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The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume I (1845–64)

(Chapter 10) — The New Zealand Company's Purchases, Wellington

(Chapter 10)

The New Zealand Company's Purchases, Wellington

In the Land Claims Court held at Wellington in 1842 by Mr. Spain, the Imperial Government's Commissioner, Colonel Wakefield was asked, “Was it explained to the natives before they signed the deed that they were selling their pas, burying-grounds, and cultivated lands contained within the boundaries specified in the deed?”

The answer was: “The expression made use of was that they were selling all the land within those boundaries, but that reserves would be made for them; there was no special mention made as to their pas, burial-grounds, and cultivated lands.”

Mr. Spain, in his report on the Port Nicholson lands (1st March, 1845), criticized the manner in which the deed had been interpreted to the Maoris by Richard Barrett. Spain asked Barrett to give exactly the terms in which he had explained to the natives the deed of purchase by the Company. He did so in Maori, which was translated literally into English by the Court interpreter, as follows:—

“Listen, natives, all the people of Port Nicholson. This is a paper respecting the purchase of land of yours. This paper has the names of all the places of Port Nicholson. Understand, this is a good book. Listen, the whole of you natives to write your names in this book; and the names of the places are Taraua [continuing on to the other side of Port Nicholson, to the name Parangarahu]. This is a book of the names of the channels and the woods, and the whole of them to write in this book, people and children, the land to ‘Wideawake.’ When people arrive from England it will show you your part, the whole of you.”

page 443

Barrett was afterwards asked, “Did you tell the natives who signed the deed that one-tenth of the land described should be reserved for the use of themselves and their families, or simply that the Europeans should have one portion of the land and the natives the other portion?” His answer was, “No, I did not tell them that they would get one-tenth; I said they were to get a certain portion of the land described, without describing what that portion was.”

“It appears to me,” wrote Mr. Spain, “that this interpretation in explanation was not calculated to explain to the natives who were parties to the purchase-deed a correct idea of what lands that instrument purported to convey, or of the nature or extent of the reserves that had been made for their benefit, and this will in a great measure account for the very determined manner in which the natives generally in the district opposed the occupation of the lands by the Europeans, and denied the sale to Colonel Wakefield from the earliest period to the arrival of the settlers.”