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.