Monday, 14 April 2014

A Statutory Pardon for Kereopa Te Rau

Although it received surprisingly little media coverage, when the Ngati Rangiwewehi Claims Settlement Bill passed its third reading in Parliament last week, among its provisions was a statutory pardon for the Ngati Rangiwewehi rangatira Kereopa Te Rau for his involvement in the killing of Reverend Carl Sylvius Volkner at Opotiki in March 1865.

That outcome reflected the culmination of many years of hard work on the part of the Ngati Rangiwewehi negotiations team. I was also pleased to have played a part in achieving this result. Back in 2009 I was commissioned to write a report for Te Maru o Ngati Rangiwewehi on the impact of war and confiscation on the tribe. Although it was not specifically part of my brief, what I read concerning the circumstances surrounding Kereopa Te Rau's arrest, trial and eventual execution at Napier in January 1872 were sufficently alarming that I wrote a second report for Ngati Rangiwewehi on these matters in my own time.

In 2011 Professor David Williams of the University of Auckland Law School was commissioned by the Office of Treaty Settlements to provide an independent assessment as to whether the Crown had breached the Treaty of Waitangi and its principles in its treatment of Kereopa Te Rau. Professor Williams' resultant report confirmed many of the doubts I had earlier raised concerning his treatment, but from the perspective of a legal historian who was able to use common law principles as applied at the time as a further yardstick.

Among the most glaring of these concerns was the fact that many of those who testified against Kereopa were themselves (allegedly) implicated in Volkner's death, but had been granted immunity from prosecution in return for helping to secure a conviction. Although surely material in weighing up the evidence of such witnesses, it does not appear that the court was informed of these circumstances.

Kereopa Te Rau, 8 December 1871 (photographer: Samuel Carnell),  1/4-022207-G, ATL

Kereopa had wanted to call a number of witnesses for the defence, but the Crown refused to assist in bringing any of them to Napier for the trial. Consequently, no witnesses for the defence appeared.

There were a number of other issues with the trial and the Crown's subsequent refusal to exercise its royal perogative of mercy by commuting the capital sentence. I discuss many of these in summary form in a 2011 article: 'Frontier Justice? The Trial and Execution of Kereopa Te Rau', Journal of the Polynesian Society, 120 (2), 2011, pp. 183-191.

Meanwhile, one thing that seems clear is that the circumstances surrounding Volkner's death remain surrounded by a great of mystery, especially now that earlier assumptions that Kereopa had been the prime instigator have come under close scrutiny.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Commemorating: History and Anniversaries

Here is the programme for a one-day conference to be held at Massey University, Palmerston North campus, on 16 May 2014.





9.15 - 9.30 amWelcome korero and housekeepingKerry Taylor
9.30 - 10.45 amAnniversaries and commemorations:
concepts and contexts
Jock Phillips, Ministry for Culture and Heritage
Rituals of Remembrance: How people commemorated past events throws light on why they remembered and what they chose to remember
Margaret Tennant, Independent scholar
Foundation stories and debateable dates: organisations and origins
Chair: Bronwyn Dalley
10.45 - 11.00 amBreak
11.00 - 12.30 pmWar anniversaries Damien Fenton, Massey University
'The Battle for Australia Day: a triumph of myth over history'
Vince O’Malley, HistoryWorks
‘Remembering (and forgetting) the Waikato War’
Puawai Cairns, Te Papa (Ngāti Pūkenga, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāiterangi)
‘The cultural memory of conflict with a focus on the Gallipoli Campaign’
Chair: Ewan Morris
12.30 - 2.00 pmLunchAnniversary films – arranged by Marguerite Hill, PHANZA
2.00 - 3.30 pmAnniversary productsMichael Belgrave, Massey University
‘Whose birthday is it?’: locating the historian in the anniversary history
Bronwyn Labrum, Massey University
‘Celebrating the female past: from women's exhibitions to the exhibition of women’
Amy Hobbs and Te Kenehi Teira, Historic Places Trust: ‘Nga Pae Maumahara’This concept of commemoration is centred around the New Zealand calendar of events and how communities mark events to achieve other outcomes. Maori communities often run to various kaupapa and calendars; the New Zealand Wars commemorations are featured here.
Chair: Fiona McKergow
3.30 - 3.45 pmBreak
3.45 - 5.00 pmMaking commemorative activities Peter Clayworth and Marie Russell, Labour History Project, Joan McCracken, Alexander Turnbull Library
‘Commemorating civil conflict: the centenary of the 1913 Great Strike’
Chair: Kerry Taylor
5.00 - 5.30 pmDrink and cheese
5.30 - 6.30 pmCommemorative storiesJack Perkins, Radio New Zealand
‘Commemorating by sound and spoken word – the radio experience’
Chair and wrap: Margaret Tennant

Visit the website for details as to registration.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Borderland Exhibition Events at the National Library

Events associated with the Borderland Exhibition


Ōrākau, from a tāngata whenua perspective.  Monday 24 March. 12.15pm - 1.00pm

Ōrākau, as told by Ngāti-Maniapoto Kuia Rovina Maniapoto, gathered from the manuscripts written by her elders and related in their kōrero of the past.

