Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Clive Bibby: Tribalism in New Zealand - the good, the bad and the ugly

One might ask what qualifies me to comment about this most sensitive issue - particularly when you see the results for those who have done so in the current Woke environment that seeks to determine the parameters of free speech in this country. 

I don’t claim to be any braver than the average citizen but it does require a certain amount of courage if you decide that some subjects are unavoidable when debating the issues that affect us all and choose to include them in the conversation. 

After all, it is a simple fact that we are all descendants of one of the original tribes ( if you follow the Old Testament narrative of Cain and Abel.) Whatever you believe about the origin of the human species, archeological discoveries confirm that the earliest humans existed in tribal communities mainly as a matter of survival. Some of them like those who live deep in the Amazon jungle have advanced little since that time compared to others who are part of industrialised nations around the world. They appear to like it that way and, given the fractured nature of living in what most describe as modern society, who is to say they are wrong for making the choice to remain as they have always been.

But here in New Zealand it has become a tabu subject especially if it involves questioning the mythical primacy of earlier tribal influence for good or bad. 

And without a discussion based on the truth, we are condoning the teaching of future generations a lie about our ancestral beginnings. 

That means we are knowingly sabotaging any hope of a shared future based on the truth, warts and all. 

If we continue along this dangerous path, the inevitable consequences will be a divided nation operating on a false narrative where a minority dictates what happens to the rest of us. 

Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly obvious that this lie is the basis of a deliberate strategy that is designed to return this country to one where tribal warfare determines who “lives and who dies.”

You could also ask, what is the evidence that this is so. 

My own family history mainly in Central Hawkes Bay but latterly here in Tairawhiti on the East Coast allows me to follow the tribal communities who have lived in this part of the country since Tangata Whenua first settled the area. 

Like most of New Zealand during the years prior to the signing of the Treaty in 1840, at a time that included what has become known as the Musket Wars, Maoridom suffered terribly under the tribal authority where might is right and survival was the main reward for the victors of these inter-tribal battles. 

Ironically, that significant fact doesn’t seem to matter to the Courts when disputes about land ownership are being prosecuted - yet, apart from the early colonial governments, the only tribes who are deemed to have obtained ownership illegally are those Pakeha colonialists who gained control without firing a shot. 

Their sin appears to be that they didn’t pay enough for the land they purchased. 

Many would say it was stolen in exchange for a few beads and blankets. In some cases that may have been true but often the person selling the land was non other than the paramount chief of the local tribe. In that context it could be said that the sale process was one involving a willing buyer and a willing seller. The sale of the Waipukurau purchase to MacLean operating on behalf of the Crown is a classic example of those sorts of transactions. Yet some of the land included in that deal was not Hapuku’s to sell although he was happy to dispossess some of his own people in the process simply for personal gain. I have family friends who were affected in this way. They are still trying to gain recognition for this real injustice. Unlike some other Kahungunu tribal affiliated families their hapu may never get adequate compensation for their loss. 

And it hurts. 

However the history of land ownership in this country shows clearly that much of what is now considered customary title was originally obtained as a result of conquest. Powerful waring tribes from the north would systematically invade more passive settlements in the South of the North Island and on the Chatham Islands to the East, subjecting those who didn’t flee to cannibalism, rape and slavery. Consequently, as a result, many areas currently deemed to be traditional Maori lands have a history of being obtained in a similar manner to those who settled in England after the Norman Conquest. 

Nether should be seen as anything other than property obtained by force - exactly the same as the illegal invasion of Ukraine. 

Of course, these simple but embarrassing facts about our history are conveniently overlooked by the Waitangi Tribunal who are charged with only looking at cases that involve land confiscated by the Crown, mostly during the late 19th century as a result of the Land Wars of that period.
So why do we turn a blind eye to the modern day promoters of this distorted text with its glaring omissions? 

Here is my view of why it happens this way. 

Having, over a lifetime observing the way modern tribes operate in this part of the world, I am led to believe that the current distortion of our history is being given legitimacy simply because it suits Maoridom in its battle for self determination - some would say control of their own destiny.
In fact, the very basis for our programme of reconciliation and compensation Is designed with tribal history as part of the justification of future state funded settlements. But the history being used in these claims against the Crown is a selective version of what actually happened. 

You don’t have to be a gifted observer to understand why the settlement process includes “top ups” based on relativity that will continue until the last big claim is settled. 

We shouldn’t be surprised then if Nga Puhi drag the chain with their claim which l suspect could have been settled long ago. 

The old adage that you shouldn’t ignore a gift horse when looking it in the mouth is apt in this context and my guess is that most tribes in the country hope that this wroughting of the system is not exposed for what it is. 

