Friday, 22 May 2015

A Whanganui Māori Meeting with the British Royal Family

Following Prince Harry’s recent visit to the Whanganui region, where he met with local iwi representatives (and impressed Tariana Turia), much older connections between local Māori and the British royal family are worth remembering.

In my recently-published book Haerenga: Early Māori Journeys Across the Globe I tell the story of Whanganui chief Hoani Wiremu Hipango, known to many Europeans as John Williams.

In 1855 Hipango accompanied the Whanganui-based missionary Richard Taylor on a journey to England. During the course of his stay, the young Whanganui leader and Taylor met with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Buckingham Palace.

Hoani Wiremu Hipango (right), with Richard Taylor (seated) and his son Basil, PAColl-5185, ATL

Hipango presented the Queen with a prized pounamu weapon, a large cloak made of kiwi feathers, and other items. Victoria took a great interest in the gifts and assured Hipango that she had the welfare of the Māori people in her heart.

He became just the second Māori after Tamihana Te Rauparaha of Ngāti Toa known to have met with Queen Victoria. However, it was said that the Queen was so plainly dressed that he did not realise it was her, later scolding Taylor for failing to tell him.

Hipango was killed in battle in February 1865 leading an attack on a Pai Marire pā at Ohoutahi. Two years later his son, Hori Kingi Hipango, also travelled to England, where he spent the next four years, before dying there in 1871.

The stories of Hoani Hipango and his son are just two of many told in my book, published by Bridget Williams Books, as part of its popular Texts series.  The book explores the history of Māori travel from the late eighteenth century through to the early twentieth century.

Hipango and his son reflected an almost insatiable Māori appetite to travel and explore the world, although many of these stories of voyaging are today little known beyond the immediate descendants of those involved.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

'Recording the Incident with a Monument': The Waikato War in Historical Memory

As I have been researching the Waikato War one topic that I have devoted considerable attention to is the question of how the war has been remembered or forgotten historically. This was the main focus of my J D Stout lecture in 2014, as well as various other public talks and presentations.

I have now made my first published foray into the field of memory studies with a paper on the same topic. It is published in a special issue of the Journal of New Zealand Studies 'James Cowan and the Legacies of Late Colonial Culture in Aotearoa New Zealand', edited by Annabel Cooper and Ariana Tikao.

This paper charts changing perceptions of the Waikato War in national memory and consciousness. The recent sesquicentenary passed by most New Zealanders largely unnoticed. Historical memories of the war that once (in part thanks to James Cowan) fed into larger nation-building narratives cut across them today. A century ago it was possible for Pākehā to believe that the Waikato War had given birth to fifty years of peace and that mutual respect forged in battle had provided the basis for “race relations” of unparalleled harmony. By the 1970s such a notion could no longer be sustained, leaving a kind of uncomfortable silence about one of the decisive events in New Zealand history.

The Journal of New Zealand Studies is an open access publication, committed to making research freely available to the wider community. Here is a link to the full text of my own paper.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Haerenga - Early Māori Journeys Across the Globe

My new history of early Māori travel has been released today as part of the BWB Texts series. Here is some information on it from the publisher's press release:

Acclaimed historian Vincent O’Malley has written the latest addition to Bridget Williams Books’ Texts series, Haerenga: Early Māori Journeys Across the Globe.

O’Malley’s book tells the stories of early Māori voyagers who, from the eighteenth century on, left New Zealand to travel overseas in search of adventure, commercial opportunities and political recognition.

‘Europeans began to visit New Zealand from 1642 and in earnest after 1769,’ says O’Malley, commenting that while this fact is generally well known, what is less well known is that many Māori took advantage of these new links with the rest of the world to join European ships and make their own voyages of discovery. According to O’Malley, ‘an almost insatiable appetite to travel, explore and discover the rest of the world was unleashed, and over the coming centuries, Māori travelled to Australia, to Europe, and many destinations between them.’

‘I wanted to cast fresh light on an absorbing aspect of early New Zealand history,’ says O’Malley, pointing out that it is not widely known that the first New Zealander to sight Antarctica was the Māori sailor Tuati, in 1840.

