Notes on Sir William Martin's Pamphlet Entitled the Taranaki Question
"At that time the alleged right of an individual member of a tribe to alienate a portion of the land of the tribe was wholly unknown."………
Sir W. Martin assumes that the Waitara purchase was based on an improper admission by the Government of the individual right: and on this assumption his accusation against the Governor really rests.
In the first place it is quite certain that the Waitara purchase was not made from any individual, but from a group of families: but this may be left for the present, and the enquiry confined to the assertion, made without any qualification, that at the time of the Treaty of Waitangi the alleged right of an individual member of a tribe to alienate a portion of the land of the tribe was wholly unknown. No more inaccurate statement could have been made.
There were some 700 claims to land under purchases made from the Natives by Europeans prior to the establishment of British Sovereignty. Out of these there are more than 200 cases in which the land was sold by one, or two, or three natives. In upwards of 80 instances the land was sold by only one individual member of the tribe. One instance may be worth noting separately. Mr. George Clarke, who was appointed Chief Protector of Aborigines on the establishment of British Authority, had several claims. These claims arose out of no less than 36 separate purchases. Eleven of his deeds were signed by only one Native; eight were signed by two Natives; eleven were signed by three Natives: only six deeds were signed by more than three.—[Records of the Land Claims Court.]
It may perhaps be said in answer that the consent of the tribe was implied. But it will not do to assume this. If the consent of the tribe was a necessary incident to give validity to a sale, it was of course requisite that such consent should be proved before the Commissioners. The deeds executed by only one, or two, or three individuals, were either complete transfers without the tribe, or when the completeness of those transfers was matter of investigation, the concurrence of the tribe had to be shown. There are, on the other hand, instances of objection made by the tribe or hapu to these individual sales, when the claims were being investigated.
In these remarks only the sales made in the time prior to the establishment of British Sovereignty are alluded to, because it is to that time that Sir W. Martin's assertion refers. It would be still easier to show that under the waiver of the Crown's right of pre-emption, sales were often made by individual natives without interference either on the part of the tribe, or of the chief men of the tribe.