The venue for this free lunchtime talk is the Tiakiwai Conference Centre, lower ground floor of the National Library building, cnr of Molesworth & Aitken Streets, Wellington. 

There is an entrance from Aitken Street, or, down the marble staircase from the Ground Floor foyer.


Ōrākau Paewai and other NZ war sites.  Tuesday 25 March. 12.15pm - 1.00pm

Te Kenehi Teira speaks about the registration of the Ōrākau Paewai wāhi tapu area, and what was involved to get the site of this famous battle analysed and researched. He will also talk about the wider context of the work that the New Zealand Historic Places Trust is undertaking, in relation to sites from the New Zealand Wars.

The venue for this free lunch time event is Te Ahumairangi, ground floor of the National Library building, cnr of Molesworth & Aitken Streets, Wellington


The historiography of Ōrākau.  Wednesday 26 March.  12.15pm - 1.00pm

Historian Vincent O’Malley speaks about Ōrākau, and how it has been remembered (or forgotten) historically. He will discuss historical coverage of the 50th and 100th year commemorations in 1914 and 1964.

The venue for this free event is the Douglas Lilburn Room, level 1 of the National Library building, cnr of Molesworth & Aitken Streets, Wellington.  Food is not permitted in this venue.


Our mutual waiata interests.  Monday 7 April 12.15pm - 1.00pm

Melissa Cross discusses the lives of James Cowan and composer Alfred Hill, and how their lives intersected on the theme of Māori music. Melissa is a Masters student at the New Zealand School of Music, at Victoria University.

The venue for this free lunch time event is Te Ahumairangi, ground floor of the National Library building, cnr of Molesworth & Aitken Streets, Wellington


Lyrical Legacy - Shanties, waiata and poetry.  Friday 11 April  Midday - 1pm

Ariana Tikao, curator of Borderland, will sing some waiata from the Cowan papers; Dr Michael Brown will talk about, and perform some sea shanties (with audience participation) from Cowan's writings; and Keith Thorsen will read poetry related to Cowan and the region where they both grew up.

The venue for this free lunch time event is Te Ahumairangi, ground floor of the National Library building, cnr of Molesworth & Aitken Streets, Wellington


The Plutarch of Maoriland.  Wednesday 16 April 12.15pm - 1.00pm

Roger Blackley discusses James Cowan's friendship with the painter Charles F. Goldie and his writing on the Maori portraits of Gottfried Lindauer. Roger teaches colonial and nineteenth-century art history at Victoria University of Wellington.

The venue for this free lunch time event is Te Ahumairangi, ground floor of the National Library building, cnr of Molesworth & Aitken Streets, Wellington


Contact to register your interest for any of these events


Saturday, 8 March 2014

The Women's Suffrage Petition of 1893

It is International Women's Day today. So what better time to discover that one of your own ancestors was a suffragette? Searching the database of the 1893 suffrage petition on the NZ History website, I came across Fanny M. Hannan of Seaward Bush, near Invercargill. Fanny is my great-grandmother. She was one of more than 25,000 signatories to the petition, which, when stitched together, was more than 270 metres in length.

First page of the 1893 Suffrage Petition,
After a long struggle, the suffragettes finally achieved their goal, when on 19 September 1893 a new Electoral Act was signed into law, making New Zealand the first country in the world where women gained the right to vote.

As for Fanny, she lived long enough to see the First Labour Government come to power in 1935, passing away in 1941, as New Zealand fought the Second World War. And it seems Fanny was not the only member of her family to sign the petition in 1893. Fanny's maiden name was Lawrence, and the signature immediately beneath hers is that of Mary Lawrence. I am guessing this was probably an unmarried sister. Time to do some some more family history research.

You can search for your own ancestors on the suffrage petition database here.

[Since first posting the above, a lively and fascinating discussion on Twitter has confirmed that I should have used the term 'suffragist' rather than 'suffragette'. In the interests of historical authenticity, I decided to allow the original wording to stand. Regardless of the correct terminology, it is nice to have an ancestor who stood on the right side of history.]

