Category Archives: Maoris

Firepits of the Gods: ancient memories of maar volcanoes


The town of Schalkenmehren and its adjoining maar lake, Germany.
Wikimedia Commons

Patrick D. Nunn, University of the Sunshine Coast

In the heart of Takapuna, north-central Auckland, is a natural lake – Pupuke – while a little way offshore lies the volcanic Rangitoto Island. Long ago, a family of giants lived at Takapuna until one day, ill-advisedly, they insulted the irascible fire goddess Mahuika. Enraged, Mahuika tore a hole in the land where the giants lived, creating what became Lake Pupuke, dumping the material offshore to form Rangitoto Island.

Similar to other Maori stories about volcanic activity in New Zealand, this one is consistent with memories of the formation of Lake Pupuke and that of Rangitoto Island, the latter erupting into existence about AD 1312, perhaps just decades after people arrived in NZ.

Lake Pupuke sunset through trees.
Wikimedia Commons

Lake Pupuke formed far earlier, through a singular process involving liquid rock (magma) rising up through fissures in the earth’s crust until – close to the surface – it encountered bodies of cold groundwater. The juxtaposition of the cold and the extremely hot resulted in a spectacular explosion, splattering solidifying rock fragments into the air that settled to produce a ring of rock enclosing a crater.

These types of volcanoes are known as maars, after a German name given them in the Eifel Mountains where they are especially abundant. After maar craters form, most become filled with water, forming lakes like Lake Pupuke.

Many maars are polygenetic – they are sites of periodic volcanic activity – and it may well be that Lake Pupuke showed signs of activity at the same time as Rangitoto Island formed, leading Maori observers of the events to link them.




Read more:
Essays On Air: Monsters in my closet – how a geographer began mining myths


Since people arrived in Australia, maar volcanoes have erupted in both the southeast and the northeast of the country. Stories of these eruptions have been told, so convincingly that it is difficult to suppose they are not eyewitness accounts. As an example, the Dyirbal story of the formation of the Lake Eacham maar in Queensland recalls

The camping-place began to change, the earth under the camp roaring like thunder. The wind started to blow down, as if a cyclone were coming. The camping-place began to twist and crack. While this was happening there was in the sky a red cloud, of a hue never seen before. The people tried to run from side to side but were swallowed by a crack which opened in the ground.

Lake Eacham in Queensland.
Wikimedia Commons

Science shows us that Lake Eacham formed more than 9,000 years ago, meaning that the Dyirbal story is probably at least this old. Perhaps even older stories may apply to the formation of nearby Lakes Barrine and Euramoo.

Recent research has focused on ancient “maar stories” worldwide, highlighting their similarities but, most importantly, using these memorable events to illustrate the extraordinary longevity of human memories. Many maar stories must have endured for thousands of years, passed orally across hundreds of generations.

Minimum ages for some maar stories (after Nunn et al., 2019, Annals of the American Association of Geographers).

Some of the best-documented are those from the Lago Albano maar that towers above the Ciampino Plain, southeast of Rome (Italy). Formed maybe as recently as 8,000 years ago, stories about the Albano maar that were first written down about 2,000 years ago originated as oral traditions many millennia earlier.

Periodically, the Albano maar gurgles and moans as liquid rock and superheated water is shunted around within the Colli Albani volcano, of which it is part. Sometimes this causes the form of the maar crater to abruptly change shape, leading the lake to spill over its rim, events that flood the plains below.

Painting by Jacob Philipp Hackert (AD 1800), View of Lake Albano with Castel Gandolfo (Blick auf den Albaner See mit Castel Gandolfo), showing the contemporary form of the Lago Albano maar.

About 2,400 years ago (in 398 BC), during a prolonged drought, there are records showing that the lake level rose slowly and calmly up to the crater rim. According to the account of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, the pressure “carved out the gap between the mountains and poured a mighty river down over the plains lying below”.

