Museum and misinformation

Bruce Moon writes to correct misinformation displayed at the Taranaki Wars Exhibition at the Nelson Provincial Museum.

From: Bruce Moon
To:     Kelvin Day [Puke Ariki Museum, New Plymouth]
Cc:     Peter Millward [Nelson Museum]
Sent: Thursday, 1 November 2012 5:20 PM
Subject: Taranaki Wars Exhibition

Dear Kelvin,

Peter Millward of the Nelson Museum has given me your name as the constructor of the exhibition on the Taranaki tribal rebellions which is currently on display in Nelson and it is about this that I write.

The exhibition is well-presented and impressive, nevertheless it contains a considerable number of errors of omission and commission.

First, and perhaps most seriously, it claims that seven Maori language copies [of the Treaty of Waitangi] and one English copy were circulated for signing. This is not true. As well as the original treaty, written on dogskin and signed at Waitangi, five copies of it (in Maori, of course) were prepared and circulated for signature. These documents had adequate space for signatures, as the facsimile copy of one on display in your exhibition demonstrates. On 17th February, mission printer, Colenso, fulfilled a paid government order for 200 printed copies of it (again in Maori). Each was printed on a single sheet of paper with normal margins, as these documents were simply intended to be distributed for information and not to be signed.

At about the same time, and while Hobson was away at Hokianga and elsewhere getting more signatures, his pompous secretary, Freeman, deciding that the simple wording of Hobson's final draft in English was inappropriate for the eyes of officialdom overseas. Accordingly, unauthorised, he composed seven documents in a flowery style of English, with variant wording, some of it substantial, for his purpose.

Hobson's plans were thrown into disarray on 6th March when he had a severe stroke at Thames, which paralysed his right side and he returned to the Bay of Islands in this condition. Freeman induced Hobson to initial two of his versions and sign one, which Hobson did extremely shakily, with his left hand, so much so that the signed copy was quite unsuitable for sending overseas.

Meanwhile, Captain Symonds had set off for Waikato Heads with a genuine copy of the Treaty for signature at the mission there and elsewhere, but he was delayed at Manukau. At the mission, a great body of Maoris was assembling and head of mission, Rev. Robert Maunsell, saw this as a good opportunity to get signatures, but he had a problem as Symonds had not arrived in time for it. However, he had recently received a consignment of printed documents from Colenso for use at the mission and Colenso had included one copy of the treaty which he had printed. Also, and probably at the same time, though this is not certain, as Maunsell's diaries of the time were destroyed in two subsequent fires at the mission, he received the rejected copy of Freeman's false treaty in English.

Maunsell decided to improvise and use the printed copy at hand for signatures but many chiefs wanted to sign and there was only room on the sheet for five to do so, as this document, which remains in existence, shows clearly. (This was the seventh copy of the Treaty {in Maori}by your count.) He had to improvise further so decided to use Freeman's false document for the purpose, as at least it showed some appearance of being official, and several dozen chiefs signed it.

When Symonds did finally arrive, it was clearly impractical to stage the signing process again, so the valid treaty was sent south to Rev. John Whiteley at Kawhia where he obtained nine more signatures. (Nearly 30 years later Whiteley was murdered by a Ngati Maniopoto gang, of which more later.) In due course, Symonds returned to base with all the signed documents but did not bother to mention in his report the exceptional, indeed unique, use of one in English. Had there been any significance in this beyond a practical exigency, he would surely have said so.

It is this false document of Freeman's which has now been elevated by statute to be 'The Treaty of Waitangi in English' and, for a time, it was given precedence over the valid Treaty in Maori. Well, one may legislate that black is white but that does not make it so.

Of course, with substantial differences between the wording of the real Treaty and Freeman's bogus one, there has been a fruitful ground for false arguments by those who stand to profit by them.

