by John Robinson
Co-governance calls for the racial separation of New Zealanders in an apartheid state with separate, race-based parliaments – when we all come under Maori tribal rule. Equality and democracy will be gone. This must not be allowed; this is our country, it is our future to decide, see this post. However, there are plans for separate parliaments and a constitution enshrining apartheid under the control of ‘indigenous’ Maori see this post. This must be stopped, and reversed.
Here, in the third in this series of articles, I ask why Maori should be considered a people apart, and given such power.
What defines a Maori, what makes Irish Steven O’Regan metamorphize into Maori Tipene O’Regan and to then argue for separation between those of Irish ancestry and those with some element of Maori ancestry, so that the latter group can effectively govern as the ‘indigenous’ people? Here, European ancestry means that a person is classified a coloniser, the inheritor of claimed wrong-doing; Maori ancestry means that a person is a victim of colonisation, due to receive reparations and special rights. Just one drop of Maori blood is taken to identify a person as one of these chosen people. [John says that government officials are very keen to bump up the number of Maori by tracing birth records to make statistics look impressive. —Eds]
This group, claiming to be separate and special, are advancing the establishment of a system by which they will rule over us. What sets such people apart? What extraordinary capabilities could justify their claimed predominant position?
My search for an answer, considering whether there is some essential feature separating Maori from all others, a race apart, to sit in a unique position and to wield power, comes up with a clear response.
Nothing. We are all people, human beings. There is no race with special characteristics, demanding special treatments and rights. Such claims are all a scam.
Once our common humanity is recognised, we can approach the history of New Zealand with an open mind, and learn of the lives and experiences of those who have lived here before us, appreciating the considerable efforts of so many to make adjustments and to come together, for so long forging a nation of equals until the recent claims of separate identity have split us apart and are leading to the destruction of our democracy, to become two peoples with very different rights. The refusal of any such fundamental differentiation is basic to an assertion of equality and the choice of a common future.
The question asked.
During the years 1985-2000, I researched the Maori social situation, with a combination of methodologies including social indicators and holistic futures research. Towards the end of that period it was suggested that I expand my knowledge base to include an understanding of Maori culture. Thus, as part of my work for Te Puni Kokiri, I met with Maori academic Ranganui Walker, Professor and Head of Maori Studies at the University of Auckland (of Maori and Lebanese descent, member of Maori activist group Nga Tamatoa and of the Waitangi Tribunal).
He described how Maori society was tribal, with a completely different philosophy, culture and view of the world than that of Europe, so that the gulf between them (including him) and us (including me) was too great to bridge. I would not be able to understand the Maori worldview and how they thought and behaved. This was foreign territory, even in our times.
This was a common understanding, which was believed by many of my colleagues. It remains true today. The idea is that scattered amongst us are the very different ‘indigenous’ people, with – it is claimed – their very different beliefs, experiences and rights, whose tikanga has been written into law by activist judges, along with the judgement that only an iwi concerned can define what is meant.
That guiding culture is an uncertain mix of ancient ways, Christian beliefs and politically-defined prescriptions. It is said that “tikanga are the customs and traditions that have been handed down through the passages of time from our tupuna”, but the considerable changes are not recognised, the final system is uncertain. The old tribal warfare, cannibalism, slavery and female infanticide have gone, but other aspects of pre-contact life remain, in an unclear and altered form. The requirement to seek revenge, utu, which drove the murderous musket wars before 1840 now supposedly has a benign meaning, reciprocity, “the requirement for balancing culturally-defined obligations”. The major concept of whakapapa demands ultimate loyalty to family and tribe, regarding other people as separate, ‘the other’, and justifying nepotism within government. There is no recognition of common humanity and equality. Democracy plays no part, with rangatiratanga (dominance of the chiefly class) to replace the British system of law and government that has served us so well until now.
I experienced at that time another example of the consequences of a failure to gain a common understanding across cultural differences when I interviewed the president of an Auckland Maori gang chapter of Black Power. He described how many of them wanted a better life for their children and had attempted to build a set of legitimate businesses. Since much of the money of members was spent on alcohol, they organised their own pub, which flourished, showing that they were capable at running a business (since they guaranteed to pay the fare of members, taxi drivers were happy to come there and pick up passengers). But other efforts floundered; banks were loth to lend to any gang, and the only available interest rates of around 30% blocked the idea of building houses, which would employ and train members and provide needed accommodation. The struggling young people who gather in gangs were, and are, left with little alternative other than benefits and crime. Here was a problem with an available solution which was left to fester, and which has become much worse today.
