On 9 July 2021, stuff newspaper the “Waikato Times” comes up with a headline: “Rangiriri Pā trenches where Māori fought British invasion of Waikato to be restored”.
And spokesman Brad Totorewa chips in with “We’re still in grievance mode. But we know sharing our narratives of the invasion of our people will transform and enhance the thinking of all New Zealanders.”
Now since the Waikato had been sovereign British territory for more than twenty years by all due processes of law, that is a bit curious, is it not? No country “invades” its own territory, but if, as in this case, it is under the control of a rebel faction, then the legitimate government has every right to take action to recover it. And this is what Governor Grey did, his patience exhausted by the continued defiance of all his attempts to resolve the issues, so well described by John Robinson in “The Kingite Rebellion”.[i]
And it does not hurt to remind ourselves that at an early stage, the Waikato tribes had made advanced plans to attack Auckland, slaughtering all the citizens except those whose doors had been marked clandestinely with a white cross, the date for this invasion to be 1st September 1861.[ii]
So talking of a “British invasion” may be seen for what it is: a flagrant bit of political propaganda. If “the thinking of all New Zealanders” is to be transformed we had better look elsewhere than to Totorewa and his like who are, we note, still in “grievance mode” 158 years later!
The inevitable hostilities commencing, Ngapuhi and other tribes declaring their firm support for the Government and indeed offering troops, while several of the Waikato tribes declined to back the rebellion and were tabbed “Queenites” by the aggressors.[iii]
* * * * *
Now should we want an example of what was a real invasion of the Waikato tribal territory, we may look back to the days a little before any British involvement.
In 1822, the Ngapuhi, well-armed with muskets, on a rampage through the North Island, invaded Waikato lands and attacked the great fort of Mataki-taki. The Waikato, despite being led by Te Wherowhero, with only four muskets, were virtually defenceless. In a panic, many fell into a deep defensive ditch and were smothered or slain by the murderous Ngapuhi who continued the slaughter “till tired of reloading”.[iv] “It is believed that 1500 lost their lives and hundreds were taken prisoner. ... a Ngapuhi force caught a large number of the principal women of the Waikato Ngati Mahuta tribe. ... Ngapuhi continued feasting on the dead and ‘shamefully abusing’ the women.”[v] Have Waikato forgotten?
Then in 1826, Pomare with a war party again invaded the Waikato lands, but the defenders, by now well armed with muskets, ambushed the attackers, Pomare being killed and many of the rest killed and eaten.[vi] Have Waikato forgotten?
Waikato in their turn becoming the aggressors, in 1831 invaded Taranaki and besieged the Te Ati Awa fort of Pukerangiora. The starving defenders broke and ran, only to be caught, killed and eaten by the Waikato. Gutted and spit-roasted, 1200 are said to have died, about 150 captives being killed personally by Te Whero Whero who only stopped when his arm became tired and swollen. That’s tikanga for you![vii] Have Waikato forgotten?
Compared with these figures and behaviour, barbaric by any standard, the total of 619[viii] rebels killed in all the conflicts of 1863-4 in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty looks almost trivial.
Is there a word of the foregoing in the proposed curriculum for schools, even at the most senior level?
The article, written by Waikato reporter Sharnae Hope, continues by saying:
“More than 1400 British troops fought about 500 Māori warriors, who were resisting colonisation.
The battle cost both sides more than any other engagement of the land wars and also resulted in the capture of 180 Māori prisoners. This opened the Waikato basin to the British forces, leading to the confiscation of 1.3 million hectares of land.”
Well, actually, 1.3 million hectares was the total initially confiscated from all the rebel tribes. Of this, 649,000 hectares, almost half, was in due course returned to the tribal owners while of the 486,500 initially confiscated from the Waikato tribes, after returns, some incorrectly taken from those who did not rebel, the nett amount confiscated was 359,000 hectares. So, somewhat less than half the truth from reporter Hope gives a distinctly distorted picture of what actually occurred. And of course, it was no more than tikanga after all!
* * * * *
The report continues by referring to an interview of Vincent O’Malley by Anthony Hubbard on 14 October 2016. This makes interesting reading!!
With a heading falsely referring to the “Waikato War”, the first paragraph states:
“The battle of Orakau in 1864 ended with a massacre in a swamp. The Maori defenders, out of food, water and ammunition, fled the pa and ran into a hail of British bullets. The survivors escaped into the bush and a nearby swamp, where soldiers killed many of them, including women.”
