Proud grandchildren of Dutch immigrants

New Zealand has been a pot pourri of cultures after waves of immigrants have come here over the last two hundred years, mainly from Europe, the Pacific Islands and more recently in numbers, from all over Asia, most notably from India and China.

Dunedin was founded by Scottish people who were concerned that the country would be dominated by the English. That is part of the city’s heritage, and bag pipes and haggis still feature in ceremonies.

But the Chinese New Year is also celebrated, and there are a variety of cultures represented in other events.

The last mayor of Dunedin was born here but had distant Chinese heritage, and the mayor before that was born in India.

One culture that is barely noticed these days is that of the Dutch, but when I was young that was more evident. We had Dutch visitors (I don’t know what connection they had with our family), and in the seventies I worked with the son of Dutch immigrants. Another generation or two on it’s barely noticeable, but there will have been a definite impact in New Zealand from Dutch culture.

Martin van Beyen writes Dutch immigrants of the 50s fading away

I bought a new suit the other day. The suit got its first outing this week at my Uncle Theo’s funeral. He died, aged 90, surrounded by his family last Friday.

Uncle Theo came to New Zealand in 1953 and was followed three months later by his bride-to-be, Afra. His sister (my mother, who is still alive) arrived two years later with my father, who died about 10 years ago.

A pastry cook by trade, Uncle Theo went on to own a number of bakeries in Christchurch including a wholesale pie business.

Some would say Uncle Theo (we called him Ome Dick) was a typical Dutchman. He was hardworking, routine-driven, stubborn, socially conservative, a natural contrarian and knew the value of a dollar. He would have seen my new suit as a waste of money.

He was also one of the last of his generation of about 11,000 Dutch immigrants who came to New Zealand between 1951 and 1954. Well over 100,000 New Zealanders now have some Dutch heritage.

A small but significant minority, possible accentuated by the short surge in Dutch immigration.

I wonder how we will regard the legacy of that wave of Dutch immigrants who came to New Zealand in the 50s and who are now fading away. Mostly blue collar workers and tradespeople (my dad was a mechanic), they made a major economic contribution, already often acknowledged, and brought a not always welcome brand of Europeanism to the racing, rugby, beer-orientated New Zealand society. Although their skin was the right colour, locals often found their accent strange, their manner brusque and their thrift ungracious.

Although some immigrants tried to preserve their Dutchness, most knuckled down and assimilated aggressively.

Perhaps they took to heart the attitude of senior immigration official Dr Reuel Lochore: “We must make new Britishers: by procreation, and by assimilation; by making suitable aliens into vectors of the British way of life.”

But some things were hard to suppress. Uncle Theo worked as a storeman when he first arrived and was told off by his fellow workers for working too fast.

It was clear the Dutch work ethic came as a shock to the strongly unionised New Zealand workforce where British work to rule was more the custom. Maybe some of that Dutch work ethic did rub off and it was certainly instilled in their next generation. Well, mostly.

I learnt a strong work ethic when I grew up, but it was in a rural area with no sign of union locally.

However in Central Otago the work ethic wasn’t universal, as there were frequent references to the shovel sucklers of the ‘sunshine gangs’, Ministry of Works workers were not known fore their industriousness.

Making fun of them probably reinforced the work ethic I learned.

As I was growing up I didn’t get the impression being Dutch was highly regarded and at high school it was definitely nothing you would want to advertise.

After Uncle Theo’s funeral I was sitting with some of his grandsons having a beer and asked them what they thought about their Dutch heritage.

They seemed proud of it, to the extent they emphasised their Dutchness over the other backgrounds flowing through their veins. A very different attitude to my generation and one that Uncle Theo and Aunt Afra can take a lot of credit for.

You can talk a lot about material contributions but you know the Dutch have truly arrived when the legacy of people like Uncle Theo lives on in the pride his grandchildren have in their heritage.

In contrast, I have English heritage. One grandmother was a Great War bride (from Chelsea) who married my grandfather, son of an immigrant from Liverpool and a grandson of a family who arrived (ex rural Bedfordshire) as part of the  Canterbury settlement in 1852.

I have a bit of historical interest but little empathy for my English heritage. I don’t back any English sports team, and feel nothing for the English royal family – to me they are foreign not just in country but also in what they stand for.