The impenetrable differences suggested by Ranginui Walker are even more loudly proclaimed today. The claim is that Maori are indigenous, have their separate ways, which cannot be appreciated or understood by others – it is said, although we all live together in the same suburbs, with such very similar life styles. They must have their separate government, law and rights.
Here is the message, the hypothesis which I later decided to test by a very basic scientific method – run a test. I decided to study New Zealand history and find whether I could follow the thoughts and reasoning of Maori in previous times. Over more than a decade I based my research on early accounts, eye-witness and at the time. The resulting books have been published by Tross Publishing, and can be ordered through their website.
I found that I could understand the actors in these human dramas, and that hypothesis was disproved. What I discovered was an old truth – we are all human beings, all one people. We can understand one another, even across the variety of cultures and the differences in individual characters. And what a fascinating cast there was in the story of New Zealand!
Maori, the people
My start is around 1820 with Ngapuhi chief Hongi Hika. He was not only a renowned warrior and military leader; he was intelligent, a wily politician who was able to pose as a ‘noble savage’ for the British, who gave him many gifts which he later exchanged for muskets to set off a more deadly round of killing, the ‘musket wars’. In England he both saw the peaceful home life of a developed civilisation and took the opportunity to learn of European military tactics and defences.
Back in New Zealand, Hongi at times stopped on the way to the intense fighting to debate with missionaries; many Ngapuhi warriors had been saddened by the considerable loss of life, and were beginning to seek a better way of life. Hongi commented on the very different daily life in England: “The gentlemanship of the English is not altogether derived from their forefathers, but from their great learning.” Pakira agreed: “If we had the same desire to learn the European arts that we have to learn our own nonsense, we should have understood many things before now.”
They recognised the need to change their culture, and move away from the precepts of tikanga, if warfare was to stop. Thus Pakira: “Our war and fighting were sown into our hearts by our parents as your learning was sown into your hearts by your parents.” And Hongi: “They must have their bad hearts thrown away before they can see the good of these things. … My heart is as hard as a piece of wood. I cannot stop. I must go. I must kill that one man, Toko, the principal chief of Kaipara. But I believe that you have spoken to us out of love.” Many chiefs, and commoners as well, were seeking a way out, towards a better life.
Two of the important chiefs fighting with Hongi were the brothers Patuone and Tamati Waka Nene. Each had an individual character, like most of us complex and showing apparently contradictory traits, as well as evolving over the years of maturity in changing circumstances. Their father saw a difference in their dispositions. To Nene, the younger brother, he said: “Thou wilt be an evil man, an upholder of war;” and to Patuone, the elder brother, he said: “Thou wilt be a good man – a peace-maker.” This was later true of Patuone whose presence among belligerent tribes was almost always looked upon as the harbinger of peace, but not of Nene who changed, showed great wisdom (as exemplified by his key intervention of Waitangi in 1840) and became a holder of the peace, a friend and partner of the British, who played a major role in the defeat of Hone Heke’s rebellion, and who joined other chiefs at Kohimarama in 1860 to recognise the success of colonisation.
The two brothers were part of a group of northern chiefs who in the 1830s came to organise the felling and trading of timber, making visits to Australia as part of their business venture, and who signed the letters of 1831 and 1835 asking for British help, which foreshadowed the Treaty of Waitangi. They were not hidebound by tradition but adapted and made great use of the opening opportunities.
That was a time of remarkable cultural transformation for Maori, an extraordinary and rapid change of culture, of a way of life, of expectations and behaviour among people. The benefits of British colonisation included an end to tribal war and cannibalism, freeing of slaves and a steady reduction in female infanticide leading to a population recovery and then population growth. Many Maori attended missionary schools and services as Christianity replaced traditional beliefs. As Apirana Ngata was to say in 1940: “Clause one of the Treaty handed over the mana and the sovereignty of New Zealand to Queen Victoria and her descendants for ever. That is the outstanding fact today, that but for the seal of the sovereignty handed over to her majesty and her descendants I doubt that there would be a free Maori race in New Zealand today.”
