Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Clashing Cultures - Abel Tasman's Bloody First Encounter with Māori

The first encounter between Māori and Pākehā was characterised by what can only be described as mutual incomprehension. Neither party had any prior awareness of the other. They had no means of communicating with one another and no understanding of each other’s cultural values. Like so many other first contacts in the Pacific, the result was deadly, in this case especially so for the Europeans.

Whereas in the sixteenth century it was the Spanish who dominated exploration of the Pacific, in the 1600s it was the Dutch, who had established a base in Batavia (modern-day Jakarta). It was from there that Abel Tasman led the two ships Zeehaen and the Heemskerck on a voyage of discovery in 1642. After charting the coast of what is today known as Tasmania (initially named Van Diemen's Land), Tasman sailed on to the east, into unknown waters, until on 13 December 1642 he sighted a ‘large, high-lying island’. The Dutch had reached the west coast of the South Island. They sailed up the coast and anchored in Golden Bay on the morning of 18 December.

Tasman and his men had already seen fires lit along the coastline. But that evening two large waka (canoes) came out to take a closer look at the newcomers. They issued a ritual challenge to the strangers, blowing on a shell trumpet. Tasman, thinking this was some kind of musical tribute or call of welcome, ordered his men to play some tunes in response.

The next morning a single waka with 13 men on board again approached the two ships. The men on board called out to Tasman and his crew, probably warning them to leave the district. But the Dutch were unable to understand a word of what was said to them.

Tasman called the officers of the two ships together, and, fatally misreading the situation, decided to push on with plans to head towards the shores. He recorded that the people of Golden Bay ‘apparently sought our friendship’.

Isaac Gilsemans, A View of the Murderers' Bay, 1642, PUBL-0086-021, ATL

But the local iwi, Ngāti Tumatakokiri, were actually preparing to kill the intruders and seven waka set out from shore for these purposes, one of them paddling furiously in the direction of a small boat returning to the Heemskerck from the Zeehaen after the meeting of Tasman’s officers. Four of the Dutch were killed in this exchange and Tasman’s crew opened fire, killing at least one man in retaliation.

Tasman had finally got the message that they were unwelcome, naming the spot Murderers Bay and setting sail for the north. Their only further encounter with Māori was on Three Kings Island, off the very north of the North Island. Here the Dutch eventually abandoned an attempt to secure supplies of drinking water in the face of threats from men brandishing clubs and spears.

Clearly the Dutch had been spooked by their encounters with Māori and their descriptions of Māori as a fierce and formidable people probably went some way to explaining why there was no further contact with the outside world for the next 127 years.

From the Māori perspective, the Dutch, with their massive sailing vessels, strange clothes, absence of women and unfamiliar complexion, were clearly not like any normal invader. It seems quite likely that they were regarded as supernatural, and probably malignant, spirits, who had to be warded off in order to avoid dire consequences for the local community. As discussed in The Meeting Place: Māori and Pākehā Encounters, 1642-1840, there is also some archaeological evidence to suggest that local Māori might have been seeking to protect an important area for the cultivation of crops and especially kūmara (sweet potato). 

Either way, it was not an auspicious beginning to Māori and European encounters. The Dutch had arrived clutching a guide to Solomon Islands vocabulary. If (like some later travellers) they had come armed with a basic understanding of a language closely related to Māori such as Tahitian (or even, as with James Cook's first expedition to New Zealand in 1769, an actual Society Islander - in that case the high priest Tupaia) then the chances of avoiding conflict might have increased. Even then, however, there was no guarantee: Tupaia was unable to prevent further bloody clashes during the Endeavour's voyage around New Zealand.   

Monday, 22 June 2015

Māori Musicians

I came across this rather striking image of a group of unidentified Māori musicians in the most recent Turnbull Library Record. According to the Turnbull Library's accession information not only are the musicians unidentified, but so is the photographer, while the date is also unknown. My best guess for the latter would be late 1940s/early 1950s. There must be people who recognise the musicians, perhaps their descendants. It would be great to learn their identities. 

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.