On my other side my mother was born a couple of years after her parents and five siblings immigrated from northern Wales (from near Caernarvon). As far as I saw they almost entirely they left their culture behind,

My teidiau (I just looked that up online and don’t know if it’s correct) died before I was born, but I’ve been told he learnt to speak English when serving in World War 1. Twice, both times reluctantly on request, my nana (that’s what we called her) said just one Welsh word – Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

That is the only reference to my Welsh heritage I can remember apart from my mother recalling being taunted with ‘Taffy was a Welshman’ as a child.

This may not have been just a family thing, I have seen little sign of Welsh culture in New Zealand. I think the Welsh wanted to distance themselves from being seen as second class to the English.

Perhaps as a result I don’t feel subservient, nor superior. I am a product of the Kiwi melting pot – much like those with Dutch ancestry. I’m a proud Kiwi – and part of that pride is due to a general acceptance of a range of co-existing and overlapping cultures in Aotearoa.

I’m interested in other cultures – it makes a welcome change for the narrow mono-culture I grew up in.

The white tangata whenua

Last week the Northern Advocate published some revised history claiming that white people from Europe settled Aotearoa before Maori came here.

Northern Advocate (NZ Herald): Pre-Maori faces created from skulls, says Northland historian

A Northland historian has released what he says are forensic reconstructions of pre-Maori Northlanders that support his theory that Chinese and European seafarers came to New Zealand centuries before Polynesians.

Kaipara based historian Noel Hilliam says a forensic expert from Edinburgh University has reconstructed features using skulls retrieved from heaps of ancient human bones that were once piled in caves at several sites around the Kaipara.

The faces depict a blond woman with Celtic characteristics common in Wales and a man of Mediterranean appearance.

Kaipara skeletons were found with strands of red hair and a London pathologist who examined them in 1997 did not consider them Polynesian.

In a message to Mr Hilliam, the Edinburgh pathologist said his examination of skulls and skeletal remains from four sites showed they were from two races.

“People known in your country as Turehu originated from Wales over 3000 years ago and those known as Waitaha originated from the Mediterranean,” the pathologist said.

“The two skulls you randomly uplifted from one site – the female, which I named Henrietta, is Turehu of 23 years of age and 1.3m tall going on the average height of skeletons I examined. She originates from Wales.

“The Waitaha male is 34 years old 1.65m tall, average among the skeletal remains examined, and originates from the Mediterranean.”

The historian has not disclosed the names of the pathologist and forensic expert because he expected controversy over their findings.

These sorts of claims are not new. From Dargaville and Districts News (Stuff) in 2012: `Greeks got here first’

New Zealand history is going to be turned on its head when the book To the Ends of the Earth is launched next month, co-author Noel Hilliam says.

The controversial book, written by researcher Maxwell C Hill with additional information from Dargaville shipwreck explorer Noel Hilliam, Gary Cook and John Aldworth, looks at what they say is evidence that Greeks, Spanish and Egyptians travelled to New Zealand before Maori.

The 378-page book explores a variety of evidence from ancient maps to ancient rock formations, giant human skeletons, cave drawings, oral history and a multitude of other physical evidence.

“Our contention is that ancient Greek navigators were the first to sail down under, landing in New Zealand before the Christian era began, to become the first inhabitants of the islands,” Mr Hilliam says.

Now Hilliam claims it was the Welsh who got here first.

Newshub details other claimed discoveries: From a non-Māori Maui to Spanish shipwrecks: Who is Noel Hilliam?

And reports: Amateur historian admits grave-robbing Maori burials

Noel Hilliam told the Northern Advocate he had found skulls that pre-date Māori.

However Mr Hilliam’s research, which has no academic basis, has been widely criticised.

“The statement that the young adult woman is from Wales is ludicrous. There is no way to find that information out from the skull size and shape, nor is it possible to tell that a person has blue eyes and blonde hair from skeletal features,” University of Otago bio-archaeologist Dr Siân Halcrow told Vice.

Worse, his actions have been condemned as racist and illegal.

“It is the violation of a sacred site. Them raiding urupā and acquiring ancestral heads – they haven’t said where from – makes me really concerned,” Auckland University senior lecturer Dr Ngarino Gabriel Ellis told Vice.

“Taking from urupā, just like from anyone’s [grave], is a violation of our funeral practices. These are our ancestors. They were not intended to be removed and distributed.

