Race relations in the contact period. 1769-1840

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Group at Te Aro pa c. 1830s


Cook’s 1772 chart of his second voyage to New Zealand

Key Question: How did relations between Maori and

Pakeha develop and change in the nineteenth century? 2

1. Part 1:The World of the Maori - Pakeha 1800 3

  1. Part 2: The European exploitation of the natural and

human resources of Aotearoa/New Zealand. 4
3. Part 3: contact and impact on Maori and their responses.

4. Part 4 events of the 1830s leading to British

annexation 23

Wiremu Pipe – Pakeha-Maori

Maori/Pakeha Relations.
Key Question: How did relations between Maori and Pakeha develop and change in the nineteenth century?
Main Issues: Maori-Pakeha contact and interaction before 1840 – social, economic, political and religious.

In 1800 New Zealand was overwhelmingly a ‘Maori world’. A handful of Europeans resided temporarily for a few months while they exploited the natural and human resources on offer. They lived totally by favours extended to them by their Maori hosts and exclusively on Maori terms. During the first four decades of the nineteenth century – the New Zealand ‘Contact Period’ – the relationship between visitors and hosts began to change. By 1840, the dominant group felt it was necessary and expendient to enter into a formal relationship offered by the leading group of Europeans who were now making permanent settlements and challenging the relationship which had previously existed. This formal relationship was the Treaty of Waitangi. Several high profile incidents in the period before the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 gave the impression of poor race relations between Maori and Pakeha. The British Resident from 1833, James Busby painted a picture of ‘extreme frontier chaos’. The impact on Maori of contact with Pakeha before 1840 was a significant issue in the nineteenth century.
Taming this ‘frontier of chaos’ became a concern of groups like Christian missionaries, and of men like James Busby. More is known of their views and efforts because they took the time to record their experiences while many other Europeans who were in daily contact with the Maori did not. These other Europeans, sometimes known as intermediaries were, however, an important feature of contact in the period before the Treaty. The Maori perspectives of this period rely on being retold through their contacts in the Pakeha world or through oral sources which were committed to writing in a later generation. Accounts were flavoured by the background and circumstances of the author as well as who were the intended audience. This particularly was the case with the voluminous correspondences of the missionaries during the period.
Part 1:The World of the Maori - Pakeha 1800.
Tribal; regional; intensely competitive; exploitation of natural resources; oral traditions; social structure and cohesion based on ancestry.
The 125,000 Maori (approximate estimate) who inhabited the main islands of Aotearoa were the descendants of the greatest and last wave of human migration. Their society was tribally-based and was a lithic culture exploiting the natural resources of the land and sea. Most Maori lived in the northern half of the North Island and were engaged in seasonal horticulture and harvesting protein from animals, birds and marine resources. They had a precarious relationship with the land and this caused intense pressures which were expressed in tribal rivalry.
National; global; intensely competitive; exploitation of natural and manufactured local and foreign resources; age of scientific, cultural and technological discovery impacting on how Europeans viewed themselves and the world…the age of global empires; social structure based on class and family connections.

The pre-1800 ‘Contact Period’ : exploration and discovery, conflict and ignorance as New Zealand becomes part of the known world.
The experiences of the explorers Abel Tasman, James Cook and Marion du Fresne had convinced many Europeans that New Zealand was a dangerous place. From the 1790s the arrival of sealing and whaling gangs forged a new set of largely ad-hoc commercial interactions with Maori.
In the late 18th. century some Europeans portrayed the Maori as the ‘noble savage’, but the great majority of European visitors saw Maori society as vastly inferior to their own. Maori custom and practices were tolerated because they were the majority and therefore it was prudent to do so. The early Europeans were in New Zealand to make money, not to change Maori society, and it was acknowledged that challenging and disrupting Maori society was not good for business. Some Europeans who lived with Maori, and some missionaries, gained an appreciation of the intricacies of the Maori way of life, but most didn’t.

Important Maori values and practices that influenced interactions with Europeans.

Maori were quick to recognise the economic benefits of developing a positive working relationship with Europeans. Acceptance of trade and European practices would be on Maori terms, and concepts of utu and mana were central to this.

