Saturday, October 24, 2020

Bruce Moon: The Tall Tales of Ngatiapa

And now we have Ngatiapa, a Nelson area tribe which, according to its cultural advisor, Kiely Nepia,[i] was "almost wiped off the face of the earth", “marginalised to a degree, ... largely without language, ... landless” and “had suffered from colonisation”.

Well now that certainly seems a sad state to be in but if indeed it “had suffered from colonisation”, why is it that, judging from the white faces of many of its members, it is largely a product of that colonization?  And with a fat “Treaty Settlement” for its 846 members in 2014 of $28.374 million from its own white relatives and others, together with a substantial amount of “cultural redress”,[ii]  it would appear to have done rather well at the expense of the New Zealand taxpayer.

And landless?  Well a careful perusal of Jean Jackson’s lengthy and painstaking compilation of South Island land purchases in the early colonial period,[iii]  records purchases from  Ngatitoa, Ngatiawa, Ngatirarua, Ngatikuia, Ngatitama and Ngatikoata, a subtribe of Ngatitoa, in the supposed Ngatiapa areas but none involving Ngatiapa. A rare reference reports the Waitangi Tribunal saying there were “no Ngatiapa left in Nelson” though there were a few, Julia Martin (Huria Matenga), the “Maori Grace Darling” being one of mixed descent with eleven reported to be residing in Gore Bay.[iv]

So a reasonable conclusion must be that by the colonial period, Ngatiapa were landless and had been “almost wiped off the face of the earth", as Nepia says, but that this was the work of other Maori tribes before the British arrived!

And so it becomes appropriate to ascertain just what the history of this tribe might have been in the pre-colonial era.

Veiled in the mists of time as they may be, there are certainly accounts of people who were not Polynesian who lived in the Nelson area before any Maori arrived, variously known as Turehu, Patu-pai-arehe and Rapuwai and some physical evidence exists of their presence.[v]

Successive waves of Maori tribes wrested the land from them though a few were said to have survived in remote areas.  By the time of Tasman’s arrival in Golden Bay, the land was held by Ngaitapa  and Tumatakokori, who slaughtered one of Tasman’s boat’s crews.  They in turn were driven from the land by Ngatikuia and Ngatiapa, Tumatakokori being extinguished as a tribe in a battle against Ngai Tahu and Ngatiapa in the Pararoa Ranges about 1810.[vi]  By the 1820s Ngatiapa occupied most of the Tasman Bay area.

With continual inter-tribal warfare of one sort and another, in 1828 Ngatiapa, led by a chief Tute-perangi or Tutu joined an unsuccessful attack by a consortium of southern tribes on Kapiti Island, thus incurring the enduring wrath of Te Rauparaha.[vii]  Tutu, captured, bargained for his life, saying “If I am spared, my people will give up their land to you.”   Forthwith Te Rauparaha assembled an invading force of Ngatitoa, Ngatiawa and Ngatitama, all armed with muskets, and invaded the South Island.  They took the Ngatiapa lands with Ngatitama and Ngatiawa becoming the dominant tribes of the Nelson area.  They in turn, and on very favourable terms to themselves, sold the bulk of the land to the Colonial Government authorities.[viii]

And so, while Ngatiapa may be undergoing a “cultural revitalisation”[ix]  it a gross falsehood to claim that they “had suffered from colonisation”, whatever any apology from a craven and ill-informed Government of the day may have stated.  The real reason that the Ngatiapa tribe was “almost wiped off the face of the earth ... marginalised to a degree, ... largely without language, ... landless”[x] was its participation in the interminable inter-tribal warfare of the precolonial era in which by confronting the mighty Te Rauparaha they were the losers.

If they are appealing to other New Zealanders for sympathy and material assistance in their marae-building and other current projects, they should be honest enough to say so.  It was truly colonization which saved them and their 2014 “Waitangi settlement” was a rich receipt from very benevolent New Zealand taxpayers.

      K.Nepia, RNZ, 13 October 2020
[ii]     J.Robinson, “Twisting the Treaty”, 4th Ed., Appendix Six, Tross Publishing, 2018, ISBN 1-872970-33-8
[iii]    J.Jackson, “Mistaken Maori Land Claims”, Book Seven, Treaty Series, Vol.2, Bracken Woods Projects Ltd, 2002
[iv]    Ibid, pp 91-2
[v]     B.Brailsford, “Song of Waitaha”, Wharariki Publishing Ltd, 2002 and W.J.Elvy, ‘Kei Puta te Wairau” 1957, reprinted by Cadsonbury Press.  It has been deduced by Martin Doutré that Split Apple Rock in Golden Bay is not a natural feature but must, by some means, have been placed there by human endeavour. (Reference available from the author)
[vi]    Though one survivor, Kehu, accompanied Brunner on his first exploration from Nelson in 1846, while Kehu, a friend and their wives accompanied Brunner on his second, epic journey.
[vii]   W.J.Elvy, op.cit., p 54 ff.
[viii]  J.Jackson, op.cit. P 30 ff
[ix]    K.Nepia, op.cit.
[x]     In Nepia’s words

Bruce Moon is a retired computer pioneer who wrote "Real Treaty; False Treaty - The True Waitangi Story".

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