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Anne Salmond

Anne Salmond and her record of performance

In swearing an oath in a court of law, one is required to tell the whole truth. It is recognized that half the truth may be worse than no truth at all.

So we have Anne Salmond who says that there are examples "ad infinitum" of Maori kindness to children ("Comment", 'NZ Herald', Dialogue Section, 26/5/16). Well so be it but there is another half of the truth. Female children who could not become warriors had little value and when deemed surplus were disposed of at birth, usually by their own mothers. Slave and half-caste children often had a similar fate. Depressing the fontanelle or holding the nostrils together until the infant ceased to breathe were ways of doing this.

Salmond quotes selectively from the works of Joel Polack from which Paul Moon comments: 'Infanticide was said by some early European visitors ..to be widespread ... Polack's instinctive inquisitiveness led him to find out the four main methods used ... compressing the temples, strangulation, drowning .. and suffocation, ... the most common method.

Richard Cruise, whom Salmond also quotes selectively, found that female infanticide was frequent, observing "This barbarous act is effected by the mother pressing her finger upon the aperture in the skull of the new-born infant, and thereby causing its immediate death."

It was observed so commonly by the missionaries that even Henry Williams in a letter, casually mentioned that "Patu ... had an infant which she destroyed."

RB Hunton, writing in the New Zealand Medical Journal for 28th December 1977 states in his abstract: "The practice of abortion and infanticide in pre- and early European New Zealand is confirmed." There is not a word of this from Salmond.

More recently the office of the Children's Commissioner issued its "Maori Parenting Report" on 29th May 2011, with the unfounded claim that missionaries introduced violence towards children. As noted by Paul Moon again, its reliance on ancient oral histories and lullabies raises doubts about its reliability.

Perhaps therefore, having disposed brutally of unwanted children within family and associated groups the selected survivors were treated with kindness. So that's OK then – all one big extended happy family? But it was rather different outside - tribal warfare on a colossal scale with a third of the population dying. Once again, Salmond has not told half the story.

On 5 September, 1821 Ngapuhi took Mauinaina pa at Tamaki with great slaughter – 2000 men, women and children, being killed. One can easily imagine the sheer terror of their child victims, no doubt tasty morsels for the cannibal feast which followed until the victors were driven off by the smell of decaying bodies. This is but one example. As another, we have Te Rauparaha on one of his brutal southern raids, slashing open the belly of a pregnant woman, tearing out, cooking and eating the foetus she carried. Salmond says nothing of this kind of behaviour.

However there is more evidence that we should treat what Salmond says very warily. When some Ngapuhi tribesmen launched their flagrantly false claim that their tribe never ceded sovereignty, Salmond told the profoundly corrupt Waitangi Tribunal:"kawanatanga (the right to govern) granted to the crown at the time of the Treaty signing, was not a plausible stand-in for Crown sovereignty."

On 24th August 2010, I (Bruce Moon) wrote to Dame Anne, pointing out that her statement was wrong because she failed to understand that the derivation of a word is not the same as its meaning. "Kawanatanga" was a perfectly satisfactory word for "sovereignty", Several Maoris at Waitangi understood English and none objected to this translation. All who spoke on it made it abundantly clear that they understood that by signing the treaty document they would become subordinates of the governor and hence a fortiori of the Queen.

I pointed out further that several Ngapuhi chiefs who spoke at the 1860 Kohimarama conference stated emphatically that the Queen was their sovereign.

She replied haughtily that afternoon saying that "The evidence from 1840 is very powerful'" Well, yes it is, but she chose to ignore it.

She went on "What was said in 1860, i.e. 20 years after the event, is part of a very different period in New Zealand's history. No professional historian would take that as definitive evidence of Maori understandings in 1840." What remarkable nonsense when all the recorded evidence from both periods is consistent and Waka Nene who spoke at Kohimarama had also been present at Waitangi.

Yet Salmond, like the Waitangi Tribunal, is evidently happy to accept unchallenged the oral stories more than 150 years old of elderly Maoris. What a double standard! What a lack of objective and dispassionate sifting of the evidence we have a right to expect from a professional historian.

Distinguished Professor Dame Anne Salmond has received high honours from those who decide such things. It is evident that we should seriously question their judgement.

Results in History Stage One from a competent university: Salmond, Mary Anne: C- (a bare pass but insufficient for her to proceed to the next stage.

By Bruce Moon