How Maori responded in the early contact period was determined by well-established customs and practices. The notions of mana and tapu were the source of both order and dispute in Maori society and were practical forces at work in everyday matters.
It is almost impossible to give mana a single meaning in English. A common explanation is to refer to it as ‘status’ or to describe someone with mana as having some sort of ‘presence’. Mana was inherited but individuals could acquire, increase or lose mana through particular deeds or actions. Maori recognised the need to maintain mana to the highest degree, especially amongst rangitira or chiefs. Mana influenced the way that people and groups behaved, while acting as a reference point for achievements and successes. Maori vigorously defended mana in everyday matters and tried to enhance it whenever possible. Sometimes the defence of mana led to an excessive response to an action. (eg. Tribal conflicts and events like the ‘Boyd’ incident).
Control or patronage over European traders or, after 1814, missionaries was very much part of the pursuit of mana. Maori spoke of many of the Europeans they developed a relationship with as ‘our Pakeha’ and if there was some advantage to be gained through access to these new arrivals than a rival could not be allowed to reap the benefits unchallenged.
Maori life was also restricted through the placing of tapu on people and things. Tapu controlled how people behaved towards each other and the environment, and it protected people and natural resources.
Almost every activity, ceremonial or otherwise, was connected to the maintenance and enhancement of mana and tapu. Crucial to this was the concept of utu. Although often defined as ‘revenge’, utu has a broader meaning. It essentially aims to maintain balance and harmony within society. A wrong had to be put right, but how this was done could vary greatly. Utu through gift exchange established and maintained social bonds and obligations. If social relations were disturbed, utu would be a means of restoring balance. One form of utu was muru, which involved the taking of personal property as compensation for an offence against an individual, community or society. Once muru was performed, the matter was considered to be ended. The nature of muru would be determined by various factors, including the mana of the victim or offender, the degree of the offence and the intent of the offending party.
If balance had not been restored, the response could become violent and a taua or hostile expedition might become necessary. Even here there were levels of response: taua muru, a plundering expedition in which blood was not shed; and taua ngaki mate or taua roto, meaning to seek blood for a death.

Part 2: The European exploitation of the natural and human resources of Aotearoa/New Zealand.
New Zealand: part of the global economy.
James Belich in Making Peoples described how in the 18th. and 19th. centuries, Europe exploded outwards in one of the most incredible expansions in human history. This European explosion first impacted on New Zealand in the closing decade of the 18th. century when sealers and whalers began to arrive in their hundreds seeking to exploit local resources.
The ‘Workable Accord’.
Europeans encountered a Maori world. Contact was regional in its nature; many Maori had no contact with Europeans. Where contact did occur, Europeans had to work out a satisfactory arrangement with Maori, who were often needed to provide local knowledge, food, resources, companionship, labour and, most important of all, guarantee the newcomers’ safety. Maori were quick to recognise the economic benefits to be gained in developing a relationship with these newcomers. In the main, race relations in the contact period were remarkably free of conflict and violence between the races. There were exceptions when the view of the ‘violent frontier of New Zealand’ was confirmed by interracial violence. However, as Judith Binney explains…both races developed a ‘workable accord’ based on mutual understandings of the economic advantages in avoiding violence. Maori came to understand that attacking European parties who offended them/stealing from them caused trade to dry up as Europeans stayed away. Europeans realised that trade fraud towards Maori resulted in the perpetrators being killed.
Europeans of all descriptions came to New Zealand at that time – Dutch, German, French, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, American as well as British. On board these vessels were occasionally Africans, Malay, Indians and Chinese.
The Australian ‘Connection’.
British Australia played a central role in the development of a European presence in New Zealand in the period 1790 to 1841. Indeed, colonial New Zealand was at first a dependency of New South Wales and the Australian connection would remain strong throughout the 19th. century.

  • Botany Bay/Port Jackson was the hub of the NZ sealing and whaling industries.

  • Individual and company traders sourced their goods and sold their purchases through the Botany Bay markets.