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Historiography of Orakau


  • Date: 26 March, 2014
  • Time: 12.15pm – 1.00pm
  • Cost: Free
  • Location: Douglas Lilburn Room, level 1, National Library building, corner Molesworth and Aitken Streets
  • Contact Details: Space is limited, so email to save a spot.
Historian Vincent O’Malley speaks about Ōrākau, and how it has been remembered (or forgotten) historically. He will discuss historical coverage of the 50th and 100th year commemorations in 1914 and 1964.
Part of Borderland: The World of James Cowan, on at the Turnbull Gallery
Lithograph showing Rewi defying the British troops at Ōrākau, standing with his hand high in the air."Ake! Ake! Ake!" Rewi defying the British troops at Orakau, 1893. Ref: C-033-004.

Stout Research Centre Wellington Seminar Series 2014


26 March                Kevin Lavery - Chief Executive, Wellington City Council

                                   My Vision for Wellington

Hunter Building, Lecture Theatre 119

2 April                     Marc Wilson - School of Psychology, Victoria University

“City of flower-pots, canyon streets and trams, O sterile whore of a thousand bureaucrats!”  (James K. Baxter, Wellington, 1953, p.77)


9 April                     David O’Donnell - Theatre Programme, Victoria University
                                   End of the Golden Weather?  A Short Performance from a Dramatic City


16 April                   Brigitte Bonisch-Brednich - School of Social & Cultural Studies, Victoria University

                                   (title to come)


7 May                       Russel Norman - Co-Leader Green Party

                                   Economic Opportunities for Wellington


14 May                    Morrie Love - Chairman, Wellington Tenths Trust
Treaty Settlements – are they worth it?  A case study of the Taranaki Whanui Settlement in Wellington.

21 May                    Deborah Jones - School of Management, Victoria University
Unmanageable Inequalities: Sexism in the New Zealand Film Industry


28 May                    Miriam Ross & Paul Wolffram - Film Programme, Victoria University

                                   Capturing Culture in Three Dimensions: The 3D Production Initiatives’ Partnership with Te Papa Tongarewa




Time:                       4:10 – 5:30 pm (Tea/Coffee 3:45 pm)

Venue:                     Stout Research Centre, 12 Waiteata Road, Kelburn


Thursday, 20 February 2014

Remembering Rangiaowhia: 150th Anniversary

21 February marks the 150th anniversary of one of the most painful and contentious incidents of the Waikato War. To call the British raid on the settlement of Rangiaowhia a ‘battle’ would be misleading. Most of the residents of the village were women, children and a few elderly men. Once British troops had bypassed the formidable Paterangi line of pa in the dead of night, Rangiaowhia remained more or less defenceless. It was attacked at the break of dawn on a Sunday morning, the fire from cavalrymen as they entered the village causing its startled occupants to run in terror in every direction. Some sought shelter in churches, others in their thatched whare. Some did not get away.

According to considerable Maori testimony, the makeup of its residents reflected Rangiaowhia’s status as a place of sanctuary for non-combatants. It was understood that some kind of message had been exchanged with British commanders, possibly through Bishop Selwyn, to this effect, as a result of which the British raid was considered an act of great treachery. After Rangiaowhia, Wiremu Tamihana later stated in a petition to Parliament, ‘I discovered that this would be a very great war, because it was conducted in such a pitiless manner.’

The British Attack on Rangiaowhia (source:
Of particular anguish was what appears to have been the deliberate torching of a whare in which at least seven people were burnt to death, along with the probable deaths of a number of women and children. It was later a matter of some embarrassment to military authorities that of the 33 prisoners rounded up in the aftermath of the attack, 21 were women and children, and the remaining 12 apparently elderly men. There are multiple and often contradictory accounts of the attack, and these need to be carefully handled. But the pain and anguish caused by the British attack remains all too evident a century and a half later. As Whitiora Te Kumete told J. C. Firth and Charles Davis in 1869:

here are your foul murders: - General Cameron told us to send our women and children to Rangiaowhia, where they should remain unmolested; but he went away from Paterangi with his soldiers after them, and the women and children were killed and some of them burnt in the houses. You did not go to fight the men; you left them and went away to fight with the women and little children. These things you conceal because they are faults on your side, but anything on our side you set down against us, and open your mouths wide to proclaim it. That deed of yours was a foul murder, and yet there is nobody to proclaim it. (AJHR, 1869, A-12, p. 12)

Following the British attack on Rangiaowhia, the main body of Kingitanga defenders manning the Paterangi line abandoned their position, but suffered further heavy losses in their hastily constructed new defensive post at Hairini the next day.