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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 6, Issue 6, 2008

Unearthing the Invisible: Finding the Forgotten Maori History of Te Tau Ihu (Nelson – Marlborough): the 2006 James Jenkins lecture

Unearthing the Invisible: Finding the Forgotten Maori History of Te Tau Ihu (Nelson – Marlborough): the 2006 James Jenkins lecture.

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We would like to thank the Nelson Historical Society for inviting us to deliver this lecture – we are honoured to do so. We would like to acknowledge the work of James Jenkins in establishing the Society in 1954, and his bequest, which made the lecture series possible. We have flown in from Napier, where we are hiding from interruptions to work on Volumes II and III of Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka: A History of Maori of Nelson and Marlborough, which are scheduled for publication about mid-2007.

We are living on a grant from the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, for which we are very grateful. Volume II will be a social history of the impact of European colonisation on Maori of Te Tau Ihu, while Volume III will be a smaller companion volume listing all the evidence identifying Maori in time and place during early colonial times. It will include baptisms, marriages, census records, Maori Land Court records, land ownership records, and so on, and will be an invaluable resource for people tracing whakapapa, and will relieve us of many requests for help.

We are currently looking for funding to write Volume IV, which will contain about forty biographies of chiefs, leaders, interesting individuals and some families in the 1820 – 1860 period.

Tonight, we are going to discuss the process of producing these histories, rather than the stories themselves.

Beginning of the Project:

We started on this "journey", to use a favourite word of another John Mitchell, almost twenty years ago, in 1988. The Kaumatua Council of Te Runanganui o Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka a Maui, an organisation which at that time represented all eight Iwi of the Nelson-Marlborough region, asked us, as Mitchell Research, to produce a generic history of Maori in Te Tau Ihu. This history was intended to act as a base from which individual tribes, hapu, whanau and regional groups of Maori could prepare their specific cases for the Waitangi Tribunal.

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Over the following four years we drafted a manuscript which was circulated to elders of all the tribes for comment. It was eventually submitted to the Waitangi Tribunal in 1992, and then resubmitted, with substantial revisions, in 1999. Since that time the Waitangi Tribunal has heard the claims from this district, a great deal more information has come to light through our own and others' efforts, and that original manuscript looks very dated.

Our Own Motivations:

We have our own motivations for publishing the Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka series. Some years ago in Nelson and Marlborough there was a general perception that few Maori lived in the region before colonisation, and that very little was known about those who did. One strong motivation was to correct that misconception by peopling the landscape, by naming the people, by presenting the sagas by which they came to inhabit, defend (and depart) these lands, and by identifying their pa and kainga.

We also wished to ensure that succeeding generations of Maori would have access to their heritage, much of which has already been lost or dispersed. In addition, the interested general public would have a greater understanding of the people who trod these lands, relationships which developed, and events which occurred. A secondary ambition was to correct some of the inaccuracies which have crept into the record, and are then repeated.

With regard to Volume II – Te Ara Hou: The New Society – we particularly wish to illustrate the very active roles Maori played in the new society born of European colonisation. Their generosity and assistance to new immigrants, their delight in Christianity, their entrepreneurial response to opportunities within the new economy, their pivotal presence in European exploration and on the goldfields, their reaction to, and adoption or adaptation of new technologies, new ideas and new customs deserved to be highlighted.

We intend to show how Maori were affected by a European legal system, Pakeha-dominated legislation, anglocentric education, and eventual marginalisation from most aspects of the new society. Their struggle to retain their own language, social structures and customs is discussed, as are the effects of colonisation on Maori health, fertility, prosperity and wellbeing.

Reasons for the Disappearance of Maori from the Record:

We have puzzled over why this rich history has almost disappeared from the general record. It is certainly not from lack of evidence, and some historians such as Ruth Allan, Elvy and Peart, as well as modern writers like Mike Johnston, have recorded it and acknowledged its importance. Others, particularly in recent times, have simply ignored this aspect of our history, page 18perhaps for fear of making mistakes or causing offence, or through lack of knowledge of original sources. Articles in Historical Society Journals have kept many of the stories alive, but they are not widely available, and Ruth Allan's superb account of the first decade of the Nelson Settlement is out of print.

