Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Mike Butler: Execution site called sacredLabels: David Rankin, Mike Butler, Nga Puhi
A spot on Auckland’s Queen St where the first Maori was executed by the British should be registered as a sacred site, says Ngapuhi leader David Rankin. A 17-year-old named Maketu was executed on the corner of Queen St and Victoria St West on March 7, 1842, the location of one of the biggest commercial buildings in New Zealand – the Phillips Fox Tower.
Rankin said: “He was a rangatira, or chief, and his execution at this spot makes it sacred to Maori – the spot where any rangatira is killed is extremely tapu”. Rankin will be seeking the support of the Auckland Council’s Maori Statutory Board in his application, to have the location officially designated as a waahi tapu.
Rankin did not detail Maketu’s crime. According to the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography,Maketu, the son of Nga Puhi chief Ruhe, was employed to do farm work on Motuarohia, in the Bay of Islands. His employer was Elizabeth Roberton, a widow. Her household comprised her eight-year-old son, Gordon; her two-year-old daughter; a servant, Thomas Bull; and Isabella Brind, the grand-daughter of Nga Puhi leader Rewa.
For some time Thomas Bull had been mistreating Maketu, and kicked him during a dispute about payment. Two days later, on 20 November 20, 1841, Maketu killed Bull by splitting his head with an axe as he slept. He then killed Elizabeth Roberton and later explained that she had sworn at him. He also killed the two girls, pursued the boy across the island and threw him over a cliff. Maketu provided no explanation for the killing of the children.
After the murders he took refuge at his father's village. Hundreds of Maori gathered; Bay of Islands settlers, without military protection, feared that the murders signalled the beginning of a Maori uprising. In killing Rewa's grand-daughter Maketu had given good cause for intertribal hostility. To avoid war with Rewa, Ruhe surrendered his son.
Nga Puhi leaders, among them Pomare II, Waikato, Tamati Waka Nene, Rewa, and Ruhe himself issued a statement dissociating themselves from Maketu's action, saying that he had acted alone and that they had no wish for war. Only Hone Heke spoke against handing him over to the government.
On March 1, 1842, Maketu was tried at Auckland in the new Supreme Court building. Maketu pleaded not guilty. The only evidence against Maketu was his own confessions, one to Thomas Spicer, a Kororareka (Russell) storekeeper, who had mounted an impromptu investigation of the murders, and another to the coroner at the inquest.
He was convicted, and hanged on 7 March 7, 1842. On the morning of his execution, at his own request, Maketu was baptised an Anglican.
A brass plate on the Phillips Fox Tower at street level recording this would be most interesting, although the circumstances of the execution hardly qualify this as a sacred site.
Maori claiming waahi tapu site in Queen St, http://auckland.scoop.co.nz/2012/11/maori-claim-to-strike-at-heart-of-aucklands-queen-street/
Steven Oliver. 'Maketu, Wiremu Kingi - Biography', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 1-Sep-10 URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/1m5/1
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