Much of the peace-making was aided by the efforts of missionaries, as in the Auckland area, which had become depopulated, an empty wasteland, due to the ravages and threats of the many war-parties that had passed through. In 1835, Henry Williams and Rev. Robert Maunsell went by ship with a group of Ngai Tahu led by Rewa (cousin of Nene and Patuone), who had been a fearsome warrior but was now a Christian and a peacemaker, to make peace with Ngati Paoa at Thames. The basis of reconciliation was an agreement over the disputed borderland south of Otahuhu. This was to be transferred to the Anglican missionaries, who would then hold it in trust as a buffer zone between the two tribes (the Fairburn purchase). Those efforts were assisted by Te Wherowhero, the paramount Waikato chief, who had moved his base to an area south of the Manukau Harbour.
The missionary plan was a way of helping the negotiating chiefs to move away from the dictates of tikanga. As Russell Stone has noted: “By making this particular block of land the pretext for reconciliation, the two powerful but war-weary chiefs could make concessions on territory of less than vital interest to themselves, and thereby give way without loss of mana.”
Anglican missionaries had found that the annual examination hui for students offered an occasion for meeting and the burying of differences between members of estranged tribes who attended, and decided to repeat the procedure in Tamaki, on the neutral land of the Fairburn purchase. This succeeded in 1837 and “in a new spirit of amity the tribes went their separate ways”. The final peace came with the Treaty of Waitangi, when the capital was moved to Auckland in 1841.
There were disagreements during that time of transition, as different groups of Maori changed beliefs while others stood by the old ways. In the last major conflict at Kapiti, the attempt of a Maori preacher from Te Atiawa to reach a settlement was spurned by Raukawa; fighting continued and more than a hundred lost their lives. In the Waikato, where there were many slaves captured during the wars in Taranaki, in 1841 the Christians prevailed and the slaves were escorted back to their previous homes.
With Te Rauparaha the tensions of being caught between two cultures is evident. As a tribal chieftain, he had led Ngati Toa away from the ravages of attacking Waikato to Kapiti where they fought, killed and conquered those iwi living there, before continuing to live as a savage, brutal warrior in his many attacks on South Island. He was far from the changing ideas of the north, but by 1839 he was back in Kapiti, where, increasingly influenced by his son, peacemaker and Christian Tamihana Te Rauparaha, he sent a letter to the Bay of Islands asking that a missionary come to teach them of the new religion. The pull of the old ways continued and, with fellow warrior chief Te Rangihaeata, he was complicit in the killing of prisoners at Wairau in 1843. In the years following, Te Rauparaha appears to have been indecisive and evidently divided within himself – acting on both sides, as there are reports of both calls for open warfare and efforts towards peace. After his capture at the orders of Governor Grey in 1846, when fighting had broken out in the Hutt Valley and was threatening Porirua and Wellington, he was satisfied to live under house arrest, under the supervision of Tamati Waka Nene and Te Wherowhero, before he returned to live peacefully in his old age with his son and friends at Otaki.
While some of the new generation, like Tamihana Te Rauparaha, chose the road of peace, others enjoyed the thrill and prestige of battle. One such was Hone Heke Pokai who, when a young man, lived at the Paihia mission school (in 1824 and 1825), where Rev. Henry Williams was something of a father figure. There, the missionaries found him mischievous, and even troublesome and surly. As a young man he turned to fighting, and distinguished himself in battles at Kororareka in 1830 and in Titore’s 1833 expedition to Tauranga. He showed himself to be bold but reckless.
Heke appeared then to settle; he became a Christian. He attended daily at the mission school, and in due course was chosen as a lay-reader in the Church. But in 1835 his wife and two children died. This was a critical turning point in his life; after a short period spent lying submerged in his grief, Heke surfaced without any force to suppress his vigorous fury at an as yet unspecified enemy. According to historian Paul Moon, a chaotic concoction of emotions were unsophisticatedly unleashed during war shortly after.
Heke always sought the limelight, believing himself to be a chief of some importance (with great mana) and refusing to bow down to senior chiefs. At Waitangi in 1840 he made a rambling speech, which has been reported as both supporting and opposing the Treaty. On the second day he pushed himself forward and was the first to sign – which was countered by senior chiefs who then signed above his signature.