In Haerenga, O’Malley collects for the first time the stories of Tuati and other Māori travellers in an accessible short work that will engage both general and specialist readers.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Remembering the New Zealand Wars

Over the past week or so I have appeared in print and on TV to argue the case for greater recognition of the New Zealand Wars. Last Sunday I did a live interview on the Q+A programme. Here is the link to the full interview. Here is the story that ran on the TVNZ website ('Let's Not Be Selective About the History We Remember'). And here is the online version of the opinion piece ('Historical Amnesia over New Zealand's Own Wars') that was published in the Dominion Post and the Press a few days later. Bryce Edwards also referred to these in his Political Roundup for the New Zealand Herald ('Anzac Fatigue and Dissent').

My comments generated quite a bit of debate and discussion. It is great to see a conversation happening about these issues. One point I wanted to pick up on was the suggestion that I should have raised these concerns earlier. In fact, I did so, expressing reservations about the impending Waikato War sesquicentennary nearly two years ago. See 'Waikato - The Forgotten War Anniversary'.

Meremere Pā

That was followed up with multiple public talks and lectures where I also addressed this topic. See 'The Historiography of Orakau', my talk at the National Library in March 2014. Also 'Commemorating: History and Anniversaries', a symposium held in Palmerston North in May 2014. And then there was my J D Stout Lecture in September 2014, besides my book, Beyond the Imperial Frontier: The Contest for Colonial New Zealand published by Bridget Williams Books in the same month.

Others have also addressed these issues. For recent contributions to the debate, see Morgan Godfery's 'Why Do We Ignore the New Zealand Wars?' and Scott Hamilton's 'From Gallipoli to Drury'.

Alison McCulloch has also considered these matters more than once. See 'Lest We Remember' along with 'Journalism, History and Forgetting' and her interview with Kim Hill from April 2014.

Meanwhile, iwi have been raising the same issues for years. See, for example, Tom Roa's comments here.  

In summary, the need to give greater recognition to the New Zealand Wars is a matter that has been raised many times, by many different people, and over many years (much earlier Māori concerns on how the Waikato War was remembered is the focus of a forthcoming article of mine). And it seems to me a no-brainer that we should protect and promote sites of major historical significance scattered across our land. As I noted in my Q+A interview some of these are not even sign-posted. We can and should do better than that as a nation.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Touring the Waikato War - A Photo Essay (Part Two)

In my previous post I discussed the first part of a recent journey around sites associated with the Waikato War, ending with Rangiriri. For the most part it is possible to track these sites from a northern to southern direction, with the first part of the war progressing from the Queen's Redoubt at Pokeno in July 1863, south to Rangiriri by November of that same year.

One site that does not quite fit this pattern is Pukekohe East Church, the scene of a significant engagement on 14 September 1863. It is some distance north of the Queen's Redoubt launching post for the invasion, indicating just how little progress the British made in the early part of the war.

A war party consisting of Ngāti Maniapoto and other iwi attacked local militia holed up in the church but came off badly, suffering as many as forty killed. In 1929 the government erected a memorial boulder to those who died.

Other memorial plaques, including one to those defending the church, were stolen in 2006.

After the Rangiriri conflict in November there seemed every prospect for peace. Governor George Grey demanded that British troops must be allowed to enter the Māori King's residence at Ngāruawāhia unimpeded before talks could take place. Early in December Cameron's men occupied the deserted settlement but Grey never came to talk peace.

Ngāruawāhia itself was strategically located at the junction of the Waikato and Waipā rivers, and its occupation allowed the British to push on further south.

By late January 1864, the British had advanced as far south as Pāterangi, where a formidable chain of defensive pā lay before them. After some weeks General Cameron concluded that a direct assault on these was too risky, instead deciding on a daring evening march around the defensive line. After setting off at around 11pm on the evening of 20 February 1864, the British forces reached the largely deserted settlement of Te Awamutu at about dawn the following morning. St John's Church, completed in the early 1850s, was the centre of John Morgan's mission station.


A number of Māori and British killed in nearby battles are buried in the adjacent cemetery, which includes a number of memorials to them.

A monument to Māori was initially commissioned by the government in the mistaken belief that those buried there were 'loyalists' or kūpapa. Although it was discovered in 1914 that they were actually Kīngitanga fighters killed in battle with the British, the government nevertheless went ahead with the memorial, which was unveiled in 1914.

