Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mike Butler: Maori infanticide

Glad to read that the Office of the Children's Commissioner’s "Maori Parenting" report, released last Thursday, blames Maori family violence on European missionaries, because now we can discuss the tradition of Maori infanticide.

A new parenting programme targeted at Maori tells them that prior to Europeans arriving, children were considered gifts from the gods and Maori families shunned child abuse. The researchers suggested abuse arose only after Maori were introduced to corporal punishment in missionary-run

Te Kahui Mana Ririki, the child advocacy group which commissioned the research, has reported a reduction in child abuse after running workshops based on its findings.

Chair Dr Hone Kaa said "It will serve to demonstrate to Maori they don't have to believe they're inherently violent," he said. Maori children were taught by Europeans that bad behaviour should be punished by physical violence, he said. This steered away from the traditional idea children were tapu and discipline should be avoided because it tamed the child's spirit.

However, Maori history professor Paul Moon, of Auckland University of Technology, dismissed the idea abuse began after the Europeans came. "The proposition that missionaries introduced violence, it's one of those allegations that entered the historical bloodstream and once it's in that bloodstream, it's hard to get out."(2)

In his book about Maori cannibalism, Moon wrote that “infanticide was said by some early European visitors to Maori settlements to be widespread - particularly the killing of baby girls (who would never grow into warriors), taurekareka (slaves captured in battle), and half-caste children.” The four main methods of killing unwanted children were “compressing the temples of a child, strangulation, drowning the child in a stone-filled basket, and suffocation.”(3)

For those who try to downplay the Maori warrior culture, they should recall that the Maori population declined from around 100,000 in 1769 to 70,000 in 1840, much of it due to a series of bloody inter-tribal battles known as the Musket Wars, between 1820 and 1836, in which 20,000 deaths resulted from Maori killing Maori.(4)

No one would object to Te Kahui Mana Ririki mentors appealing to the goodness within participants at parenting workshops, but they should not try to re-write history in doing so.

1. Research debunks Maori abuse, Sunday Star Times
2. Ibid.
3. “This Horrid Practice -- the myth and reality of traditional Maori cannibalism”, Paul Moon, Penguin, 2008, pages 123-124
4. The Penguin History of New Zealand, Michael King. 2003, page 150


Anonymous said...

Can we please stop this trait of finding excuses for the Maori people. How will they ever learn to take responsibility for their own actions if the European struggle to find excuses for them usually blaming the European settlers. They have a violence problem now they had a violence problem in the past and like any other race on earth need to take responsibility and take action.

Anonymous said...

If the European missionaries used corporal punishment to discipline European children too why haven't the European settlers descendants got the same problem.

Harvey Rosieur said...

It is a sad fact that the public at large know, or supect, that the Maori people are the main contributors to child abuse statistics in New Zealand. Instead of recognising this and coming up with solutions to overcome it, the Government tells us we should all be ashamed of ourselves for 'our' behaviour. They have targeted repsponsible parents and made them outlaws for disciplining their children responsibly.The result can only be a general deterioration in over-all behaviour. Is that what the Government wants? Can they be so stupid as to not recognise the destruction to our society which they are authoring as a consequence? Is this all down to political correctness (which is no excuse) or is there some hidden ideology behind it?

Harvey Rosieur said...

In posting my earlier comment , perhaps I should have stated that I am of Maori descent before someone accuses me of racism.I believe we must 'call a spade, a spade' in this and all issues, if we are ever going to find lasting answers. I am on the side of truth, whether it hurts or not.That is not to say that I have abused my own children. I and many New Zealanders owe it to those maligned missionaries that we have learned the truth and behave better as a consequence.

John Robinson said...

I have almost completed a book that deals with the massive loss of life in the period to 1840 and the recovery thereafter. I checked Moon's comment on female infanticide and found several other references. The census data to the end of the ecntury show a continuing shortage of girls, which I attribute to continuing femal infanticide. Missionaries did a great job convincing Maori that cannibalism and killing was not a good idea.

Anonymous said...

Growing up as a Kiwi European, it was continually reinforced to me that I am responsible for my own actions and and their consequences. (or to use the un-p.c. term - to BLAME!)

Growing up I'd assumed what we heard in the media was correct - that the Euro missionaries were responsible for the state of the country because the poor Maoris were taken advantage of.

Then I read Samuel Marsdens summery of his first encounters "they appear to be a very superior people in point of mental capacity", and it seems that what actually happened back then was far different to what has been portrayed in the media.

Then I read in the new book out 'He Korero' that the missionaries were invited over by the Maori, to provide education etc, and I can't help thinking of my own upbringing.

my great grandfather was traveling nz preaching prohibition, but that didn't stop me from buying a still and rotting my brain and wasting my life for a few years. It hasn't stopped anyone from drink driving or drink pregnancies now.

Until we all stop trying to blame everyone else, and realize that the choices made by US now are responsible for where we are NOW, things will never improve. OUR parents had a right to make their choices on their own.

trying to blame the missionaries for everything hasn't worked for anything in the last 170 odd years, so won't solve anything now.

who knows? if they hadn't of been around maybe NZ would be part of French Polynesia. they appear to have failed in trying to create a christian country, but they did manage to broker enough truces to end the musket wars and get us talking to each other in relative safety.