Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Political Football: Maori and the Springboks to 1965

The rugby rivalry between New Zealand’s All Blacks and South Africa’s Springboks became part of each country’s sporting legend as a result of the Springbok tours of New Zealand in 1921, 1937 and 1956, and the All Black tours of South Africa in 1928 and 1949. The racism of white South Africans impacted on this sporting relationship, commencing with South African shock at having to play a Maori team in 1921. Their refusal to play the New Zealand Maori team on their 1937 tour prompted calls from Te Arawa and other iwi for a boycott. South Africa’s introduction of apartheid policies in 1948 resulted in the New Zealand Rugby Union agreeing to South African demands to exclude Maori players from All Black tours of South Africa. This led to huge protests against the 1960 All Black tour under the slogan ‘No Maoris, No Tour’. But despite a petition signed by 160,000 people, the government refused to intervene. South Africa offered to reclassify Maori players as ‘honorary whites’ for later tours and, despite continued opposition within New Zealand, the Rugby Union accepted this condition for the 1970 All Black tour of South Africa. 

'No Maoris, No Tour' poster, 1959, Eph-D-Racial-1959-01, ATL

The 1921 Springboks are reportedly disgusted at playing a Māori team (not to mention being beaten by them)…

Anonymous telegram by visiting South African newspaper correspondent on Springboks vs. New Zealand Maori XV, cited in New Zealand Truth, 17 September 1921.

Most unfortunate match ever played. Only result [of] great pressure being brought to bear on [Springboks Manager, H. C.] Bennett induced them to meet Maoris, who assisted largely [in] entertainment [of] Springboks. Bad enough having [to] play team officially designated [as] New Zealand Natives, but [the] spectacle [of] thousands [of] Europeans frantically cheering on [a] band of colo[u]red men to defeat members of [their] own race was too much for Springboks, who [were] frankly disgusted.

Upsetting Maori who had welcomed and hosted the team at Rotorua

Tai Mitchell and Kiwi Amohau ,telegram to Springboks Manager, H. C. Bennett, cited in New Zealand Herald, 15 September 1921.

Re your objections to playing against Maoris, if true, please convey to the Boers in your team the deep regret of the Arawa Maoris, who did not know your feelings in the matter, especially those who in good faith extended to you and the team the courtesies of their historical marae at Ohinemutu. The Maoris would have appreciated frankness, but… to accept the welcome and break bread with our people, and then later insult them as you have done is not, according to Maoris, the mode adopted by honourable gentlemen. … May the better team in Saturday’s test win.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

'Slaying Without Scruple': An 1868 Call for Maori 'Extermination'

As the New Zealand Wars dragged on in the late 1860s, the conflicts took on a harsher and more racially tinged edge. With British imperial troops progressively withdrawn from New Zealand after 1865, colonial troops and their Maori allies assumed sole responsibility for pursuing the war instead. In July 1868 the Wellington Independent newspaper called for no mercy to be shown Maori ‘rebels’ (see The Treaty of Waitangi Companion, p. 145). Its call for ‘rebels’ to be ‘slain without scruple’ was repeated in equally shocking terms after colonial troops were routed at Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu in September 1868. 

Death of Major von Tempsky at Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu, 7 September 1868, C-033-006, ATL
In a lengthy editorial that reflected on the deaths of Gustavus von Tempsky and others at the hands of Titokowaru’s force, the newspaper called for the ‘extermination’ of Taranaki Maori, declaring that:   

There is no use blinking the ugly facts of the case. There are a certain number of natives on the West Coast who will never cease to rob and burn and murder. These men must be shown no mercy. They should be treated as wild beasts — hunted down and slain. Modern History teaches us that irreclaimable savages, who rendered colonization impossible and the lives of peaceful settlers insecure, have been, in the interests of society, exterminated...We are not advocating a war against the whole Maori race — than which no course could be more unjust or impolitic — but what we emphatically assert is this: there are certain hapus of tribes on the West Coast whose deeds of rapine and murder have made them the curse of the colony, and we would exterminate them. It does not matter what means are employed, so long as the work is done effectually. Head-money, blood-money, killing by contract — any or either of those means may be adopted, and we shall be content so long as the business is accomplished, and the colony rid of a terrible danger and a ruinous taxation. (Wellington Independent, 10 September 1868)

The newspaper’s views were hardly uncontroversial and were condemned at the time as ‘disgraceful to an Englishman’. But the very fact that the Wellington Independent felt free to give vent to such crude prejudices showed just how badly relations between Maori and Pakeha had sunk by this time.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

J D Stout Research Fellowship

Earlier this week came the official announcement that I had been awarded the John David Stout Research Fellowhip for 2014:
The Stout Research Centre for New Zealand Studies is delighted to announce that the John David Stout Research Fellow for 2014 will be Dr Vincent O'Malley, research director of HistoryWorks Ltd.
Dr O’Malley’s most recent book, The Meeting Place: Maori and Pakeha Encounters, 1642-1840 (2012), was a finalist in the general non-fiction category of the New Zealand Post Book Awards this year. He is the author of four books on relationships between Maori and Crown and Pakeha, in addition to many book chapters and journal articles, and  reports for the Treaty of Waitangi settlements processes. During the fellowship, Dr O’Malley will be working on a book on the Waikato War, 1863-4. This was a pivotal turning point in the history of New Zealand, yet no major study has been undertaken since 1879; it is apt that Dr O’Malley will be exploring this subject in the year that marks the sesquicentennial of the final battles of the Waikato War.