Moreover, in the Treaty-2-U caravan which toured New Zealand at considerable expense to taxpayers, and was used to indoctrinate children with a highly misleading story, what is purported to be a facsimile of the 'signed treaty in English', that is Freeman's paper signed at Waikato Heads, is actually a fake, with Hobson's very weak signature replaced by one in a firm hand such as he used at Waitangi. It is to lengths such as this that officialdom is willing to go to deceive the people of New Zealand. It is no wonder that you have been misled!

So, considering the wording of the Treaty, you say the "English' version stated that the chiefs would cede sovereignty but the Maori one does not and you assert, as many do, that 'kawangatanga', used in the Maori, means 'merely' 'governorship'. In this you are using false methodology, which is all too common, and a trap into which Anne Salmond, for another, has also fallen, confusing derivation with translation. I cannot develop this point at length here, merely noting as an example that English 'demand' is derived from French 'demand' but the latter translates as 'ask'.

Now, in the first place, it is inconceivable that Hobson would have used any word in the Treaty to express 'sovereignty' had he, or anybody, had any doubts about it, since the whole point of his mission was to get the free and willing consent of the chiefs to its cession. Had he not got this, he would have sailed away and what would have been the ultimate fate of this country, nobody knows. Moreover, the chiefs knew that, with the treaty signed, they would become subordinate to the Queen and Governor. One has only got to look at the statements on 5th February of chiefs who expressed opposition, Te Kemara, Rewa and Kawiti, to learn that they had no doubts about this.

This is reinforced in the declaration of loyalty to the Queen by many chiefs in 1860, on display in your exhibition, in which, as one example, Wi Katene says 'All my people are resolved ... to submit to the Queen and to Governor Browne'. Again, as outstanding Maori scholar, Sir Apirana Ngata said in the 1920s, 'the chiefs placed in the hands of the Queen of England, the sovereignty and authority to make laws.'

People who deny this, such as Pita Tipene, Ngapuhi facilitator before the Waitangi Tribunal, whose views have received 'dompost' headlines, are simply expressing a falsehood and it is difficult to believe that their motives are anything but gain for what Elizabeth Rata calls the 'Maori retribalisation elite' at the expense of taxpayers.

You fall into the trap of using false methodology yet again, as did Hugh Kawharu in his 'official translation of the treaty', when you claim that the asserted modern meaning of 'taonga' is the same as what it was in 1840. Here again, one must have serious doubts about the integrity of his motives. Today, maybe, 'taonga' may mean 'all Maori treasures, material and non-material' but this was not so in 1840 and it is false, not to say dishonest, to assert that this meaning was applicable in 1840. When in 1820, Hongi Hika visited Cambridge, England, where researchers were compiling a Maori dictionary, he said that 'taonga' meant 'property procured by the spear'. In other words, property was what was obtained by force and thus one could be deprived of it by force in turn by a stronger adversary.

When 13 Ngapuhi chiefs appealed to King William in November 1831 for his protection, they said 'We are people without possessions. We have nothing but timber, flax, pork and potatoes. ... we see property of the Europeans.' Both 'possessions' and 'property' are rendered as 'taonga' in the Maori version - and, be it noted, for pork and potatoes, they had to thank the British.

In William Williams' 1844 dictionary, 'taonga' is rendered simply as 'property' and only in later editions was 'treasure' added.

Latter-day claims to an enormous range of things, from the electromagnetic spectrum, undiscovered in 1840, to the current claim for natural water are therefore entirely spurious and one suspects strongly that they are made yet again for material gain at the expense of ordinary New Zealanders.

Sadly, your exhibition only serves to reinforce such false claims.

With respect to the 'Declaration of Independence', you say that 5 years before the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, 34 rangitiras from Ngapuhi 'had a document drawn up'. This is untrue. In fact this document was a brainchild of the well-intentioned but rather foolish Busby who induced most of these chiefs to sign, as Michael King said (on page 154 of his 'Penguin History') 'in exchange for a ... cauldron of porridge'. As he says, too, 'This [was a] document into which Maori had had no input'. In fact, this 'declaration' soon collapsed, Paul Moon describing it in 2006 as 'little more that a pebble'. Your statement therefore invests this document with a quite spurious importance, one which latter-day Ngapuhi have been keep to exploit for their material benefit, which a more accurate description would have endeavoured to dispel.