To prevent such events reoccurring, the Romans built a tunnel through the Lago Albano crater wall, an incredible 70 metres below the rim, that can still be seen today. No-one seems entirely clear how this engineering feat was accomplished or whether, as some accounts hint, the tunnel simply re-excavated an Etruscan tunnel built centuries earlier!




Read more:
Ancient Aboriginal stories preserve history of a rise in sea level


And so to Mexico, the eastern part of which is bisected by the active Trans-Mexican Neovolcanic Belt, parts of which are peppered with maars. Of one, Aljojuca, the story goes that countless years ago during a prolonged drought, a cow belonging to a poor family went off wandering and, some days later returned home, its feet wet.

Following the cow’s footprints, the family located a “puddle” where today lies a maar crater with a lake (axalapaxco). The story may recall the formation of Aljojuca Maar more than seven millennia ago.

How many more ancient stories might there be hidden under our noses, within tales we have hitherto dismissed as myth? Should we continue to conveniently dismiss all these stories or would we gain something from treating them as accounts of memorable events, conveyed in the language of science as it was known thousands of years ago?

Patrick Nunn acknowledges his collaborators, Loredana Lancini and Rita Compatangelo-Soussignan (Le Mans Université, France) and Leigh Franks and Adrian McCallum (University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia).The Conversation

Patrick D. Nunn, Professor of Geography, School of Social Sciences, University of the Sunshine Coast

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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The Crown is Māori too – citizenship, sovereignty and the Treaty of Waitangi



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The Treaty of Waitangi promised Māori British subjecthood.
from http://www.shutterstock.com, CC BY-ND

Dominic O’Sullivan, Charles Sturt University

This week, New Zealand marked Waitangi Day, which commemorates the 1840 signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The treaty allowed Britain to establish government over its settlers (Article One), guaranteed ongoing Māori authority over their own affairs (Article Two) and gave Māori the rights and privileges of British subjecthood, which over time has become New Zealand citizenship (Article Three).




Read more:
Explainer: the significance of the Treaty of Waitangi


The debate about the treaty’s precise meaning continues to this day. For some, it is a blueprint for constitutional order and justice. For others, a path to ethnic privilege – a Māori “birth right to the upper hand”. There are many interpretations in between and the treaty has important public policy significance.

Treaty debate focuses mostly on the agreement’s first two articles, and I argue that its third promise, of citizenship, is not getting enough attention. Discussions tend to place Māori and the Crown in a “them” and “us” binary, but citizenship means that Māori are also the Crown.

From subject to citizen

In 1840, British subjecthood was a limited promise. It contained few “rights and privileges”. There was certainly no right to participate in government. No expectation that one’s voice mattered.

But subjecthood evolved. In 1949, New Zealand citizenship became a legal category.
Citizenship is much more than the right to vote, receive a welfare benefit or go to school. It is a body of political capacities – the capacity to have a meaningful say in how society works. Not just in the decisions that governments make, but in working out the values that inform decision making.

It means that Māori values should count in public affairs. For example, the five central concepts underlying Māori philosophy that the legal scholar Carwyn Jones describes:

  • Whānaungatanga – the centrality of relationships to Māori life
  • Manaakitanga – nurturing relationships, looking after people, being careful how others are treated
  • Mana – the importance of spirituality, sanctioned authority and the limits on Māori leadership
  • Tapu/noa – respect for the spiritual character of all things
  • Utu – the principle of balance and reciprocity.



Read more:
Strong sense of cultural identity drives boom in Māori business


Beyond the bicultural treaty

During the 1980s and 1990s, the concept of biculturalism that treats Māori and Pākehā (non-Māori New Zealanders) as neatly separable cohesive political communities and “as if they ran on separate parallel train tracks” dominated treaty discussions. While this approach made important contributions to Māori policy, it was also limited.

In 2019, it competes with alternative possibilities for self-determination. For example, several iwi (Māori tribes) have received financial and land settlements in compensation for confiscations that breached the treaty’s promises. Māori language and culture are continuing to grow in strength. A better educated population and the continuation of intermarriage mean that this kind of biculturalism – a “them” and “us” worldview – provides an increasingly limited way of thinking about political possibilities. It stops people thinking about what it means to be a Māori citizen – what it means to help determine the ways in which the state works.