The reference to 1879 is to John Featon's book, The Waikato War, published in that year. In this, the sesquicentennial of the outbreak of the Waikato War, we might ask why the relative historical amnesia with respect to wars fought on our own shores, especially compared with the veritable mountain of works on New Zealand's involvement in various overseas conflicts. Part of the answer might lie in the fact that the Waikato War does not fit into a nation-building paradigm. At one time settlers (but not Maori) celebrated Orakau as the moment when New Zealand developed 'the greatest race relations in the world', through the mutual respect both sides were said to have had for one another. That can no longer be sustained, now that we know about the well-documented atrocities committed by British troops during that conflict. But a new narrative around the wars has yet to emerge, hence the kind of uncomfortable silence. These are questions I hope to explore in my project. 

'Framed in Forgetfulness?' The New Zealand Constitution Act 1852

This week I gave a paper at the New Zealand Historical Association biennial conference, held at the University of Otago. My paper explored the understandings of British parliamentarians as to the impact of the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852 on Maori communities. Here is the abstract:

Asked to nominate the point at which relations between Maori and Pakeha had really begun to turn sour in the nineteenth century, many historians would likely nominate the passage of the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852. As Chichester Fortescue famously told the House of Commons in 1861, from the time of the 1852 Act the governor had been ‘[o]bliged to act under a Constitution which appeared to have been framed in forgetfulness of the existence of large native tribes within the dominions to which it was intended to apply’. With the benefit of hindsight it is all too easy to assume that ‘absent-minded imperialists’ really had forgotten their obligations to Maori. But a close analysis of British Parliamentary debates on the measure (limited though discussion was with reference to Maori) suggests this was not entirely true. The effect of the 1852 Act was to establish a General Assembly nominally open to all though in practice restricted to Pakeha. But British MPs assumed that some Maori closest to European towns would be eligible to vote under the new constitution. They further assumed that most other Maori would be removed from the General Assembly’s jurisdiction under the section 71 provision enabling ‘native districts’ to be declared. Under these circumstances there would be little real injustice provided both measures (a franchise based exclusively on European land tenure and separate ‘native districts’) were implemented together. The problem, it is suggested, was less that settlers were granted self-government than that a tandem measure which would have effectively delivered a similar outcome for many Maori was not.

New Zealand Constitution Act (source:


There is little doubt that the Act, as implemented, was a disaster. It coincided with a growing crisis in relations between Maori and the government, sparked in large part by concern that rangatira were being shut out from a share of the governance of the colony and instead increasingly subject to the whims of general and provincial assemblies from which they were excluded. Such an outcome arguably could have been avoided had Maori been enfranchised at anything like the level British parliamentarians assumed would be the case, and had definite instructions been issued by the Colonial Office for section 71 to be utilised in predominantly Maori districts.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

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

On the anniversary of the invasion of Parihaka I am reposting my earlier piece on the events of that day, with additional links at the bottom of the page to further sources of information available online.


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

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

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

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

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

Star, 7 November 1881

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


See also:

Christchurch City Libraries' Parihaka resources page website

Parikaha images dataset on DigitalNZ

Puke Ariki Museum website

Te Ara website

Waitangi Tribunal chapter on Parihaka from its Taranaki Report

This is just a start. There are many more sources of information on Parihaka history available online or in your local library.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Fall of Meremere, 31 October-1 November 1863

Following the invasion of Waikato by British imperial troops in July 1863, local Maori sought to slow their advance south through the construction of a series of defensive pa (fortifications), of which Meremere was among the most impressive. Its construction was first observed by General Cameron on 15 August, when he noted that Maori had assembled there in considerable numbers and occupied a commanding post on the right bank of the Waikato River, about two miles beyond the junction with the Whangamarino River. Rifle pits were being thrown up in all directions and one observer estimated that there were already about 1100 men there by the end of August. Construction of the pa soaked up a considerable proportion of the total number of defenders available to the Kingitanga. But with British troop numbers continuing to surge, and the Waikato River now commanded by armed steamers that were capable of causing enormous damage, continuing occupation of Meremere was becoming increasingly untenable.