With respect to the wreck of the Harriet on the Taranaki coast, you are right that the captain's wife and children were taken as hostages by the local tribe (and subsequently and rather miraculously, rescued from them) but you fail to mention that most of the crew had been killed and, I suspect, eaten. Such partial truth is often more misleading than an outright lie.

This was in pre-treaty days when Maori practice applied and plunder of the stricken ship was in accordance with this but it can hardly be expected that the British would accept this and punitive measures were undertaken. It was a rather sorry affair all round.

You present a panel giving what you say is the 'Maori World View' and this may, to a degree, be true but you fail to mention that this 'world view' was accompanied by widespread cannibalism, infanticide, especially of female infants, slavery, and summary death at the hands of a chief of anybody whom he perceived to have broken a tabu or infringed his mana in some way.

Also, you give some account of Maori 'medicine' as practised by tohungas but fail to mention that the treatment of the sick and women in childbirth was to place them out of doors at the mercy of the elements by night which often accelerated death or increased its likelihood. The Suppression of Tohungas Bill which was strongly supported by educated Maoris, notably Sir Peter Buck, gets very lukewarm support in your hands.

In a display of notable persons, presumably with some Maori blood, you include Dr Giselle Burns but you fail to say that when she presented the result of her work to the authorities, she was told that unless she changed this to conform with what was the official view of what our history was to be, she would not be paid for it. The same thing happened to Dr John Robinson, as he has revealed quite recently.

These examples demonstrate with great clarity the extent to which officialdom is prepared to go to conceal the truth of our history and replace it with a perverted view to accord with its apparent policy.

One can only speculate about what the motives are for this behaviour but it is abundantly clear that it is a treacherous betrayal of the interests of ordinary citizens.

Where land disputes in Taranaki are concerned, as you indicate, a serious one was that between between Teira and Kingi about the sale of land at Waitara which belonged to Teira, over which you assert that Kingi 'had a customary right to say "no"'. This cannot be so, as by custom, the chief who possessed the land had the right to sell it, so any claimed right of Kingi was invalid. There was a little more to it than that. As John Robinson says in his recent book 'When two cultures meet', 'in the simplest of terms, Teira was insisting on a sale in order to punish Kingi for the seduction of the wife of Ihaia by Rimene. A Maori feud over a woman had set the scene for war'. I recommend this book to you as it is most informative.

Just who were the legitimate tribal owners of land in Taranaki had become very confused owing to the major movements of tribes consequent upon warfare between them. Try as they might, it was very difficult for the British to know with whom to negotiate to buy land and in some instances, payment was made up to four times over to various Maori claimants. You do not mention this. It is erroneous to say, as you do, that 'dodgy land deals' by the British caused the rebellion.

You refer to 'Government burning, killing and looting' but why don't your refer to burning, killing and looting by tribal rebels, often of defenceless women and children? This was most extensive and many settlers had to retreat to New Plymouth to save their own lives.

There was not 'land dispossession by force of arms' by government forces as you say. This was just what the rebels did, though in due course government troops and loyal Maoris were obliged to use force to regain such lands. Moreover, subsequent confiscation of rebel land was legitimate and the rebels had been warned that it would occur. It was, in any case, in accordance with Maori custom. A substantial portion of this confiscated land was returned to the tribes soon afterwards; rather than that 'Maori clawed back some of the land seized' in 1868-9 as you claim.

I suggest that you read Charles Heaphy's first-hand account reported in his 'Further papers relative to the native insurrection, statistical notes relating to the Maoris and their territory', attached to the Journals of the House of Representatives - 1861 session. Earlier papers which it would be worth your time to read are the reports in 'The Taranaki Herald' for January 16, 1858, page 2 and January 30, 1858, page 2.

