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

Enclosure in No. 2. — General Observations

Enclosure in No. 2.
General Observations.

The Natives inhabiting the settlements included in the above report, are, for the most p[gap — reason: damage] members of the great Ngaitahu tribe, which, spreading over most of this Island, embraces numero[gap — reason: damage] hapu or sub-divisions, each having a distinctive name and genealogy, but at the same time closely related to the others. The meat important here are:—Ngatituahuriri, Ngatitarewa, Ngaitiruahikihiki, and Ngatikaweriri.

In each of the villages there may be found a few individuals bel[gap — reason: damage] in[gap — reason: damage] to remote tribes, who prompted by interest or curiosity, have, by successive stages—made often [gap — reason: damage]long intervals—reached page 128this part of the country. Having met with a kind reception, and being treated with marked hospitality, they have been induced to merge their tribal prejudices, and become permanent residents, intermarrying with the people of the place, and being admitted by them to all the privileges of Maori society.

There is also another class of strangers, numerically small, but exerting an important influence, being composed of visitors from distant parts of the country, who, after making a limited stay, will return to their respective homes. These bring with them the news of their own tribes, they tell of their advance in civilization, of their industrial pursuits, of their movements, social, moral, and political, and these representations coloured as they frequently are[gap — reason: damage] from a love of exaggeration, and presented in that form to a novelty loving and susceptible people, do not fail to operate for good or for evil, in proportion to their attractiveness or importance. Of the latter class the most prominent at present is Kinita, a political agitator from Wellington. Warm in his advocacy of the Maori King movement, and ambitious of fame, he is itinerating amongst the settlements, and exercising all his Native eloquence in support of his mission. He appears to have met, hitherto, with encouraging success, and the Maori King "mania," in a very mild form, may be said to have taken root here.

Its operation, however, will not, I conceive, be noticeable, beyond the little excitement naturally incident to it.

Physically considered, the Natives of this Province are on the whole somewhat inferior to those of the Northern Island; socially, they are I believe rather in advance of them; morally, or religiously they are apparently behind them.

Their houses, as will appear from the report, are for the most part respectable, and in some, instances—considered relatively—of a superior order.

They devote a fair share of their attention to industrial pursuits, and live with their European neighbours on terms of mutual confidence and amity. Hitherto their interests religiously have been much neglected. Till very recently they have received no pastoral ministrations beyond the occasional visits of Bishop Selwyn, the necessarily limited attentions of the Rev. J. Aldred (Wesleyan Minister at Christchurch), and the inefficient teachings of partially instructed Native agents. It is gratifying however to learn that Mr. Stack, a gentleman in every way fitted for the office, has been stationed here by the Bishop of Christchurch as Native Catechist.

Kaiapoi, the most populous settlement, will form the centre of his operations, and the outlying villages will receive periodical visits from him. The Kaiapoi Natives have undertaken to supply the timber, and otherwise assist in the erection of a house for his accommodation.

As there is a strong desire amongst them generally for instruction, it is to be hoped that their condition under this aspect will rapidly improve.

Barely exceeding, in the aggregate, 550 souls, they are, in an abstract view, probably the wealthiest of their race. Their land reserves alone (with the timber growing thereon), are roughly estimated as representing £50,000, and the value thereof must, in a few years, be considerably enhanced. Their whale fisheries are of growing importance, and they have a large share in the firewood trade; while they own a comparatively large amount of live stock, chiefly horses and horned cattle.

Viewed as a whole, peace and harmony prevail amongst them to an uncommon degree. Differences seldom arise, and when they do, are referred to our Courts for adjustment.

In cases of this nature, the Resident Magistrate has received valuable assistance from the Rev. Mr. Aldred, who has, for several years past, most disinterestedly acted as Interpreter.

In important cases, Native Assesors are invited to sit on the Bench, but they do not at present receive any remuneration for such service, as is customary in the other Provinces.

It appears to me desirable that a fee (say 20s.) should be paid to an Assessor, when requested to sit and adjudicate with the Resident Magistrate. This would be some acknowledgement of his services, and would, at the same time, remove a cause of complaint.

