Thursday, March 31, 2016

Bruce Moon: Land War Petition – letters to Otorohanga College


The "King Country" has always been a somewhat mysterious part of New Zealand to most of us.  It is no less so today.  Suddenly, out of it has come a petition to Parliament, sponsored, so it is said, by the students of Otorohanga College for a day to commemorate the "Land Wars".

Well now, the term "Land Wars" is a recent serious misnomer for the hostilities of the mid-nineteenth century, correctly described as tribal rebellions. 

The most serious of these was that initiated by the King Country tribes who declared their intention to slaughter every white person in Auckland.  Fortunately, resolute action by Government forces thwarted this intention and eventually, by a brilliantly successful and humane action at Rangioawhia, General Cameron broke the back of the rebellion and peace was restored.

Some few months ago, with new information provided by colleagues, I was able to give a more complete and accurate account of the capture of Rangioawhia than had hitherto been compiled, even that of the most notable of historians of those times, James Cowan.

Learning of this strange "Land Wars" petition, I wrote forthwith on 3rd December last to the Principal of Otorohanga College, Timoti Harris, including a copy of my article.  I felt sure that had his intentions always been to provide his students with the most accurate account of the history of their region, he would have welcomed it with open arms.  Not so.  I received no reply.  I wrote to him again on 11th December then on 3rd January and 28th March this year.  There has been a stony silence.

What does one conclude?  It appears that the intention of this man is to obtain some sort of acclaim or notoriety by feeding his students with much of the racist-inspired false information current today and he has incited them accordingly to put their energies into sponsoring this falsely conceived petition.  His inaction speaks louder than words.

Copies of my four letters to him are appended to this letter.  My account of the Rangioawhia incident is here.

*******
3rd December 2015

The Principal,
Otorohanga College,
P.O. Box 115,
Otorohanga 3940

Dear Principal,

I am informed that students at your college have launched a petition for a day to commemorate the so-called "Land Wars".  I hope you will agree that they should be well-informed about what actually were these events in our past.  More accurately they were tribal rebellions in which from time to time, some tribes dishonoured the Treaty of Waitangi by their actions.  I am sure that you will be aware that the Waikato tribes made a threat to destroy Auckland, hardly a trivial matter.

The students, I gather, are aware of the action at Rangiaowhia but I do hope that they have not been fed the appalling and oft-repeated falsehood that the government troops set fire to a church where women and children were taking shelter.  All churches in the village remained standing after the event.

Having quite recently obtained some long-overlooked documents,  I have recently been able to write an account of the action which is more complete and accurate than anything written previously, even by that notable scholar, James Cowan.  I enclose[1] a copy with this letter and I sincerely hope that you will let it be known in all social studies classes in your college.  It is available as a 'Word' text file.

Not long ago, I learnt that all discussion of the event was avoided at Te Awamutu College because, it was alleged, of the racial tensions it would cause amongst the students - an unhealthy attitude in my opinion.  I sent a copy of my account to the Principal there, Tony Membery.  He acknowledged its receipt but then, rather than engage in an open discussion, he shut up like a frightened clam.  I believe that all students prefer to know the real truth, whatever their racial background, a view with which I hope you concur.

I look forward to your response and would appreciate an outline of the action you propose to take.

Yours sincerely,
Bruce Moon
*******
11th December 2015

The Principal,
Otorohanga College,
P.O. Box 115,
Otorohanga 3940

Dear Principal,

Further to my letter of 3rd December, I surmise that there are considerable numbers of students at your college of part-descent from Waikato tribes.  In view of their political activity in calling for a national remembrance day with respect to the post-1840 tribal rebellions, it is clear to me that better balance would be attained if they were well-informed of events in the pre-1840 wars amongst the Maoris themselves in which the Waikato tribes took a major part.  While this may well be the case already, I do draw your attention to the following examples.  Much is taken here from Pember Reeves' "The Long White Cloud" though there are of course other sources.

In 1822 Shungie Ika of Ngapuhi invaded the Waikato and assaulted the very strongly constructed Matakitaki Pa which was crowded with women and children – 10,000 people says one account and though it was probably less that this, it was a very large number in a total Maori population of little more that 100,000.  With only four muskets, the Waikato were no match for the Ngapuhi with hundreds and when the pa was stormed the Waikato panicked and endeavoured to flee.  Hundreds were smothered in the surrounding ditches and hundreds more were shot by the merciless Ngapuhi, who fired down upon the writhing mass till tired of reloading. A conservative estimate of the total number of victims is 1500.

