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Claudia Orange

State educational institutions recommend Claudia Orange’s book, 'The Treaty of Waitangi (1986)' as a standard reference. How many of our young people (and their teachers and lecturers for that matter) appreciate that this is only one person’s particular interpretation of events surrounding the treaty, that it is seriously biased, that it has significant omissions, and that it is dismissive of other, more conventional, treatments such as T.L.Buick’s Treaty of Waitangi (1933)?

In a comprehensive review of Orange’s book , (ODT,8 July 1988) Associate Professor Gordon Parsonson of the History Department of Otago University takes issue with Orange over a range of aspects of her book, including the fact that the treaty was between the Crown and some 500 individual chiefs, not a “race” or “nation” as claimed by Orange. He challenges Orange’s failure to deal with the 686 legitimate land sales registered in the NSW Supreme Court prior to 1840 and questions the concept that Maori “owned” the whole land mass of New Zealand. He points out that the treaty allowed for continued access to those places which different iwi and hapu occupied and/or used in 1840 for food gathering and crop growing.

On this matter, he accuses Orange of “a strange, even wilful, delusion which can only arise from an utter refusal to view the treaty in it’s historical setting”. Orange fails, (possibly deliberately?) to mention subsequent endeavours by the government of Sir George Grey in particular to give effect to the rights of Maoris as fully-entitled British subjects as agreed in the treaty through the provision of schools, hospitals, banks, a newspaper, employment schemes, the establishment of courts and the appointment of magistrates to deal with Maori land issues.

Parsonson rightly points out that the terms of the treaty have long since been met - cession of sovereignty, confirmation of property rights and equality under the law - and importantly, that the treaty is devoid of any indication or suggestion of any “partnership”, which is of course a modern invention. He predicts that any attempt at a 50/50 sharing of political power simply cannot work in today’s environment. Another strongly critical evaluation of Orange’s work can be found in “Twisting The Treaty” (M. Butler). See in particular pp299-300 about her Te Papa"debates".



Claudia Orange, a darling of the "establishment", has received many decorations and academic awards for telling for telling them exactly what they want to hear. This began with her 1987 book, "The Treaty of Waitangi" published with assistance from the Department of Internal Affairs. It is based on a thesis accepted by the University of Auckland for a doctoral degree.

In the very first line of the preface she refers to "Maori and Pakeha". Her use of the offensive term "pakeha" when presumably she means New Zealanders who do not have any Maori blood shows just where she stands. Within the first paragraph she dismisses Buick's seminal work as "essentially a compilation of official documents [with] little analysis". From now on, clearly, Orange is to be the absolute authority on the Treaty and much else besides. In this, it must be acknowledged she has had success, 40,000 copies of this book having been sold and it is recommended by state educational institutions as a standard reference.

Already in the second paragraph of her introduction she makes the fundamental mistake of describing the"treaty in English [which} only thirty-nine chiefs signed ... Most signed a treaty in the Maori language. The text failed to convey the meaning of the English version."

As we now recognize that her so-called "treaty in English" is a bogus document complied after the event by the pompous Freeman from Busby's 3rd February draft and scraps of his own her profoundly flawed scholarship becomes glaringly obvious.

On page 2 she talks of the 'real meaning' (her quotation marks) and "Maori rights to land, fisheries, and taonga or prized possessions - as well as a degree of genuine autonomy". We note again that the real Treaty said nothing about fisheries, that in 1840 "taonga" meant not "prize possessions" but things like pork, potatoes and iron cooking pots, that possession of these items was guaranteed to us all, not only to Maoris" and we see how far her claimed "real meaning" strays from the truth. Again, Maoris (including their slaves) were granted the great gift of the full rights of British subjects but, in her misguided view, they were to get "genuine autonomy" as well - and we are still only on page 2!

