Copy of letter from H. T. Clarke, Esq., to the Hon. the Colonial Secretary.
In compliance with that portion of your instructions requiring me to enquire into the condition of the Natives of the Southern Provinces, I have the honour to report shortly the result of my observations and enquiries.
I much regret that it is not in my power to give any very flattering account of the Kaitahu tribes. I have visited some of their Kaikas, and conversed with some of their principal men, and I can only say that, as a rule, they are in a most unsatisfactory condition. Taking them as a people, they are the most inert and listless I ever met. Whether this arises from the frequent use of ardent spirits, to which the Natives are much addicted (the law for preventing the supply of spirits to Natives being in these Provinces a dead letter), or to the almost total neglect of their welfare by the Government, I am not prepared to say; perhaps to both. Certain it is, however, there is a very marked contrast in these and the tribes occupying the North Island.
In discussions with those Natives in the Northern Island who have shown a disposition to question the advantage to themselves of the presence of a large European population, the state of these Natives has frequently been held up as a proof to the contrary. They have been described as a people contented and happy, living in the midst of plenty, and enjoying the benefits of civilization.
If Aparima, which abuts on the township of Riverton, be taken as a sample, I am bound in truth to state, from the result of my own observation, that the very opposite is the case; as a people, they are squalid, miserable, and ignorant.
It has, I think, been found in every country where a civilized people has been brought in close contact with an uncivilized, that the latter have always shown a greater predilection for adopting the evil practices of the dissolute and abandoned, rather than follow the example of the moral and the good. These people are no exception to this rule. But when it is remembered that their earliest association was with that class of Europeans who enjoy an unenviable reputation for recklessness and debauchery, the surprise is that they are not much worse. Formerly the Wesleyan, and latterly the German Missionaries, have done much to check these evil influences, and have in many ways benefitted these people. But drunkeness is of frequent occurrence, and to this perhaps, amongst other causes, may be attributed the great mortality which has taken place within the last 13 years: It is a melancholy fact that the aboriginal race are fast disappearing from these Provinces.
No schools exist in these Provinces. The Wesleyan and Maori Missionary Society of Otago suspended operations, and the German Missionary Society is, from lack of means, relaxing its efforts, and now a strong appeal is made to the Government to step in and succour this small remnant of a once numerous and powerful tribe.
Some of their chiefs are fully alive to their wretched condition. They scruple not to lay the whole blame on the Government. I refer to the alleged promises made by the Government through their agents, at the cession of the lands in these Provinces, to which I shall do myself the honor particularly to draw your attention in another letter.
The question may suggest itself: if these chiefs are sincere in their regrets at their present low state, how is it that they have not exerted themselves to raise their people from their present condition? They answer that they have placed full reliance upon the Government giving full effect to its engage-page 141ments—that the Government promised to undertake the task of ameliorating their condition as part of the consideration for their lands; that after waiting in vain for these benefits they concluded in their own minds that the Government had forgotten them. They then wrote to the Governor, asking him to send a pakeha to watch over their interests, and to advise them. No pakeha ever was sent. They have asked for schools for their children; none have ever been established. Despairing of any assistance from the Government they have, at the instance of the Rev. S. F. Rimenschneider (a German Missionary), built a church, and are erecting a school-house at their own expense.
The Government have assisted in building school-houses at Moeraki and Waikouaiti, and have very lately paid two-thirds of the price for the erection of a church and school-house at Riverton; but further than this, I am not aware that anything has been done.
A number of gentlemen in Dunedin, sensible of the neglected state of the Natives, and anxious to improve their condition, formed themselves into a society for the purpose, but their benevolent intentions on behalf of the Natives have, from a combination of difficulties, been frustrated, and not the least of these difficulties has been the want of necessary means. Their applications to the public have been either coldly met or wholly unreciprocated. The ag[gap — reason: damaged]nts of this society have been told that the Natives hold large reserves, which are for the most part lying waste (the Natives occupying only small portions), which, if let, would bring in ample means. Upon this ground assistance has been refused. The fact that Natives cannot deal with their own reserves does not appear to have occurred to these objectors.
The application of this society to the General Government has practically shared the same fate. The consequence is, the operations of the society have been suspended.
Another grievance is, that the Natives are practically excluded from our Courts, from the want of a proper person to lay their causes of complaint intelligibly before the Magistrate.
Another cause of grievance (in my opinion a very reasonable one) is the want of an officer whose duty it should be to advise and watch over Native interests.
It will perhaps be expected of me that as I have been making myself acquainted with some of the principal evils under which these Katimamoe and Kaitahu tribes are labouring, that I should point out, what, in my opinion, is the best mode of remedying, or at least mitigating those evils.
I would first of all remark that I would not for one moment advocate & system having a tendency to spoil the Natives, making them simple dependents upon the bounty of the Government. All that I would ask of the Government is to fulfil their first engagements, to carry them out in their full integrity; put within the reach of the Natives the means of raising them from their present low condition; let their desire for knowledge be satisfied, and let them see that we are anxious to discharge our moral obligations, and give practical proof of the desire so often sounded in their ears, that of considering them as one people with ourselves:—
|1st.||I would suggest that an Officer be appointed, with as little delay as possible, whose undivided duty it shall be to look after the interests of the Natives residing in the Provinces of Otago and Southland; also to hold the appointment of Commissioner for Native reserves. It is impossible for the present Assistant Native Secretaries, from the nature of their other duties, to give the Natives that attention which they require.|
|2nd.||I would suggest the appointment of properly qualified persons, who have a good general knowledge of the language, to be permanently attached to the Resident Magistrate's Court, to be Officers of those Courts. Two Interpreters would, I think, be sufficient—one for Dunedin and Port Chalmers, and the other for Invercargill and the Bluff.|
|3rd.||That medical men be appointed to attend upon the Native sick. The services of three medical men would be required:—One for Moeraki, Waitaki, and Waikouaiti; one for Purakau-nui, Otakou, and Taiari; and one for the different places in the Southland Province.|
|4th.||That schools be established and schoolmasters appointed at the following places:—Moeraki, Waikouati, Otago Heads, Ruapuke, and Aparima. In these schools the English language should be taught, and to be open to half-castes and Maoris alike.|
|5th.||With regard to the Native reserves, I would suggest that the Natives be induced to hand over all those portions which they do not require for their own use, into the hands of the Commissioner for Native reserves, to be dealt with by him for the benefit of the Native owners. I feel sure that a good income would by this means be realized, which, if judiciously dispensed, would greatly benefit the Natives.|
|6.||I would suggest that the undermentioned chiefs be appointed Assessors, to receive the salaries opposite their names:—|
|Tare Wetere Te Kahu||Otakou||£30|
|Tioni Topi Patuki||Ruapuke||£50|
The Chiefs Matiaha and Horomona Pohio have held appointments as Assessors since 30th June, 1859, but have never received any salary. Matiaha has great influence with his people, and is the only one amongst them well up in their traditional history.
I would, in conclusion, earnestly beg the Government to lose no time in giving effect to these suggestions, or to any other which they may think fit to adopt, whereby these people may be benefitted.
I beg to attach two returns, No. 1 showing the number of Natives residing at the different Kaikas taken by Mr. Mantell in 1852, with the number of those who have since died; No. 2, abstract of Census taken by myself, also showing the number of half-castes.
I have, &c,