Looking Across Waikato River towards Meremere, 1864, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-1180

In the early hours of 31 October Cameron and 600 officers and men sailed up the Waikato River, landing at a spot previously indentified as suitable during reconnaissance that was about nine miles beyond Meremere. As the British were preparing to assault the pa on the afternoon of 1 November, soldiers at a forward observation post reported that Maori were leaving Meremere in large numbers. Cameron and his main body of soldiers arrived on the scene a few hours later, charging up the hill and hoisting the British ensign at the top. In this way, British forces claimed their ‘bloodless victory’ (as one newspaper at the time described it).

Meremere from Whangamarino Redoubt (1863), by Charles Heaphy, C-025-011, ATL
 Kingitanga forces had evaded confrontation with the main body of British forces for the time being. But the loss of Meremere was a strategic blow, allowing Cameron’s forces much easier access to the area beyond it. And as James Belich noted, the effort that went in to construction of Meremere was to temporarily exhaust the resources of the Kingitanga – a reluctant fighting force that was already massively outnumbered by the professional army and their heavy artillery deployed against them.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

The Origins of the Maori King Movement - An Insider's Account

There are multiple accounts as to the origins of the Kingitanga, or Maori King Movement, which came to prominence with the instalment of Potatau Te Wherowhero as the first Maori King in 1858. Much less common is a detailed insider’s description of the emergence of the movement and its aims and objectives. Honana Te Maioha belonged to Ngati Mahuta and was a cousin of Matutaera, better known as King Tawhiao, the second Maori King. He was intimately involved in the Kingitanga and had been active in its formation. In 1882 he gave a detailed description of how the movement had come about. It emerged at a time when the Kingitanga was at the forefront of public attention. The year before King Tawhiao had laid down his arms at Alexandra (Pirongia) and declared an end to the war fought in the 1860s. Subsequent to this he travelled to a number of European settlements, includiing, in January 1881, to Auckland. There, Tawhiao and his entourage, including Honana Te Maioha, were feted by a grateful public and it was during this time that Honana was interviewed by a reporter from the New Zealand Herald on the origins of the movement. It was reproduced in a number of colonial newspapers under the heading ‘Story of the King Movement, Told by a Maori Chief’. This is his account:


On the occasion of the recent visit of the Kingites to Auckland, a reporter from the Herald interviewed Honana te Maioha – one of Tawhiao’s near relatives, who took an active part in the commencement of the King’s movement – with the view of having recorded facts respecting that singular series of events.

