Thursday, July 27, 2023

Wayne Ryburn: Article 3 - Exposing History Curriculum Myths

This is the third of a series of eight articles exposing some of the myths about New Zealand's History, now being taught to secondary school students. 

Article 1 can be seen HERE, Article 2 HERE.

The Level 5 workbook for Year 10 students on the "Treaty of Waitangi - Te Tiriti o Waitangi" was published and has been in use since 2014. The page numbers and headings in the text are referenced throughout the series of articles. 

Some aspects, especially on the Taranaki and Waikato wars, are also re-taught in greater depth in the History curriculum at Year 13.

The series of articles was written as a critique to the editor of ESA publications, Jo Crichton and the author of the text book, F J Gibson. This critique was sent in October last year - to date there has been no reply.


The 2nd Myth: That Maori invented trench warfare, and  differing viewpoints over Maori land ownership, by The NZ Company and the Crown.

Pg 24-25 The Wairau Incident 1843

The NZ Company believed it had purchased 50000 acres in the Wairau valley Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata thought otherwise. Captain Arthur Wakefield tried to clear the land of Maori and proceeded to arrest both chiefs for arson. In his attempt to do so a gun was accidently discharged. In the firing that followed about 22 settlers were killed along with 5 Maori including Te Rangihaeata's wife.

Governor Fitzroy failed to assert British authority over this issue. Maori had expected him to claim the district in compensation for the blood shed i.e. exact utu as this was Maori custom. By failing to do so led Te Raupraraha to form a very low opinion of the Governor. “He is soft, he is a pumpkin”. Settlers and the NZ Company never forgave Fitzroy for his lack of response to the killings at Wairau.

Other conflicts also developed with regards to the NZ Company’s purchases of land in Wellington 1841-42 which are not mentioned. These all relate to who was  nominally in possession of the land. After 1825, Ngati Toa under Te Rauparaha, with his allies Ngati Tama, Ngati Mutanga and Te Atiawa, came to dominate the Horowhenua and Manawatu, and all the way south to the Cook Strait. Lethal attacks were made on Rangitane and Ngaj Tahu in the upper South Island after 1827, by Ngati Toa. The confusing muddle of tribes in the Wellington region created  a problem when the New Zealand land Company began purchasing land in 1840-42,as to whom it belonged to and who was paid for it. It required much skill from Land Commissioner Spain to resolve land purchases.


Pg 29 The build up to the Northern Wars.

The Northern Wars 1844-45 came about from Hone Heke’s loss of “mana” once the government relocated to Auckland in 1841. Cutting down of the flag was an attack on British sovereignty, and a sign of defiance to that authority. The continued attack on the flagpole amounted to insurrection, as it could have led to further conflict elsewhere in NZ, and Fitzroy needed to take a stand.

Fitzroy had to clearly demonstrate that the government could bring force to bear to maintain order and uphold British law. Fitzroy also had come to realise in 1845, when watching a mock battle between 6000 warriors - led by Potatou Wherowhero and local Auckland tribes - that he had no manpower to enforce and maintain British law in the colony. The Northern War was as much a civil conflict between Ngapuhi chiefs - Hone Heke and Puki Kawiti versus Tamati Waka Nene, and his brother Patuone, Nene was  the leading chief during the signing of the Treaty. Several battles - eg Puketutu, 8 May 1845, 54 of the British troops and 80 Maori were killed, with Nene giving his assistance.

While being present with the British for the attack on Ohaewai Pa, Nene didn’t partake due to Despard’s reckless leadership. This saw 43 British troops killed plus 73 wounded. Previously to this at Te Ahuaki,June 2. Heke attacked Nene at Puketutu. Nene defeated Heke’s superior force, 300 vs 500 warriors, in an open battle.


Ruapekapeka Pa - built by Kawiti - was constantly shelled over a month. About 60 Maori were killed during this period, along with 12 British soldiers. Both Waka Nene and Puatone with 450 warriors  gave support to the British  in the assault on the pa. Eventually Kawiti evacuated the pa and consequently opposition melted away. Villages that had been loyal to Heke were destroyed near Waitangi in May 1845. The Northern Wars achieved little. However Maori could see what would follow by attacking British settlements, as at Russell. There was to be no retribution.

