Monday, August 24, 2015

Paul Verdon: Could there be a less befitting symbol of nationalism and pride of performance?


It’s likely that, in future years, the great majority of New Zealanders will look back on the Ka Mate haka with a good deal of embarrassment at the naivety and sheer historical ignorance displayed by government, officials and the participants.

The All Blacks, as they have done for many years, have performed this haka before several of their tests this year.

Apart from the All Blacks, this haka is also performed regularly by New Zealand’s police and army forces.

The latest embarrassing faux pas with this haka appeared on Page A5 of the NZ Herald (August 20, 2015). In a story headlined ‘All Blacks scenting Cup success’ and featuring All Blacks Liam Messam, Conrad Smith and Keven Mealamu in the photo, the trio are marketing Bulgari’s ‘Man Extreme All Black 2015 editions’ of male perfumes.

The story explains the perfume bottles have the design ‘based on the facial tattoo of legendary Ngati Toa chief Te Rauparaha – the composer of the Ka Mate haka performed before All Black games.’

Legendary? The dictionary synonyms of the word include ‘heroic, celebrated, exalted and illustrious.’ So, from whose perspective could he be ‘legendary’? It is one thing to humour a tribe’s sentiments. But most human beings would consider the man was a monster.

You would also imagine that international companies such as Italian giant Bulgari and the All Blacks’ major sponsor, insurance leviathan AIG - normally so mindful of their public relations responsibilities - would be aghast if they actually knew what the ‘real’ Te Rauparaha had done.

But who could blame them for some confusion - because it’s all official? The Government has officially recognised Te Rauparaha as the ‘author’ of the haka and it has given copyright to his tribe. The NZRU has also regularly attributed this haka to Te Rauparaha in its match programmes.

However, some of us know that - in fact, not fiction - Te Rauparaha was responsible for massive Maori depopulation in the decades just before the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. Such was the loss of life caused by him in the South Island, in particular, wiping out near-entire tribal groups in many raids, that the British declared sovereignty of  that island by right of discovery rather than cession later in 1840.

Some estimates claim New Zealand’s Maori population fell from 200,000 in 1800 to fewer than 100,000 by 1840, for example.

Surely, proportionally, in world terms of human life lost by one man’s actions, that puts Te Rauparaha on a par with the likes of Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Ghengis Khan.

Yet Parliament passed a law in April of last year that set out the legal rights of Ngati Toa Rangatira over the Ka Mate Ka Mate haka.

The new law also sets out a schedule of the history of Te Rauparaha and the ‘life and death’ circumstances in which he is supposed to have composed his haka. The Haka Ka Mate Attribution Bill was passed through Parliament without dissent. Amazingly, National’s Tau Henare called for greater education of New Zealand’s history.

The haka settlement was part of a wider Treaty of Waitangi settlement between the Crown and Ngati Toa, an iwi whose ‘territory’ stretched from Horowhenua to the upper South Island.

However, regardless of tribal sentiment, I fail to see what makes the actions of a pathological monster acceptable in decent, modern New Zealand society.

After all, it was just 12 years before the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 that Te Rauparaha first appeared in the nightmares of southern Maoridom.  After participation in the musket wars in the north, he had taken Kapiti Island (offshore of the lower North Island’s Paraparaumu Beach) as his base and now looked towards the South Island.

His annual journies of conquest make for remarkable but sickening reading. Intriguing too how the South Island’s Maori perspective is so different from that of Ngati Toa’s. To quote S. Gerard’s history, Strait of Adventure, “He carried fire and desolation and terminated his butcheries in horrid cannibal feasts, and left behind him a bloody, smoking trail of misery and tragedy.” His muskets were too powerful for the primitive weapons he encountered from tribes yet to acquire guns.

Let us revisit some of those atrocities, with all the death, enslavement and cannibalism that befell the tens of thousands of victims of such bloodshed:
  • Te Rauparaha attacked and annihilated the tribes of Nelson and northern Marlborough
  • In 1828, he sacked the Ngati Kura pa at Kaikoura, killing 1000 and enslaving hundreds; then destroying the Omihi pa further south
  • In 1829, using subterfuge, he attacked Ngai Tahu’s Kaiapoi pa (just north of present-day Christchurch) but was eventually beaten off
  • He was back in November, 1830, secreting his men aboard the vessel Elizabeth under the connivance of Captain John Stewart at Akaroa
  • In 1831, he returned to the Kaiapoi pa with 800 men and laid siege for several months before it fell
  • Next was the the pa on Onawe Peninsula, which Te Rauparaha overwhelmed with another ploy
  • But the tide was turning. The southern tribes at Otakou (Otago) and Murihiku (Southland) had acquired muskets. Te Rauparaha narrowly escaped capture at Lake Grassmere (Marlborough) in 1833. He was chased to the Marlborough Sounds and retreated across Cook Strait. In 1834, another attempt was made against Ngati Toa and they retreated again.
As a South Islander, and having wandered over places (eg. Onawe Peninsula, Akaroa) where the annihilation occurred, I know that Te Rauparaha’s name is greatly despised.

Surely therefore, the Government, government departments, the NZRU and multinational companies need to do their homework. Te Rauparaha’s haka - displayed and performed as it is today as an example of national pride - could not be more unsuitable for a multi-racial society such as New Zealand’s in the 21st century!