The conclusions we have reached to explain this gap in knowledge and understanding of our past can be summarised thus:

  • • Although Maori names appear in many records they are often meaningless without a knowledge of whakapapa and an understanding of the individual's role and relationships. A chief's action on behalf of his tribe has far more significance, for example, than a slave's action. And, thorough as Elvy was in his collecting and recording of stories of the Kaikoura Coast and Wairau, his accounts make much more sense when the time period, the tribal affiliations and whakapapa of all of the main participants are known.
  • • There is a small population of tangata whenua today, which makes it difficult for modem Pakeha to accept the significant numbers of Maori and the considerable influence they exerted in the early days of colonisation. This inability arises from ignorance of the history of the land dealings in Te Tau Ihu and ignorance of legislative history and its effects.
  • • Some simply don't believe that Maori had the ability to play such an important part, and others are unwilling to acknowledge that their own ancestors may have been involved in discriminatory or unjust practices in their dealings with Maori.
  • • Certain information was officially repressed and has only recently come to light.
  • • Sometimes the truth is inconvenient. In this context, Tasman District Council's recent acknowledgement of its long term illegal squatting on Maori-owned land at the Collingwood campground should be applauded.
  • • At other times sheer prejudice against another ethnic group plays a part.

In the earliest days of the Nelson Settlement, when Maori probably page 19outnumbered the new settlers, Europeans were beholden to Maori for their security, for local knowledge, and frequently for food. The Nelson Examiner published much detail of Maori activities, and relationships between Maori and officials, surveyors, businesspeople and farmers. Maori individuals were named, and their tribe or kainga was frequently referred to. As Europeans began to outnumber Maori, their skills, knowledge and produce were no longer required and new arrivals had no experience of being reliant on, sustained by, or working with Maori. Maori came to be referred to as "the natives", "the savages", or, sarcastically, as "our dusky brethren". No problems with political correctness in those days!

This was probably the first step in writing Maori out of the collective history. It also illustrated the breakdown in relationships between Maori and Europeans which, in the first years of settlement, had been characterised by generosity, mutual assistance and mutual respect.

Collecting the Material:

The most important sources, especially from the perspective of putting flesh on bones, identifying roles and relationships of named individuals, and interpreting significance of actions, are the Maori ones. In particular, whakapapa books and family traditions, some oral and others recorded and/or published.

As Maori acquired literacy skills in the first decades of European settlement, they began to write down their whakapapa and family stories, which had hitherto been handed down orally for many generations. In each succeeding generation a family member was appointed to keep this taonga and add to it. These books are probably the most precious possessions of many families, often jealously guarded and rarely shared, even within the family, let alone with outsiders. We were particularly privileged to be granted access to dozens of these extraordinary treasures and they are the most crucial foundation for the work we have done.

Another Maori source is evidence given in Maori Land Court cases to investigate ownership or determine succession, which often traverses alliances, battles, wars, truces, marriages, gifts, and the names of those who occupied lands. Maori also wrote letters, but those that have survived are usually to the Governor or other officials, and concern land issues. We are not aware of any significant Maori account from Te Tau Ihu of impressions of Europeans, the new society, or the effects of colonisation.

The host of European sources, official and unofficial, include land title records, New Zealand Company and Crown correspondence, reports and journals, the minutes of, annual returns of, and reports to both Provincial and central page 20Government, Court records, census returns, Departmental records for Education, Justice, Welfare, Housing, Maori Affairs, the Public Trustee and the Maori Trustee. Alexander Mackay's Compendium collated all the records relevant to land purchases from Maori, Maori-owned land and Native Reserves in the South Island up to about 1870.

The field books of surveyors such as Heaphy, Brunner and Stephens are often much more than just pages of transects and triangulations. Some were used as daybooks for recording events, as attendance records and wage-books, and as sketch books. Heaphy and others adorned the formal survey diagrams with maps which clearly identified the locations of pa, kainga and cultivations.