From biculturalism to binationalism

While the English version of the treaty’s first article surrendered Māori sovereignty to the British Crown, the Māori text (which was the signed document), used the term kāwanatanga (governorship). In 2014, the Waitangi Tribunal, the body that deals with alleged breaches of the treaty, accepted Ngā Puhi’s argument (widely shared among Māori) that the treaty did not cede sovereignty.

Nevertheless, then minister of Treaty of Waitangi negotiations, Chris Finlayson, argued that:

There is no question that the Crown has sovereignty in New Zealand. This report doesn’t change that fact … The tribunal doesn’t reach any conclusion regarding the sovereignty the Crown exercises in New Zealand. Nor does it address the other events considered part of the Crown’s acquisition of sovereignty or how the treaty relationship should operate today.

But what is the Crown, what is sovereignty and how do these relate to citizenship as it has developed from the British subjecthood that the treaty promised?




Read more:
The Treaty of Waitangi and its influence on identity politics in New Zealand


Sovereignty and citizenship

Sovereignty is not an absolute and indivisible power, exercised over subjects by an all-powerful Crown, as it was in 1840. It is a collective political authority in which all citizens participate. Helping to shape public sovereignty is an essential part of what it means to be a citizen.

At the same time, citizenship is not a panacea for creating just political relationships between Māori and others. Nor does it guarantee the political space for Māori to exercise rangatiratanga (authority) over their own affairs. But it does mean that sovereignty belongs to Māori as much as it belongs to anybody else. At least theoretically, it is not an oppressive force.

Bringing that theory into practical politics requires that article three receive much greater attention in treaty discourse. Guaranteed Māori representation in parliament is an example of Māori exercising the right to citizenship in a distinctive way, but sovereignty is not found in parliament alone.

Questions of where else Māori might exercise their citizenship and what it means to do so in authentically Māori ways are not thought about as widely as their importance justifies. This is because the Crown/Māori bicultural binary continues to separate Māori from the collective authority of national citizenship.

As the former Waitangi Tribunal Chairman Justice Williams suggested:

The Crown is also Māori. If the nation is to move forward, this reality must be grasped.The Conversation

Dominic O’Sullivan, Associate Professor of Political Science, Charles Sturt University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


The Treaty of Waitangi and its influence on identity politics in New Zealand



File 20190204 193209 1ylfuw0.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
February 6 marks the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s foundation document.
from http://www.shutterstock.com, CC BY-ND

James H. Liu, Massey University

Globally, there has been a crisis of confidence in the promises of liberal democracy in recent years. In the United States, the president wants to build a border wall. The United Kingdom is agonising over Brexit. The leaders of the Philippines and Brazil proclaim a willingness to flout rule by law, and strike terror into “undesirables”. Authoritarian rule has not decreased in China, despite rising GDP.

Against these trends, New Zealand has experienced little backlash against immigration, even though it has one of the highest ratios of overseas-born residents in the world.

I argue that the Treaty of Waitangi, whose 1840 signing New Zealand marks today, has endowed New Zealanders with a convention for working through issues of equality and inequality, inclusion and exclusion; where some commitment to cultural diversity is threaded through the processes for constructing national identity.




Read more:
Explainer: the significance of the Treaty of Waitangi


The visibility of culture and ethnicity at the heart of this foundational document of New Zealand sovereignty provides its people with a degree of inoculation against the worst of race-based nationalism.

Bicultural foundation

The 1840 signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi between Māori chieftains and the British crown is today regarded as the single most important event in New Zealand’s history. It ceded rights of governorship (but not sovereignty) to the Crown, guaranteed continuity of property rights for Māori (and exclusive rights to purchase these from Māori by the Crown), as well as rights to British citizenship for Māori.