On page 3, we learn that "The treaty had given Britain a nominal sovereignty only" as distinct from "substantive sovereignty". Well, of course, that is the way it starts. From "nominal sovereignty" substantive sovereignty is gradually asserted as the resources for it develop. That has happened in many places, and records exist of the way that over time, substantive Roman sovereignty was established over Britain 2000 years ago. But, note well, even Orange recognized that by the treaty British sovereignty was established...

On page 7 she makes the false claim that Maoris were "a complex people who had lived in New Zealand for more than a thousand years" to suggest perhaps that their descendants today somehow have more legitimacy than the rest of us. Modern scholarship puts the first arrival of the "fleet Maoris" at 1350 – maybe 660 years ago, not much more than half of Orange's wild claim.

Then on page 9 she refers to the "1772 massacre of 250 northern Maori when the French retaliated for the slaying of Marion du Fresne". A couple of hundred Frenchmen defending themselves and their hospital against 1500 warriors bent on their slaughter is evidently a "massacre" in Orange's eyes. The killing and eating of du Fresne and his unarmed boat's crew would be more like a massacre to most people.

Moving on to page 20, she purports to describe some chiefs' "choice" of one of Busby's flags but she does not mention the eye-witness account of Austrian Baron Von Hugel that the chiefs had no idea of what they were supposed to be doing. On the next page she calls the flag which was eventually chosen as "the national flag", unaware, it seems of the absurdity of a "national flag" when there was no nation.

She goes on of course with her account of Busby's "Declaration of Independence", stating several times that it was "acknowledged" but the Colonial Office, as Governor Bourke had requested in despatching it but Bourke himself described it as "a paper pellet fired of at Baron de Thierry" and a Foreign Office official called it "silly and unauthorised". By page 22 we find that this paper pellet was "accepted" in Britain – substantial shift of meaning.

Readers may prefer Jerningham Wakefield's 1845 account (Chapter One) or may even go to the library to read Buick's careful assessment of this comic opera document. Of course the racists, including the Waitangi Tribunal find that Orange's account just suits them fine but they ignore her recognition that by the treaty Britain obtained sovereignty.

On page 24 Orange refers to the death of chief Titore but fails to mention that this occurred in civil war between "Declaration" signatories not long after it was signed. Neither does she mention the bravery of Henry Williams, veteran of the Battle of Copenhagen, who strode in the heat of battle between the warring sides in one encounter, an act of courage which helped considerably in bringing about peace.

On page 30, Orange has the effrontery to say Hobson's brief from the Colonial Office "amounted to an apology". If a generous assessment of the state of Maori society at the time is an "a[apology" then so be it.

Her account of the preliminary treaty-drafting sessions of 1-3 February 1840 is more or less accurate but then on page 37 she makes the fragrantly false claim that "Busby's draft [of 3rd February] consisted of three articles [which], with no alteration were accepted for the Treaty". She makes the entirely false assumption that "the treaty in its final English form [contained] the articles developed by Busby from Freeman's skeletal versions" with its inclusion of 'forests and fisheries". In other words, though noting that Hobson's final draft had never been found (at her time of writing) she chooses too ignore entirely the final drafting session on 4th February. This is speculation, not scholarship. She is also wrong in stating that the final draft was "put together on the Herald" when Freeman's log states clearly that Hobson was ashore.

While most reasonable people would deduce that the major differences between Busby's 3rd February draft and the treaty itself, in Maori, were owing to the major differences in between Busby's draft and Hobson's of 4th, Orange chooses to explain it as due to the deficiencies in the ability of Henry and Edward Williams as translators. She mentions Hugh Carleton, Williams' biographer, with the off-hand remark that Edward was "said to be an expert in the Ngapuhi dialect" and then dismisses this with spurious reasoning of her own making as "something of an exaggeration." In fact Carleton's opinion of Edward, in Latin, was that he was a scholar in the Maori language "without peer".

Then she goes on to claim on page 40 that "Williams may have decided to recast the English draft as translators often do. A comparison of the English and Maori texts tends to confirm this view." Given that her comparison is knowingly between Busby's text which was not the final draft and the treaty itself, this is no more than a brazen effort to twist the truth to fit her own distorted hypothesis.

