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Hauhauism: An Episode in the Maori Wars 1863-1866

CHAPTER VI. — General Significance of Hauhauism

page 69

General Significance of Hauhauism.

It seems impossible to regard Hauhauism simply as a religion. Keesing says:—

“The Maori people, through the forms, ritual and government… were seeking, however crudely and even dangerously, to give expression to their spiritual life.”1

Similarly the Reverend T. S. Grace says :—

“Who can blame them after 14 years' neglect by us, for framing a service more or less imperfect, with which to supply the need? They know they cannot do without religion.”2

But such an attitude seems untenable. It is more than doubtful whether the cult was ever sincerely adopted by the majority of the Maoris as a religion. As Christianity had allied itself with the political forces of the State, Hauhauism, too, became inseparably interwoven with the political struggle.

The Maori Wars had arisen over the struggle of the natives to preserve the integrity of their lands. The maintenance of their territorial domin-

1 Keesing, J. M.: The Changing Maori. Printed under the Authority of the Board of Maori Ethnological Research. Part II, Ch. II, p. 49.

2 Grace, T. S.: Memoirs and Letters… p. 266.

page 70 ion
was synonymous with the continuation of their national existence.1 To withstand European encroachment land leagues had been formed.2 In the wars which resulted, it is not surprising that the Maoris repudiated those things which were associated with their enemies. This was especially the case in regard to Christianity.3 Sir William Martin had predicted this in 1846.4 He said that the confiscation and seizure of land proposed by Earl Grey, if adopted, would make the Maoris think the English a nation of liars, and cause them to abandon the faith they had adopted. The action of Bishop Selwyn had not been circumspect. By accompanying the troops in the battles, the Bishop had tended to encourage the belief that the missionaries were leagued with the Government to rob and subjugate the Maoris.5 His Lordship, when writing to his friend, the Rev.

1 Despatch of Governor Gore-Browne to the Duke of Newcastle. App. H. of R. 1863. E. No. 2.

2 Ward, Rev. R.: Life Among the Maoris of New Zealand, being a description of Missionary, Colonial, and Military Achievements. London: G. Lamb. 1872. Ch. XIII, p. 294.

3 Rt. Rev. Bishop Selwyn, D.D., Charge to Synod, Christchurch, 1865. “… They would abandon the religion of their enemies and set up one of their own.”

4 Sir William Martin: Land Tenure. Late Chief Justice in New Zealand. Pamphlet. 1846.

5 Grace, T. S.: op. cit., p. 257. Bishop Selwyn himself, when addressing the third Synod in Christchurch, said: “The missionary clergy were believed to be the agents of the Government in a deep laid plot for the subjugation of the native people.” Supra. Ch. 1, p. 15.

page 71 E. Coleridge, in England, in December, 1865, said:—
“Oh! how things have changed!… O earth! earth! earth! Such has been our cry. The Queen, law, religion, have been thrust aside in the one thought of the acquisition of land.”1

Bishop Selwyn obviously appreciated the fact that the question of the land was the fundamental issue. But by associating the Queen and law with the propagation of religion, he caused Christianity to become anathema to the natives, because of its associations with the political struggle. It is no wonder that there was a reversion to the old primitive policy, which was based on the mysterious influence of “tapu.”2

Although Christianity was accordingly rejected, it is not strange that religious enthusiasm was invoked in the political struggle. Under strain and stress there is frequently a tendency to turn towards the supernatural. Hauhauism provided a fresh battle cry, promising them deliverance from their degradation.3 At times it was almost the form of madness, and psychologically was a kind of group neurosis.4 This tendency towards religious fanaticism was influenced by the personalities of several Maori

1 Bishop Selwyn to the Rev. E. Coleridge, 26th Dec., 1865. Quoted Tucker H. W.: Memoirs of the Life and Episcopate of George Augustus Selwyn, D.D.… 2 Vols. London: William Wells Gardner & Co. 1879.

2 Rusden, G. W.: op. cit., Vol. II, p. 285. 1883.

3 Supra, Ch. I, p. 16.

4 Sutherland, I. L. G.: The Maori Situation.

page 72 prophets—notably Te Ua Haumene and Kereopa. However, under the exigencies of defeat, and particularly when the Hauhau prophets and leaders confessed their deceit, the Maoris became disillusioned, and Hauhauism, as soon as it was exposed as a fraud, was abandoned.

Its end left the Maori in a curiously unsettled state, his faith in Pakeha justice and truth undermined, his belief in Christianity shaken, his land still in danger, and his confidence in himself weakened. Though Hauhauism itself was dead, the discontents that had given rise to it were not allayed and further trouble lay ahead.