The Second Year of One of England's Little Wars
A. — To the Editor of the Southern Cross
To the Editor of the Southern Cross.
I shall feel obliged by your inserting in the columns of your paper the following observations:—
I cannot refrain from expressing my utter astonishment at seeing in an Auckland paper, lent me by a neighbour, certain statements, made by the Native Secretary and the Chief Land Commissioner, many of them seriously reflecting upon the reputation and loyalty of the natives of Otaki and their Missionary.
I constantly read erroneous opinions put forth in the local journals in reference to Native matters, which have passed unnoticed, and I do not think I can fairly be accused of “rushing into print;” but when I consider the circumstances under which those statements were made, by a person who is looked upon as an authority, I feel myself called upon to offer a few remarks upon facts with most of which I was personally acquainted, having resided for eight years in the Otaki district, in connection with Archdeacon Hadfield, prior to my appointment to this coast.
I have no intention of accusing the Native Secretary of wilfully misleading the public, but he has most certainly been misinformed upon some of these points. I have often admired his great amount of patience and perseverance with the natives in the purchase of land, but that serious errors have been committed, cannot, I think, be fairly denied.
There are many points in the Native Secretary's statement which appear to me exceedingly incorrect, but I confine myself to the following. I quote his own words:—
“I first heard of this League as having originated at Otaki. The natives of that place assured me that they had good advice on the subject, and were determined not to dispose of any more land to the Government.”
In order to show how far advice given to the natives at Otaki had proved injurious, I will state that when the Rangitikei country was offered for sale to the Government by the Ngatiapa great excitement prevailed, and both Rangihaeata and Te Rauparaha (whose rage at the time was witnessed by the Commissioner) were determined to prevent the sale. The former of these had previously burnt down a raupo house which was built by Te Hokeke and party, on the south side of the river, for Dr. Best, to whom they had engaged to lease that portion of the land; and it was only through the influence of the Otaki natives, “acting upon good adivce,” who also asserted a claim, that these page 42 two chiefs, together with others, withdrew their opposition; and their old enemies, whom they looked upon in the light of slaves, were allowed to sell the land and keep the whole of the payment. The Commissioner himself expressed his gratification at such honourable and generous conduct.
In consequence of the behaviour of the Ngatiapa, after the sale of the Rangitikei block, who, notwithstanding the handsome manner in which they had been treated, threatened to sell even the land occupied by some of the Ngatiraukawa, the Otaki, and Manawatu natives (principally Ngatiraukawa) entered into an agreement not to sell any more land within certain boundaries, over which they had an undoubted control according to native custom. This agreement was, however, cancelled in 1852, in consequence of some of the natives on the Manawatu River wishing to sell a portion of their land; and it was arranged that they should be left free to do as they pleased. The “good advice” which is said to have led to such serious consequences, we are no doubt to infer was given by Archdeacon Hadfield; but I must remind the Commissioner that that gentleman was at the time in Wellington, where he had been almost entirely confined, nearly four years, to what was considered to be his death-bed. I was never aware of the natives having any advice in favour of such a scheme, although they were decidedly recommended to give it up.
Again, the Native Secretary says:—
“This League kept gaining ground for some years till a general meeting took place in the Ngatiruanui country, where the natives pledged themselves, not only that they should sell no more land, but that they would take the life of any one who attempted to do so.”
The meeting at Manawapou, in the Ngatiruanui district, had no connection whatever with the agreement entered into at Otaki and Manawatu, which had been cancelled two years before. At Manawapou it was proposed to form a Land League, which was rejected; and it was decided that each tribe should be left to its own affairs. What is called the Land League at Waitara was entirely of a local character, and, in accordance with this decision, having no connection whatever with the Ngatiruanui. Parotene Te Kopara, in advocating the League at Manawapou, produced a hatchet, which was offered to the Southern Chiefs, and was placed before them for their acceptance, as a pledge that they would unite in supporting the League. There were stated to have been about 500 natives present, but not one of them received the hatchet, and it was returned to its owner!
“It was also resolved at this meeting of the natives that they should entirely repossess themselves of land already alienated by them, and drive the European settlers into the sea.”
This most startling assertion is positively contradicted by one of the principal Chiefs, who was present; the only one who has since been within my reach. I never heard such an idea breathed before. Having seen a number of the natives on their return from the meeting, I feel page 43 convinced that such a scheme would most certainly have come to my ears had it ever been entertained. If such a resolution had been passed, why was it not acted upon? Nearly seven years have elapsed without the least interference with the Europeans.