  • The earliest interracial commercial activity was on Norfolk Island involving Huru and Tuki in 1792 aiding the flax industry.

  • Some of the earliest European settlers were escaped convicts from Australia like Charlotte Badger who arrived in NZ in 1806.

  • In time, NZ produce – grown, transported and sold by Maori would appear in Australian markets.

  • A significant numbers of new migrants had come via the Australian colonies, especially during the ‘gold rushes’.

  • Australian colonies were important destinations for New Zealand’s resources like gold, timber, flax as well as sealskins and whale oil.

  • Imperial troops were sent initially from Australia in the conflicts of the mid-century.

  • The Christian ‘Mission’ to New Zealand had a close connection with Australia through Marsden in Parematta.

  • Social experiences in Australia influenced the type of society New Zealand’s leaders put in place

Natives in Dusky Sound 1770s (lithograph: Cook’s second voyage: 1772)

The Sealers.
(notes from Jock Phillips, ‘Sealing’ Te Ara –the Encyclopedia of New Zealand)

  • Multinational groups in southern New Zealand; massive impact on seal populations in a short time; the Botany Bay connection; little contact with Maori; sealskins for waterproof clothing; gangs living in rugged, remote parts of southern New Zealand.

Maori and seals

  • Seals had been an important resource for Maori and their hunting had caused the surviving New Zealand fur seal colonies to be on the remote coasts of southern New Zealand – away from human habitation.

First exploitation

  • Seals were killed for food, fur and oil by the earliest European explorers. In 1773, Cook anchored in Dusky Sound, Fiordland where his crew killed and ate some seals. He wrote that the meat was as tasty as beefsteak. Skins were used to repair rigging and seal oil was a fuel for lamps.

The Seal trade

  • in Sydney/Botany Bay traders were looking for ways to pay for imports into the colony. Also empty ships were leaving Sydney looking for a cargo. The London firm of Sam Enderby and Sons, who were active in transporting convicts to the penal colony and had a license (to trade) from the (British) East India Company, arranged for the Britannia to drop a sealing gang in Dusky Sound in November 1792. They were to procure skins for the China market to pay for tea. When the men were picked up in September 1793 they had collected 4,500 skins, and also had built New Zealand’s first ship. However, the opening of the Bass Strait rookeries in Australia in 1797 diminished the attraction of New Zealand.

  • Sealing in New Zealand revived after 1803 when the Bass Strait rookeries were exhausted. Traders looked to England, where fur seal was in demand for hats, and leather for shoes. Seal oil, especially from Elephant seals, burned in lamps without smell or smoke and was also used in some industrial processes. Sealers tried to keep their sealing locations secret from competitors, and were nervous about the legality of their activities because of the East India Company’s monopoly in the area. It appears there was a rush to Dusky Sound and the West Coast in 1803, mainly for skins. Two years later American sealers initiated a surge to the Antipodes Islands, and to a lesser extent the Bounty and Auckland Islands. By 1808 the sealers were back on the mainland, working around Foveaux Sound and Stewart Island. Two years later there was a rush to Macquarie and Campbell Islands, largely for elephant seal oil rather than skins.

  • Sealing dwindled from 1810 because of the destruction of most of the rookeries. In the 1820s the removal of duties on colonial oil, a renewed demand for sealskins and a recovery of the rookeries revived demand, and for a few years there was a new boom, which quickly faded. Sealers were now shore-based and numbers of Maori were involved. Increasingly sealers supplemented their incomes with trade in flax, potatoes and timber, and by the 1830s most had become traders or even whalers. Sealing survived only as an off-season hobby of shore-based whalers.

The companies

  • Most of the sealing done in New Zealand was organised by Sydney companies, nearly all founded by ex-convicts such as Simeon Lord. A few American captains and ships were used, to avoid restrictions on British traders applied by the East India Company, who had a monopoly on sealing in the area. The men were a tough breed of ‘sea-rats’, some former sailors, others ex-convicts or stowaways.