As mentioned above, a Ngati Maniopoto gang murdered the Rev. John Whiteley who had devoted forty years to the welfare of Maoris. This was at Whitecliffs in northern Taranaki in February 1869, when they also murdered Bamber Gascoygne and his wife and children and two unarmed men who had been walking on the beach. These murderers were never brought to justice. That you fail to mention this is a significant omission.

With respect to Parihaka, this was built on duly confiscated land and Te W'iti and his cohorts had no right to be there. (I use the approved Taranaki spelling of his name.) Somewhat surprisingly I did not see any mention by you of Te W'iti's use of the white feather as a symbol of the pacifism which he avowed. In fact the white feather was a symbol stolen from the Chatham Island Morioris, who were genuine pacifists and suffered in consequence when Taranaki tribes Ngati Tama and Ngati Mutunga invaded their peaceful islands. Few Morioris survived their brutal enslavement and most were killed and eaten. Even in Te W'iti's day, armed Maori gangs were roaming around Taranaki.

You do not mention that Sir John Hall, Premier at the time, made repeated attempts to negotiate with Te W'iti but found him to be totally evasive and it was as a last resort that Parihaka was occupied. (See Jean Garner's book, 'By his own merits', a biography of Sir John.) It is true that cannon were placed on heights near Parihaka to intimidate the residents but none were fired. The occupation took place without a single casualty. Does your account stress this?

It is said that children came out with white feathers to meet the approaching troops but they were not harmed and the only injury occurred when a trooper's horse trod accidentally on a child's foot. Do you mention this? If the children were indeed traumatised by the turn of events, surely the blame for this should be placed squarely on their parents and elders who placed them in this position. (The situation of the Tuhoe children allegedly traumatised by police actions in the Ureweras is strangely reminiscent of all this and again the blame should be properly placed on those Tuhoe who were wandering around with illegally possessed firearms.)

Whether Parihaka women were actually raped will never be established for certain but that many were rejected by their husbands when they returned from captivity suggests, to me at least, that they were only too ready to accept troopers' advances.

I hope to see the film 'Tatarakihi' here on Monday next but fear that it will present a totally one-sided account of an action in which the brutal British were entirely in the wrong and the Maoris pure and innocent. I hope that I will find that I am wrong in this presumption but if not, it is a scandal of treacherous proportions that modern children are being induced to accept a biased account of this event as if it were yesterday and not more than 130 years ago.

Nobody should claim that all government actions were entirely well-judged but they were faced with a multitude of conflicting Maori claims and the readiness of some Maoris to resort to arms with what was frequently brutal killing of their own people and white settlers.

That the Waitangi Tribunal has made the wild allegation that 'the invasion and sacking of Parihaka must rank with the most heinous action of any government in any country in the last century' linking it with an alleged 'holocaust of Taranaki history' shows just how far privileged groups will lie in order to advance their own interests. In fact the total casualties in all armed rebellions from 1845 to 1880 amounted to no more that 800 government forces, loyal Maoris and civilians and about 2000 rebels (James Cowan's figures). The higher rebel losses may be accounted for by the better training and drill in the use of firearms by the government troops.

This may be contrasted with John Robinson's recent careful estimate that 32,000 Maoris were slaughtered by other Maoris in 1807-1838. As an example, in 1822, when Hongi Hika assaulted two large pas in what are now Auckland suburbs, '[n]early all were slaughtered or taken, and Hongi left naught in their villages but bones, with such flesh on them "as even his dogs had not required"'. The slaughter was even greater at the Mataki-taki pa of Waikato. (Refer to 'The Long White Cloud' by William Pember Reeves, page 113.)

So, e hoa, I do hope you will do a little more research and endeavour to amend your presentation to make it more accurate and well-balanced than the current version.

With my compliments,
Bruce Moon
(With minor revisions as at 30th November 2012)