The Natives of Banks' Peninsula are unable, from the absence of a qualified Interpreter, to avail themselves of the Court at Akaroa. Their only alternative is to repair to Christchurch; but the delay and inconvenience involved thereby, amount almost to a prohibition, and redress is thus virtually beyond their reach. To remedy, as far as possible, this difficulty, I would suggest that two Assessors should be appointed; one at Akaroa, and another at Wairewa, who might act as arb[gap — reason: damage]trators in [gap — reason: damage]ses of dispute. They could not certainly enforce their decisions, but the prestige of Asseseorship would go far to secure for them the support and co-operation of the people; and I am of opinion, that, as a rule, both parties in any dispute would readily consent to such arbitration, in preference to adopting the alternative.

I am strengthened in this view from my experience of the successful working of such a system in the Upper Wanganui, where the same difficulty of access to our Courts operates.

I have no hesitation in recommending, as worthy of this honour, the two Native chiefs named in the margin, whose rank and character would, I am pursuaded, alike tend to uphold the dignity of the Assessorship.

At Kaiapoi a prolific source of discontent and strife has been found in the unsatisfactory tenure of the Native reserve. When Mr. Commissioner Mantell made this reserve in 1848, it was, as usual, vested in the tribe from whom he had purchased the adjacent territory. A few years after the formation of the Canterbury settlement, when good road communication with Kaiapoi had become established, the bush on that reserve came into great demand, and parties desirous of availing themselves thereof, made bargains with one or more individuals of the tribe for the purchase of the timber on a given number of acres, and then proceeded to cut it. Some of the Natives, grasping at all within their reach, continued to sell, utterly regardless of the claims of those who held with them the bush in common.

page 129

These acts soon gave rise to fierce contentions as to the extent of individual rights, and the question had become so fraught with danger, that it was found necessary, in April last, to warn off all European sawyers, on pain of legal proceedings, a certain time being allowed them for the removal of such timber, as they had fairly paid for. This measure tended much tranquillize the Natives, but disputes as to individual claims or shares are still of not unfrequent occurrence.

To put an end for ever to these strifes, they are very desirous that the whole of their reserve be individualized, surveyed, and mapped, and that each may have a Crown Title to the portion allotted him.

After mature consideration, I have confidence in recommending that steps be taken towards the accomplishment of this object. I have conferred with the Commissioners of Native reserves, and they fully concur with me as to the desirability of carrying this scheme into effect.

At a public meeting of the Kaiapoi Natives, when this subject was under discussion, I elicited their sentiments by putting forward the following suggestions, all of which met their approval:—
1.That the primary sub-division and apportionment of the land should be arranged by them in runanga assembled.
2.That as a fundamental condition of the grant, the estates and interests created thereby should be entailed, in order to make them inalienable to persons of other than the Maori race.
3.That the power of leasing, if allowed, should be modified by certain conditions or limitations.
4.That the whole of the attendant expenses should be borne by them, a sufficient proportion of land being set apart for that purpose.
5.That suitable endowments should be made for the several objects of churches, schools, and hospitals, the same to be vested in Trustees duly appointed.
6.That the arrangements contemplated in the two last clauses should be carried out prior to the apportionment of the land, i.e., whilst it is common property.
7.That in order to give effect thereto the whole of the reserve should be ceded to Her Majesty's Commissioners of Native reserves for the Province of Canterbury.

Without committing myself to the above, or in any way compromising the Government. I have obtained the general acquiescence of the Natives therein; and I believe that, if judiciously managed, the object in view may be safely and fully accomplished.

The propriety of giving power to lease to Europeans admits of serious doubt. Common experience suggests the danger of opening thereby a way for the inroad of a class whose influence, far from promoting the welfare of the Natives, would rather tend to demoralize and degrade them, and thus defeat the primary design of this scheme; but in the event of this power being conceded to them, it appears to me highly desirable, as well for the protection of the Native interests, as for the security of the lessee, that all negotiations of this kind should require the sanction of an officer of the Government, whose certificate of approval should be necessary to the legality thereof.

The following are among the considerations which induce me to recommend this course:—
1.It is my firm conviction that the individualization of this reserve would prove a material benefit to the Natives concerned, not only by putting an end to their strifes on the subject, but as affording a stimulus to industry, and as calculated to promote their social and political advancement.
2.That it would facilitate the profitable disposal of several hundred acres of valuable timber, which, having been cleared in the recent fires, must in a short time, unless removed, decay and perish.

The Natives of Banks' Peninsula also are anxious to have their reserves individualized, but I would suggest that this be deferred till after the experiment has been tried at Kaiapoi.

Walter L. Buller.

Christchurch, 27th December, 1859.