Well now, as we were told when I was a schoolboy, Rewi Maniapoto, the heroic chief, stood up on the ramparts and declared that they would never surrender, “ake, ake, ake!” In a more recent version it was actually an old woman who stood up and declaimed in this way.
But if the tribe were truly out of food, water and ammunition, would not the wise and indeed honourable thing have been to raise a white flag, lay down their arms and walk out peacefully to surrender? Quite unlike tikanga, the British treatment of surrendered rebels as recorded on many occasions was fair and reasonable.[ix] What was the point in remaining as combatants and running? The cavalry went in pursuit, a standard practice. And why did they run into a swamp? They should have known the area. This does suggest less than adequate reconnaissance! But there was at least one happy ending as one young soldier found that he was pursuing a young woman. He saved her life and duly married her! The O’Malley tale rather lacks a fair perspective!
If you should by any chance, want to blacken the record of the colonists from the British Isles who settled in New Zealand in the middle years of the nineteenth century, including many from Ireland, my own O’Malley forebears amongst them, then comments such as those of Vincent O’Malley (not a relation) are just what you need.
Thus the Hubbard/O’Malley interview continues:
“These were not the only atrocities of the Waikato war. Ten days earlier in Rangiaowhia, also near Te Awamutu, British soldiers attacked an undefended village of women, children and old men. Six men and a boy holed up in a raupo whare and shot a soldier who approached. The whare was then set on fire, and a man who came out and lifted his hands in surrender was ‘riddled with bullets’ from British guns ... . The six inside the whare were burned alive.”
The truth, based on accounts of those present, one a Maori boy, is distinctly different. Rather than attempt a frontal attack on the strong rebel fort of Paterangi with heavy losses on both sides, General Cameron, in a humanitarian move, planned to occupy by surprise the rebel food source, the village of Rangiaowhia.[x] Contrary to O’Malley’s claim, small arms fire was encountered, principally from rebels in the Catholic church. Two rebels were killed as this was suppressed.
Then the attention of Captain Wilson in the vanguard was drawn to a slab hut which was evidently occupied. Wilson, who spoke Maori, called on those within to come out. One man, his wife and son did so and were not harmed. Then he ordered Sergeant McHale to enter the hut and call on those inside to surrender. McHale stooped, entered the hut and was immediately shot dead by Hoani Papita: “John the Baptist”. A furious exchange of fire ensued and the hut was set ablaze. Several of the troops fell including Colonel Nixon, mortally wounded. Overcome by smoke, Hoani staggered out, waving his blanket, probably no more than a futile gesture to ward off the musket fire. In the heat of battle, unsurprisingly, a hail of shot cut him down. In the event, ten Maoris and five of the troops lost their lives.
O’Malley – loose with the truth, perhaps?
He proceeds with a few statistics, comparing figures for the Waikato rebellion and World War I.
Thus: “he estimates that the 400 Maori killed in the Waikato War was at least four per cent of the Waikato population” and “About 17,000 Kiwis were killed in World War 1, or around 1.7 per cent of the population.” Well actually about one in four men in the 20-45 year age groups were killed or wounded in World War I, with more dying in training or subsequently from war wounds.[xi]
Count only combatants, Doctor O’Malley, and perhaps you will get a different conclusion. Just remember that it may be true that “you can prove anything with statistics.”[xii]
Hubbard’s report continues:
O'Malley's new book on the Waikato War argues that this was indeed the most important war in New Zealand's history. "The war had a more profound influence on the shaping of New Zealand as a nation than World War I did," says O'Malley. But the Waikato war, he says, is largely forgotten.
This rhetoric will be seen for what it is worth by most New Zealanders – a rebellion reasonably forgotten by all but a few malcontents looking for political capital.
But there is more! O'Malley: “But Maori rights and power were largely lost as a result of the Waikato War. Pakeha victory meant that "the Treaty of Waitangi was thrown out the window for at least the next century" - a blatant contradiction of the truth. Most Waikato chiefs had signed the Treaty[xiii], even if Te Whero Whero did not.[xiv] By their rebellion, it was the Waikato who rejected the Treaty. The Government legitimately responded to treason to restore order for the benefit of all.