The economic downturn in the north in the few years following the Treaty distressed many Maori, and Heke was at the forefront calling for action, to take up arms against the government. While his actions are usually presented as dramatic, they resulted in much loss of life and disruption. Thus, for example, his action of taking a blockhouse during the third cutting down of the flagpole in 1845, when Kororareka was abandoned and burned, was accompanied by the killing four of soldiers and a little half-caste girl. More were to perish in the wars that followed.
Throughout his life Heke showed himself to be seeking a pre-eminent position, as a strutting gang leader. He often showed his disregard for the rights of others, as when, in 1843 and towards the end of his life in 1850, he insisted that freed slave women should return to their former owners.
After the defeat of his rebellion, Heke was not punished but simply side-lined and of no importance. He continued defiant and wrote a rambling 1859 letter to Queen Victoria in which he claimed decisive power. “The missionaries, the gentlemen and the common people are all that I am well pleased should live here … still the management of my island remains with me”. Governor Grey forwarded the letter to London, with the advice that it should be ignored.
Wiremu Kingi, of Te Atiawa in Kapiti and Taranaki, was another who put his personal mana above loyalty. He had been chosen by his iwi to sign away ownership of a vast tract of land in the northern South Island and the lower half of the Norther Island (which was set aside by the British as unreasonable) in 1839 and in 1848 he led a move of many Te Atiawa to their former homelands in and around Waitara (near New Plymouth) – a return made possible by the peace brought by colonisation. They took with them a violent argument over the possible sale of their lands, and for years those feuds resulted in armed bands roaming Taranaki, with around 50 deaths. In 1859 Governor Gore Browne belatedly promised action, to bring law and order to the region. Some, led by another Te Atiawa chief, Tiera, immediately demanded that their desire to sell land that they owned should be allowed and their rights protected. Kingi, on the other side of the feud, claimed a right as paramount chief to block that sale.
Browne had no choice but to affirm the promise of the Treaty of Waitangi which included the right of Maori to sell land that was rightfully theirs, and after a government investigation the sale of land at Waitara went ahead.
Kingi had previously been a supporter of the government; he had been prepared to accept previous decisions from which he had profited, including those which annulled the 1839 sale and gave possession of part of Kapiti and northern Taranaki to Te Atiawa. But he would not accept this decision which was not in his favour. He believed himself an independent all-powerful chief and set up a fort on the disputed land, an action that contrary to the Treaty of Waitangi that set off war in Taranaki.
There was a parallel development across in the Waikato. In 1857 Governor Browne had gone to the Waikato and asked what the people there wanted of the government. They asked for runangas, a European magistrate, and laws, and Browne agreed; he would send a magistrate to reside on the Waikato, who should visit the native settlements, and, with the assessors, administer justice periodically. The Maori were delighted and the elderly paramount chief, Te Wherowhero, declared that he would be guided by the Governor’s advice. He was a dying man, and should bequeath his people to the Governor’s care.
In those years other Maori across the country had been disappointed by the lack of action of the British in bringing law and order and other elements of western development, to Maori areas where people had been left to organise their own societies, and had thought that they should set up their own form of government under a Maori king. The idea was seized upon by many in the southern Waikato, who presented a proposal for a Maori king at great meetings in 1857 and 1858, only to meet with opposition and a lack of accord on both occasions. Others in the lower, northern Waikato were profiting from trade with the growing Auckland population, and refused the order of the kingites to cease any land sales; they wished to preserve the individual rights promised in the Treaty.
A leading activist, Wiremu Tamihana (William Thompson), had tried to proclaim Te Wherowhero as king at those meetings; after that failed the kingite group held another separate hui, when the tribe members who had refused a monarchy had gone home, and anointed him as ‘King Potatau’. Te Wherowhero had accepted the title of paramount chief, which he was (answering yes when asked “Will you be a father to us?” in 1858), but never publicly agreed to be king.