Te Whero Whero of Waikato survived this catastrophe and went on to carry out similar carnage in Taranaki.  When Waikato tribesmen captured the Pukerangiora pa in 1831, there was similar wholesale slaughter, about 1300 killed by one estimate, more than 150 being helpless captives personally clubbed to death by Te Whero Whero himself who only desisted when his arm grew swollen and tired.  There was more barbarism, including wholesale cannibalism, which I need not recount here but which you can easily "google" for yourself.  Of course it was Te Whero Whero who went on to became the first so-called Maori "king".

In these two actions alone, the number of those killed virtually equalled the total number of deaths on both sides in the forty years of tribal rebellions in colonial times.  In the Musket War period of 1807-1837, there were about 66,000 Maori deaths (by Dr John Robinson's the latest analysis), so that given the long-established practice of the tribes of settling disputes by force of arms, it is greatly to the credit of the government and colonial authorities when New Zealand became British that they managed to contain the rebellions and limit casualties to such small totals. The humane actions of General Cameron at Rangiaowhia which minimised casualties and of Bryce at Parihaka where there were none should be recognized as such; they should not be vilified as is so often the case.

If your students seek to take their efforts further, then it is incontestable that they should be adequately informed of the history of the earlier times.  Are they?

And one further point:  in the South Island there was only one armed conflict between Maoris and settlers - the Wairau massacre of 1843.  It was only about ten years earlier that Te Rauparaha and his Ngatitoa had crossed Cook Strait, mercilessly slaughtering almost all of the Maori inhabitants and, in the Maori fashion, claiming the Wairau valley as their own property.

These are hardly events worthy of a "national day of remembrance" and certainly not in the South Island.  If there is to be any such day, let it be for the North Island alone and let it be for the full period of armed conflict, not only an unbalanced selected part of it.

Now that the teaching year is over for you, there is surely time for you to reflect on these matters and to plan a balanced presentation  for next year which, at least on the evidence available to me, is yet to be achieved.

Please accept my good wishes for a merry Christmas.  We can surely dismiss the opinion of our racist Commissioner Devoy about it.

Yours sincerely,
Bruce Moon
*******
3rd January 2016

The Principal,
Otorohanga College,
P.O. Box 115,
Otorohanga 3940

Dear Principal,

By now, surely, you will have recovered from the many end-of-year demands faced by any principal, indeed by any teacher, while gearing up to face the challenges of the 2016 school year is not so imminent that you cannot take a short break from your duties.
I trust therefore that you are now able to read and consider the contents of my letters to you of 3rd and 11th December and to reflect on how your social studies teaching will be modified, at least to the extent of eliminating any false material revealed by the text I have sent you.

It is of extreme importance, as I am sure you will agree, that our students get an accurate account of New Zealand's history and not one perverted by racist agendas which are sadly evident in some cases.  One such example is the recent expensively produces "Resource Booklet" issued by NZQA for Level 2 History with a graph and map by one Graeme Bell, claiming to show "Land Loss" by Maoris, 1800-1996.  This is an emotive term implying events outside the "loser's" control, thus portraying them as victims of land grab by government and other agencies - a blatant falsehood.  Maoris were willing sellers of much land which had neither value nor use to them, in some cases  receiving multiple payments for it.  It is shameful that such material is presented to impressionable young people as if it gave an accurate account.

Just 4½% of New Zealand's land area was confiscated from rebel tribes.  This was partly to pay for the expenses of  quelling their rebellions; it was in accordance with long-established tribal practice and they had been warned in advance that it would occur.  Care was taken to ensure that rebels were left with enough land to live on and substantial amounts were later returned to them.  Note that the Waitangi Tribunal Tainui report states blatantly the falsehood that land was confiscated before hostilities started.  Students should never be expected to study its perverted reports.  

I look forward to your reply, with perhaps an outline of what modifications your social studies teachers propose to make make in the light of  the improved information now available to them.