These official records are the ones most used by "real" historians in Waitangi Tribunal evidence. We have often found, however, that unofficial sources are invaluable in making sense of official records, in explaining reasons for actions and in suggesting motives. They are particularly important for their reflection of attitudes of the times.

Newspapers are amazing in their detail, their uninhibited use of language and, particularly during the Taranaki and Waikato Wars, their prejudice against Maori. The Nelson Examiner, The Colonist, the Marlborough Press, the Marlborough Daily Times, the Havelock Guardian and, later, the Nelson Evening Mail and the Marlborough Express, are absolute treasure troves. It can be frustrating, however, when they begin a story, but we cannot find the outcome.

There is also much published material in the form of regional and local histories, histories on particular topics or themes, memoirs and reminiscences, autobiographies and biographies, church, school and family histories. There are collections of materials in museum archives by individuals such as Bett, Knapp, Brayshaw, Hale, Newport, Margaret Brown, and dozens of unpublished diaries, journals, log-books, reminiscences and collections of letters written by officials, settlers, surveyors, and clergy. Church records are particularly valuable, given the close relationship which often existed between missionaries and Maori, and baptismal and marriage registers are the best record of names and places of residence in the 1840s and 1850s.

Potholes and Pitfalls:

There is clearly no shortage of material, but there are potholes and pitfalls to be negotiated if an accurate record is to be achieved. The overriding issue is the integrity and accuracy of the sources and questions may arise on a number of grounds. There is the ability of eyewitnesses to interpret what is happening when there are both language and cultural barriers. A newly arrived European may completely misunderstand or misinterpret an action page 21through ignorance of the language or custom. William Wakefield, for example, branded Nayti a liar because he called his cousins his brothers, thereby demonstrating his own ignorance of whanaungatanga in Maori tikanga.

There may also be mistaken conclusions arising from misunderstanding of relationships, for instance whether the woman in question is the chief's wife or a slave. The perceived treatment of her takes on entirely different meanings if the wrong assumption is made. There is also a risk in using fragmented pieces of information which may represent only part of the picture, such as the Pakeha perspective, or one chief's version.

The validity of second hand accounts in comparison with eyewitness reports can be questioned and the motives of writers also require examination. Missionaries reporting to their parent bodies were inclined to emphasise the success of their endeavours, as are New Zealand Company agents reporting to their superiors. Government agents such as Assistant Native Secretaries wrote glowingly of the wellbeing, good behaviour and loyalty of their charges. Some individuals, such as Frederick George Moore, tended to inflate their own part in various incidents and endeavours, and Maori giving evidence in the Maori Land Court were highly motivated to exaggerate their own tribe's role in order to gain rights to land.

A blatant example of writing for a particular purpose can be seen in a letter from James Mackay Jr to Donald McLean recounting a very dramatic confrontation between Maori and Europeans at Motupipi in 1856, which almost ended in serious violence. We were a little puzzled, as we had not seen any other reference to the incident, but on the next page Mackay sought a paid Government position to sort out disputes between Maori and Europeans. His account may be absolutely accurate, but there is a lingering suspicion that it may have been exaggerated.

Some more technical concerns arise from our use of typed or transcribed versions of original documents. We have been using, for example, the typed copy of Barnicoat's journal at Nelson Provincial Museum. We have come to know it well and have, over time, developed minor reservations about the accuracy of the typing. We have used a number of other typed or transcribed versions of original documents which may have similar flaws.

Very serious transcribing flaws can still emerge. For example, in 2003 a Crown witness presented a large typed transcript of the 1883 Maori Land Court investigation of the ownership of the Wakapuaka Block. This "evidence" was not only riven with spelling errors, but the conventions of the Court record were completely misunderstood. The names of cross-examiners (Maori) were often thoroughly confused with the names of the witnesses (also Maori) and names and contexts were also misunderstood. There was such objection to page 22the document's inaccuracies from ourselves and Maori at the hearing that it was expunged from the Tribunal record. Had we not been there, that transcription might have stood for all time as an accepted record of the 1883 Court.