  • The Sealers Sealers were paid on the basis of a ‘lay’, generally one-hundredth of the ‘take’ of the skins or oil collected; but this did not normally bring a fortune. The life was tough. Gangs of six to eight men would be left on coasts or islands for months at a time. One group survived on the bleak rock of Solander Island in Foveaux Strait for four and a half years before rescue.

The conditions

  • The men would live in caves, or under rocks or upturned boats. Swarms of rats were common. The men were constantly wet, fresh water was scarce, they survived on dry cakes, seal meat, fish or sea birds, and often suffered from scurvy because of a lack of vegetables.

  • There were two main killing seasons: October-November and April. The seals were clubbed to death, their skins removed and dried in the sun before being salted. Hunting was dangerous, often done at night and on slippery rocks, drowning was a real risk.

The legacy

  • In the long term, sealing had more impact on the fate of seals than on the evolution of society in New Zealand. But trade did bring over 30 ships to the south of New Zealand, and exposed Maori there to European people and technology. A number of sealing gangs were attacked by Maori after 1810, but in general the contact was harmonious. Some sealers like James Caddell joined the Maori community, while others began trading from coastal settlements. Sealers were the first of the trans-Tasman communities of hard itinerant men – the work gangs that played a significant role in establishing a footloose masculine tradition in New Zealand, subsequently carried on by groups like whalers, goldminers and bushmen.

Sealers on Campbell Island, 1920s

The Whalers.
British and American fleets followed migratory routes of whales; shore and factory-ship based; seasonal work; decades of involvement; significant relationship with local Maori; whale products for lighting fuel, oil, perfume and bone by-products.
The products

  • Whales were hunted for their oil, baleen and ambergris. The oil was a high-quality smokeless lamp fuel and machinery lubricant. Baleen is a bony structure which hangs inside the whale’s mouth to catch krill and other food, and was used to make corsets and whips. Ambergris forms as a resinous substance in the whale’s stomach and was an ingredient in expensive perfumes.

The first exploitation

  • Maori did not hunt whales but exploited stranded whales which frequently washed up on beaches. The first whaling ship, from America, came into New Zealand waters in 1791. Over the next 10 years New Zealand’s waters became a popular and safe place to hunt the plentiful whales as they made their annual migrations from the sub-Antarctic to the tropics and return. Whalers found New Zealand to be a convenient place to revictual their ships. In the 1830s, American and French whalers joined the British whalers exploiting the cetaceans of New Zealand.

Methods of hunting

  • There were two ways to catch whales:

  • Ship whaling: the earliest whaling was done from ships. When a lookout spotted a whale from high up in the mast, a boat boat would sail or row after it. The whalers threw a harpoon into the whale. The harpoon was attached to a long rope, and the whale would drag the vessel until it became exhausted. The harpoonist then speared the whale again to kill it. The whale was then towed to the ship to be cut up.

  • Shore whaling: when lookouts on shore saw a whale migrating close to land, gangs of men jumped into their boats and rowed out to it. They harpooned it, killed it and brought it back to shore.

  • The blubber was flensed from the dead whale, placed into large metal tripots and boiled down to make oil.

Whaling in New Zealand waters c. 1805

  • Origins of ship whaling

Whalers’ interest in the South Pacific as a hunting ground was first roused when British convicts were brought to New South Wales and ships needed cargo for the return journey. The British government offered money for whaling, in order to contribute to the training of seamen for the Royal navy, and enticed Americans to join their fleet. It was an American captain, Eber Bunker of the British boat William and Ann, who first hunted in New Zealand waters in December 1791. Over the next decade the area became increasingly attractive as the East India Company’s monopoly on fishing in the South Pacific waters was progressively lifted, and Governor Phillip King in New South Wales worked to attract whaling.