‘Waikato's thriving economy – its celebrated orchards and flour mills [which] kept Auckland from starvation – was ruined.’ Is O’Malley unaware that most of the flour mills were a gift from Governor Grey who also sent men like Thomas Power to Rangiaowhia to teach the tribes how to grow vegetables? And where did orchards come from?
“The government confiscated 1.2 million acres of Tainui land”, he says. Like Hope above, O’Malley tells only half this story, since 314,364 acres were returned. But he is not alone in this plethora of falsehoods. The Waikato-Tainui annual report for 2014 states: “In 1863 the Crown confiscated over 1.2 million acres of Waikato-Tainui land. This ... resulted in the Waikato Land Wars”, but the truth is the other way around![xv] To forestall a general war called for by Waikato chiefs Taati Te Waru and Porokuru Titipa, government troops entered the tribal area on 12 July 1863, a proclamation the previous day warning that waging war against the government would lead to land being confiscated. But this did not occur until December 1864 when the fighting was over.
Then, says O’Malley: “it had to wait till 1995 for a Treaty settlement, signed by Queen Elizabeth, giving the tribe $170m for the loss of lands worth an estimated $12 billion.” Well, that is a favourite trick of history twisters,[xvi] quoting the present value of that land and not its largely undeveloped value at the time. But why, in any case, should they imagine that they were entitled to get any of it back?
Well, the Waikato-Tainui did collect $170 million in 1995 in a so-called “full and final settlement”, with a further $22.5 million to minor tribes, a “relativity top-up” of $70 million in 2012 and more of the kind in 2017 and 2018.[xvii] So it now has total equity of $1.2 billion, distributing $10.8 million in dividends for 2020.[xviii] These figures are of course for years subsequent to the Hubbard/O’Malley interview but we may note a profit of $138 million in 2017 shortly after it.
One may surely ask reasonably why, if Totorewa is correct, Waikato “are still in grievance mode”?
And O’Malley no doubt has his motivation for the tales he tells while the Waikato tribes, one might guess, will continue to exhibit their selective history and bleat about the colossal wrongs they suffered at the hands of the wicked colonials. The rest of us surely have fair cause to be proud of what has been achieved in just a few generations, not least being that Maoris today are no longer victims of bloody times like those of pre-1840 days from which colonisation was their saviour.
[i]J.Robinson, “The Kingite Rebellion”, 2016, ISBN 1872970486
[iv]W.P.Reeves, “The Long White Cloud”, 1898, p.113 (incorrectly shown as p.118)
[v]J.Robinson, “Unrestrained Slaughter”, ISBN 9781872970680, 2020, p.56
[vii]M.King, “Moriori”, ISBN 0-670-82655-3, p.1989, p.66
[viii]M.Butler, “The Treaty Basic Facts”, ISBN 9781872970753, 2021, p.33
[ix]“After the skirmish at Rangiaohia, [sic] ... the slain were buried; the Maori wounded and prisoners kindly cared for, having tents pitched for their use." “One who was there”, “Brett’s Historical Series”, 1890
[x]F.Glen, “Australians at war in New Zealand”, ISBN 978-1-87742-739-8, 2011, pp144ff.
[xi]NZ Government, “New Zealand History”.
[xii]I do not wish to take lightly the deaths of any of these casualties of war. At Le Quesnoy on 5th November 1918, my father’s officer was killed before his eyes. A sergeant, he took command of his platoon and led it to its objective.
[xiii]Including 37 at Waikato Heads, 32 being on Freeman’s notorious “Treaty in English”, used for the overflow.
[xiv] Declining since to do so would “place him beneath the feet of a woman”,“though ... manifest[ing] no ill-will to the Government.” H.E.R.L.Wily, “Robert Maunsell LL.D. A New Zealand Pioneer”, 1938, p.69
[xv]M.Butler, “Billion dollar tribe’s slanted history”, “Breaking Views”, 6 July 2014.
[xvi]Amongst whom we nominate S.McMeeking, N.Korako, J.Hitchcock, P.Neilson & P. Day. See B.Moon, “New Zealand; the fair colony”, 2nd Ed, ISBN 978-0-473-53728-9, 2020, pp35ff.
[xvii]J.Robinson et al., “Twisting the Treaty”, 4th Ed., ISBN 1-872970-33-8, 2018, Appendix
[xviii]Waikato-Tainui Annual Report 2020
Bruce Moon is a retired computer pioneer who wrote "Real Treaty; False Treaty - The True Waitangi Story".