Yours sincerely,
Bruce Moon
*******
28th March 2016

Mr Timoti (or Timothy?) Harris,
Principal,
Otorohanga College,
P.O. Box 115,
Otorohanga 3940

Dear Timoti Harris,

When I learnt that the students of your college were seeking support for a petition to have a "Land Wars" day, I wrote to you on 3rd December 2015, first to point out that this was a false name for what are correctly described as tribal rebellions and second to provide you with substantial information on the Waikato tribes' rebellion, some of it important and new.

I wrote again subsequently on 11th December and 3rd January on these topics, yet I have had not one word of acknowledgement from you about some exciting and accurate material to present to your students.

Your silence is so deafening that I begin seriously to doubt your good faith and wonder what you are trying to do - that you have a hidden racist agenda quite at variance with your role as a school principal and totally contradicting the high-flown assertions in your professed objectives which you present on the internet.

This is a very serious issue which cannot be allowed to rest.

Yours sincerely,
Bruce Moon


[1]     Not enclosed with this copy of the letter but available on request.

6 comments:

Ray S said...

Like you, I await replies with baited breath. Should replies be forthcoming, I doubt they will respond to your repeated requests but will continue teach the rewritten
history of the events.

Anonymous said...

Bruce
Your dispassionate and no doubt accurate account of the Maori aggression pre- and post-Treaty date deserves wider distribution, so that others less prejudiced than the Principal of Otorohanga College may learn about this latest spurious claim for recognition of incidents which are best forgotten by those making the claim, and for those others who should know the truth.

Mike K said...

I have previously written of my similar experiences in highlighting the appalling untruths pushed by various organisations regarding the battle of Rangiaowhia. In 2013 the Magazine of the Hamilton Diocese of the Catholic Church included an article highlighting how the pupils of St. Patrick's school in Te Awamutu, lead by the then bishop of Hamilton Denis Browne and the school principal, Mr Brian Belczacki made pilgrimages to Rangiaowhia where a Kaumatua told them stories of a (false) horrific massacre of women and children in a church during the battle. The pupils were then required to write essays describing their feelings about this 'event'. Not surprisingly they described feelings of horror and empathy for the (non existent)victims and condemnation of the colonial troops for the (non existent) massacre.
I wrote to the principal and the bishop informing them that claims of this massacre were false, along with some reasons why and asking if they would rectify this situation with the pupils. The bishop refused to answer personally but his 'cultural adviser' sent me lengthy book co-written by that bastion of slanted history, 'Dame' Claudia Orange giving an alleged history of the Church in NZ. The relevance of this escapes me. The principal sent me a letter suggesting that my views were warped and that he was happy educating his pupils about (false) massacres. I wrote him back suggesting that if he was going to teach his pupils lies, could he at least also educate them about real massacres that occurred between Maori and by Maori against settlers, including instances where settler children were thrown live into the air to be impaled upon Maori bayonets as they fell. He replied that although he was happy to regale his pupils with (false) stories of horrific colonial massacres, he would not allow his pupils to be told (true) stories of horrific Maori massacres as this would traumatise them.
There is a Tauranga identity by the name of Tommy 'Kapai' Wilson who is allowed to travel around schools 'educating' children. He is a adamant believer in the story of a Rangiaowhia massacre. It matters not how much contrary evidence there is (and there is an overwhelming amount). He wants it to be true, therefore it is.

Laurent said...

It is quite apparent in NZ these days, and together with our new sanitised history that is taught in our schools thus, if a lie is repeated often enough it becomes the NEW TRUTH.

ngako.com said...

It is sad, ignorant, and uncomfortable that such seemingly intelligent men are focused on the "fight" and not the purpose.
As a young woman of Maori heritage and British heritage, I am both privileged and burdened by my history.
Obviously there will be different accounts of the Land Wars, but who are you to ascertain what is "correct" history?
Were you there? No.
Was i there? No.
This is my history, our history, the nations history. If you cannot embrace the haunting details of our country, then you are not part of our country.
Tangata Maori (not 'Maoris) have retold history via korero (words). You cannot tell me every historical written account is accurate - neither is the korero.
The purpose is educating our future generations of the racial inequality from BOTH sides of nations history.
Focus people.

ONZF said...

It's great to see ngako.com has used the words Tangata Maori to refer to her early ancestors and not tangata whenua. The same words used in the Tiriti o Waitangi and acknowledged and accepted by over 500 tangata Maori chiefs when they signed the Tiriti. Through intermarriage of their own free will the people know as tangata Maori are now, as ngako.com states, Maori.