In fact, already as a result of the Settlement process, Maoridom is well placed - arguably at least as well placed as they might have been had they not been subjected to the genocide of earlier years - to use the proceeds of these negotiations to benefit their own people in a manner never envisaged before pakeha introduced the benefits of colonialism as well as the bad. 

It is estimated that the current value of the asset based Maori economy is in excess of 70 billion dollars. 

No wonder, they are reluctant to stop the momentum when they are on to a good thing. Why wouldn’t they? 

The modern Rangitira have demonstrated an astute ability to paddle their own canoe. 

It is also pleasing to note that most current Maori leadership have shown a capability to use these recently acquired financial resources to make a difference for their people. 

Good on them! 

Many are proving that point on a daily basis so why are we continuing with this race based preferential treatment when few (including most of the Maori tribes) think it is still necessary and actually is an impediment to successful race relations of the future. 

The answer to that question is obvious. 

We can do better.

Clive Bibby is a commentator, consultant, farmer and community leader, who lives in Tolaga Bay.


Robert Arthur said...

Sundry tribes devoured occupiers and otherwise displaced all predecessors in the area except for any directly or indirectly enslaved, or any who managed to remain concealed (as in the swamps of the Horowhenua). Yet today in most areas several of the waves of occupant tribes and not just the last are granted mana whenua status. Thus on the basis that in 1750 or whenever a few hundred transiently eked out a stone age existence in a basically unmodified landscape, their descendant trace maori representatives are today consulted or entrusted by Councils and govt on a myriad aspects affecting life in populated, industrialised, post stone age, modern NZ. Absurdly, these (paid) reps hugely influence and determine conditions for the great majority colonist descended others. No directly equivalent or directly balancing consultation with non maori majority is provided for, despite it being the colonists and descendants who made present day civilised NZ.

Anonymous said...

You are indeed braver than the average citizen Clive. I congratulate you as I completely agree with what you write.
Basically, I think our miscommunications are based on this country's physical detachment from the northern hemisphere and Māori's detachment from the rest of humanity for such a long period.
Much of the rest of humanity had been moving across the Eurasian land mass for millennia, sometimes amicably and often not. The idea of ownership of a piece of land was a matter of who could hold and defend it - exactly as Maori were doing in these islands.

Was it because these islands are discrete, that the residents of the 1800s were assumed by the visiting Europeans to be 'legitimate' owners (there was no law) of the whole land mass? Why assume approximately 100.000 people were the owners of all of 103.000 square miles? It does not seem reasonable to me.
And when we talk about ownership, the European travellers (not invaders) had ownership of so much that the isolated Maori were desperate to possess - the food, clothing, tools, melody, writing, GUNS!

My ancestors came to Otago for the gold (which Maori did not value) and did acquire land, I know not how, but I feel no guilt. They were not usurping others' livelihoods (as theirs had been in the clearances).
Despite the well-established incidents of land 'theft' which have been acknowledged, I do not think Maori have been badly done by at all. This is a situation of our own making, wringing our hands with 'white guilt'. Maori were a warlike vengeful people who had no compunction at all in taking the land and the lives of others. They are now inextricably entwined with Pakeha. I wish we could elect a government which could get a grip on reality.

Basil Walker said...

Ngai Tahu who claimed basically the whole South Island of NZ were a warring tribe from Hawkes Bay. To claim ancestoral rights in the South Island and be paid for it from government with an apology and a recent multi million dollar top up is just ridiculous .

Empathic said...

The term 'tangata whenua' (used in this article) is a manipulative contrivance. Maori are tangata of the Pacific Island whenua whence they travelled. Their culture and language had not changed enough to prevent Captain Cook's interpreter from another Pacific region, who had never been to NZ, from communicating easily with Maori. Europeans born here are also tangata whenua even if it could be argued that status is somewhat less based on the length of time their ancestors have been here.

The term 'mana whenua' (not used in this article) is even less valid, implying that Maori relationship with and status regarding the land is exclusive to Maori and cannot be accorded to Europeans. In fact, many Europeans develop a sense of connection with the land they occupy as deep as any Maori did. The frequent displacement and sometimes annihilation of tribes through bloody conquest by other tribes is inconsistent with any notion of mana whenua.

Clive Bibby said...

You are right to make the distinction .
However, my use of the term “ Tangata Whenua” was in the context of my understanding that it referred to “ first people of the land”. In other words the tribal conquests of territory meant that occupation was a result of those conquests but the only people who could claim tangata whenua status were the first people to settle the land ie. the first to settle unoccupied territory
Those that followed didn’t inherit the title.