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A Compendium of Official Documents Relative to Native Affairs in the South Island. Volume Two.

No. 39. — J. W. Hamilton, Esq., to D. McLean, Esq

No. 39.
J. W. Hamilton, Esq., to D. McLean, Esq.

Lyttelton, November 19th, 1857.


Referring to my report of proceedings at Kaiapoi on the 5th February, 1857, in effecting the purchase of Native lands from Kaiapoi to the Waiau-ua, and to my other communications addressed to you on the subject of extinguished Native land claims in this Island,—

I have the honour to report for the information of Government as follows:—

1.Having called the Maoris together for Thursday, 12th instant, as the most convenient day for Mr. Aldred to lend me his assistance in interpreting, I proceeded to Kaiapoi on the Wednesday afternoon, 4th November; £200 in silver had been sent up on the Monday in charge of a policeman, and by him delivered over to the care of the Sub-Inspector, William Revell, Esq.
2.On the 12th, very heavy freshes, caused by thirty-six hours north-west hot wind; rendered the River Courtney (Waimakariri), impassable; it was expected to continue so for another day. At eleven o'clock, I received a message from Mr. Aldred saying he could not cross and had returned to Christchurch, and would come when sent for.
3.I thought it very undesirable to delay the distribution, of the money, the Natives having all assembled, and that as there were no negotiations to enter upon, my slight knowledge of Maori would suffice for the business of the day.
4.The Chiefs sent to say they wished the money to be paid in sums of £5 to 40 recipients; this, I assented to, leaving them to agree to the names.
5.A sharp storm came on lasting for four hours, which fortunately gave time for the usual amount of excitement and wrangling to be gone through by the Maoris among themselves. When it cleared up, I assembled them, and found they had been unable to agree as to the names.
6.It was then proposed that £50 should beset apart for Rapaki, £50 for Port Levy, and £100 for Kaiapoi, to be received in each case by two of the Chiefs, and by them distributed on the spot. This proposal gave general satisfaction, as they had become weary of arguing.
7.By six o'clock my receipt was signed, and the money all paid away.

Much anxiety was evinced and many close interrogatories were put to me concerning the place of distribution of the last £100. There seemed to be alarm lest it should be paid at Kaikoura. Further questions were put as to the settlement of the Arahura (West Coast), and Kaikoura claims.

Mr. Aldred being absent, and a promise having been given that an officer of your department should be sent here this season, I did not find it convenient to appear to understand much of what was said to me.

I beg, however, to reiterate the expression of my opinion that the circumstances of the discovery of a road to the West Coast, and the strong indications along it of a gold region, more than ever loudly call for the presence of a duly qualified officer to attend to Maori interests.

9.I respectfully beg to press upon your attention that the 600 or 700 Maoris residing in this Province are possessed of considerable property in cultivated land and stock; that they are industrious, and no doubt contribute a very fair share towards the general prosperity, and towards the public reserves. I might instance their energy towards the production of a valuable but long neglected article of export, whale-bone and oil, of which they have this year sold £2,000 worth. Their fishing station at Ikuraki they have fitted out on their own responsibility with the assistance of the late owner. It is confidently stated, that next season this station will produce 100 tons of oil; worth (at £40), £4,000. The bone, in the proportion of 1 cwt. for each ton of oil, would weigh 5 tons, worth here £700 at £150 per ton in this market, at home it is worth £300 now.

Since the foundation of the Canterbury settlement, I think it may be stated that they have been completely overlooked by the Government, and that no single act has been performed in their interest which has not originated in the first instance in consideration of our own.

As a distinct and separate race, speaking a language foreign to that of the Courts of Law and the governing race, justice can barely be said to be within their reach for want of competent Interpreters. They have no official person to whom they can have recourse in cases of difficulty, and to help in placing them on an equal footing with their European fellow subjects where the prosecution of individual interests requires communications with Government offices, especially the Land Office. The Land Regulations are a sealed book to them, being in a foreign language. They enjoy no advantages from the public schools supported by Government aid; they have no teachers; they have no Missionary. Though numbering about one seventh of the whole population, their interests are in no way represented in the local legislation, or specially provided for by the Local Executive.

11.I do sincerely trust that you will be able to move the General Government to take their case into consideration, and have some competent person sent among them to enquire and report upon their position with a view to its amelioration. The Maori language is hardly, if it all, spoken by any single; settler in the Province, and it is only with the General Government that the power to act in this cass really rests. page 29Although possessing a slight knowledge of the Maori language, and of the habits and feelings of the Maori race, I have never here, as a Magistrate, been able, for want of an Interpreter, to interpose effectively in their behalf, except on one occasion, when Mr. Commissioner Johnson sat on the Bench with me.
12.I might enlarge very much more fully on this subject, but that I feel convinced it is only necessary to bring it under the notice of the General Government to ensure its receiving the attention which justice to the Queen's subjects of whatsoever race or class demands; and I think they will be prepared to allow that it will be a disgrace to the British name, if the Maoris are left any longer unprovided for specially by Government, and are not made, in the fullest degree, participators in all the advantages and benefits of established law and order which, in this Province at least, there never can be difficulty in enforcing everywhere.

I trust I may be pardoned the frankness of my expressions, and for any remark that may appear to pass the bounds of proper courtesy and respeet for the authorities of the Colony.

I have, &c.,

J. W. Hamilton,
Acting for Native Land Department.

Donald McLean, Esq., &c., &c., Chief Commissioner Native Land Purchase Department.