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Settler Kaponga 1881–1914 — A Frontier Fragment of the Western World

The Maori Dimension

The Maori Dimension

While we have been wrestling with the settler story the Waitangi Tribunal has been shaping and publishing its The Taranaki Report (1996). This balanced and lucid report provides a mass of information that would have been of deep interest and relevance to the Kaponga settlers of our story. The simple fact is that they knew almost nothing of these matters, and what little they did ‘know’ was riddled with prejudice and distorted with misinformation. They saw themselves as the pioneer occupants of virgin soil, taken in good faith from the Crown, whose rights they had no reasons to doubt. To them the Pakeha settler was the dominant shaper of their region's life, landscape and economy. With no Maori resident among them, and only limited contact with the Maori of neighbouring settlements, most of them had a very limited understanding of Maori culture. While Te Whiti's noble and eloquent protests speak powerfully to us across the years, to them he was merely a misguided fanatic. We may deplore their ignorance and prejudice. But we are ourselves guilty of ignorance and prejudice if we do page 24 not discern why it was that they knew no better. And we will not tell their story truly and honestly if we insist on forcing it into the context of our current knowledge and attitudes. We are right to regret that the Crown failed to ‘sell’ its Treaty of Waitangi agreement within the colony and that the settler authorities repudiated the treaty as far as they dared. But while most of these leaders had a very good idea of what they were doing, this awareness did not extend to the common settler. We take up these matters for further consideration in Chapter 1 and in the Epilogue.

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