It provided a framework for colonial settlement. But this deteriorated into warfare as the legality of land sales was questioned amid debate about who was actually sovereign. At its peak in the 1860s, the New Zealand wars required 10,000 British regulars to subdue skilled and innovative Māori warriors (who established the world’s first artillery bunkers to resist cannon fire). But by 1877, a judge had declared the treaty a “simple nullity”, in line with accelerating settler demands for farmland and reduced Māori capacity for resistance.

Even as land was alienated from Māori at an accelerating rate in the late 1800s, New Zealand governors’ talk about the two groups remained civil. There has not been an expression of biological superiority or inferiority regarding Māori in any speech from the throne (signalling an incoming government’s legislative intent) in New Zealand history.

Cooperative relationships between white and Māori elites were common (also, designated seats for Māori have been established in parliament since 1867). Thus, Māori and Pākehā (New Zealander Europeans) have had a lot of practice in managing their differences through negotiation as well as conflict.




Read more:
Why guaranteed Indigenous seats in parliament could ease inequality


Impact of colonisation

Despite symbolic inclusion and some good intercultural practices, disease and land alienation took its toll. By 1890, Māori were considered a “dying race”. To counter this, key Māori leaders had little choice but to encourage assimilation.

In the mid-20th century, Māori began a semi-forced migration to the cities, where traditional cultural practices had to change. The 1970s were the critical decade in which contemporary bicultural New Zealand identity politics began taking shape, a hundred years after the issue of who would control material resources and sovereignty was decided. Capitalising on anti-establishment feelings triggered by the Vietnam War, Māori across the spectrum mobilised Pākehā allies and engaged in protest movements that revitalised Māori identity and gave rise to 1975 treaty legislation that allowed fiscal settlements for colonial-era injustices through a tribunal.

Treaty-based legislation has evolved continually since then. Today most public institutions are required to honour the principles of the treaty (partnership, participation and protection). New Zealanders accept that colonial injustices were done to Māori, and NZ$2.2 billion of reparations have been made.

After Britain joined the European Economic Community in the 1970s, and excluded New Zealanders from British citizenship, New Zealanders of European origins began to articulate their relationship with Māori as part of their own identity. Not only are Māori symbolically included within the nation, the nation as a whole also draws symbolic resources from Māori and from the treaty.

Foreign dignitaries are welcomed by a Māori ceremony (a powhiri), the nation’s sports team (the All-Blacks) precedes its contests with a haka, and the country’s coat of arms is bicultural. Te Papa, the nation’s museum is structured biculturally, with the Treaty at its symbolic centre.

Recognising Māori as the people of the land

The discourse that “we are all immigrants” rings truer in New Zealand than in other English-speaking post-colonial societies (except maybe Canada). The current status of the treaty reminds citizens of the central position of Māori as tangata whenua (people of the land). This puts anti-immigrant rhetoric from New Zealand Europeans on shaky ground. The major anti-immigration politician in recent decades, Winston Peters, has Māori ancestry, and he is able to work with politicians who do not share his views.

Māori mostly have had bigger political fish to fry than roasting immigration. Having been colonised and dispossessed, improving collective well-being, as the Labour Party’s well-being budget declares, might be more important than guarding watery borders or aerial frontiers.

Democracy rose with enlightened leaders in Europe and the United States around two hundred some years ago, premised on the notion that individuals are capable of rational choice. The problem is, group-based politics is frequently far from rational, and is vulnerable to rabble-rousing. Leaders like Trump and the Brexiters represent sub-groups within their nations that are vociferously opposed by other groups. As the differences between them and their opponents involve identity politics that are group- and values-based, compromise is hard.

Group-based rationality works in New Zealand because it is treaty-based and has evolved stable and mutually acceptable platforms for dialogue. It is acceptable for Māori to filter their political views through the lens of culture. No matter how dominant the largest group (NZ Europeans), no matter if they are liberal or conservative, on Waitangi Day, any immigrant of any ethnicity becomes tangata tiriti (people of the treaty) in relationship with Māori as tangata whenua.