Honana states that the people of Kawhia were the first, so far as he knows, to entertain the idea of a King for the Maoris. Those who first spoke about the subject were the Ngatihikairo, the chiefs being Waikawau and Pikia. This was before Te Rauparaha was taken by Sir George Grey [in 1846]. The objects of the King movement were these: - 1. To form a bond amongst all the tribes of New Zealand. 2. The desire to form a land league, to stop the reckless alienation of land. 3. To prevent fighting and bloodshed among the Maoris. Honana continued: Potatau, when spoken to by the people of Kawhia, said, “It would not be right for you to call me to be a king, because I am simply a connection of Waikato, and a great many other tribes are interested in a matter of that kind.” At that time Potatau was living at Awhitu, on the Manukau. He would not consent to be made a king. Afterwards, Tamehana te Rauparaha and Matene te Whiwhi, of Ngatiraukawa, at Otaki, went to Rotorua. Their action was quite separate from that of the people of Kawhia. At the great meeting at Rotorua, the speaking was to this effect: - Ko Rotorua he moana kopuapua – Rotorua is a place of ponds, meaning that the sun would soon cause them to evaporate; ki Taupo, he moana papaku – Taupo is a shallow sea, meaning that the people were not many, and more scattered; ko Waikato, he awa taniwha – Waikato is a giant river. The meaning of all this was that the king should be selected from Waikato. This was during the first Governorship of Sir George Grey. Hikairo had then been spoken of as king. Then was the time that Heuheu te Iwikau built the great pataka (storehouse), which he called “Hinana ki uta, hinana ki tai” – staring inland and staring to the sea. Potatau was invited to the meeting. He was then living at Whatawhata. He started to go to Taupo, but when he had got to Orakau, he had a fall from his horse, and was in consequence unable to proceed. Tawhiao (the present king) went, Honana te Maioha, Paratene te Maioha, Takerei, Te Huirama, Waikawau, Pungarehu, Hikuroa. The name of Tawhiao was then Tapuke (not Te Pupuke, as we have already printed it). There was present the Roman Catholic priest who resided at Rangiawhia, Father Garavel, and the Rev. Mr Grace, who was the resident minister of Taupo. Representatives of the Ngatiraukawa, the Ngatikahungunu, the Arawa, the Ngatituwharetoa, and other tribes attended. A post was erected by order of Te Heuheu, and ropes fastened to the post. One rope pointed to Taupiri, in Waikato, one to Hawke’s Bay, and so on. Tongariro was the post itself, and the various ropes represented numerous tribes, including the Waikatos. Rewi was at that meeting. Te Heuheu ordered the ropes to be placed in the hands of different men, and before they did so, said “Potatau is King.” Patara te Tuhi said, “Why do you ask your son to stand as king? You should be the king.” Rewi rushed forward and took one of the ropes, and Matuahu took one and called out the chorus, “Toia te waka” (Drag the canoe). Hawrua [sic], one of the Ngatimaniapoto, spoke on that occasion and said he desired that Potatau should be king. He came forward with a sovereign in his hand and presented it to Potatau, in order to declare to him that our own native feuds were at an end. The Whanganuis joined, and there was perfect unanimity. Turoa was the representative of Whanganui, and Tareha and Paora Kaiwhata of Ngatikahungunu. The arguments of Te Heuheu for establishing a king were that the Maoris might hold the land, and that the shedding of blood by native quarrels might be avoided. Te Rangikaharua came forward and sung the ngeri, “Tenei te tangata puhuruhuru.” That referred to Potatau. We were unanimous at that meeting that Potatau should be elected. (An extract from the Rev Mr Buddle’s book was here read by Honana, where the author states that at the Taupo meeting “the most violent party advocated a clear sweep of all the pakehas, governor, missionaries, pakeha maories (settlers) – all.”) That is not true. Mr Buddle was not present at the Taupo meeting. There was no such thing advocated. We did not want to interfere with the Europeans. The movement was for our own people only. It was not till after this that someone said that the Europeans would be angry if we elected a king. It was replied, “Why should they, seeing that we in no way interfere with them?” Another meeting was held at Patea, between Hawke’s Bay and Tongariro. It was decided that the whole of the Rangitikei river should be offered to the king to be protected. Potatau had not agreed to accept at that time. Then a meeting was called at Rangiawhia, and there it was unanimously agreed that Potatau should be king. By this time he had gone to reside at Mangere. Up to this point William Thompson had not taken any part in the king movement. Potatau did not consent as he was not sure of the opinions of the whole people. He never desired the office, thinking that his own dignity as a chief was sufficient. Tawhiao was then living with him at Mangere. This next thing was the meeting at Waiuku. Potatau made a speech, saying “Adhere to Christianity, and to love, and to the law. Formerly the God of the Maoris was the man-eating Uenuku, but now our God is the Great King of Heaven. These treasures are not purchased, but are given freely. Adhere to Christianity, love, and the law.” There were many Europeans present at that meeting. From there Potatau was taken to Ngaruawahia. Before he left Mangere he communicated with Governor Browne regarding his visit to Waikato, and the Governor assented to his going. After the return to Waikato, the tree for the king flagstaff was cut at Taupiri mountain. It was a kauri. The whole of Ngaruawahia was once a kauri forest. We floated the tree up to Ngaruawahia. It there began to be rumored [sic] amongst the Maoris that the pakehas would be angry on account of erecting this flag as a symbol of kingship. The Maoris said, “Why should they be angry? We do not interfere with them. It is a matter which concerns ourselves only.” The staff was then erected, where the public-house now stands on the banks of the Waipa. The lower Waikatos thought that the title Potatau should assume should be “Matua” (Patriarch), but the others did not agree to that. It was then decided that he should be called “King,” as that name was in the Bible. William Thompson brought out the Bible, and put it on Potatau’s head, and certain quotations were uttered at the same time. While this was being done, minor flags were hoisted, and after the anointing, the great flag was pulled up. I hoisted the main flag. I went up on the stays, and said, “This represents the North, the South, the East, and the West, and all the people.”

(‘Story of the King Movement, Told by a Maori Chief’, Timaru Herald, 1 March 1882, reproduced from the New Zealand Herald, 18 February 1882).

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Maori and the Royal Tours of 1901 and 1920

The importance of the Treaty of Waitangi to Maori is reflected in their strong interest in meeting with the person of the Crown; their Treaty partner. This was reflected in the sending of various Maori delegations to London to seek an audience with the monarch, but in the early twentieth century there were two opportunities for Maori to welcome royal visitors to their own country. In 1901 the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall (the Duke being the second son of Edward VII) toured New Zealand. The focus for Maori was on the royal visit to Rotorua, with thousands from iwi all over the country (except Tainui Kingitanga) organising a Maori welcome and cultural display. Next was a post-war tour by the Prince of Wales (Prince Edward, son of George V) in 1920. The Rotorua leg of the tour was again the focus for Maori, featuring a warm welcome from thousands of Maori, followed by an enormous Maori pageant. 

Te Arawa haka at Rotorua during the 1901 royal tour (PA1-f-064-03, ATL)

1. The Royal couple arrive at Rotorua on their 1901 tour 

‘The Reception at Rotorua. Enthusiastic Native Welcome. A Memorable Scene’, New Zealand Herald, 14 June 1901.

