Sunday, May 29, 2011
Mike Butler: 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
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
at 7:53 PM