Te Wherowhero was chosen as a figurehead, taken for his name only, then set aside and kept as a virtual prisoner. He was an old man (he died a few years later, in 1860), “verging on the dotage of a second childhood”. Reverend Buddle observed how he “lies on his mat, wrapped in a dirty blanket, in an old Maori whare, smoking his pipe or sleeping, while his ministers make laws and send them abroad without ever consulting their King, though they use his name to give authority to their acts.” He would complain: “What can I do, who am but a bundle of bones?” Although he wanted peace, and to work in co-operation with Governor Browne, warriors went in 1860 to join the Taranaki rebellion of Wiremu Kingi.
This was a clear case of elder abuse, of ill treatment of a man who had been the pre-eminent warrior of the iwi, which contradicts the claim that tikanga demands respectful treatment of valued kaumatua. This was a sad end for a great man.
The second ‘king’, Tawhiao (Potatau II), the son of Te Wherowhero, was a weak man, much given to religious flights of fantasy and an insistence on his pre-eminence as a monarch. Conflict became inevitable in 1863 when a war-party of Ngati-Maniapoto, led by Rewi Maniapoto, accompanied by Wiremu Kingi from Taranaki, attacked government activity in the Waikato. They threw timber ready for construction of a constabulary station at Te Kohekohe into the river and invaded a government station at Te Awamutu where the printing press was destroyed.
The local Maori supported the construction at Kohekohe and appreciated the efforts of the civil commissioner, John Gorst, at Te Awamutu, where he had carried on a useful work, schooling Maori boys and acting as a resident magistrate. At both places many Maori attempted to resist the attacks but were overwhelmed.
Rewi was a man of action and a realist. While he had stimulated war and was a prominent warrior in the fighting, after the defeat of the kingite forces in 1864 he accepted the peace and settled down to work with Governor Grey.
Despite the military defeat, Tawhiao proved less reasonable. Many efforts to settle the ongoing differences had failed when, in 1878, Grey met with Tawhiao and made a generous offer to give monies and land to Tawhiao and, most importantly, to return the portions of confiscated land not disposed of by the Government to Europeans on the western sides of the Waikato and Waipa rivers. Most Maori, including Rewi, were delighted and Rewi organised a great celebratory meeting shortly afterwards at Waitara, which was a great success, a time of peace-making attended by diverse Maori chiefs who had both opposed and supported the rebellion, as well as by government officials including Governor Grey. Rewi Maniapoto had once stood apart as a warmonger; now he became prominent as a peacemaker. Grey recognised the value of Rewi’s subsequent friendship and valuable co-operation with a monument at Kihikihi which stands there today.
All were stunned when, the next year, Tawhiao announced his decision to turn down the offer that Rewi and so many others had celebrated, and to continue his insistence that he remained a king – “I have the sole right to conduct matters in my land – from the North Cape to the southern end”. Tainui were to suffer from this refusal to gain ownership of what was to become highly prized farm land and to share in the wealth of the Waikato. That rigidity and stupidity only resulted in foolish feelings of grievance which remain today rather than co-operation and a feeling of belonging in a united nation.
Others, like Wiremu Kingi and Hone Heke, similarly chose after defeat to remain separate, continuing to write confused and rambling letters. The marked difference in behaviour, driven by their different characters is evident. All were individuals and, just like now, acted in very different ways. That fact is readily understood; Maori were never a mysterious race apart.
Many in a later generation of prominent Maori were able to profit from the benefits brought through the colonial times and the following parliamentary system that replaced it. One group were given a thorough education at Te Aute College around the turn of the century and went on to gain university degrees and to serve Maori and the country, several as doctors. Prominent among these was Apirana Ngata who gained a BA and a degree in law before becoming as a Member of Parliament and Minister. He used his position to work for the people: as a Maori leader he helped develop modern agriculture practices while building up cultural awareness, and is well known for championing the haka.
Their stories are very different from those of Maori alive in the first half of the nineteenth century. They grew up and thrived in a developed country. They joined in further efforts to develop a modern culture, as with improvements in health and living standards, and as with the united action of all four Maori MPs to argue for and support the Tohunga Suppression Act in 1907. They were even joined at that time by Hone Heke Ngapua (named after his great-uncle, Hone Heke Pokai), MP from Northland, who had initially come to Parliament to champion a form of Maori self-determination, kotahitanga, with an initiative set down in his 1894 Native Rights Bill which failed. Eastern Maori MP James Carroll commented that he “had never been able to arrive at what they [the Kotahitanga movement] really required”. Hone Heke Ngapua became a valued member of parliament but died as a young man in 1909.
