Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mike Butler: The king of all Maori or not?

The Maori King is not the king of Maori and certainly not the king of the northern Ngapuhi tribe, according to Ngapuhi leader David Rankin, who has made a claim to the Waitangi Tribunal under clause two of the treaty.

Rankin, whose tribe claims to have 122,000 members and which claims that sovereignty was never ceded when it signed the treaty, argues that calling the head of Tainui the "Maori King" undermines the sovereignty of other tribes.

Is the Maori king the king of Maori?

The Maori king movement was inspired by Ngati Toa chief Te Rauparaha’s son Tamihana who had visited England in 1851 and noted that the respect accorded to Queen Victoria acted as a catalyst for national unity. The presence of Europeans (59,000 in 1858, surpassing the Maori population of 56,000) had helped create a sense of ‘Maoriness’.” Tamihana thought that if Europeans gained power from unity under the British Crown, so too could Maori unite under a king and retain land, customary law and traditional authority.

The ailing Waikato chief Te Wherowhero (c. 1800-1860) was selected as first Maori King, in 1856, at a gathering on the shores of Lake Taupo, and formally installed with the name of Potatau I at his capital at Ngaruawahia in 1858. Succession passes down through his family. The current Maori king, Tainui leader Tuheitia, descends from this line. It started as a pan-tribal political movement but since succession stays with Tainui, Tuheitia remains the Maori king of Tainui, as Rankin asserts.

But Rankin is sensitive about the extent of sovereignty of a Maori king because it may impinge on the Ngapuhi claim that the tribe never ceded sovereignty in signing the treaty.

The Ngapuhi argument is that since every Ngapuhi chief present in 1840 at the signing of the Treaty was a battle-hardened warrior, each would have been clear that under the treaty - which was explained to them by missionaries - their “tino rangatiratanga”, which Ngapuhi take to mean “chieftainship”, was guaranteed to them under article two of the treaty.

But a closer look at the drafting of the treaty shows that British resident James Busby and governor William Hobson used the phrase “tino rangatiratanga” to convey “ownership” to chiefs who had no concept of ownership and who controlled access to resources through a web of interacting rights.

The Ngapuhi claim takes “tino rangatiratanga” to mean both “ownership” (of their lands, dwellings and all their property), and “self-government”. This fancy semantic footwork allows the treaty to both cede sovereignty (“kawanatanga”) in article one of the treaty, and retain sovereignty (‘tino rangatiratanga’) in article two, which would appear self-contradictory nonsense.

Do a search of the meaning of the English word “ownership” in the online Maori dictionary at and the word that comes up first is “rangatiratanga”.


Anonymous said...

I fail to understand why other tribes throughout the country have not supported Ngapuhi in their opposition to the Maori Kingship question. Does their silence indicate a recognition that the Taonui King is indeed the Maori King of Aotearoa.

Anonymous said...

Yet again, more evidence of how the 'Treaty' has been interpreted and manipulated to to serve the purpose of certain Maori's and Iwi's

Ray said...

Anonymous of June 15 is quite correct, in addition, I would dearly like to know how a so called maori like Rankin, who has more european blood than maori, can be so outspoken in support of maori claims. Hang on, its all about money and power, silly me.

Anonymous said...

Think of it this way: the current holder of the title is called the "Maori King". He is a maori (lit. a normal person) and a king. I don't see anything wrong with calling him a person and a king.

Maori, maoli, and maohi, kanaka, and kanak are all common Polynesian terms (the latter of which is Melanesian but from Polynesian originally) to refer to people in general. Tainui and Nga Puhi and Ngai Tahu and Ngati Toa are to each other what Tongans are to Samoans, or what Bora Borans are to Tahitians. Maori is just a convenient term to lump people into, like Polynesian, Austronesian, and Human. Considering that tribes came from divergent sources, it might be practical to distinguish some groups from others in New Zealand. It's probably most reasonable to consider each cultural or ethnic group separate, although just as reasonable to have a way of referring to numerous or numberless groups at once.

Although "Maori" is considered a name for all indigenous New Zealanders (mainland) by some or many, it is still a word in its own right, even if the old usages are archaic and out of use (which it isn't necessarily). Regardless of the actual meaning behind "Maori King", the Tainui can at will interpret their "maori"/"Maori" as meaning person, or as meaning an ethnic group- their own. If you share a language and independently use the same term to describe yourself, who can really claim the term? Who are the other tribes that use it to describe themselves or others that they can dictate how one group uses this part of its own language? If the Tainui call their people maori and Maori also, why can they not refer to their King as such?

You can argue that due to foreign powers recognizing the word as being representative of all groups in New Zealand there should be some regulation in the word's use, but then your missing something vital. The key is that all "Maori" that use the term share the term, and no group owns it more than any of the others that use it indigenously. If you as a tribe want to be represented well, advertise your tribal name over "Maori"; if a hapu wants special recognition, it should advertise alone; inform unknowing people if you want to set things the way you wish to set them (if you don't want to be associated with "Maori").

Anonymous said...

I have no idea what point the writer is attempting to make in this article?

At any rate the Kingitanga is not representative of all Māori in NZ. A better way of looking at it is that the King is the high chief of those tribes who belong. Not all do.

Anonymous said...

The term "Maori" Queen and now her son, "Maori" King are incorrect. These two titles only apply to the people from the Waikato/Tainui. It is through the ignorance of the EUROPEAN Media (40 years plus ago) this came about by lumping all Maori into ONE tribal box. And sadly to say it is now used and accepted by many Maori as correct. Maori need to stand up and stop Media terms & wording being used, accepted and applied which will still keep Maori in that ONE tribal box.

Stand tall Stand proud, We are from many tribes, We are Maori

Anonymous said...

Historically INCORRECT...
"The Maori king movement was inspired by Ngati Toa chief Te Rauparaha’s son Tamihana who had visited England in 1851 and noted that the respect accorded to Queen Victoria acted as a catalyst for national unity." It was not Tamihana te Rauparaha that first mooted the Kingitanga concept.