heavy it is awkward to read in bed).

The only real flaw in the production is that the index is not up to the standard required of such an important work.

It is impressive in its scope, embracing not only the actual fighting in 1863-64, but also
the much more important causes and consequences.

[Read more at NZ Herald]

Saturday, 10 December 2016

The Great War for New Zealand and the Making of Auckland

In The Great War for New Zealand, historian Vincent O’Malley tells the story of the Waikato War of the 1860s – how it set back Māori-Pākehā relations by generations and changed the course of New Zealand history for good. Here, in an original essay for The Spinoff, he explains how the war helped create modern Auckland.

In 1845 the small township of Auckland (population 3635) faced an existential crisis. War raged in the north and it was rumoured that the assistance of the powerful Tainui tribes had been sought for an attack on the settlement. A nightmare scenario for the town’s residents was the prospect of a simultaneous assault from the north and south, with Ngāpuhi and Tainui combining to virtually assure Auckland’s destruction.

Yet when a delegation came south to solicit assistance from paramount Tainui rangatira Te Wherowhero, the response was emphatic. “You must fight me if you come on to Auckland; for these Europeans are under my protection,” he told them. In Māori terms, Te Wherowhero made the position even clearer, referring to Auckland as the hem of his cloak and in this way placing the settlement under his personal tapu. An attack on Auckland would be an attack on him.

Reinforcing this point, in August 1845 the government built a cottage for Te Wherowhero within Auckland Domain, close to where the museum currently stands. It was one of several residences the chief had across the Tāmaki region. A year earlier the Tainui tribes (population 18,400) had hosted a massive hākari (feast) on their Remuera estate, attended by over 3400 Māori guests and more than 1000 Europeans. There could be no more telling reminder of the immense power and prestige of Waikato-Tainui at this time.

[Read more at The Spinoff]

Monday, 7 November 2016

The Great War for New Zealand - A Book for all New Zealanders

The arrival of a landmark book for all New Zealanders

Me maumahara tātou – we must remember. Not lest we forget. We must remember...It has to be that we go forward from a position of enlightenment, of māramatanga.

Rahui Papa, Chairman, Te Arataura, Waikato-Tainui, at the Wellington launch of The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800–2000, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 19 October 2016

Hailed as the first single-volume history of the Waikato War since 1879, the publication of The Great War for New Zealand by Vincent O’Malley has been met with a nationwide response.

The first official copy was presented to King Tuheitia and endorsed by tribal leaders at the Kīngitanga’s annual Waahi Poukai on 8 October 2016. It was only fitting that the people of Waikato-Tainui received the book first. As Vincent O’Malley said during his speech at the Waahi Poukai, it was time New Zealanders learned about the history that Tainui and other iwi carried alone for so many generations. The long queue of book buyers which formed after the official proceedings ended was a further endorsement by the people who are at the heart of the book.

At Te Papa’s Rongomaraeroa Marae on 19 October, Rahui Papa and Vincent O’Malley were joined by the Rt Hon Jim Bolger and the Hon Te Ururoa Flavell, Minister for Māori Development, in marking the book’s arrival. Jim Bolger explicitly linked events of the past and contemporary ignorance of those events with present-day social ills: ‘We should teach our history to every young New Zealander going through school, so they feel comfortable with it. And if they’re comfortable with it, they’ll be more comfortable as a society. If ever there was a time that it’s necessary, [it] is in a world that’s becoming more globalised, we have every culture, race, history and religion going to be with us [and] we need to know our own. Yesterday we had a very sad announcement. It was that we’re going to spend a billion making more prison beds. That, sadly, is a mark of failure.’

The other speakers echoed his conviction that the knowledge embodied by the book will produce social cohesion if widely shared. Waikato-Tainui leader Rahui Papa said ‘Vincent’s book…elevates some of the discussions, some of those things that people are shy to talk about. There is no more shyness, we have to embrace our history, we have to confront our history, we have to get over our history and we can only do that together.’

And at the Te Papa event, Emeritus Professor Atholl Anderson, speaking for the Bridget Williams Books Publishing Trust, announced that The Great War for New Zealand will shortly be placed in all secondary school libraries in November, enabled by generous funding from the Freemasons Foundation. This initiative was applauded by the Hon Te Ururoa Flavell, another of the speakers at Te Papa, who described it as an ‘absolutely huge’ gesture.

Young New Zealanders with a thirst for knowledge about their own stories have already recognised the significance of this history. In 2015 Ōtorohanga College students organised a petition calling for a national day of commemoration for victims of the New Zealand Wars, gaining over 12,000 signatures. The Government has since confirmed that such a day will be held, for the first time, on 28 October next year.

The Ōtorohanga students were presented with copies of The Great War for New Zealand at a third event held at Waikato Museum on 9 October. Petition organiser Leah Bell said of the book, ‘it’s important. It’s so important. Especially for our cultural identity. The more we understand our history, the more we understand who we are and the more united we can be.’ Fellow student Charles Ward acknowledged the book as representing more than just a historical resource: ‘It's basically awareness of our history – being able to just love who we are and who we were and getting everyone to know we are a nation that had wars and the wars weren't just overseas.’

This moving nationwide response to Vincent O’Malley’s book is set to continue with a major event at the Auckland War Memorial Museum on 21 November. Mihingarangi Forbes will chair a discussion, marking the book’s publication, between Rahui Papa and Tom Roa (Waikato-Tainui) and Vincent O’Malley. This is a public event and all are welcome.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

What a nation chooses to remember and forget: the war for New Zealand's history

Early in 2014 a group of school students from a small town in rural New Zealand took a trip to some nearby historical sites. Guided by local Māori elders, the students from Otorohanga College encountered a history that was all but unknown to them. As Leah Bell later recalled, “It’s shocking to hear that there were massacres half an hour from where you live, not that long along.”

Ōrākau and Rangiaowhia, where the school party visited, saw two of the bloodiest confrontations of the Waikato war – a conflict between British imperial troops and the local Tainui tribes that had been fought exactly 150 years earlier (1863-64). It was the largest and most significant in a wider series of clashes that took place in New Zealand between 1845 and 1872 as Māori communities resisted colonial conquest and expansion.
For a time in the 1860s there were more British troops in New Zealand than almost anywhere else in the empire outside India. And the Waikato war was the defining conflict in New Zealand history – a battle between two competing visions of the nation’s future. British victory paved the way for settler and European hegemony, casting aside Māori aspirations for partnership and shared prosperity for at least the next century. Instead, sweeping and indiscriminate land confiscations pushed Māori tribes to the margins of colonial society, condemning generations to lives of poverty.

That history was barely acknowledged beyond the descendants of those on the receiving end of British bullets. Few students learn about it in school. Many of the sites where these conflicts took place are neglected (many are not even signposted). There were no official commemorations, no museums and few memorials.

[Read more at the Guardian webpage]