This pattern of cross-cutting allegiances is good medicine for facing the challenges to liberal democracy today.The Conversation

James H. Liu, Professor of Psychology, Massey University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Explainer: the significance of the Treaty of Waitangi



File 20190201 103164 144o658.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
On February 6, 1840, representatives of the British Crown and Māori chiefs acting on behalf of their tribes signed the Treaty of Waitangi.
from Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-ND

Sandra Morrison, University of Waikato and Ingrid L M Huygens, University of Waikato

The Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealand’s foundation document. On February 6, 1840, the treaty was signed by representatives of the British Crown and Māori chiefs who acted on behalf of their hapū (sub-tribes).

Māori are indigenous to New Zealand, with historical ties and common narratives extending to Polynesia. The signing of the treaty confirmed formal European settlement in New Zealand. But debate and confusion have continued ever since regarding the exact meaning of the treaty text.




Read more:
New Zealand’s indigenous reconciliation efforts show having a treaty isn’t enough


Nuance in translation

The debate stems from the fact that the parties involved in its signing, namely the rangatira (chiefs) and New Zealand’s first governor William Hobson on behalf of the British Crown, had different understandings and expectations as to what they had signed and what authority they would exercise.

There are two accepted versions of the Treaty of Waitangi: a Māori text known as Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the English version hereon called the Treaty of Waitangi. Under law both are accepted as the Treaty of Waitangi, but they are significantly different in meaning.

Te Tiriti speaks of the chiefs maintaining their tino rangatiratanga (authority) over their taonga (all that they hold precious, including the Māori language). The chiefs allow the Queen to have kāwanatanga, a nominal and delegated authority so that she can control her people. On the other hand, the treaty in English tells us that the chiefs ceded their sovereignty to the crown while retaining full, exclusive and undisturbed possession over their lands, estates, forests and fisheries.

A matter of interpretation

Given that at the time of the signing, the dominant language was Te Reo Māori and the majority of the discussions would have been conducted orally, the Māori text of Te Tiriti reflects the intentions of the chiefs. It is a critical reference point in informing our understandings, reinforced by the international convention of contra proferentem in relation to treaty making. This rule in contract law states that any clause considered to be ambiguous should be interpreted against the interests of the party that requested the clause to be included.

Claudia Orange, generally considered the most authoritative Pākehā (non-Māori) historian on the treaty, states:

The treaty was presented in a manner calculated to secure Māori agreement. The transfer of power to the Crown was thus played down.

Bear in mind also that the Declaration of Independence, the forerunner to Te Tiriti/Treaty, signed in 1835, had affirmed the authority chiefs already had. This meant they held mana and rangatiratanga (all power and sovereign authority). This system of political authority had been in place for many centuries.

The Governor General of New Zealand, Dame Patsy Reddy, during a welcome ceremony to the treaty grounds at Waitangi.
Eileen Cameron, CC BY-ND

Legal status of the treaty

Fast forward to 2019 and what has been happening in the landscape of treaty jurisdiction. During and after the cumulative impact of introduced legislation and policies which led to systemic colonisation, consistent and unwavering Māori protests at violations of both treaties eventually led to the introduction of the 1975 Treaty of Waitangi Act and its 1985 amendment.

This gave us the Waitangi Tribunal, which allows for a process to hear claims about breaches of the treaty, typically the taking of land and resources from Māori. The tribunal found in 2014 that Maori did not cede their sovereignty in Te Tiriti o Waitangi. It also introduced a set of principles which embodied the intention of both treaties in an attempt to mediate the differences in the two versions.

A series of judgements and mandates by the courts and the Waitangi Tribunal also ruled that the Crown has the right to govern (kāwanatanga), subject to the protection of Māori interests (rangatiratanga). This position is not accepted by many Māori who will continue to advocate for the supremacy of rangatiratanga over kāwanatanga.

In his book about the treaty’s place in New Zealand law and constitution, Mathew Palmer notes:

The Waitangi Tribunal developed the core of an interpretation of the meaning of the treaty that could and should be applied in contemporary New Zealand. This was a forward-looking constructive approach to enhancing relationships between the Crown and Māori.