Another aspect of sourcing materials which has concerned us is the ban on copying some items, usually because of fragility. We cannot understand why a single master photocopy of such documents could not be made, from which further copies could be produced. Such a strategy would reduce wear and tear on the originals. The cost of copying some archival records, for example when a professional has to be called in to make a digital copy, can be very high, and limits on the number of items which can be ordered at a time can be very frustrating.

The other paramount issue is, of course, our own integrity in selecting or rejecting material, in ordering material in a certain way, and in choosing or ignoring material to suit our own arguments and perspectives. We try to be neutral and even-handed, but it is probably up to the reader to decide on that issue. We have exercised some censorship by excluding some of the more vituperative attacks on individuals and, in some cases, whole communities. In many such instances it is obvious that the writings do not accurately describe people and events, but merely reflect the prejudices of the writers.

Deciding Themes:

Acquiring all this material was one thing. Selecting from it, ordering it, and turning it into a readable history was, and is, quite another. There were a number of decisions we had to make about the scope and structure of Volume II. The original intention was to bring it up to the present day, but the sheer volume of material convinced us to cut it off at about 1900. Given that it is a social history, rather than a clear chronological events history, we also decided on a number of themes, which determined the chapters of Volume II. The chapter headings will be:

  • Chapter One: Maori Settlements at the time of European Arrival
  • Chapter Two: The Coming of Christianity
  • Chapter Three: First Meetings and Impressions of Maori
  • Chapter Four: New Customs, New Ideas
  • Chapter Five: Early Maori-European Relationships
  • Chapter Six: Participation in the New Economy page 23
  • Chapter Seven: Surveying, Exploration and Gold
  • Chapter Eight: European Institutions
  • Chapter Nine: Maori Issues, Maori Politics, Maori Loyalties
  • Chapter Ten: Tikanga, Te Reo, Rangatiratanga, Whanaunga: Protecting Maori Values and Customs
  • Chapter Eleven: Effects of Colonisation

This approach then required decisions about particular incidents or events which were multidimensional and could be used as illustrations of rangatiratanga, in the discussion of slavery, or in the chapter on goldmining.

Decisions about style:

The style of presentation will be very similar to what we attempted to do in Volume I, which was to create a text in straightforward, simple language which will be accessible to the majority of the population, including school students. To increase accessibility we will again break the text into readable chunks, and use whakapapa, maps, drawings, paintings, and photos to illustrate the stories. Extensive use of quotes from eyewitnesses, newspapers, letter writers and commentators will be employed. The quotes are graphic, usually beautifully written and portray the flavour of the times which is difficult to capture in any other way. They communicate the writer's perspective far more effectively than anything we could write, they strengthen the validity of what we are saying and readers unfamiliar with the sources may be tempted to do some research themselves.

Brian Flintoff has again very graciously agreed to design chapter headings and "footprints" to divide the sections in each chapter. The quality of production, with glossy paper and full colour throughout, will prevail again, thanks to the support of Wakatu Incorporation, iwi trusts, and a number of business firms.

Some Surprises:

We don't, of course, intend to reveal the ending, for fear of spoiling the book for you, but we are going to comment on some aspects of the material which surprised us and may surprise you.

In general, European records, official and unofficial, tend to bear out Maori family traditions, with stories handed down through families most often verified, although not always. John's family, for example, has a tradition about the desecration of an ancestor's grave at Pariwhakaoho in Golden Bay. An official record found earlier this year explains what actually occurred and does not support the family belief, which has been nurtured for more than a century.