The message for today
These are the stories of the real people, those who lived through those turbulent times. Here they are, the wise and the foolish, the good and the bad, egotistical or concerned for stability, leading rebellion against the agreement of the Treaty of Waitangi or working together, wanting the security of peace or the thrills of battle – the range of people found everywhere, at all times, in all cultures. There is nothing mysterious, nothing special, no distinct race and no reason to set their descendants apart with separate laws, powers, rights and the full apparatus of co-governance. Once that claim is debunked, we are set free to gather together as one people, to build the society that we ourselves want, no longer forced into division by an imaginative and false version of history.
In the words of the Barber of Seville in the eighteenth century, scorning the pretentions of the Count: “Nobility, a fortune, a rank, appointments to office: all this makes a man so proud! What did you do to earn all this? You took the trouble to get born – nothing more. Moreover, you’re really a pretty ordinary fellow.” Accident of birth should not separate us, whether by class, or caste, or race. We are born equal. Anything else is sham, false and foolish. Claims to be ‘indigenous’ by birth (a concept that is nowhere made clear) and therefore to claim a special position must be simply set aside as worthless.
The initial idea, that there is a gulf between Maori and other New Zealanders that is too great to bridge, seems ridiculous in hindsight. So too is the squabble over the meaning of a document pulled together long ago, the Treaty of Waitangi, as if the words chosen then must remain as permanent, immutable directions – instead of dealing with the quite different challenges of today. It is the same with pretensions that the old culture, tikanga, should be accepted within New Zealand law. The story shows again and again the extent of the cultural transformation, as Maori moved away from the old ways, and so many accepted the very different ideas of the benevolent Christianity of the missionaries – so very different from the aggressive beliefs of former colonists, in former times. Now the concept of just what is tikanga is no more clear than the squabbles among the many Christian sects, or the differences among followers of Islam.
The people of New Zealand have been hoodwinked into a belief that the Treaty of Waitangi is a sacred document to be followed forever (despite having been so frequently re-invented and stripped of its original meaning), that Maori are ‘indigenous’ and forever a special race, that tikanga provides a worthwhile guiding light, that Maori grievances are and must take priority over historical wrongs done by Maori to so many, Maori and non-Maori alike, with the result that all others than Maori must suffer and pay for the guilt inherited from those who lived here before us. Recognition of equality within the human family asks us to set aside all such artificial divisions.
The final absurdity, in a population of people living together, having interbred over many generations, is that those with even a small part Maori are labelled and claimed to stand apart. The only realistic way to determine the Maori population is in the census, where all New Zealanders are asked to tick a box identifying their recognised ancestry. In the 2018 census 625,600 (13% of the population) responded that they were Maori by ticking that Maori descent box. Those who decided otherwise had refused that identity. But they are forced to be placed into a category, an identity, that they did not choose.
The system has decided to seek out anyone with any link to Maori and to invent a higher Maori population estimate. With the addition of a considerable adjustments from the higher count in the 2013 census, from birth records) and from an imaginative ‘imputation’ (moving more into the Maori category based on the closest age usual resident in the household), the number of Maori has been increased by 43% to 896,600 (18% of the population), known as the “Maori descent electoral population” – which is used to determine the number of Maori seats in parliament and of in regional councils, thus guaranteeing a substantially greater representation for Maori, with votes being of considerably different value (undermining a basic tenet of democracy). Recently (November 2022) there has been a ridiculous claim that Maori have been undercounted by a massive 50,000 in the 2013 census. But surely, the number is those who tell the census that they are Maori, and the number of Maori seats should be determined simply based on the number who have chosen to be on the Maori roll.
The rapid introduction of apartheid into all aspects of New Zealand government must be stopped.
We must act with self-confidence to decide for ourselves what society we want to live in, together as a nation and not bullied by a group in power.
We must refuse the split into two peoples of co-governance, with a new racist policy giving power to an ‘indigenous’ minority and with two separate houses of parliament.
We must realise that the ‘indigenous’ Maori are not a people apart, a privileged race with a mysterious old culture that we must all bow down to. They are human beings; we are all human beings, we are one humanity and should all be equal.