Report from Walter Buller, Esq., to the Native Secretary.
Christchurch, Canterbury,September 19th, 1861.
I do myself the honour to acknowledge your circular letter of the 7th ultimo, requesting page 131me to furnish a general report of the present state of the Natives in this district, for the information of His Excellency Sir George Grey, who is shortly expected here to assume the Government of New Zealand. In compliance therewith I beg to submit the following observations.
The total Maori population of the Province of Canterbury is, approximately, 600, in the proportions of 325 males, and 275 females. The children (of 14 years and under), bear a proportion to the whole population of nearly 25 per cent. Of the above number, about 500 belong to my district; the rest are located at Arahura, on the West Coast of this Province, and are (I believe) visited by the Assistant native Secretary at Nelson. The former occupy nine settlements, the more important of which are Kaiapoi, Rapaki, Kokorarata, Wairewa, and Arowhenua.
They form a section of the Ngaitahu, formerly a numerous tribe occupying the Southern coast of Cook's Strait, but now considerably reduced and scattered along the Eastern and Western shores of this Island. They are divided into ten principal hapus, namely, Ngaituahuriri, Ngaiteruahikihiki. Ngaiteirakehu, Ngaitaoka, Ngatimahaki, Ngaiterangiamoa, Ngaitutehuarewa, Ngaiterango-whakaputa, Ngaiterangi, and Ngatimamoe. The Ngaituahuriri is the most powerful section, numbering more than one-third of the entire population. The names of the chiefs and leading men of these hapus are given in the accompanying returns.
Between 40 and 50 of these Natives are emigrants from the North Island, who have surrendered their tribal distinctions by inter-marriage with the Ngaitahus, and are now regarded as members of the respective hapus into which they have married.
The Ngatimamoe, the original occupants of this district, were driven southwards on the invasion of the Ngaitahu, and are now almost, if not entirely, extinct. A partial amalgamation with the conquerors may be inferred from the existence of a hapu among the latter bearing their name; but I have been unable to obtain anything like an authentic account of their previous history. It is currently reported that a small remnant of them, in a wild state, still inhabit the mountainous country in the neighborhood of Milford Sound. For a full account of the traditional genealogy of the Ngaitahu people, I beg to refer you to my letter to the Native Secretary of 1st March, 1860.
The Canterbury Natives are, on the whole, in a flourishing condition. They own a considerable number of horses and horned cattle. They cultivate annually about 200 acres of land. They conduct a lucrative whale fishery on Bank's Peninsula, and carry on a profitable trade with the Europeans in timber and firewood. Their land reserves, selected with much care and discrimination by Mr. Commissioner Mantell in 1848, have acquired a high marketable value; with the Peninsula reserves made by Mr. Hamilton in 1856-57, they comprise a total area of 7,000 acres. Nearly the whole of this land is of excellent quality, and more than one-third of it is covered with good forest which, owing to the scarcity of wood in this Province, commands a high price. Taken altogether, their reserves may fairly be estimated to represent a current value of £67,000.
Far removed from the scene of the late war at Taranaki, and too isolated to be influenced by the Waikato "King, movement" and the other questions which have agitated the Native mind in the North Island, the Canterbury Natives have remained peaceful and undisturbed. They have never ceased to avow their loyalty to the Queen, and their unabated friendship for the pakeha. A convincing proof of their sincerity is afforded in the fact of their having spontaneously contributed a sum of £50, raised by individual subscriptions, to the Taranaki Relief Fund. During the existence of war, they evinced no sympathy for the insurgents, or apprehension for the final result; and, notwithstanding the untiring efforts of a zealous emissary of the King party (who came from Ahuriri) to excite a feeling in its favour, no visible impression has been made upon them.
They are sufficiently aware that, situated as they are, they have nothing to gain and everything to lose by disturbing the friendly relations at present subsisting between them and their European neighbours. They profess full confidence as to the right intentions of the Government towards them; but, at the same time, complain (and with a show of reason), that, until lately, their claims have been overlooked and neglected. They have had a valuable friend in Mr. Hamilton, the Collector of Customs, who, though not officially connected with them, and but little conversant with their language, has always taken a lively interest in their affairs, and has been ever ready to lend his time and influence to any effort for their amelioration.
They are fully alive to the advantages to be secured by the individualization of their reserves. At Kaiapoi, where this is now being accomplished, they have already given evidence, in their increased industry, and eager desire for improvement, to warrant the belief that their admission to individual freehold tenure will lead to a most important change in their social condition.
Their great want at present, is some better provision for the administration of our law among them. To supply, in some measure, this need, the runanga has become a very popular institution. Every village has its runanga, with its appointed times of meeting; two or more of their most intelligent men are elected leaders or heads (upoko), and the resident Native Assessor, where there is any, seems to assume ex officio the direction of their proceedings. All subjects affecting the interest of the community, as well as private grievances, and disputes between individuals, are brought page 132before the Runanga, and, if not always brought to a satisfactory issue, are at least freely discussed and ventilated.
