Proceedings of of the Kohimarama Conference, Comprising Nos. 13 to 18 of the "Maori Messenger."
The Kohimarama Conference
The Kohimarama Conference.
Our readers will be glad of some information respecting the Conference of Native Chiefs now being held at Kohimarama. We shall, therefore, set aside all other matter in order to make room for a full report of the proceedings up to the date of our present issue.
We shall commence our account with a list of the Chiefs, with the names of their respective tribes, and their several places of abode. From this list it will appear that the principal sub-divisions of the Maori race in New Zealand are, on the whole, well represented in this Conference. One hundred and twelve Chiefs took their seat on the first day, and several more have arrived at intervals since Others had been invited page 2 and would probably have been here but for the prevalence of a severe epidemic, and the sudden decease of an influential and much respected Chief of the Waikato, Potatau Te Whero-Whero. The absence, however, of these does not materially affect the question of representation. Taranaki alone is without a voice in the Conference. Those who were invited to attend were unwilling to leave their homes in the present unsettled state of that Province.
It is a circumstance worthy of remark, as evincing the interest felt by the Native Chiefs and the importance they attach to the present measure, that when they arrived at Auckland almost the whole of them were suffering severely from influenza. It is gratifying, however, to add, that under the unremitting care of their medical attendant many of them have quite recovered, and the others are rapidly improving. It is more than probable that some of the older men, had they remained at home, beyond the reach of medical aid, would, ere this, have been gathered to their fathers.
The question now suggests itself, Wherefore have these Chiefs assembled? Is it, as some have supposed, to devise steps for the suppression of the Maori King movement? No. Is it, as others have maintained, to plot measures for the subjection of Wiremu Kingi Te Rangitake at Taranaki? No. These subjects will, in their proper order, come under the notice of the Conference; but the Governor had a higher motive in inviting the Maori Chiefs of New Zealand to meet him at Kohimarama, lt was, to use his own words, to afford them "an opportunity of discussing (with him) various matters connected with thepage 3 welfare and advancement of the two races dwelling in New Zealand."
In the colonization of these Islands, by the British, the treatment of the aboriginal race has been regulated by humane and Christian principles. A wise Government has watched over their interests with paternal care. Large sums of money have been annually expended in the erection and maintenance of schools for the education of their youth; hospitals have been built for the accommodation of their sick; books and newspapers have been printed for their amusement and instruction; magistrates have been appointed in Native districts for the suppression of crime, and the laws have been translated into Maori and gratutiously circulated; indeed, nothing has been left undone that was likely to promote the happiness and well-being of the Maori people. And now that their intelligence is beginning to develop itself, they are invited to take a first step towards participating in the legislation of the country. That the Chiefs themselves duly appreciate the importance of this step, as conducive to their advancement as a people, is very evident. They are shrewd enough to recognize in this Conference a more adequate means of securing a national position than in any of the extravagant ideas of Maori-Kingism. We sincerely trust that a similar Conference to the present will continue to be held annually in this or in some other part of New Zealand. Its beneficial influence is already apparent, Nothing has so much tended to reassure the minds of both people as the free and frank expression of opinion on the floor of the Conference Hall during the past week. A mutualpage 4 feeling of distrust and misapprehension was becoming very general. The Maori and the Pakeha were becoming estranged from each other. The Colonists charged the Maories with an insurrectionary spirit, and they, on the other hand, began to dread aggression from the Colonists. But this mutual feeling of insecurity has subsided, and we believe that this is mainly owing to the very satisfactory spirit elicited during the first week of the Conference.
The Chiefs have not disguised their opinions, when antagonistic to the policy of the Governor, nor have they suppressed their grievances; but there has been a freedom and candour, fully characteristic of the Maori, in all their speeches which has commended itself to all who have heard them; and the expressions of loyalty to the Queen and goodwill to the Pakeha have carried with them every evidence of sincerity.
We shall give a continuation of the proceedings in our next issue.