Almost immediately after entering Te Awamutu, Cameron's men pushed on to Rangiaowhia, which was attacked early on a Sunday morning. The village was considered a place of refuge for women, children and the elderly. There were few defenders and a number of people were killed inside a whare that was probably deliberately torched by British troops, with one elderly man shot as he attempted to flee the burning hut. These events were remembered with great bitterness and pain many years later. Today, a Catholic cemetery and (some 200 metres up the road) St Paul's Anglican Church are all that remain of the original, flourishing settlement.

Upon hearing of the attack on Rangiaowhia, Kīngitanga men defending the Pāterangi line rushed back to aid their kin but were themselves attacked at the site of a partially constructed pā at Hairini on 22 February 1864, suffering further heavy losses.

On 23 February 1864 British troops entered and looted the deserted settlement of Kihikihi - the home of Rewi Maniapoto. In the early 1880s the government built a new cottage for Rewi in Kihikihi as an inducement for him to leave the King Country. Later a memorial to Rewi was constructed on the site, and he was buried there when he died in 1894.

Just five kilometres or so from Kihikihi, on Arapuni Road, is Ōrākau, site of what used to be called 'Rewi's Last Stand'. It was here that large numbers of Māori (as many as 160) were killed, most as they fled for their lives on the final day of the three-day siege.

It was said that the road was later run deliberately through the centre of the pā (although recent archaeological investigations by Heritage New Zealand have cast some doubt on its precise location).

In 1914 a crowd of nearly 5000 people, most of them Pākehā, gathered at Ōrākau for the unveiling of a memorial. They celebrated Ōrākau as marking 'fifty years of peace' and the birth of 'the greatest race relations in the world'.

Understandably, few Māori joined in their 'celebrations'. However, as Paul Diamond explains in this post, the sesquicentenary gathering in 2014 was of an altogether different nature.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Touring the Waikato War - A Photo Essay (Part One)

Over Waitangi weekend I spent four days touring sites associated with the Waikato War as part of research for my future book on the conflict. As I had only previously visited a handful of these sites before, the journey was important in helping me to develop a better understanding of the war. There is nothing quite like seeing with your own eyes. And some stops were completely unscheduled, like this street sign in Hamilton.

Preparation is important for a trip like this: many of the key Waikato War sites are poorly signposted and finding them is not always easy. I took with me three guides. One was an excellent free guide written by Neville Ritchie for the Department of Conservation. Another was David Green's Battlefields of the New Zealand Wars: A Visitor's Guide (Penguin, 2010). And the third was the Heritage New Zealand app developed specifically as a touring guide to the Waikato War.

Each included suggested itineraries. I chose to start (or rather end) my journey at a place none of the guides included. St James Anglican Church at Mangere Bridge was once the centre of a flourishing Tainui settlement in South Auckland. The church itself was built under the direction of Tamati Ngāpora, a lay preacher in the settlement and uncle of the second Māori king, Tāwhiao.


When all Māori living north of the Mangatāwhiri River were forcibly evicted from their homes just days before the British invasion of Waikato in July 1863, Tamati Ngāpora and hundreds of others were forced to abandon their homes and settlements, making their way south to join their kin in the Waikato.

Queen's Redoubt at Pokeno was base camp for the British invasion, situated as it was just a short distance north of the Mangatāwhiri River.

Although many of the original earth works have been destroyed, a Queen's Redoubt Trust established by volunteers has plans to restore the site.

At Mercer a gun turret from the river gunboat Pioneer serves as a local war memorial - but to those who fell in War World One and not the Waikato War.

At Whangamarino Redoubt one begins to get some idea as to the immense artillery power that was available to the British forces. It was from here in October 1863 that the British fired two 40-pounder Armstrong guns on the Kīngitanga defensive pā at Meremere, some two kilometres to the south (just above the large decommissioned Meremere Power Station in the photo below).

Here's the view from Meremere, looking north to Whangamarino. Note the proximity of the site to the Waikato River.

The Meremere site had been specially selected with a view to impeding British progress up the Waikato River. But a huge effort had gone into its construction, and the pā was eventually abandoned, being occupied by British forces on 1 November 1863.

What one newspaper at the time described as General Cameron's 'bloodless victory' at Meremere enabled steamers to push further up the river. Kīngitanga defenders consolidated their position at Rangiriri, where one of the most deadly and decisive conflicts of the war took place on 20-21 November 1863. Both the British and Māori suffered large losses, and more than 180 Kīngitanga defenders were captured and taken prisoner under controversial circumstances.