While it must be admitted that in these Runangas much time is wasted in talk, and oftentimes an act of unjust oppression committed in their rude attempts to administer law, yet they are not without their corresponding advantages. They are useful as a means of maintaining peace and order in the villages; and, under proper control, might become an effective instrument for promoting the civilization of the people. They invest the commissioned Native Assessor with an influence which he could not otherwise command, and by their manner of proceeding give to his acts the authority of the public voice. It is through the medium of the Runanga, and by the co-operation of its leading men, that I have been enabled to carry out so successfully the individual partition of the Kaiapoi reserve; and it is by the aid of the same means that I hope, when the survey is completed, to be able to induce the Natives to adopt a plan of systematic settlement, with other improvements in their social and domestic economy.
The Resident Magistrate here has admitted (in a private letter to myself) that "these Native Runangas are absolutely the only means and mode of preserving themselves from anarchy which the Maoris of this Province possess." In the absence of any other tribunal for the redress of wrongs as amongst themselves, we cannot be surprised at the Runanga usurping judicial functions; nor can we wonder that, in administering what they take to be law, the claims of equity are often overlooked. The judgments of the Runanga are too often characterized by undue severity. I have heard of cases where a person, for a comparatively light offence, has had his horse and all other property seized, and sold for the benefit of the Court! Some check should be put upon this Maori custom of muru.
Upon the whole, however, these Runangas do good. At the same time, they afford a proof that this kind of organization (now becoming so general among the Maoris) does not of necessity contain the elements of disaffection, or indicate an unhealthy and dangerous excitement in the Native mind. On the contrary, wherever I have been, a strong desire has been manifested by the leaders of the Runanga to have a magistrate stationed here to instruct them in law, and to preside at their meetings. "Why does not the Governor," they have said, "give us a pakeha magistrate, even as he does to the people of the north: we are few in numbers, but we are the children of the same parent, and we desire to obey the same law."
I am well aware that there are other more populous districts in the North Island still unsupplied, and yet I cannot but recommend to the best consideration of His Excellency the request of these Natives to have a Circuit Magistrate stationed among them. The Resident Magistrates here, and at Timaru, have both of them directed my attention to this great want of the Natives, and have expressed an earnest hope that ere long it may be supplied.
The Native settlements of this Province are (with one exception) so remote from Christchurch, that access to the only Resident Magistrate's Court having an Interpreter attached to it, is virtually denied them. On the one hand it would probably cost a plaintiff five pounds to recover one, while, on the other, it would be almost impracticable to enforce payments in the remote settlements without the aid of police, and, consequently, not without considerable expense. The only means, therefore, of obtaining redress as between Natives, is by appeal to the Runanga; whilst as against Europeans there is no redress at all.
I would respectfully submit that the Canterbury Natives have claims upon the Government of a peculiar kind. Surrounded as they are by an overwhelming majority of Europeans, they have actually no guarantee that their individual rights and privileges will be either respected on the one hand or protected on the other.
The gold discoveries in this Island will in all probability lead to a large and rapid influx of mixed populations, and in proportion thereto will the disadvantages of the Natives' position be augmented. The only way, as it seams to me, of meeting this difficulty, is to appoint a Circuit Magistrate to this district; who shall make periodical visits, in his judicial capacity, to each of the settlements in rotation, and shall, at the same time, have the general supervision of Native affairs in this Province. Such an officer would be useful to the Government in many ways, and would, if possessing the confidence of the Natives, soon acquire the most complete influence over them. It is needless to point out how instrumental he might become in raising them to a higher condition of civilization, by assisting them in the management of their reserves, by encouraging them in their industrial pursuits, and so forth.
It might be found desirable to include the Otago Native settlements in this officer's circuit, and then his charge would number not far short of 1000 souls.
If, in the above observations, I have digressed somewhat from the proper subject-matter of this report, I can only urge in excuse, the fitness of the opportunity (as it appeared to me) for bringing this important subject under His Excellency's notice.
I have, &c.,
Walter Buller.The Native Secretary, Auckland.
Enclosure in No. 4.
|Hapus or Sub-Divisions.||Names of Principal Men.||Places of Abode.|
|*Pita Te Hori||Kaiapoi|
|*Hakopo Te Ataotu||"|
|Aperahama Te Aika||"|
|Poihipi Te Aorahui||Kokorarata|
|Pohau Te Whakaihua||Taumutu|
|*Hoani Papita Tihoka||Akaroa|
|*Hoani Wetere Te Ruaparae||"|
|Hanatana Te Kehu||"|
|*Wiremu Te Uki||Kokorarata|
N.B.—The West Coast Natives are not included in the above return. The chiefs are marked by an asterisk.
Walter Buller.Christchurch, 19th September, 1861.