The saying "give someone an inch (and they'll take a mile)"used to mean that if you allow some people a small amount of freedom or power they will see you as weak and try to take a lot more. The Mokomoko (Restoration of Character, Mana, and Reputation) Bill that is currently winding its way through parliament shows why this saying is used.
The interesting thing about this bill is that the1992 pardon of Mokomoko, a Bay of Plenty chief executed for his role in the killing of a Lutheran minister, is now being used as evidence of a treaty breach and a basis for compensation.
Mokomoko, a chief of the Whakatohea tribe, was hanged at Mount Eden jail on May 17, 1866, with four others, for taking part in the murder of the Reverend Carl Sylvius Völkner at Opotiki on March 2, the previous year.
Mokomoko said he was innocent. He claimed that he went away after the decision was made to kill Völkner and was not present at the death. His descendants claim that earlier he had tried to help Völkner escape. They concede that Mokomoko did own the rope that was put around Volkner’s neck, but argue that it was taken from him as he was catching his horse.
Evidence that convicted Mokomoko was the testimony of three witnesses.
Joseph Jeans (or Jennings) said Mokomoko had been in the procession that took Völkner to the execution and that he had carried the rope. Wiremu Te Paki also said that Mokomoko was with the procession. Wepiha Te Poono said Mokomoko commanded the armed party that took Völkner to be killed. However, witnesses differed in other details. According to one, Mokomoko was carrying the rope behind the armed men leading Völkner to the tree. Other evidence indicated that he was some distance away. No witness claimed that Mokomoko was one of those most involved in the killing. There was a conflict of evidence over who placed the rope around Völkner's neck; Jeans said it was Wi Hura while other witnesses named Pokeno Te Awanui. Neither of these men was brought to trial. (1)
The evidence was deemed sufficient to make Mokomoko an accessory to Völkner’s murder. Not only was Mokomoko and the four others hanged, so was the instigator, a Pai Marire Hauhau itinerant preacher named Kereopa Te Rau, who prophet Te Ua Haumene sent to the Bay of Plenty on a supposedly peaceful recruitment mission. In addition, 448,000 acres of Bay of Plenty land were confiscated as punishment.
“Take the rope from my throat” became the murmured prelude to a waiata, sung by Mokomoko, and later Te Whakatohea and neighbouring tribes until the 1940s, when it ceased to be sung. Why? Possibly because the Finance No. 2 Act, on October 12, 1946, gave Whakatohea a lump sum payment of £20,000 as settlement of the confiscation grievance.
Mokomoko's family in 1987 requested permission to exhume his remains from Mount Eden jail, a request was granted in 1988. He was re-interred at Waiaua Marae at Ōpōtiki in October 1989. Former Treaty Settlements Minister Doug Graham delivered Mokomoko’s framed Crown pardon to Waiaua, Mokomoko’s marae in 1992. All well and good. So what is the Mokomoko (Restoration of Character, Mana, and Reputation) Bill all about?
The bill says that the 1992 pardon “was provided without consultation with Te whānau a Mokomoko and differed from the pardon granted by section 11 of Te Runanga o Ngati Awa Act 1988 to two men of Ngāti Awa for the same event, and that it did not expressly restore his character, mana, and reputation, nor the character, mana, and reputation of his descendants”. The bill opens the way separate settlement negotiations between the Crown and Te whanau a Mokomoko.
This bill uses the 1992 pardon of Mokomoko as acknowledgement that the government had breached the treaty. Clause 9 of the preamble says:
In its Te Urewera (Part 1) Inquiry Report (April 2009), the Waitangi Tribunal found the following in relation to Te whānau a Mokomoko claim (Wai 203):
(a) by pardoning Mokomoko in 1992, the Crown acknowledged that its treatment of him had not been consistent with the Treaty of Waitangi; and
(b) the form and wording of that pardon had not redressed the original Treaty grievance; and
(c) a statutory pardon should be granted to Mokomoko following consultation with the claimants about the wording of the pardon; and
(d) in addition, the Crown should consult with the claimants about the nature of an appropriate tribute to mark the wrong done by perpetuating the false view that Mokomoko was largely responsible for the raupatu: (2)
Discussion of treaty breaches is where it all gets interesting because is would appear that government is the only party capable of breaching the treaty. Here’s the reason I say that.
I mentioned above that itinerant Pai Marire Hauhau preacher Kereopa Te Rau supposedly brought a message of peace from prophet Te Ua Haumene. Histories written since the 1970s omit a few salient details, such as the fact that Kereopa Te Rau, with his loyal servants Patara Raukatauri and Louis Baker, a French Canadian Indian, carried the head of Captain T.W.J. Lloyd, severed with those of six other soldiers in an attack in north Taranaki in April 1864. Pai Marire Hauhau used dried human heads in frenzied ceremonies. They also served as a recruitment tool. Could killing government soldiers be a breach of the treaty?
Histories written after 1970 fudge the details of Volkner’s killing. Not only was Volkner hanged. He was decapitated, his blood drained into a chalice and passed around the frenzied Pai Marire Hauhau killers for drinking in a debased version of the Christian communion. The vengeful Kereopa swallowed Volkner’s eyes. Does all this constitute a breach of the treaty?
The Mokomoko (Restoration of Character, Mana, and Reputation) Bill is a government bill with Pita Sharples’ name on it. Sharples’ speech to parliament on the bill’s first reading in October would give the impression the killing of missionary Volkner, who faced his killers with bravery and compassion, was necessary and just, and, moreover, his own fault. Totally lacking in the Sharples oration is any sense of context.
Sharples gave no indication that at that time the colonial government was fighting a war against a series of tribal mortal enemies that it could not afford to lose. Armed conflict flared in Taranaki in 1860, and in the Waikato in 1863. Te Ua fought with the Maori king movement before he created his brand of fanaticism in the form of the Pai Marire Hauhau cult and spread it around, on to the Bay of Plenty in 1865, and then to the East Coast where sporadic armed conflict continued until 1872. Would tribes attacking the colonial government constitute a breach of the treaty?
Sharples repeated to parliament an allegation that “Mokomoko’s wife, Kimohia, was repeatedly raped before being bayoneted to death by Government soldiers”. According to his biography, Mokomoko had three wives. Two of his wives and six children survived him. There was no reference in that biography to the rape-murder allegation. Sharples or the Mokomoko descendents should provide evidence other than family oral tradition to back up this allegation.
Sharples said that he was “aware that the Waitangi Tribunal has also recommended that the Crown create some form of tangible tribute to mark the wrong done”. Since the free pardon in 1992 was not enough, I’m sure that the “tangible tribute” will have to take the form of financial redress, or as Waikato-Tainui insisted in their $170-million settlement, "where money acknowledges the crime".
1. Tairongo Amoamo. 'Mokomoko - 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/1m47/1
2. Mokomoko (Restoration of Character, Mana, and Reputation) Bill, http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2011/0343/latest/versions.aspx