Past Māori and Pākehā conflict

There have increasing calls for more Aotearoa New Zealand history to be taught in schools. When I was at school it was sadly lacking, and it is still deficient.

Kennett Watkins’ painting of the death of Gustavus von Tempsky during a battle against Tītokowaru at Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu, 1868.

Vincent O’Malley: Why we need to open up about past Māori and Pākehā conflict

It began with a single musket shot, fired perhaps by accident, in Wairau, near Nelson, in 1842. It ended with desultory gunfire in a steep and sodden gorge south of Waikaremoana in 1873.

Bookended by these two inglorious events, the New Zealand Wars claimed the lives of an estimated 2250 Māori and 560 British and colonial troops. Records are far from complete, but, including the wounded, the number of casualties could be more than 6000. The result was the transfer of nearly 1.5 million hectares of land into European hands, most commonly through the 1863 New Zealand Settlements Act. They changed the social, economic and political landscape forever.

Still, says Wellington historian Vincent O’Malley, we barely talk about it. Commemorations are few, many of the war sites are degraded and unmarked, the myth of a chivalrous and noble battle, sowing the seeds for the “best race relations in the world”, has been shattered. Today, students can go through school without learning any New Zealand history.

“Which is staggering to me,” says O’Malley. “This is our story, our history. It happened here, in this place, relatively recently, and it had profound consequences for what New Zealand would become. These were defining conflicts of New Zealand history and, as a nation, we need to take ownership of them.”

He argued the point in his 2016 book, The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800-2000. The defining conflict in New Zealand history, he wrote, “did not take place on the Western Front, or at Gallipoli, or in North Africa”, but rather, in Waikato, 1863-64, in a premeditated war of conquest and invasion on the part of the Crown.

A bloody trail

Now, in his new book, The New Zealand Wars: NgāPakanga o Aotearoa, he walks us through the causes, course and consequences of the New Zealand Wars as a whole. It is a story played out on a ragged map, zigzagging across the North Island and the top of the South, from Northland, down to Wairau, Wellington, Whanganui, up to Taranaki, over to the Tauranga, then to the North Island’s West Coast, back to Tairāwhiti, then to South Taranaki and finally into the dense bush of the central North Island, where the hunt for Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki was finally abandoned.

Land, power and ideology

The obvious impetus for the New Zealand Wars was land – Māori had it, the British wanted it, the New Zealand Company overpromised on it. But land was not the sole cause. For a start, imperial troops were not always sympathetic to settlers’ land hunger. In 1855, Governor Thomas Gore Browne complained that many of the settlers were “insatiably greedy for land”, and when land could not be procured honestly, “still they desire to have it”.

The wars were also about power and hierarchical ideologies. The increasing number of settlers – by 1858, their population equalled that of Māori – arrived in New Zealand with deeply entrenched Victorian assumptions of racial superiority. They were certainly not willing, says O’Malley, “to defer to a bunch of people they dismissively called ‘natives’”.

At the heart of this was the tension inherent in Te Tiriti o Waitangi/The Treaty of Waitangi itself. In the English version, the British Crown proclaimed sovereignty over New Zealand. The Māori version stopped short of ceding sovereignty, referring instead to “kāwanatanga”, commonly translated as “governorship” or “governance”. Māori communities were promised “tino rangatiratanga” (chiefly authority) over their lands and resources.

The wars tipped the scales. The government did not achieve the total victory it wanted, but in the battle between two competing ideas of what the treaty stood for, it was the Crown’s version that won. This envisaged a treaty of cession and unbridled sovereignty, notes O’Malley, not mutual partnership and dialogue.

Like most Kiwis, O’Malley, now 51, went through school without learning any of this history. After all, his teacher assured him, “nothing really interesting ever happened here.” But when he took a New Zealand history course as an easy filler at university, “I was blown away – the idea nothing interesting ever happened in this country couldn’t be further from the truth.”

O’Malley is making an urgent call for this history to be more widely known. “It is about taking ownership of our history, binding us together as a nation that can honestly confront its own past. We need to own this history. Doing that is not intended to sow the seeds of division or disharmony. It is actually the basis for genuine reconciliation.”

I think we have quite a way to go to learn about the history of our own country. And quite a way to go with reconciliation.

Timeline of key events related to New Zealand’s 19th-century wars.