  • The ship whaling

By 1801 King reported six ships whaling off the northeast coast of New Zealand. From 1804 the number of whaling ships in the South Pacific grew, as the Napoleonic wars led to attacks on British whaleboats off the South American coast. New Zealand offered whalers wood for fuel, timber for naval spars, flax for rope and fresh water and vegetables to ward off scurvy. In 1810, 12 whaling ships were in New Zealand waters – mainly British vessels sent out by London venture capitalists, but also a few American whalers from New England, where Nantucket Island was a traditional whaling centre. The 1810s saw a downturn as the fleets from Britain and America were caught up in the war between them. There was a revival of British whalers in the 1820s and an increase in American whalers in the 1830s. On expeditions lasting about 3 years the American boats of up to 500 tons often stopped in Kororareka for supplies, rest and recreation. The French appeared in 1836, and a whaling captain, Jean Francois Langlois, organised the Nanto-Bordelaise Company to settle Akaroa, with whaling as one of the purposes of the proposed French colony. From the early 1840s fewer foreign whalers visited as whales became increasingly scarce and the new government in New Zealand imposed duties and port charges.

  • The whaling crews

The crews were usually young, tough and truly international with Pacific Islanders and Maori (Ruatara 1807) among the crew. Kept under tight discipline on board, they looked for and found fun ashore in places such as Kororareka in the 1830s. In 1838 the Bay of Islands hosted 54 America ships along with 14 British, 18 French and 10 from Sydney. Whangaparaoa Peninsula and the Hokianga Harbour also attracted some. Further south, some American whaling ships anchored at Cloudy Bay or Otago and Akaroa Harbours, where they would hunt right whales close to shore in what was known as bay whaling.

Shore-based whaling

This activity was underway by 1828 when Jacky Guard in Tory Channel and Peter Williams in Preservation Inlet were successfully hunting right whales for oil. Shore whaling occurred for a number of reasons including: the reduction of duties, lack of seals, shift from scarce sperm whales to the less valuable right whales which were found inshore, the collapse of the Greenland fishery and shore-based whaling was cheaper, safer and the oil was fresher.


Shore-based whalers hunted the black or right whale, which followed established migration routes around the New Zealand coast with calving harbours.

Cook Strait was a major centre with six shore stations and 18 whaling ships at anchor by 1836. The Kapiti region had six stations and 23 ships by 1839. There were whaling stations dotted from Fiordland around to the Otago coast. Johnny Jones, a former convict and sealer, was an important figure in the South and at one stage employed 280 men on seven stations. In Otago Harbour a Sydney-financed station in 1835 employed 85 men, caught 103 whales producing 248,300 litres of oil – despite competition from foreign bay whalers. Otakou doubled as a trading centre purchasing potatoes, pigs and flax from Maori for sale to Sydney merchants.
By 1840 there were up to 1,000 whalers in New Zealand and whaling led the country’s economy. New stations appeared around Banks Peninsula, Kaikoura, Gisborne and Mahia. East coast stations continued into the 1850s and 1860s, but by then the great days of shore whaling were over. More than 100 stations had been set up and much wealth procured. Charles Heaphy claimed that over half of the 224,000 pounds worth of whale oil exported from Sydney in 1840 had come from New Zealand. But the shore whalers methods had been ruinous to a long-term industry.

Both ship and shore whalers were paid ‘lays’ – a proportion of the catch which varied according to the importance of their role. On the Australian ship Wanstead, in 1832, the cooper received 1/95th, the harpooner 1/140th and the ordinary seaman 1/200th. On shore the eventual payout was often meagre because the men were allowed to accrue debts for clothing, tobacco and spirits. The shore-based community included carpenters, cooks, painters and a ‘tonguer’, who held rights to the whale’s tongue in turn for dissecting the whale, and who often acted as an interpreter to Maori.

According to Edward Jerningham Wakefield, shore stations were also dependent on ‘Maori wives’ – Maori helpmates for those who served for the season – who cooked, mended clothes and washed. Many whalers married into local Maori communities – for companionship, protection and also to ensure good relations with the local Maori community.
Whaling culture

The cosmopolitan nature of ship whalers was echoed onshore where runaway sailors and former convicts mixed with sealers, Americans, and a considerable number of Maori. Especially at the end of the season, shore whalers were prone to drunkenness and high spirits as they went on the spree. On-the-job whalers were highly disciplined and respected the hierarchy of the community. Whaling was a distinctive world and, like sealing, helped to establish the masculine traditions of New Zealand life.