Opposite the [Rotorua] railway station [5,000 of] the local tribes lined the road, and when their Highnesses emerged from the station gave vent to a song of welcome, the unrestrained vigour of which must have rather surprised the Royal visitors. Accompanying the chant with wild gesticulations of welcome and flourishing their taiahas, meres, and battle axes, they raised a deafening song which left no possible room for doubt of the intensity of their feelings. ...A guard of honour of about 100 of the most influential chiefs of the assembled tribes, in full Maori costume, and carrying their taiahas, which accompanied the procession, made a very imposing spectacle, and from their dignified bearing they seemed to be fully aware of the great event they had gathered to celebrate – the welcoming of the grandson of the great white Queen Wikitoria, the fame of whose mana had always been a favourite theme.

2. James Carroll delivers a welcome from ‘the tribes of New Zealand’…

New Zealand Herald, 14 June 1901.

Welcome, welcome, welcome, O son! ...This is a great day; a day that will live in the memory of our race while God permits their existence; but it is a day of mourning. We mourn the great Queen, to whom our fathers ceded by fealty the sovereignty over these isles; who was the guardian of our rights and liberties... We, the humblest of her children, alien in blood, yet kin by law and allegiance, mourn the loss of a mother who sought the good of high and low alike, who loved peace, that by peace among her peoples, they might rise yet higher in greatness. ...Here in the presence of your Royal Highness, we renew our oath of allegiance; we confirm the act of our fathers who gave all to Queen Victoria and her successors. Hear, O ye peoples! Today we make a new treaty – new and yet old – inasmuch as we confirm the old to which we but added expressions of continued loyalty from our generation...

3. …to which the Duke replies

New Zealand Herald, 14 June 1901.

From the far ends of the earth, over the wide seas, we have been sent by the great King, my father, to hear and behold, in their own beautiful land, his children, the Maoris. (Cheers.) ... The words of the Maoris are true words – the words of a generous and chivalrous people, who are ready to make good with the hands the promise of the lips. (Cheers.) To receive your pledges of loyalty and to learn from me that you have renewed your oath of allegiance and confirmed the act of your fathers, who gave all to Queen Victoria and her successors, will give joy to my father’s heart... The heart of the King is warmed to his people in New Zealand. He rejoices to see them dwell together in peace and friendship, and prays that they may continue to be united and to strengthen each other in the works of peace...

'The Prince at Rotorua',Poverty Bay Herald, 29 April 1920

4. The Prince is greeted by Māori at Rotorua in 1920

‘The Maori Reception. A Memorable Scene. Many Tribes Participate. War and Peace Dances. Ancient Native Ritual’, New Zealand Herald, 30 April 1920.

The tribes were drawn up in mass formation opposite the grandstand, and it was obvious at the first glance they were keyed up for the occasion. They stood forth in all the finery reserved for such occasions... Through two lines of wahine in full poi costumes, chanting a song of welcome, [the Prince] came forward at the slow pace essential to Maori etiquette, and swung round to the stand. As they sighted him tribe after tribe took up the shout of welcome... and it was through this swelling chorus that the Prince made his way to the Royal stand.

...A Maori maiden wearing two feather mats came forward, removed one of the mats, and handed it to the Prince. With the assistance of Dr [Maui] Pomare he placed it round his shoulders and there it remained for the whole ceremony.

5. Privately the unhappy Prince is unimpressed

Prince of Wales (Edward, Duke of Windsor), Rotorua and Auckland, to Freda Dudley Ward [the Prince’s mistress], 27 April to 2 May 1920. MS-Papers-8780-1-3. ATL.

28th April... Today’s stunts, altho’ terribly boring & irritating, would anyway have been a little interesting if it had’nt[sic] poured in sheets till 3.00 PM. The big Maori stunt which was to have been this afternoon has been postponed till tomorrow morning, tho’ I was standing for 4 hours from 9.00 AM onwards. I had to go thro’ long & tedious Maori ceremonies at both the native villages and had to submit to being made to look the most hopeless RF [ruddy fool?], dolled up in mats & other things while inane Maoris danced & made weird noises at me!! Some of the Maori women sang & danced quite nicely, tho’ they spoilt their stunt by revolting my by kissing my hand when I shook hands with them all & 2 of the ladies infuriated me by trying to kiss me. That was too much sweetheart (not “too bad”) & was the last straw & then my boredom changed into bloody mindedness, particularly  when they made me stand for a whole hour by a hot geiser[sic] [Pohutu] to watch it blow off & it never did!!

