Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Mike Butler: Lest we forget our murderous past
Factual depictions of 19th-century New Zealand history, like that painting, have become shocking to some because information that show Maori in poor light has been steadily dropped from official accounts.
Blood and tears – the great untold story of New Zealand sets out to correct this imbalance by telling the stories of around 550 murders carried out by Maoris, civilian deaths, in 34 incidents, from Tasman’s visit in 1642 until 1880.
This excludes the 50,000 killed during the inter-tribal musket wars from 1800 to 1842, and the 2899 killed in the sporadic armed tribal rebellions from 1845 to 1879.
The method of killing involved stone clubs used against the heads of hapless seafarers and later, when iron tools became available, tomahawks were the weapon of choice, again against skulls.
Early victims were cooked and eaten; later victims were not often cooked but were often beheaded and left naked.
Deceit often featured in the lead-up to the killings, and robbery followed, with all possessions of the victims being looted, according to author Adam Plover.
The history of the murders follows the historical chronology from the first contact by white explorers, past the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, through 20 years of settlers being harassed by Maori, and through to the end of the 1860s fighting.
Te Kooti, a religious zealout and guerrilla leader, was responsible for the greatest number and worst murders, by killing 33 settlers and 37 Maori at Matawhero on the night of November 9-10, 1868, 20 Maori at Mangaturanga on April 9, 1869, and seven settlers and 58 Maori at Mohaka the next day.
Te Kooti’s followers perpetrated some of the worst atrocities, such as killing settler children at Mohaka by tossing them in the air and impaling them on bayonets.
Plover is outraged that in 2013, Treaty Negotiations Minister Christopher Finlayson and the National-led Government apologised to and made a series of payments to the descendents of Te Kooti for prejudicial treatment by the Crown.
A large number of arsons accompanied the history of murder, with an appendix listing the names of 160 people who had their houses burned to the ground during armed conflict in Taranaki from 1860-1861.
Sources used include early 20th-century historian James Cowan’s The New Zealand Wars and the Pioneering Period plus works by Lindsay Buick, and the journals of Tobias Furneaux, Abel Tasman, Edward Jerningham Wakefield, as well as contemporary writers such as Paul Moon, John Robinson, Ron Crosby and others.
Plover would reserve a special place in Hell for revisionist historians such as James Belich who he said had a “cavalier disregard of facts” and for being “devoid of any sympathy for the victims”.
No recognition has been given for those who lost their property and lives during the settlement of New Zealand although more than $3-billion has been paid to some with Maori ancestry to atone for alleged misdeeds by “the Crown”.
Blood and tears introduces a whole host of brave but forgotten people to the modern reader as a memorial to civilians who lost their lives in the course of creating the New Zealand that we have today, with law and order, property rights, personal safety and individual freedom.
Blood and tears – the great untold story of New Zealand, Adam Plover, Tross Publishing, 164 pages, illustrated, $30.
at 11:56 AM