The North Cape, New Zealand and Sperm Whale Fishery, c. 1810.
The impact of whaling on Maori

Maori men were eager recruits for whaling ships, as replacements for crew who had deserted; whaling was exciting and an opportunity to see the world. As early as 1804 a Maori was reported on board a whaler. Ruatara was abandoned in London by a whaler in 1807. In 1826, British whaleboat owners reported that one vessel had 12 Maori crew, who had proved ‘orderly and powerful seamen’. At gala days in Hobart and Sydney Maori crews participated in the whaleboat races. Maori quickly introduced these boats into village life in New Zealand.

Visiting whalers had a profound impact on Maori society. Especially in the Bay of Islands, whalers’ demands for potatoes and pork provided an early trade opportunity for Maori. In return, whalers often supplied muskets and alcohol, while their liaisons with Maori women further disrupted Maori society. On the positive side, it is said that the modern kumara entered Maori horticulture as an American whaler’s sweet potato.
Shore whalers also depended on Maori for food and women. Many early whalers such as Dicky Barrett, Phillip Tapsell and Jacky Love married into Maori families. Maori men became important whalers at shore stations, comprising 40% of the shore whalers; in Otago they were 50%. Maori continued to whale in the later 19th century, long after most of the shore whaling stations had closed. They did so not as a full-time occupation, but as a seasonal activity alongside their agricultural work.

Whaling station, pourua (porirua) c. 1830s

The Traders.
All Europeans: de facto traders; individuals working for companies trading with Maori for flax, timber, curios in exchange for food, metal and fibre products, later muskets; precarious existence of traders: reaching a ‘workable accord’ with Maori often through marriage; the disruption to tribal society caused by the competition to trade with Europeans; the Sydney connection.
Individual traders were transported to New Zealand by their Sydney-based companies and deposited with their trading goods to return a profit by exchanging European commodities like blankets, trinkets and iron ware for native goods like flax and curios. Traders were for all intenses abandoned on these hostile shores and were at the mercy of the local tribes. Initially, Maori often plundered these trading goods but quickly realised the economic and political advantage in securing a European in their area. Traders were often the targets of intertribal rivalry and many married into a tribe to secure their safety (eg. Burns and Tapsell). Some tribes migrated to make contact with coastal traders…to be able to compete for mana and also adding to the dislocation of the tribal migrations and wars of the 1820-1830s. (eg. inland Arawa moved to the coastal area around Maketu and caused conflict with the Ngai Te Rangi of Tauranga).