A long-standing education campaign about the Treaty of Waitangi has also helped non-indigenous New Zealanders to appreciate the significance of the treaty relationship.

Treaty settlements

Most discussions on the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi generally include the following:

  • duty to act in good faith, reasonably and/or honourably
  • principle of partnership
  • principle of protection or active protection.

New Zealand’s constitution demands that robust public policy gives expression to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. This has led to the redesign of Crown agencies which must now be culturally responsive to the aspirations of Māori and actively innovate solutions to reduce the glaring social disparities where Māori are disproportionately represented.

The Waitangi Tribunal has heard and settled 54 treaty claims since 1989, including financial redress of more than NZ$1.5 billion. The first settlement, in respect of the Waitomo Caves, involved the transfer of land and a loan. Settlements since then have included several elements of redress: a formal apology by the crown, financial and cultural redress, the transfer of or the option to purchase significant properties, and restoration of traditional geographical names.

Since the identity of hapū is rooted in their physical and spiritual relationship with the environment over hundreds of years, these forms of cultural redress acknowledge the tribe as the rightful guardians and their deep association with place. The process seeks to restore the sacred relationships compromised by colonisation.

The treaty settlement process has been the catalyst for significant economic growth for iwi (tribe) controlled assets and Māori enterprise. This naturally brings positive development to the New Zealand economy, encouraging iwi and Māori to continue to progress their advancement not only economically but socially, culturally and environmentally.The Conversation

Sandra Morrison, Associate Professor, Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies, University of Waikato and Ingrid L M Huygens, Treaty educator, Māori & Indigenous Studies, University of Waikato

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Soldiers, thieves, Māori warriors: the NZ convicts sent to Australia



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Detail from a coloured lithograph depicting Port Arthur penal station in 1843.
State Library of New South Wales.

Kristyn Harman, University of Tasmania

Soon after it became a British colony, New Zealand began shipping the worst of its offenders across the Tasman Sea. Between 1843 and 1853, an eclectic mix of more than 110 soldiers, sailors, Māori, civilians and convict absconders from the Australian penal colonies were transported from New Zealand to Van Diemen’s Land.

This little-known chapter of history happened for several reasons. The colonists wanted to cleanse their land of thieves, vagrants and murderers and deal with Māori opposition to colonisation. Transporting fighting men like Hōhepa Te Umuroa, Te Kūmete, Te Waretiti, Matiu Tikiahi and Te Rāhui for life to Van Diemen’s Land was meant to subdue Māori resistance.

Portrait of Hohepa Te Umuroa by William Duke.
Wikimedia Commons

Transportation was also used to punish redcoats (the British soldiers sent to guard the colony and fight opposing Māori), who deserted their regiments or otherwise misbehaved. Some soldiers were so terrified of Māori warriors that they took off when faced with the enemy.

William Phelps Pickering, his second wife Grace Martha, and two of her children.
Author provided

Early colonial New Zealand had no room for reprobates. Idealised as a new sort of colony for gentlefolk and free labourers, New Zealanders aspired towards creating a utopia by brutally suppressing challenges to that dream. On 4 November 1841, the colony’s first governor, William Hobson, named Van Diemen’s Land as the site to which its prisoners would be sent. The first boatload arrived in Hobart in 1843 and included William Phelps Pickering, one of the few white-collar criminals transported across the Tasman. Pickering later lived as a gentleman after returning home.

In 1840s Van Diemen’s Land, convict labourers were sent to probation stations before being hired out. Many men transported from New Zealand were sent down the Tasman Peninsula, where labourers were needed at the time.

Ironically, those eventually allocated to masters or mistresses in larger centres like Hobart or Launceston would have enjoyed more developed living conditions than New Zealand’s fledgling townships. In those days, Auckland’s main street was rather muddy. Early colonial buildings were often constructed by Māori from local materials.

At least 51 redcoats were shipped to the penal island. Some committed crimes after being discharged from the military. But many faced charges related to desertion. Four of the six soldier convicts who arrived Van Diemen’s Land in June 1847 were court-martialled in Auckland the previous winter for “deserting in the vicinity of hostile natives”.