... 29th April ... I’ve had such a terrible day of Moaries[sic] & all their comic stunts... a reception which lasted 3 hours, throughout the whole of which I had to wear a Moari mat over my shoulders, tho’ it did’nt[sic] make me feel a bit like a Moari! All I was thankful for was that YOU did’nt see me looking such a – fool, beloved, tho’ they gave me some fine presents when all the ‘hakas’ & ‘poi dances’ were over!!

(Note: This is material that was culled from the final version of The Treaty of Waitangi Companion: Maori and Pakeha from Tasman to Today, published by Auckland University Press in 2010. Thanks to Bruce Stirling, who prepared this section. For more on the royal tours of 1901 and 1920 see the book I co-authored with David Armstrong: The Beating Heart: A Political and Socio-Economic History of Te Arawa, Huia Publishers 2008).

Friday, 30 August 2013

NZ Post Book Awards

Although my book was not a winner on the night, I thought I should share a couple of images from the NZ Post Book Awards held this week. The judges noted that 62 books were entered in the general non-fiction category - more than any other - so it was very gratifying for The Meeting Place: Maori and Pakeha Encounters, 1642-1840 to be recognised in the top four. The judges commented in their general remarks that this was a 'fine and illuminating example' of history writing. In their detailed comments on my book they stated that:

The hopeless miscomprehension and miscommunication of initial encounters between Māori and Pākehā at times bordered on the darkest of tragi‐comedies, but it was inevitable – although not inevitably well recorded in our history books – that as time went on comprehension, communication and eventually mutual accommodation would come to pass. It was not simply a case of Maori bending to the will of Europeans, but of both finding what Vincent O’Malley calls a meeting place where cultural cross‐pollination took place – at least until the post‐Treaty period. O’Malley tells his story with great eloquence, marshalling multiple sources and navigating them with the sense of nuance we want in a historian. Unlike the other three general non‐fiction finalists, he did not have access to living figures to flesh out his book, but nonetheless does so with skilful use of period quotes. O’Malley himself indicates the value of such a book for the New Zealand of today when he writes at the end of the “potential for a new middle ground to flower in the years ahead”.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Early Dreams and Meeting Places

Early Dreams and Meeting Places
Monday 19 August, 6pm
Arty Bees, Manners St
Free entry

Discussion featuring three history authors: Chris MacLean, Peter Alsop and Vincent O’Malley. Join them as they discuss their finalist books and research.
Free entry.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

"The Meeting Place" Shortlisted for NZ Post Book Awards

It was a great thrill this week when my most recent book was announced as one of four finalists in the general non-fiction category for the 2013 NZ Post Book Awards.

The Meeting Place: Maori and Pakeha Encounters, 1642-1840 was published by Auckland University Press last year. It explores the early relationships between Maori and Pakeha across New Zealand and argues that, over time, both parties learned to rub along with one another because both had things of value that the other wanted. But that world of mutual self-interest changed dramatically in the decades after 1840 as a large influx of new settlers upset the previous rough-and-ready balance of power upon which mostly harmonious relations had been built.

People's Choice Award

The award winners will be announced at a ceremony to be held in August on 28 August. In the meanwhile members of the public are invited to play their part by selecting the winner of the People’s Choice Award. Voting ends on Sunday 18 August, with the winner also to be announced ten days later.

Ngati Haua Deed of Settlement Signing Ceremony

I had the great privilege of travelling to Rukumoana Marae, near Morrinsville, on 18 July this year for the signing of the Ngati Haua deed of settlement and formal apology from the Crown.

The date for the occasion had been specially selected to mark the anniversary of one of several petitions filed by the great Ngati Haua rangatira Wiremu Tamihana on 18 July 1865. In his petition, Wiremu Tamihana referred to the anguish of being called ‘an evil man, a rebel’ and a murderer. He called on the government to establish an independent inquiry into the causes of the Waikato War and to restore the lands wrongly confiscated from Ngati Haua and other Waikato Maori.

Bruce Stirling, Vincent O'Malley, David Armstrong at the ceremony

Although the Crown rejected Wiremu Tamihana’s pleas, the apology read out to the large crowd assembled at Rukumoana Marae by Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson finally acknowledged the great injustices inflicted on Ngati Haua, who had been reduced to virtual landlessness through confiscation and other Crown actions.

In addition to a formal apology, Ngati Haua received $13 million compensation, in addition to a range of cultural redress measures, as part of a fast-tracked settlement that was completed in a little over six months.

The HistoryWorks team (myself, David Armstrong and Bruce Stirling) assisted with research for the claim, along with drafting and negotiation of the agreed historical account with the Crown.

Cooperation and Empire Conference

In June of this year I attended a conference on ‘Cooperation and Empire’ at the University of Bern, Switzerland. The conference, which was attended by scholars from around the world, was notable for a substantial New Zealand presence, led by James Belich, formerly at the Stout Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington, now Beit Professor of Imperial and Commonwealth History at Oxford University.