I landed without a house being ready, a complete stranger, not a white man to be seen, not one residing within a hundred miles of me. The vessel only remained here for two days, when she sailed for the Bay of Islands; therefore I was under the necessity of landing my trade in canoes, and leaving it in one of the chief’s huts. So here I was amongst a set of cannibals, trusting wholly and solely to their mercy, not knowing the moment when they might take my trade from me, and not only my trade, but my life. Directly I landed here, the chief, whom I had particularly selected to trade with, left me; so I had the whole charge on my own hands. I was obliged to carry my musket, and constantly sleep with it by my side; in fact I had to keep watch all the time. Then, for the first time since I took my facet to visit New Zealand, I felt frightened at my situation: I knew I was not sure my life an hour.
In the course of a few days my trading chief returned with a large quantity of flax: I traded with him by giving him powder, muskets, shot, blankets, tobacco etc. I did all in my power to please the natives, who were very soon delighted with me. I stopped here for nearly eleven months before I received any news from my employer, when at last a vessel arrived from Sydney, sent down to receive the stock that I might have on hand. At the time the ship arrived, it was a poor time for the trade in this place; so they had orders to take away the trade…
The natives, when they found the trade was going to be removed, grew quite cross; indeed they felt quite inclined to plunder. On one occasion, a cask of powder was taken from a person – a native, who was in the act of stealing it; but however he was detected, and severely punished according to their laws and habits.
At this time I was under the protection of a chief of the name of Awhawee, who had great regard for me; the fact is, I had married his daughter, who, at the time the ship arrived was on the point of being confined.
The vessel soon after sailed, and I was left behind. Words cannot express in what state my feelings were: suffice it to say, it would have been better if I had been dead. The ship which contained all my friends and countrymen, leaving me at one side, and on the other, my wife, who would not quit her native country; and, as she was on the point of lying-in, I could not bring myself to leave the country with the ship.
In two days after the vessel sailed, all the men belonging to the tribe, whose protection I was under, went to cultivate their potatoe gardens, which are generally some distance from their pas, not expecting any danger to occur to me, my wife, or any of the tribe who had remained at home, who were but few.
On the morning after the tribe went farming, as I have mentioned before; I was told by a person, who acted as a servant of mine, that he had bad news for me: I asked him what it was, and he told me he had overheard a conversation between some persons who came for the express purpose of seeing whether the tribe was away or not, that they might be enabled to plunder the trade that I had. I did not conceive for a moment that they intended to serve me so; but they were jealous of the tribe I had stopped with, whom they imagined had advised me to send away the ship, and all the trade, as they had enough for themselves. And for that reason they were determined to have all of the trade that was left behind for themselves, or die in the attempt. This intelligence gave me a great deal of uneasiness. I had ventured much for what little I had – I had struggled hard for it by night and day: and for that reason I was determined I would perish in its defence.
I acquainted my chief with the affair: he began to cry when I spoke to him about it, and told me that his tribe was so far distant, that it would be no use trying to defend the property I had, for it would certainly be taken from me, and not only that but very likely my life. The only plan that he advised was for me to get a large war canoe, and take the best part of my trade with me, and proceed to Poverty Bay, where I could be protected by his friends. (Barnet Burns’ host tribe was defeated. He was captured and while a prisoner was given a partial moko (facial tattoo) which he later had completed for these reasons:)
In fact, I thought within myself, as one part of my face was disfigured, I might as well have it done completely, particularly as it would be of service to me – and so it was. In the first place, I could travel to any part of the country, amongst my friends, if I thought proper. I was made and considered chief of a tribe of upwards of six hundred persons, consisting of men, women, and children. I could purchase flax when others could not. In fact, I was as well liked amongst the rest of the chiefs, as though I had been their brother.
from Barnet Burns, ‘A Brief Narrative of a New Zealand Chief.’ University of Otago reprint, 1970