Port Arthur penal station, Tasmania, showing convict labourers in 1843.
Coloured lithograph signed ‘R.N.N’ (or ‘K.N.N’).

State Library of New South Wales.

As Irish soldier convict Michael Tobin explained, the deserters had been returned to the colonists by “friendly natives”; that is, Māori who were loyal to the Crown during the New Zealand Wars. Perhaps as a form of insurance, Tobin had also struck Captain Armstrong, his superior. Several other soldiers also used violence against a superior – it was bound to ensure a sentence of transportation, removing them from the theatre of war.

Irish Catholic soldier Richard Shea, for instance, was a private in the 99th Regiment who used his firelock to strike his lieutenant while on parade. This earned him a passage on the Castor to Van Diemen’s Land. His three military companions on the vessel, William Lane, George Morris and John Bailey, all claimed to have been taken by Maori north of Auckland and kept prisoner for four months. But surviving records reveal that their military overlords thought that the three had instead deserted to join the ranks of a rebel chief.

Maori fighters

In 1846, NZ governor George Grey proclaimed martial law across the Wellington region. When several Māori fighters were eventually captured and handed over to colonists by the Crown’s Indigenous allies, they were tried by court martial at Porirua, north of Wellington.

A portrait of Matiu Tikiaki by John Skinner Prout, painted in Hobart in 1846.
British Museum, CC BY-NC-SA

After being found guilty of charges that included being in open rebellion against Queen and country, five were sentenced to transportation for life in Van Diemen’s Land. The traditionally-clothed Māori attracted a lot of attention in Hobart, where colonists loudly disapproved of their New Zealand neighbours’ treatment of Indigenous people. This is ironic given the Tasmanians’ own near-genocidal war against Aboriginal people.

Grey had wanted the Māori warriors sent to Norfolk Island or Port Arthur and hoped they would write letters to their allies at home describing how harshly they were being treated. Instead, they were initially held in Hobart, where they were visited by media and other well-wishers. Colonial artist John Skinner Prout painted translucent watercolour portraits of them. Each of the fighters used pencil to sign his name to his likeness. William Duke created a portrait of Te Umuroa in oils.

Hobartians were worried that the Māori could become contaminated through contact with other convicts. Arrangements were made to send them to Maria Island off the island’s east coast, where they could live separately from the other convicts.

John Jennings Imrie, a man who previously lived in New Zealand and knew some Māori language, became their overseer. Their lives in captivity were as gentle as possible and involved Bible study, vegetable gardening, nature walks and hunting.

Hohepa Te Umuroa’s headstone at Darlington on Maria Island.
Kristyn Harman

Following lobbying from Tasmanian colonists and a pardon from Britain, four of the men, Te Kūmete, Te Waretiti, Matiu Tikiahi, Te Rāhui, were sent home in 1848. Te Umuroa died in custody at the Maria Island probation station in July 1847. It was not until 1988 that his remains were repatriated to New Zealand.

Reducing crime through imposing exemplary sentences saw dozens of working-class men transported to Van Diemen’s Land. One such fellow was James Beckett, a sausage-seller transported for theft for seven years. The only woman sent from New Zealand, Margaret Reardon, was sentenced to seven years’ transportation for perjuring herself trying to protect her partner (and possibly herself) from murder charges. After being found guilty of murdering Lieutenant Robert Snow on Auckland’s North Shore in 1847, the following year Reardon’s former lover Joseph Burns became the first white man judicially executed in New Zealand.

At one stage, Reardon was sent to the Female Factory at Cascades on Hobart’s outskirts to be punished for a transgression. Eventually, she remarried and moved to Victoria where she died in old age.

The ConversationIn 1853, transportation to Van Diemen’s Land formally ended. New Zealand then had to upgrade its flimsy gaols so criminals could be punished within its own borders.

Kristyn Harman, Senior Lecturer in History, University of Tasmania

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


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