My own paper explored the role of kupapa in the New Zealand Wars of the nineteenth century. I explored how a term which initially meant those who stooped or remained low (that is, people who remained neutral in a conflict) had today come to assume almost entirely negative connotations. I argued that the notion that kupapa were ‘Uncle Toms’ or traitors was fundamentally wrong.

Far from selling out their people, those Maori also referred to in English as ‘Queenites’, ‘friendlies’ or ‘loyalists’ were endeavouring to advance the interests of their communities through strategic alliance with the Crown. They did so, I argued, out of a range of motives, few of which had much to do with whether they supported the imperial project. There was no such thing as blind adherence to the Crown or its cause.

Besides attending the conference, I also had the opportunity to explore the beautiful city of Bern, whose historic old town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

It is expected that the conference proceedings will eventually be published.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Book Review: Lynette Russell, "Roving Mariners: Australian Aboriginal Whalers and Sealers in the Southern Oceans, 1790-1870"

Lynette Russell. Roving Mariners: Australian Aboriginal Whalers and Sealers in the Southern Oceans, 1790-1870. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2012. xiv + 221 pp. $80.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-4384-4423-9; $29.95 (paper), ISBN 978-1-4384-4424-6.
Reviewed by Vincent O'Malley (HistoryWorks)
Published on H-Empire (July, 2013)
Commissioned by Charles V. Reed

The Hybrid World of Whaling and Sealing
The whaling and sealing industries that emerged in the Pacific and Southern oceans from the late eighteenth century have attracted significant interest from historians over recent decades. A particular focus has often been on the relationship between the whalers/sealers and indigenous groups they encountered and interacted with on a frequent basis. But that represents something of a false binary. It has long been known that New Zealand Maori and other Polynesian and South Pacific communities took an active part in sealing and whaling work.

Now, thanks to Lynette Russell’s short but impressive work, we also need to account for significant Australian Aboriginal engagement with both fields of employment. And the ironic thing is that the particular Aboriginal communities most heavily involved were among those usually considered the greatest victims of colonization and something approaching genocide (or what might be seen as a form of “ethnic cleansing”).

Russell does not deny the tawdry and tragic history of European onslaught in Australia. But she does ascribe a form of “attenuated agency” to those Aboriginal men and women at the heart of her book. They might not have been free to choose from a range of ideal options. But they did have some choices. And for some Aborigines, life in the sealing and whaling communities offered a kind of relief from the relentless racism otherwise directed at them.

As Russell notes, skin color mattered less in the multiracial, multilingual world of sealing and whaling than elsewhere. Competency was what counted, and Aborigines could gain respect and status that might have eluded them elsewhere. Indeed, profitability and safety depended upon diverse men (and women) learning to get along with one another.

Take William Lanné. Erroneously known both in his lifetime and subsequently as the last Tasmanian Aboriginal male, Lanné was among a small group of Tasmanian Aborigines to avoid removal to the Flinders Island Aboriginal settlement, before being captured and taken there as a seven-year-old with the rest of his family in 1842. Having been moved to the Oyster Cove settlement, Lanné gained a measure of financial independence and status when he took up whaling as a young man, traveling to New Zealand and throughout the Pacific. Lanné’s life has been overshadowed by his death, and in particular the gruesome mutilation and dissection of his body that then followed. However, Russell argues that such a focus ignores the extent to which Lanné was able, during his lifetime, to assert his autonomy and seek out the opportunities that colonization offered.

Other Aboriginal men pursued similar opportunities. Tommy Chaseland, who famously settled in southern New Zealand and married into the local Maori community, is perhaps the best-known example. Yet where Russell’s work really impresses is in its efforts to recover the otherwise largely invisible role of Aboriginal women in the sealing industry. Conventionally portrayed as the unfortunate victims of violence at the hands of European men, such women took an active role in sealing in their own right. Both Aboriginal men and women resisted and adapted to the newcomers in complex and sometimes subtle ways.

In some respects whaling and sealing proved less disruptive of Aboriginal ways of life than other forms of European intrusion. Aboriginal women customarily hunted seals. Meanwhile, ancient rock art suggests that some Aboriginal communities had been harvesting beached whales for thousands of years. As Russell points out, shore-based whaling generated vast amounts of whale meat that was unpalatable to many Europeans but attracted large numbers of Aborigines to the fringes of whale stations. In this way, whaling actually helped to buttress and reinforce customary forms of feasting and exchange. And Aboriginal men who had spent many years developing their skills with spears sometimes became highly valued as harpoonists aboard the whaling ships.

The hybrid world of whaling and sealing was also one in which the newcomers were often willing to learn from, and even adopt aspects of the lifestyles of, their hosts. Some Europeans adopted customary healing practices involving whales, for example, and cultural influences extended in both directions. Both “native” and “newcomer” were transformed by their encounters with one another, Russell argues, and new social forms that drew on both cultures emerged as a result. Some European sealers were regarded as “worse than savages” or otherwise considered difficult to distinguish from Aborigines. Conversely, Chaseland came to be regarded as “civilized.” 