Paul Verdon is a former journalist, historian and author of sports history books and other biographies.

11 comments:

Brian said...

I read with interest Paul Verdon historical account of the inter tribal wars before the Treaty

The alteration of history is not new, all countries have employed this method of indoctrination as a means of, in the final analysis of gaining "Power." Yesterday's villain is tomorrow's Hero is very apt in reading Paul's early Maori history.

What continues to amaze me is the continual verbal attacks by Maori upon the early colonists as oppressors, land grabbers. To call New Zealand a civilisation before pre European times shows a lack of education and knowledge of what constitutes a civilisation. At the same time it also disregards other world societies.

Maori should be re paying the descendants of those early colonists for civilizing them, and still attempting to bring them kicking and screaming their abuse into the 21st Century world.
Brian

Stevo Carson said...

The Haka is a cringe worthy disgrace, a stone age war dance designed to instil fear on the enemy, it has no place in the sports arena or anywhere else in the world. My understanding is that it is regarded overseas as a disgusting tongue poking, threatening challenge that leaves visitors to our country wondering what they have walked in to. Time to dump this embarrassment in the bin where it belongs.

Barry said...

The "haka" sure is ugly!

Anonymous said...

I understand the "The Haka" is an ancient shanty, still known today in Tahiti, and brought to the North Island by Maori migrants hundreds of years before Saint Te Rauparaha was born. See John Archer's web site "nzfolkie".

Alan Davidson

Mike Wiggins said...

Not only was, and is Te Raupraha, regarded as a devious villainous character, but the translation of his haka would cause much embarrassment to those performing it. It refers to the occasion when he escaped capture, by tribal enemies, by hiding in a garden with a view of the woman standing over him.

Ray Fowler said...

As a youngster when I first saw the haka (small 'h' - it doesn't warrant a capital 'H') performed at an all black game pre match I thought that it wasn't very sporting with regards to the other team. Since then if I watch an all blacks game on TV I always leave the room when the haka is performed. I'm in my 70's now and have since learned that the haka came about when te rauparaha {small 'T and R') was pursued after his North Island slaughters he was hidden in a Maori village by women and after the forces had left (and out of sight and earshot of course) did a dance - na na you didn't catch me. And this is where the haka came from.
Recently Maori from the Wanganui (no 'h') region have been given by findlayson (no capital "F') (on top of settlement money) $10 million because of their connection to the Cook Strait. Their connection to the Cook Strait is when te rauparaha went down and slaughtered the South Island Maori ??? As an aside I was always led to believe that the Indians were the baddies??? As a New Zealander I'm proud of my Maori heritage (I don't have any Maori in me). I just think of the wonderful Maori that I have known and grown up with. Lets just get rid of the haka. Read the previous comment again.

Anonymous said...

The haka is an abomination. It is designed to inflame and excite to a frenzy, to maim, slaughter and cannibalise the enemy. It has no place in civilised society and particularly none on the field of sport - even less in youngsters. The vaunted "warrior image" that Maori have of themselves and seek to perpetuate is totally revolting and negative in the extreme. It is amazing that Maori seek to portray this vicious image of themselves - that of bestial, bullying, brutal savages and cannibals. No doubt my ancestors were, in past ages, primitive savages but I see nothing to be proud of in that - rather would I find something noble to celebrate. There is no such thing as a "noble savage"!
Aunty Podes.

Liz said...

That article makes sense - just shows that the government, rather than governing the country in a fair and equitable way, has undertaken to beleive every fairy tale told to it by any Maori. They must be laughing in private at how easy it is. I have always hated the haka - these days it symbolises a government that is the puppet of one specific part of a very small race within its total citizens. What I would like to know is why the treaty demands ever started being directed at our country's own government? It is the British government that signed the treaty, not the citizens of New Zealand. Our country would not necessarily be protected by UK in a war on its own shores, and we are no longer able to take our court grievances to the British government for solution - the British Government has long decided that NZ as a country has grown up enough to handle its own affairs ... except for the registered Maoris who have transferred the British obligations to the government of their country of residence but still run to mummy Britain with fairy tales when they don't get their own way. The haka is more of an embarrassment now than an entertainment for sport theatregoers. When will we get a real government that can set out the rules, and stick to them - every parent knows that its kids will run riot if they have no rules. and these ninth and tenth and eleventh "full and final settlements" are a joke and proof that the kids are ruling the roost. We need a strong leader that will say 'enough' and take charge to make NZ a country that treats all citizens fairly and equally and disbands the treaty industry forever.

WFS said...

I purposely turn away every time the haka is performed before an All Blacks match. I find it repulsive and cannot bear to watch it>

Laurent said...

Iam from Porirua and some years ago The Council here was about to name our new stadium Te Raupraha Stadium. I wrote numerous letters to our local paper at the time pointing out this monsters history but the name went ahead anyway. I also said that if it had to have a maori name I suggested Michael Campbell as he had recently won the American Open Golf Tournament but to no avail. I received a lot of flack and even got an anonymous letter saying I was a maori basher. I have always hated the haka and know the english translation, I still have it on my computer. His tribe recently got a $70 million dollar Treaty settlement, for what I ask.

Barry said...

I think that because he took part in the haka Richie McCaw should NEVER be offered one of John Key's idiot "knighthoods"!