Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mike Butler: Urewera report dishonest

I agree with columnist Chris Trotter’s comments that the Waitangi Tribunal historians who worked on Part II of the Te Urewera report released last week neglected to discuss the equally dreadful deeds done by anti-settler Maori alongside the dreadful deeds of the Crown. Trotter depicted a terrorist attack (1) that refers to a massacre at Mohaka by followers of the prophet-guerrilla leader Te Kooti on April 10, 1869, on two fortified Maori villages and settler farmers. Historian James Cowan said Tuhoe fighters were the main killers, since they were ancient enemies of the Ngati Pahauwera people at Mohaka. (2)

I am interested in this part of New Zealand history since it forms part of my book The First Colonist, which follows the life of resident magistrate Samuel Deighton, some of whose letters are used as sources for the Urewera report.

Part II of the Te Urewera report deals with a sequence of events that took place about four years earlier than the incident Trotter referred to. It begins after the siege of Waerenga a Hika near Gisborne in November 1865, and spans a period when “a short and brutal war” stretching broadly from Wairoa inland to Lake Waikaremoana, was fought from December 1865 to May 1866.

The report’s introductory comments unequivocally sides with the claimants: “There were a series of engagements. The most significant, in January 1866, at Te Kopani near the southern shore of Lake Waikaremoana, involved the deaths of a minimum of 40–50 Maori. It ranks among the most grim battles in the New Zealand Wars, involving more deaths in battle than the entire campaign against Te Kooti in Te Urewera. We find that the Crown was wholly at fault, attacking people who were simply retreating or defending themselves. We cannot over-emphasise the reprehensible nature of the wholesale destruction and killing by Crown forces. Grave breaches of Treaty principle were involved in these events.” (3)

The report does say that the “short brutal war” was part of a more widespread series of conflicts that started with land squabbles in Taranaki and escalated into what Trotter describes as a civil war, between pro-government and anti-government Maori, to determine the future of the country.

The report does mention the murder of missionary Carl Volkner on March 2, 1865. But the report does not say that Volkner’s murder outraged Ngati Porou leaders at Waiapu on the East Coast, since his attendance at diocesan synods had made him well known to East Coast chiefs who had positions in the church. That became the point of separation between those Ngati Porou leaders, who believed that the future lay in co-operation with the settler government, and Pai Marire-Hauhau zealots who wanted to drive the white settlers into the sea.

By not reporting the nature of the Pai Marire-Hauhau movement, or anything about Te Kooti’s Ringatu fanatics, tribunal historians had a blank canvas to depict Tuhoe as victims “who were simply retreating or defending themselves”, and that “no breakdown in law and order had occurred. No challenge had been made to state authority. No threat existed to lives and property. No Wairoa Maori were conspiring to overthrow the government by force of arms and no ‘engagement’ was required to ensure the security of the colony.”

The report does not mention that Hauhau-Pai Marire prophet Te Ua Haumene attracted government attention when fanatical followers defeated a patrol in north Taranaki on April 6, 1864, leaving the naked, decapitated bodies of seven soldiers. The heads, including that of patrol leader Captain T. W. J. Lloyd, were taken, smoke-dried, and used in the cult’s rites. Te Ua claimed the angel Gabriel told him to send the heads around all the tribes to gain Hauhau recruits, and said that when all tribes were converted, the Maori people would be able to conquer the white invaders.(4)Instead, the report relies on a sanitised version of the movement.

The report mentions the spread of the Pai Marire-Hauhau faith to the East Coast and the killing of missionary Carl Volkner without mentioning that Te Ua’s two prophets, Kereopa Te Rau and Patara Raukatauri, carried Captain Lloyd’s head to help get converts. Neither does it mention that Kereopa gouged out the slain missionary’s eyes, swallowed them, had a communion cup filled with Volkner’s blood, drank from the chalice, and passed the cup around (5) in a perverted parody of a Christian communion service.

Later that month, Kereopa took Volkner’s head to Poverty Bay and found converts. Fighting between Hauhau followers and Waiapu Ngati Porou led by Rapata Wahawaha erupted near Pukemaire, 100km north of Poverty Bay, in June of 1865, and at Pa Kairomiromi and Hungahunga toroa pa.

The Hauhaus escaped to a Hauhau fortified a pa at Waerenga a Hika, near Gisborne. A combined force of 600 English and pro-government (“kawanatanga” ) Maori, besieged the pa and defeated the occupants on November 22, 1865. Fugitives from Waerenga a hika moved to Wairoa and raised tension among Hauhau followers living there. That becomes the starting point of the Urewera Report, Part II.

The battles at Omaru hakeke, Onepoto, and Te Kopane in 1865-1866 make up a small part of Part II of the Urewera report, most of which deals cession of land, Crown acquisition of pa sites, a plan for Urewera self-government, the Urewera District Native Reserve Act 1896, and disputed sale of land.

Waitangi historians are required to measure 19th century history against the 1987 principles of the Treaty of Waitangi that originate from a case brought in the High Court by the New Zealand Maori Council (New Zealand Māori Council v. Attorney-General). (3) The use of hindsight and requiring 19th century actions to measure up to 20th century standards is always going to yield distortions of the sort that occur in the Urewera Report Part II.

It is important to note that in 1840, the 2000 Pakeha settlers were only able to live in New Zealand courtesy of local chiefs. By 1858, approximately 59,000 Pakeha settlers outnumbered 56,000 Maori. By 1864, the government had 20,000 imperial troops, sailors, marines, the Colonial Defence Force and “kawanatanga” Maori.

If in 1840, British sovereignty was more theoretical than actual, by 1865 the colonial government had the ability to impose its authority, and did so by requiring dissidents to take an oath of allegiance to the Crown, and to surrender weapons. If this failed, dissidents could face attack, villages were burned, crops destroyed, and land confiscated. The report notes that chief Ihaka Whaanga warned Pai Marire Hauhaus in the Wairoa area of such consequences, yet some Hauhaus who had surrendered and had taken the oath were back dancing around Hauhau nui poles.

The colonial government was careful to avoid on the East Coast problems that had wrecked life in Taranaki, and had posed a threat in the Waikato, was keen to snuff out any support for the Kingitana movement and Pai Marire Hauhauism, so acted swiftly. The Urewera people chose the wrong side and paid the price.

If you think I am focussing on some atrocious details of a long-gone cult, ask yourself whether those details make a difference in your assessment of the Tuhoe story.

The Urewera reports seek to legitimise Tuhoe claims for self-government, the return of huge tracts of land, and transfer of large sums of money. The problem is that Waitangi Tribunal historians have taken a lop-sided view by emphasizing the dreadful deeds of the Crown while glossing over, or ignoring, the equally dreadful deeds done by anti-settler Maori. This is dishonest handling of history.

1. Blood sacrifice, Chris Trotter
2. The New Zealand Wars, James Cowan, vol 2, p329
3. 3. Te Urewera Report, Part II, Waitangi Tribunal,
4. The New Zealand Wars, James Cowan, Vol 2, p17
5. Ibid, p76
6. The Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi involve the principle of active protection, the tribal right to self-regulation, the right of redress for past breaches, and the duty to consult. The recognition and adherence to these principles ensure the "active protection" of Maori language and culture.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog, Mike - you have put forward a commantary on Tuhoe's history that everyone involved in the settlement process seems determined to ignore and sanitise.

What I don't understand is why the media doesn't look into this sort of issue - after all aren't they meant to investigate the truth of claims/stories rather than just report them?