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It is quite surprising that there appears to have been no European sanction, official or unofficial, against the practice of slavery, which persisted certainly well into the 1860s and perhaps later, although the taking of slaves ceased on 6th February 1840. We are surprised, because the abolition of slavery had been such an important issue in the Britain the settlers left behind, and there were strong relationships between the New Zealand Company and the Aborigines Protection Society back home. Far from attempting to abolish the practice in New Zealand, NZ Company and government officers openly employed slaves from local chiefs. The guides Kehu and Pikiwati were two such slaves, and Mrs Ironside bought two slaves from their chiefs with a pair of her best blankets when Ngati Toa evacuated Port Underwood after the Wairau Affray.

In 1848 Bishop Selwyn accompanied Henry Mauhara, one of his assistants, to Croisilles to attempt to buy Henry's mother and brother out of their slavery to the elderly local chief, probably of Ngati Koata. The mother refused to leave the chief, who was a Christian, however, saying she loved him and he needed her to care for him. The chief confirmed his need for the woman and said that, as he was not long for this world, she would soon be free. Selwyn concluded that slavery in New Zealand was of a "mild character".

Polygamy was tackled more assiduously by the churches in the beginning, with one Ngati Koata chief putting aside one of his wives, but other chiefs argued that it would be unjust to turn out a wife who had been a faithful companion for years and to whom there were obligations. Eventually the Churches appear to have turned a blind eye to existing relationships.

Kaikoura Whakatau of Amuri, south of Kaikoura, declined to give an immediate answer to Edward Jollie's questions about how he reconciled his two wives with his professed Christianity. The next morning, however, the chief conducted prayer, choosing a suitable Bible passage to illustrate his homily: "Abraham had two wives, Isaac had two wives, Jacob had two wives, so why should I also not have two wives?". Jollie concluded that Maori should never have been given the Old Testament.

Some readers will probably be surprised to learn that Maori children were generally regarded as smarter than Pakeha children when they were educated together, in English, at Motueka in the late 1840s and early 1850s. In addition, a greater proportion of Maori could read and write at the end of the 1840s than working class Europeans.

The speed with which Maori grasped and used European legal processes may also be surprising. In March 1842, one month after the Fifeshire docked with the first immigrants, a Maori woman from Wakapuaka was the informant in a charge of assault against a European man at the Nelson Court Petty page 25Sessions. The man charged was convicted and fined, and a number of other assault charges, usually successful, were brought by Maori against Europeans in the 1840s. In the first decade of the settlement Maori sued Europeans for debt, and Europeans sued Maori for debt. Tamati Pirimona Marino successfully sued his European business partner in 1847, and Maori in Motueka successfully sued some European neighbours for damages arising from cattle eating a stack of wheat in 1848. Maori appear to have been only minor offenders, appearing on petty theft and occasionally drunkenness charges, although there was a general consensus that Maori were not drinkers at that time.

In March this year we applied to the Minister of Justice for permission to access Nelson and Marlborough Court records held at Archives New Zealand. We discovered that the first serious case involving a Maori was a charge brought by a Queen Charlotte Sound Maori in January 1843 of assault and buggery against a European. The accused was remanded in gaol till the trial and we don't yet know the outcome.

Another puzzle was the ambivalence of individual Europeans who had warm, affectionate relationships with individual Maori, as David Monro did with Brunner's faithful servant, Eruera Rawiri Te Rauhihi. Monro consulted Mrs Brunner about a suitable gift for him, and sent a telegram from Otago to enquire about his condition when he had been ill, but made such statements as:

"One thing is very clear: that the Maoris have wanted a good licking for some time: … a black man has no respect for the white settler, until the latter has shown him that he is physically his superior".


"These Maoris are a confounded nuisance: and they will never be brought to reason until they get an uncommonly good thrashing …".


"… no legislation will ever make a white man regard a coloured man as his equal".

We were surprised by some of the items in the wonderful collection of materials lent to us by Mrs Lynette Wilson of Riwaka. They related to her Hadfield ancestors and their neighbours at Awaroa, the Winter family and James Perrott. Perrott's wife was Maori, so it is not such a surprise to find that page 26at least half of his diaries are written in te reo Maori. The Winters, as far as we know, were not Maori, so it certainly was a surprise to read diaries and letters almost entirely in te reo. The letters were between two brothers and a sister, with George Winter signing his letters "Te Hon Makariri" and Kristiana Winter signing hers "Kariti". Kristiana also wrote to Mr Perrott, often in te reo, and she was cured of a serious and disabling genetic condition by correspondence with the Maori prophet, Ratana. This apparent ability to cure her and another local European woman, Fanny Lammas, by correspondence was itself a surprise.