“The subsequent murders, involving the deaths of Rawiri and Katatore, and various others that have taken place at Taranaki, have been the result of the League and the confederacy of Manawapou: and there is very little doubt that the settlement at Taranaki has been, since the formation of this Land League, in a very perilous position. It has been stated that this has arisen in some measure from the defective system of acquiring land.”
My opinion upon these matters differs widely from that of the Commissioner. I have no hesitation in saying that the evils here spoken of have, to a very great extent, arisen from injudicious purchase, or attempts to purchase, of disputed lands. One of Rawiri Waiaua's own relatives told me that he could not justify his conduct; that Katatore had used every means in his power to prevent the sale of the land in question, to which he had an undoubted right; and that he repeatedly remonstrated and protested, both to the white man and to the Maori, without effect, and that he was driven to take up arms in defence of his property! An unhappy position for a British subject to be placed in.
Again he says—
“The venerable gentleman who was examined previous to myself has endeavoured to convey an impression that land purchases at the South have produced dissatisfaction.”
There can be no doubt as to the land purchases having of late caused very great dissatisfaction at the South. The “tikanga hou,” or new policy of the Government—purchasing lands from individuals without the sanction of the rest of the tribe, has much perplexed the natives of this district. I have repeatedly met with the assertion (in spite of all that could be said to the contrary) that the Government were trying to provoke a quarrel with them, in order that they might have some pretext for depriving them of their lands; and when they heard of the disturbance of Taranaki they considered that their predictions were being fulfilled. They see a wide difference between the repeated assurance of the Commissioner in former years, ratified by the pledge given them by the Governer, during his last visit to Napier—that no land would be purchased excepting from those tribes who were free to sell—and the way in which it has latterly been acted up to; and say that the Government have broken faith with them. They are now kept quiet under the assurance that no act of injustice can be intended by the Home Government, and that existing errors will in time be rectified.
“The purchases to which he probably refers, those at Rangitikei and the Middle Island, were carefully conducted; I am prepared to uphold the purchases between Otaki and Whangaroa as having been acquired from the true and rightful owners.”page 44
Most of the old purchases made in the Wellington and Ahuriri Provinces, I am willing to support; they do great credit to the Commissioner; and it is much to be lamented that a system which gave such universal satisfaction was ever deviated from.
“It was perhaps the misfortune of some of these owners that they did not belong to the same denomination as the Venerable Archdeacon, and this in a great measure (at least it appears so to me) forms, in his estimation, a barrier to their claims.”
The insinuation that Archdeacon Hadfield could lower himself to do or say anything to the prejudice of persons of a different denomination to his own, I should have considered beneath the Native Secretary. I do not admit that any of the tribes alluded to are entirely Wesleyans, although they are in some cases intermixed with our people; and with them we were always on most friendly terms.
I lastly quote as follows:—
“Reference has been made to land being at one time bought from the conquered, and at another from the conquerors.”
Taking this quotation with the next preceding, I am at a loss to know what the Commissioner means. Does he complain of the conquered Ngatiapa, among whom there are many Wesleyans, being allowed to keep the whole of the purchase money for Rangitikei, besides having an interest in the land retained by the Ngatiraukawa? Or does he suppose that it is denominational prejudice which induces the Archdeacon to sympathise with the conquered Ngatiruia of Te Honere, Pelorus River (part of whom were Wesleyans), because they were not consulted in the sale of their land; they, in his opinion, holding a similar position in the Middle Island to that of the Ngatiapa in the Northern (Te Rauparaha and Rangihaeata, with their people, being conquerors in both places); the only difference was that the Otaki natives had no interest in the latter case? The Ngatiruia did, however, I am informed, receive some trifling compensation from the Commissioner, after a fruitless attempt to retain possession.
In conclusion, I would remark, that during the eight years I was in immediate connection with the Archdeacon—sometimes acting for, sometimes with him, I never once, that I can recollect, heard of his attempting to dissuade any Maori from selling land, although he did remonstrate with the purchaser when the transaction was likely to lead to a disturbance. This appears most unfairly to have been interpreted into an opposition on his part to the sale of land.
Samuel Williams.Te Auti, Uawke's Bay, September 7th, 1860.