Today, the Rangiriri site includes a beautiful Tohu Maumahara, a memorial to all those who fell at Rangiriri, first unveiled on the anniversary of the battle in 2012.

Two large pou whenua were officially unveiled on the 150th anniversary of the battle in 2013.

Information panels installed by Heritage New Zealand provide insight into precisely what took place in each part of the remaining pā, and serve as a poignant reminder of the many who died there.

That was reinforced by a visit to the nearby Māori War and Early Settlers Cemetery.

A large unmarked mound of earth in one corner of the cemetery is believed to be the grave site of a number of Māori killed in the Rangiriri conflict.

I wondered why it had remained unmarked after all these years.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

The Governor: New Zealand History on Screen

In 1977 the most ambitious historical drama for television produced in New Zealand screened on TV One. The Governor was a six-part series based on the life of Sir George Grey, the two-time governor and later premier of New Zealand in the nineteenth century. Written by Keith Aberdein, based on a concept devised by Michael Noonan, and directed by Tony Isaac, The Govenor set out to shatter myths about ‘Good Governor Grey’. The Grey played in this series by British actor Corin Redgrave was a duplicitious, scheming and untrustworthy figure, responsble for bringing untold misery on Māori with his unscrupulous actions. 

New Zealand was a land of just two television channels in the 1970s but even allowing for this The Governor attracted huge audiences. It seems to be a popular myth that the series was never repeated. In fact, its popularity was such that it was shown again in 1978 (in the midst, as Trisha Dunleavy notes, of the Bastion Point occupation and a growing Pākehā awareness of historical Māori injustices)[1]. But problems with securing consent to further repeat screenings means it has never been shown again and only some episodes are available in full on the NZ on Screen website (alongside a documentary about the making of The Governor that provides an illuminating snapshot of 1970s New Zealand).

Even before it screened The Governor attracted controversy. With a cast of over 500 actors and repeated production overruns, the total cost eventually blew out to nearly $1.4 million (around $9.4 million in 2015 currency, making it more than likely still the most expensive drama series in New Zealand television history). Prime Minister Robert Muldoon was highly critical of the overspend and a parliamentary inquiry was ordered. It has been suggested that his real concern was the race relations can of worms the series threatened to throw open. Additionally, Muldoon was continually at war with television bosses and may have seen this as another opportunity to go on the offensive. 

I remember watching the series as a ten-year old and realising that here was something really quite special, even if I was too young to fully grasp the narrative. For another New Zealand historian, the series had a more profound impact. James Belich later recalled in his documentary series on the New Zealand Wars that, while still a student, he had worked a holiday job on the set of The Governor, digging the trenches of a reconstructed Ruapekapeka pā, and all the while thinking to himself ‘What the hell is going on here? This doesn’t look like a Māori pā, this is more like a chunk of the Western Front’. It was through this incident that Belich became curious about the wars fought in New Zealand, going on to publish a ground-breaking work on the New Zealand Wars in 1986.

Today, as I write a history of the Waikato War, I am chiefly interested in The Governor for what it says about how that war has been remembered or forgotten historically. Fortunately, episode five, ‘The Lame Seagull’, which deals with the war, is one of those available in full on the NZ on Screen website. It depicts the Waikato War as an unsavoury land grab on Grey’s part, while lauding Māori bravery at Ōrākau. The battle scenes are impressive but there is a kind of inevitability about Māori defeat that today seems somewhat dated in the light of Belich’s subsequent work emphasising Māori military achievement. Even so, the epic scale of The Governor has never been repeated on New Zealand screens. It remains absorbing viewing.

Less well-known is that a novel of the same title was also released to coincide with the television series.  I picked up a battered second-hand copy at a book fair last year. It features a somewhat gaudy cover that seems to promise a romantic tale set during a time of war (‘Based on Television One’s Million Dollar Series’), and a back-page blurb that plays up Grey’s contradictory character (‘a Christian, Victorian gentleman, torn between honourable duty and the guilty pursuit of pleasure’). It begins, as many a New Zealand drama does, in a pub room, ending on Grey’s deathbed. I have yet to read what lies between.     

[1] See Trisha Dunleavy, '"Magnificent Failure" or Subversive Triumph? The Governor' in James E. Bennett and Rebecca Beirne (eds), Making Film and Television Histories: Australia and New Zealand, London: I.B. Tauris, 2012, pp.67-72.