Then she goes with "It has been suggested that the absence of forests and fisheries from the Maori translation can be explained by an accidental omission from the English draft given to Williams." This is an unfounded speculation to fit a preconceived hypothesis and an insult to Hobson's competence – twisting to truth to fit with what she wants to believe.

More to the point is that Orange flagrantly omits to say that whatever was promised in Article second, it was promised to "tangata katoa o Nu Tireni", that is "all the people of New Zealand" and all means all.

She goes on about what "kawanatanga" and "tino rangatiratanga" might have meant to the chiefs, ignoring the fact that the words those chiefs who spoke on 5th February against signing the treaty made it very plain that they knew that by doing so they would become subordinate to the Governor and more so to his superior, the Queen. She names what she calls "this articulate group" though she does admit that what they said, on the basis of later evidence, was 'all mere show' - her italics. She describes the signing on 6th February in some detail but omits to say that all those chiefs, bar one who seems to have disappeared early signed that day or soon afterwards.

This is not history; it is propaganda.

She claims on page 45 that in his opening remarks , Hobson said that "outside the Queen's dominion, he lacked the authority [to control] British subjects" but what he actually said was "you ... often asked the King of England to extend his protection to you. ... as the law of England gives no civil powers to Her Majesty out of her domain, her efforts to do you good will be futile unless you consent [to signing]." The protection most Maoris sought was actually from the French and other tribes. Controlling British subjects was a lesser matter. It is just one more example of Orange twisting the truth.

Yet another example of Orange's inferior research is her failure to track the despatches by Clendon and Wilkes to the United States which amateur reseachers have done successfully. Comparison of both of these with the Treaty (in Maori) makes clear their common derivation which was indeed Hobson's final draft, now misleadingly tabbed the "Littlewood treaty". Even in its absence much could have been deduced about its contents but that was too much for Orange.

She mentions the 1860 Kohimarama conference several times, complaining on page 148 that it "was not fully representative in that it excluded chiefs in open opposition to the government, particularly Taranaki and Waikato." It was these tribes who were in open rebellion and at the conference Governor Gore Browne wanted to know the views of other tribes. Several resolutions were put to the chiefs on 10th August. The first moved by Paikea and carried unanimously said in essence "the chiefs ... are pledged ... to do nothing inconsistent with their declared recognition of the Queen's sovereignty, and of the union of the two races." Many of those chiefs were Ngapuhi. Orange says not a word. Some confusion arose when motions were proposed about the Maori king movement but in due course Wiremu Tamihana proposed a successful motion "That this Conference deprecates in the strongest manner the murder of unarmed Europeans committed by the Natives now fighting at Taranaki".

In like vein, Orange goes on for more chapters. The second to last she entitles "A Struggle for Autonomy". What "autonomy"? With Maoris becoming fully-fledged subjects by the Treaty, Hobson's momentous "He iwi tahi tatou" at the time and the unanimous statement by the chiefs at Kohimarama of their declared recognition of the union of the two races any talk of "autonomy" today is just mischievous or worse. Temporary arrangements for tribal management of affairs of state is now something of the distant past.

Her final chapter is "A Residue of Guilt". Well, well! Some milk-sop liberals will be wallowing in an orgy of guilt, encouraged by Maori racists. There will be some white racists too, always ready to belittle anything Maori.

The vast majority, whatever their ethnic origins, will surely seek to live in harmony with their neighbours, to respect them and be respected in turn; to observe that fairness which above all else has long made New Zealanders distinct. It is the likes of Orange, too many academics and faceless civil servants who would destroy all this and with it our nation. Her sham "debates" at Te Papa (Twisting the Treaty, pp 299-300) are another step in this process.

As Associate Professor Gordon Parsonson of the University of Otago said (Otago Daily Times, 8/7/1988), in Orange he sees “a strange, even wilful, delusion which can only arise from an utter refusal to view the treaty in it’s historical setting”. He sums her up very accurately.

By Bruce Moon