“It’s also illegal to go and tamper with anyone’s grave – so why aren’t there criminal charges being pressed?”

Mr Hilliam has refused to name the ‘experts’ he talked to, and told Vice that while he knew he was breaking the law, he did it because the law was unjust.

The Northern Advocate has since removed the article.

I couldn’t find the article yesterday but it is back on the Herald’s beta site.

The Spinoff: The white tangata whenua, and other bullshit from the ‘One New Zealand’ crew

Over the past 30 years a growing a minority of New Zealanders has decided that the first inhabitants of their country had white rather than brown skin. They believe that one or more European peoples emigrated to these islands thousands of years ago, and established a populous and technologically sophisticated civilisation here. This pigmentopia was invaded and conquered by the ancestors of Māori. The warlike Polynesians slew the white men they found, took the women as wives, and appropriated the indigenes’ greenstone carvings.

Mike Barrington’s article may have talked nonsense about New Zealand history, but it did provide a reasonably accurate narrative of the careers of the country’s pseudo-historians.

Hilliam has made other remarkable claims over the years. In 1982 he said he had found the remains of an old Spanish ship on a beach near Dargaville, but the wreck vanished before he could show it to anybody. In 2008 he told Radio New Zealand that he had found a Nazi submarine off the Northland coast. The submarine had supposedly left Germany in the last days of the Third Reich, loaded with gold. Hilliam never made good on his promise to reveal the location of the submarine wreck.

The notion of a white tangata whenua promised to relieve Pakeha of their status as latecomers to New Zealand, and to counter Māori talk of historical injustice. But the theory had, and still has, a problem: a complete lack of evidence.

In recent years a series of scholars have run DNA tests on Māori, in an effort to trace their ancestry. These tests confirm that Māori are a Polynesian people, and that Polynesians have their origins in coastal Asia thousands of years ago. There is no genetic evidence for ancient contact between Polynesians and Europeans.

The believers in an ancient white civilisation are undeterred by the lack of evidence for their claims. They insist that a conspiracy of Māori leaders, politically correct academics, cowardly Pākehā politicians and sinister international organisations is working to conceal and destroy the physical legacy of New Zealand’s first inhabitants. They claim that the stone city in Waipoua forest has been closed to visitors by Department of Conservation staff and local Māori. Elsewhere teams of explosives experts are blowing up the stone houses of the first New Zealanders and sealing burial caves. Ancient European bones and artefacts are being quietly removed from museums, and roads are being built through the sites of Celtic observatories.

I guess the Herald will remove the article from their beta site as well.

 

Why do Kiwis support “anyone but England”?

Last night’s rugby world cup match between England and Scotland demonstrated strong support for “anyone but England”, in this case Scotland. This is partly support for the underdog, and it partly demonstartes a strong Scottish cultural influence in New Zealand. But there is also a strong English cultural influence in the old colony.

Both Scotland and Ireland get strong support from Kiwis. There are many Kiwis with Scottish and Irish ancestry, but that’s only part of the reason – there is a lot of English ancestry here too. There’s even a few Kiwis who still support maintaining links with the Queen of England.

Why do many Kiwis have little or no support for old mother England?

I really don’t know. And I’m an example of this phenomenon.

On my father’s side of the family my grandmother came from Chelsea, a great grandfather emigrated from Liverpool, and a great grandmother was part of the very English emigration to the Canterbury settlement. But I don’t feel like I have any connection with England apart from a historical curiosity. I don’t feel any empathy with England.

I don’t have any known Scottish or Irish heritage (but my granddaughter has a cool Scottish dad!) – but I would normally side with them over England. I don’t know why.

My mother’s parents came from Wales, arriving in New Zealand a couple of years before she was born. However my Welsh empathy only  amounts to a little more historical curiousity  than my Englishness.

My mild natural support for Wales over England is on about the same scale as my natural wish for Ireland or Scotland to beat England.

What has England done to deserve this? A Kiwi disdain of the English arrogance and self appointed superiority? Many UK immigrants to New Zealand wanted to get away from the English class system, maybe it’s a residual of that feeling. Kiwis are more likely to have a favourite “working class” football team than they are a more toffee rugby club (not me though).

England, we don’t hate you, maybe we just like to feel our independence as Kiwis and “anyone but England” is one way of doing this.