  • About 1807: First use of muskets in battle in New Zealand, by Ngāpuhi
  • 1809: Crew of Boyd killed by Ngāti Uru at Whangaroa
  • 1818–25: Ngāpuhi raids across North Island
  • 1821–6: Ngāti Toa and other iwi migrate from Waikato to Wellington area
  • 1829–37: Ngāti Toa and allies fight Ngāi Tahu in South Island
  • 1835: Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama invade Wharekauri/Chatham Islands
  • 1840: Treaty of Waitangi; first large-scale British settlement
  • 1843: Twenty-two Pākehā and 4 Māori die when land dispute between Ngāti Toa and Nelson settlers turns violent at Wairau
  • 1845–6: Inconclusive Northern War which splits Ngāpuhi for and against government
  • 1846: Fighting near Wellington as Ngāti Toa resist expansion of settlement
  • 1847: Fighting around Whanganui as up-river tribes attack settlement
  • 1858: Coronation of Māori King symbolises opposition to further land sales
  • 1860–1: First Taranaki War ends in stalemate between government and local iwi
  • 1863–4: Waikato War – Kīngites expelled from lower/mid-Waikato and Tauranga
  • 1863: Suppression of Rebellion Act enables confiscation of land of ‘rebel’ Māori
  • 1864–8: Many small conflicts, most between Pai Mārire followers and other Māori
  • 1865, 1866: Campaigns in south Taranaki by imperial troops
  • 1868–9: Titokowaru’s War threatens settler control of Whanganui area
  • 1868–72: Te Kooti raids across central North Island and is pursued by kūpapa
  • 1881: Māori autonomy in south Taranaki ends with occupation of Parihaka
  • 1884: Survey of King Country; Pākehā no longer excluded
  • 1890s: Urewera Māori resist land surveys
  • 1898: Hokianga Māori assert rights in ‘Dog Tax Rebellion
  • 1916: Arrest of Rua Kēnana at Maungapōhatu ends Māori autonomy in Urewera

– New Zealand History: New Zealand’s 19th-century wars

First official commemoration of NZ Land Wars

The Land Wars are a part of New Zealand’s history that we should know more about. They are being commemorated officially for the first time, in the Bay of islands.

Image result for nz land wars

Newshub: Northland hosts first official commemoration of NZ Land Wars

The first official commemoration of the 19th century New Zealand Land Wars is being held in the Bay of Islands.

A mass haka expected to involve hundreds of people will start the pōwhiri at Te Tii Marae at Waitangi on Friday afternoon.

More public events are planned over the weekend, including tours of famous battle sites at Ōhaeawai, Ruapekapeka and Russell.

Pita Tipene, from the organising committee Te Komiti Whakahaere, says it’s an historic event.

“It’s taken a long time to officially acknowledge these wars and our early history,” he says.

Mr Tipene says the wars are still affecting Ngāpuhi today, particularly as the iwi attempts to come together to coordinate a treaty settlement.

“These wars weren’t just between Ngāpuhi and the British imperial forces – there were just as many Māori on the British side as there were on the Māori side.

“Some of the fracturing of relationships in 2018 are still apparent because of fractures in relationships in 1845-46, so those aspects of our history need to be understood.”

The event follows a 2015 petition from Ōtorohanga College students, signed by 13,000 people, that called for the Government to set aside a national day of commemoration for the New Zealand Wars.

Good on the students for initiating this.  See (December 2015) Students prepare to take NZ Land Wars petition to Parliament.

It led to the Māori Party securing an annual fund of $1 million for national and regional events through its support deal with the previous National Government.

Another achievement by the Māori Party, supported by the National Government.

The national commemoration will be hosted by a different iwi each year, with half of the yearly fund set aside for that event.

It’s good that the commemoration will be moved around.

Image result for nz land wars

Links of interest:

New Zealand History: New Zealand’s 19th-century wars

The New Zealand Wars: Timeline

Te Ara (Encyclopaedia of New Zealand):

  1. New Zealand wars overview

  2. Northern war, 1845–1846

  3. Wellington and Whanganui wars, 1846–1848

  4. North Taranaki war, 1860–1861

  5. Waikato war: beginnings

  6. Waikato war: major battles

  7. Gate Pā, Tauranga

  8. Pai Mārire, South Taranaki and Whanganui, 1864–1866

  9. Tītokowaru’s war, 1868–1869

  10. Pursuit of Te Kooti, 1868–1872

  11. Long-term impact

  12. External links and sources