Russell succeeds in telling a story beyond the familiar one of Aboriginal dispossession. Her work serves to highlight the way in which nineteenth-century racial categories that can all too often seem fixed and immutable were in some circumstances more slippery and nuanced. That Australian Aborigines were in general victims of colonization seems undeniable. But in revealing another side to that history through the story of Aboriginal engagement with whaling and sealing, Russell reminds us that the exceptions and complexities of cross-cultural interaction are also important.    

If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the list discussion logs at:
Citation: Vincent O'Malley. Review of Russell, Lynette, Roving Mariners: Australian Aboriginal Whalers and Sealers in the Southern Oceans, 1790-1870. H-Empire, H-Net Reviews. July, 2013.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Wellington History Talks

An interesting series of talks coming up soon at the Wellington City Library:

Wellington Harbour by Barraud tiny

On Wednesdays from 12.30-1.30pm during the month of August, the Central Library will be hosting a series of history talks covering the social, urban and Māori history of Wellington.

Have a read of the programme below, and come along!

Wednesday 7 August: The Flight to South Karori: How Katherine Mansfield’s family coped with life and death in the time of cholera (1890-93) by Redmer Yska

Wednesday 14 August: Te Upoko o te Ika, 1840s: A Struggle over Power, Mana and Resources by Hēni Collins

Wednesday 21 August: Radical Wellington: Philip Josephs, the Freedom Group & the Great Strike of 1913 by Jared Davidson

Wednesday 28 August: He tohu aroha – the protective role of Māori cloaks by Awhina Tamarapa

Sunday, 14 July 2013

The Sham Ultimatum to Waikato Maori

Amidst the various references to the 150th anniversary of the invasion of Waikato on 12 July were many that referred to an ultimatum ‘issued’ to the Waikato tribes on 11 July 1863, that is, one day before British troops crossed the Mangatawhiri River. That ultimatum declared that:

Europeans quietly living on their own lands in Waikato have been driven away; their property has been plundered; their wives and children have been taken from them. By the instigation of some of you, officers and soldiers were murdered at Taranaki. Others of you have since expressed approval of these murders. Crimes have been committed in other parts of the island, and the criminals have been rescued, or sheltered under the color [sic] of your authority.

You are now assembling in armed bands; you are constantly threatening to come down the river to ravage the settlement of Auckland, and to murder peaceable settlers. Some of you offered a safe passage through your territories to armed parties contemplating such outrages.

The well-disposed among you are either unable or unwilling to prevent these evil acts.

I am therefore compelled, for the protection of all, to establish posts at several points on the Waikato River, and to take necessary measures for the future security of persons inhabiting that district. The lives and property of all well-disposed people living on the river will be protected, and armed and evil-disposed people will be stopped from passing down the river to rob and murder the Europeans.

I now call on all well-disposed Natives to aid the Lieutenant-General to establish and maintain these posts, and to preserve peace and order.

Those who remain peaceably at their own villages in Waikato or move into such districts as may be pointed out by the Government, will be protected in their persons, property, and land.

Those who wage war against Her Majesty, or remain in arms, threatening the lives of Her peaceable subjects, must take the consequences of their acts, and they must understand that they will forfeit the right to the possession of their lands guaranteed to them by the Treaty of Waitangi, which lands will be occupied by a population capable of protecting for the future the quiet and unoffending from the violence with which they are now so constantly threatened.

Many of the allegations levelled against the Waikato tribes were demonstrably false. Grey and his ministers had already determined some weeks earlier to invade Waikato and were looking to justify that decision.

But it is less the contents of the ultimatum that I am interested in here than the timing of it. In fact, as I showed in a recent article, though the ultimatum was dated 11 July 1863, it was still being drafted two days later — a day after troops had already entered the Waikato (see ‘Choosing Peace or Waikato: The 1863 Invasion of Waikato’, New Zealand Journal of History, Vol. 47, No. 1, 2013). The former Waikato Civil Commissioner, John Gorst, also confirmed that the nominal date of 11 July was a fiction, recalling that:

This date is fallacious. I met the messenger, carrying the first copies printed in the native language, on the evening of July 14th, at dusk. He was then on the road between Auckland and Otahuhu, and did not reach Waikato until after the battle of Koheroa, which was fought on the 15th.

In other words, the ultimatum was a retrospective one, issued after troops had already invaded the Waikato. The ultimatum had been intended mainly to suggest that the Crown went to war reluctantly, only after all other options had been exhausted, and after Waikato Maori had been given full opportunity to comply with the Crown’s demands. But they hadn’t. It was a sham ultimatum, issued to provide a fig leaf of decency for the lie that this was a just war.