Barnet Burns

The Missionaries.
The sealers, whalers and traders had no other mission in New Zealand than to exploit the resources of land and sea. They did not actively seek to change Maori society. The missionaries did.’ Claudia Orange
Missionary activity was an important aspect of the late eighteenth/nineteenth century Christian evangelical revival in Europe. Christian groups actively sought converts within their own countries and among the ‘heathen’ overseas. Missionaries were active in the South Pacific and came to New Zealand as a result of the friendship between the chaplain to the Botany Bay convict settlement, Samuel Marsden and the Nga Puhi chief, Ruatara. They met on a ship sailing from London to New South Wales. Ruatara had been abandoned by his whaling ship in London in 1807 and Marsden realised that for the ‘Mission’ to New Zealand to have any chance of success it needed the patronage of a New Zealand chief. Ruatara became the key to the evangelising in New Zealand. The burning of the “Boyd” in 1809 delayed Marsden’s mission to New Zealand until 1814. Every Christian denomination had its own missionaries and mission and the Anglican’s Church Mission Society (CMS) dominated evangelism in early New Zealand. The Anglican London Mission Society, the Wesleyans (Methodists) in the 1820s and (French) Roman Catholics in the 1830s were also active.
Missionaries who came to New Zealand wanted to change Maori behaviour and culture. To them New Zealand was a ‘stronghold of Satan’ (Marsden) and Maori souls were to be saved. Marsden believed that Christian salvation could be achieved through ‘civilisation’, that is the Maori would have to advanced from base savagery before he could become a Christian.
A first step in this transformation was to ‘addict’ Maori to European trade items. Once Maori were dependent on these, missionaries would be in a position to influence their behaviour. So the missionary societies selected people with suitable skills to send to New Zealand. For example, the missionary Hall was a carpenter and Kendall a linguist and agriculturalist. They could teach Maori how to use the new trade items. Ruatara was a guest in Marsden’s home in Parematta for many months and learnt farming skills. When he returned to Northland, Marsden gave Ruatara gifts of seed, plants and livestock as well as agricultural tools.
In addition, the Protestant missions aimed to send missionaries with families; partly to serve as a living depiction of a Christian family and partly to avoid what the Church regarded as undesirable sexual liason between missionary and Maori. Not all missionaries succeeded in fulfilling their Church’s aim in this respect (Kendall, and later Colenso), but those who did provided another way in which missionaries differed from early European traders in their interaction with their Maori hosts.
As the early missionaries encountered different aspects of that still viable Maori culture, they did not view them, as did Marion du Fresne and one or two other explorers, as interesting facets of a different way of life, a social system adapted by a Polynesian race in the New Zealand environment. Instead, the missionaries began a process of viewing the Maori people through eurocentric spectacles. Regarding their own values as Universal Truths, as part of the Divine plan of Providence for the Progress of Civilisation and Christianity, most missionaries were incapable of seeing the values of Protestant early-Victorian lower middle-class Britain as culturally derived.
The result was that New Zealand society in 1814 horrified them. Customs such as cannibalism, infanticide and pre-marital sex led William Williams to say that ‘Satan had obtained a strong hold on the people, and led them captive at his will… Their natural heart,’ he continued, ‘is enmity against God.’ All of their customs which did not accord with Christian piety were regarded as ‘iniquities’ (Taylor, 1839), their natures were considered ‘depraved’ (Buller, 1878), or ‘polluted’ (MacDougall, 1899).
A later chronicler of early missionary activity was horrified not so much by their killing, roasting and eating little children, but by the fact that they could it ‘without feeling of remorse’. He quoted one unnamed missionary as having said, ‘A full description of their everyday life would shock the moral sensibilities of English readers…’
In missionary terms, Maori culture in its entirety had to be destroyed before the Maori could be ‘saved’ by the gift of Christian civilisation. Missionaries, therefore, did not discourage only cannibalism, infanticide and warfare, but also the socially productive institutions of reciprocal feast-giving, marriage customs, art forms such as carving (they considered the subjects as indelicate or pagan), chants and karakia, ceremonies of social contact such as the war dance (obviously Satanic), and Maori modes of dress and adornment. Even the tribal or subtribal community was to be disintegrated. In a move that was increasingly typical, the missionary Ashwell influenced his converts at Otawhao to build a separate pa for themselves, in which no man guilty of breaking the commandments should be permitted to reside, and in which ‘tatooing, disfiguring of the face and all their ancient customs shd. be abolished forever.’(Ashwell MS, n.d, entry for 27 October , 1839).
The content of Maori thought came in for its share of derogation. Maori creation myths were found to be ‘very strange and amusing’, (MacDougall, 1899), tapu ‘notions’ as ‘absurd as they are amusing’, and ‘their superstitions…in general most absurd and extravagant’. (Angas, 1847) That the beliefs of Christianity were based on myths just as ‘absurd’ and ‘unreasonable’, from a secular point of view, was not the kind of thinking to which the missionaries were accustomed. To them their own myths were unassailable, firstly because they were written down, and secondly because their mysteries were inspired by God and therefore true and holy. To the Maori their own creation myths expressed mysteries equally valid and tapu, and they had perfected a method of handing down their sacred knowledge so that it retained its validity from generation to generation. Nevertheless, when the missionary myths were brought into contact with those of the Maori people, the missionaries presumed that their own would prevail because they were theirs, and therefore ‘true’. O Maori legends they said, and taught, ‘Their legends are very strange and amusing, especially those that tell how the heavens and the earth, moon, stars and sun, came into existence.’ (MacDougall, 1899)
From Angela Ballara, ‘Proud to be White? A Survey of Pakeha Prejudice in New Zealand’ Auckland, 1986, pp 8-13

Rangihoua mission

Kendall with chiefs Hongi Hika and Waikato c.1820

Samuel Marsden c. 1830s

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