Heke and Kawiti negotiated peace and Governor Grey decided not to confiscate land on advice by Nene. Fitzroy earlier had been determined that confiscations would occur and the land given to chiefs loyal to the Crown. Grey however absolved all of any recriminations, which led Nene to remain a friend and ally of Grey.

A myth, developed by James Belich, that the lack of British success at both Ohaewai and Ruapekepeka was due to the Maori invention of trench warfare. He would go on to say that this Maori invention was used in World War One. In 1998, military historian Ken Stead debunked this myth. The trenches in WW1 were a direct copy of seige trenches and fieldwork's used in Europe for centuries. Cliff Simmons explained later that trenches developed by Maori at Ohaewai Pa could be readily explained by Ngapuhi chiefs going to England in 1820-21. While visiting the military school at Chatham they would have gained information studying fortification's before acquiring weapons. This myth, that Maori invented trench warfare and was adapted for use in WW1,is explained in the video and seen by students, and was still being touted by TVNZ in November 2022.


Pg 30 The Kingitanga and Maori king movement.

The text comment that the NZ Company claimed that Maori had restricted land rights only to land they occupied with villages and gardens is quite inaccurate. The original view of the NZ Company was that Maori were sovereign so they owned and therefor could sell land to whom they liked leading to the company protesting against the Crown’s right of pre-emption which followed in 1840. The concept of pre- emption meant that the British government acquired all title to land in New Zealand whereby aboriginal title had been extinguished with the transfer of sovereignty, this also included all navigable rivers and the foreshore.

The British Government intervention in creating a NZ colony was due to actions by the NZ Company in its land purchases in 1839. Much of the South Island was also eagerly being sought after by New South Wales landowners such as Charles Wentworth. All previous land sales had to be confirmed by the Crown, which it did between 1840-1843.

An attempt was made for the Crown to assume control over wasteland - that is, land uncultivated by Maori - with the premise that there were no “native rights”  to undeveloped land. This concept had taken hold in North America and Australia, and elsewhere.

This idea was mooted in the House of Lords inquiry into New Zealand, but dropped at the insistence of humanitarians and missionaries alike. Much debate took place over what was Native title.

Busby argued that the first clause in the 2nd Article confirmed natives as owners of the land - in its fullest and extensively (he had, after all, put this clause into the Treaty). Much debate ensued in the British parliament for over 3 days. The Missionary society petitioned the House of Lords that the treaty guaranteed full and undisputed possession of land unless sold by Maori.

Grey reasserted the Crown’s rights of preemption when becoming Governor in 1845. He met opposition to this as many settlers maintained that the 3rd Article gave the Natives the same rights as British subjects which meant they could dispose of their land as they saw fit.

Grey, during his time, made many large scale purchases of land. But this process had become bogged down in the late 1850s under Governor Brown due to difficulties in identifying a discrete group of  claimants. Various groups would complain they either had not been consulted, or else their claim not recognised, nor paid for.

Grey opposed the attempt with regards to “wastelands” being acquired directly by the Crown. Missionaries such as  Bishop Selwyn and notable colonists also protested. Maori became aware of the attempt to introduce this policy and like-wise protested. Grey even ensured that Kemp’s purchase from Ngai Tahu was correctly acquired by the Crown.

Between 1846-1853 32.6 million acres were purchased, and native title was finally defined by this activity.

Maori Native Customary Title changed to Native Title which later lead to the Land Court established in 1862. Previously Maori land rights were based on ancestry by right of conquest, gifting and exercised through occupation. Tribal boundaries were often blurred and there were often areas of “no man’s land” between tribal occupied land.

Wayne Ryburn, an Auckland University graduate, with a thesis on the history of the Kaipara, “Tall Spars, Steamers and Gum”, has been a social science teacher for nearly 50  years. 


Robert Arthur said...

I hope this series is being widely dsistributed to MPs, the Min of Ed, Teaching Council, Principals. For many mps the reponse will likely be the most comprehensive history of NZ they have read. And for maori mps the only objective one. Unfortuantely most like me will not have the textbook to hand.

Erica said...

Thank you for pointing out these serious errors in the history curriculum . Without rigorous research like this we wouldn't have a clue. What will future histories say looking back on this era of turning history into a study in brainwashing into cancel culture ?

Empathic said...

Thanks for these authoritative accounts of history. It would be helpful to have more references and clarity regarding how this history is contradicted by what is in NZ school curriculum.