Modern miracles:

We should confess that it is becoming easier and easier to do this work, although it doesn't always feel like it. Computer and internet technologies enable us to examine catalogues of images, documents, maps and books at many institutions around the world. In some cases actual manuscripts are online, as are many images collections, which can be downloaded and printed. We can now order material in advance at libraries, archives and museums, which saves research time, and these institutions usually allow the use of laptops and portable scanners.

Service at many repositories has improved out of sight in terms of friendliness and willingness to help, which may be a triumph for Kiwihost, and there is often the opportunity to exchange information for mutual benefit. There is also the miracle of Google, which can turn up an answer, often the correct, to almost anything. The ability to use a word processor, to scan text direct into word-processing language, to tabulate vast screeds of information into spreadsheets and databases which can be sorted, collated and interrogated, to email text, images and photographs, and to pay for services and products online, still seem miraculous. Our admiration is boundless for people who did such superb work without any of these advantages.

We have collected and catalogued material which constitutes 150 pages of one-line references. This enables us to find all the references to do with, for example, religion, adultery, gold mining or slavery at the click of a button. We were tempted to publish this spreadsheet as a do-it-yourself history, but Huia Publishers were expecting rather more context from us.

There have been some wonderful boosts to our enthusiasm in the course of writing these books. While writing Volume I, we came across Isabel Olivier's translations of some of the D'Urville expedition records. She is a New Zealander living in France who compiled Research Notes relating to French Explorers in New Zealand between 1985 and 1994. Her translation of Adolphe-Pierre Lesson's journal was a great find for us. In a similar vein, Peter Tremewan of the French Department, University of Canterbury, has page 27been working his way through Father Garin's Letters and Mission Notes, which he obtained from the Marist Archives in Rome. His translations have been a big help for Volume II, although some descendants of Marlborough whalers may not be very happy with Garin's descriptions of their ancestors.

An idle question to Marion Minson at National Library about a Heaphy sketch of the salvage of the Louisa Campbell in 1847, referred to by FG Moore, led us to the Auckland Museum. It holds a large number of Heaphys that we were unaware of, some very important to this area and our book.

Perhaps the jewel in the crown was the phone call from a New Zealander, Jocelyne Dudding, working at the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, England. A box of material from Frederick Tuckett's estate, which had been in storage for many decades, had just been opened for the first time. It revealed a sketchbook belonging to Isaac Coates, who resided in Nelson from about 1842 to 1845. He is known for his portraits of Maori, thanks to the work of Marion Minson and Dawn Smith. The images in this sketchbook have incredibly sharp colours, never having been exposed to light. Several are duplicates of the 19 images already known, but there are portraits of 37 Maori of Nelson and Marlborough not seen previously. As a result of our treatment of the Coates images in Volume I, and our undertaking to provide biographical information and whakapapa for some of these "new" ancestors, Pitt Rivers will allow us to reproduce any we wish in Volume II and other publications, at no charge.

This leads us to the question – what else is out there? Two Lindauer paintings – of a local couple, Mr and Mrs Paramena, were found under a bed in Blenheim a few years ago. There may be others as yet undiscovered.

We are looking for sketches which, according to Marlborough newspaper reports, were done in 1888 at the Waikakaho and Cullensville goldfields by Walter Leslie of the Hansard staff and author/artist of Parliamentary Portraits. We are also keen to find Thomas Brunner's sketches of his 1846–1848 expedition to the West Coast.

Thank you very much. We hope that we have encouraged you to think of our rich past from a slightly different perspective, and that you will, of course, be desperate to read Volume II.

Ki a koutou mo tenei wahanga.