Saturday, August 23, 2014

Mike Butler: Nursing a grudge Tuhoe style

A claim that Crown soldiers threw Tuhoe children into the air and impaled them on bayonets, reported yesterday, offers a glimpse of how Tuhoe have nursed a grudge and how the facts don’t back their beliefs.

Kaumatua Taane Rakuraku “remembered” this story for the benefit of reporter Michael Fox of Stuff news as the Crown prepared to apologise for land confiscations, indiscriminate killings, including of women and children, and scorched-earth warfare. (1)

Treaty Negotiations Minister Christopher Finlayson did not include the “children on bayonets” story in his tale of woe as he delivered his ritual apology yesterday (2) and nowhere in the four Waitangi Tribunal reports is there any mention of Tuhoe children being bayoneted.

But children were bayoneted at Mohaka on the East Coast of the North Island on April 10, 1869, and those wielding the bayonets were quite likely Tuhoe men fighting for rebel Te Kooti as they attacked Ngati Pahauwera. Sixty one Mohaka men, woman and children were killed on that day, including seven settlers.

Settler children were bayoneted. They were the children of the Lavin family. No apology or compensation for them. It appears that Tuhoe grievances grow and change in the re-telling.

Indeed, emotions ran high yesterday as government worthies trod Tuhoe territory at Taneatua in a ritual humbling that would make those involved in the Urewera campaigns turn in their graves. To see how fiction replaced fact, compare the elements of the Crown apology with the facts of history:

Land confiscations: Correct, Tuhoe had 24,147 hectares of land confiscated, according to the Waitangi Tribunal. The confiscation did not just happen out of the blue. Tuhoe land was part of a confiscation of 181,300ha in the eastern Bay of Plenty, on January 17, 1866, for the murder of Anglican missionary Carl Volkner, and of those sent to investigate. Tuhoe sheltered the main suspect of the Volkner killing.

The Bay of Plenty land confiscated from Tuhoe was a recent acquisition. Tuhoe had only won rights to that land 26 years before it was confiscated; they had intermittently fought Ngati Pukeko and Ngati Awa over 200 years to 1840 for a corridor to the sea.

In context, the 24,147ha of land confiscated represents about 8 percent of the land area Tuhoe claimed. The Urewera district comprises 313,631ha.The total population of the area in 1841 was about 2100 people, with about 800 fighting men.

Indiscriminate killings: People on both sides of the conflict lost their lives. Total casualties in the 1868-72 armed conflict that included Tuhoe were 399 anti-government Maori and 212 pro-government forces (including settler troops and Maori), according to historian James Cowan.

Tuhoe were in the habit of coming out of the hills to attack to disappear back to the cover of the dense Urewera bush that always protected them. However, when Tuhoe sheltered those who killed Volker as well as Te Kooti, government troops came after them and won.

The grovelling apology to the descendents of the 399 who died fighting for Te Kooti disrespects the descendents of the 212 who died fighting against him.

Scorched-earth warfare did occur and was a key part of the campaign against Tuhoe as they sheltered enemies of the government. Dwellings were destroyed, potato crops dug up, and the rebels were starved out. That is the nature of war.

Apologies came thick and fast yesterday. Labour leader David Cunliffe apologised for being a Cunliffe, as Stuff news probably incorrectly reported. Cunliffe confessed that some ancestors (on his mother’s side) were among Crown forces who chased Te Kooti into the Urewera mountains in 1869 following his escape from the Chatham Islands. (3) If that forebear was alive today he would most likely have given Cunliffe a clip.

The thousands gathered at Taneatua yesterday had reason to celebrate because the $169-million compo was paid last month and they could party it up. But with yesterday’s apology following another apology earlier in the month by police for the 2007 Urewera raids, it appeared Tuhoe were getting a bit blasé about all this official humility.

Huka Irene Williams told Stuff that: "Tuhoe people are not used to an apology . . . It won't be something that will be sincere to them but the attempt was made and I think the generation after us will tell if the apology actually succeeded." (4)

1. Crown sorry for Tuhoe treatment, Stuff, August 22, 2014.
2. Tūhoe Treaty settlement celebrated, Friday, 22 August 2014,
3. Cunliffe apologises for ancestors, Stuff, August 22, 2014.
4. Crown sorry for Tuhoe treatment, Stuff, August 22, 2014.


Ray S said...

Will the apology succeed? I doubt it. Future generations will be back for more compensation. If Finlayson and the others can't,or won't see that, my children's children will be penalised again and again.
But maybe it won't be an issue for them as browing of the populace and the language has already well under way. Compulsory Te Reo for a start!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your article. I also want to thank you and co-authors of TTT...:) A real perspective change for me, glad the book found me in our local library :) Cheers

PJ said...

The apology has already succeeded as the Crown has admitted its wrong doing. This a) sets the stage for endless compensation and b) re-writes the history books in favour of our "indigenous peoples".

Again, well done Maori.