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Fretful Sleepers and Other Essays


It is a paradox in New Zealand that those least sympathetic to Maori aspirations often invoke an abstract equality as their sanction for wanting the abolition of Maori schools, the four seats, and the Department of Maori Affairs. A good many liberals and sympathisers are taken in by the slogan. An Australian socialist once accused me of being a racialist because I was 'stressing differences'. It is, as Dr Biggs has put it, something that has long been a bug-bear of New Zealand thinking, a confusion of equality page 122 with uniformity; and the most intelligent official statement for some years is Mr Hanan's: 'What suits one person or one race does not always suit another. To treat people equally you sometimes must treat them differently.' Even Mr Hanan was surprised at the opposition of the Maori M.P.s to his proposal on juries.

Pakeha resentment at 'pampering of the Maoris' was stimulated when Labour's majority was equal to the number of Maori seats held by Labour. But the post-war record of the Department of Maori Affairs, especially its pre-Hanan housing policy, can hardly be called pampering. The Department continues its role of mediator between the State and the Maoris, and Maoris still feel the need for it. Yet its attitude, at all levels, leaves a lot to be desired: one informed commentator has called it 'colonial'.20 Mr Hanan's championship of Maori rights is unlikely to be translated into the day-to-day transactions at district offices. Further there is the paternal way in which the Department is represented on so many organizations set up and financed by Maoris—the Maori Purposes Fund Board, the boards that award the Ngata and Ngarimu scholarships, for example, or the way in which such organizations are often persuaded to leave crucial decisions to subcommittees made up of pakeha public servants. The Women's Welfare League had to resist attempts at departmental supervision. There is departmental control of the Maori-financed Te Ao Hou, and its timid, uncontroversial policy, even under Erik Schwimmer's editorship; the avoidance of controversy on the niggardly quarter-hour of news in Maori on Sunday evenings. It is arguable that continuation of the Department's paternalism will produce dependence on advice and assistance. On the other hand, sudden withdrawal of the Department's mediation would be leaving the Maori people to sink or swim, and most of them would sink. A progressive, even if leisurely, withering-away should be foreseen, and a necessary prerequisite is that Maoris should be allowed more control of their own affairs, and that where decisions (as they more frequently will) affect both races, their opinion should be consulted and given more than proportionate weight.

Peter Fraser's Economic and Social Welfare Act of 1945 provided for Maoris to police themselves through honorary wardens, to attend (within the limits of State direction) to their own welfare by the appointment of welfare officers, and to govern some of their local affairs through tribal committees and tribal executives. At Gisborne it was said that about a quarter of the 80 executives and the 440 committees were inactive: otherwise the system has worked well. Last year's Act completes the organization at a national level by setting up a Dominion Council of representatives elected by tribal executives. There will be a voice for the Maori people independent of political parties.

Before Apirana Ngata died he predicted that in ten years Maoris might be considering the need for the abolition of separate parliamentary representation. The question was brought up at the elders' round table page 123 at Turangawaewae, but a secret ballot showed that, though the elders thought it must come sooner or later, they did not want it yet. It was said that there were three possibilities: abolition of the seats; requests for one or two more seats to meet the increase in Maori electors; some elders of National Party allegiance advocated reduction of the number of seats so that the number of registered voters in any Maori electorate should be no smaller than the number in the average pakeha electorate. A motion at Gisborne to ask for more seats was lost. On the other hand, at several conferences, it was thought to be too optimistic to hope that on a single electoral roll, there would be four Maori members elected. It was said, further, that electoral areas are too large, many electors do not know their members and that Maori representation should not be tied to pakeha party politics, that some electors prefer to consult the local pakeha member. At present Maoris must register on the Maori roll, half-castes can opt to be on either roll, and less than half-castes must register on the European roll. But the system is flexible in that it is by one's own declaration that one is Maori, half-caste or European; and it was claimed that some Maoris prefer to be on the European roll, and some less than half-castes enrol as Maoris. A suggestion at Turangawaewae and Whakatane was that Maoris be allowed the same option as half-castes; and this might meet the needs of the urban Maori whose Maori member may be more concerned with rural problems.

In 1960, meeting a group of his electors on the All Black issue, Mr Anderton, member for Auckland Central, banged the table and said it was absolutely inconceivable that Labour could ever lose the Maori vote. The policy of the 1949-57 administration did not lose Labour any votes. Yet there is among more educated Maoris a general dissatisfaction with the alliance between Labour and Ratana and with the inactivity of their own representatives, except perhaps Sir Eruera Tirikatene. George Harrison standing for National, Arnold Reedy for Social Credit, did not represent endorsement of the total policies of those parties so much as opposition, in the only practical way, to the present representation. Perhaps the Dominion Council of tribal representatives will alter this. Whether post-Hunn policy can seriously reduce Labour's majority in the Maori vote in the short time before the next election is doubtful. It is possible that Cabinet's support of Mr Hanan is based on this hope, but it would be a pity if an enlightened policy were withdrawn because political calculations were not confirmed.

Not enough trust has ever been put in Maori initiative. It was Maori initiative that was ultimately responsible (at a Maori Labour conference in the thirties) for the 1945 and 1961 Acts; for the formation of the Maori Women's Welfare League; for the 28th Battalion Association and the leadership conferences that began in 1959. If the initial direction of such moves is withdrawal from the pakeha, it is only for the purpose of establishing identity: from this position pakehas are invited to share in activities. page 124 There are pakeha members of Tribal Committees, of the League; the 28th Battalion's club at Opotiki is open to all ex-servicemen; pakehas have participated in the leadership conferences. There is no fear of Maori nationalism—Paul Robeson speaking at the Auckland Community Centre, pointing to inequalities of economic status, urging militancy, failed to strike a chord of sympathy. In some ways Paul Robeson was only saying what Mr Hunn has said. But militancy does not attract Maoris, because they have an ideal of racial harmony.

Maori policy is one of taihoa, by and by. On the one hand elders put up a passive resistance to the pace of 'integration', on the ground that Maoris are being asked to cope, in less than two hundred years, with an advance that took Europeans something like two thousand. On the other hand they meet European impatience with patience. Bay of Plenty elders did not make public protests when the magistrate condemned Ringatu, but invited him to a hui where they explained the tenets of their religion. In the harmonious New Zealand society that they envisage, they wish to retain their identity; what they seek is recognition, not just as individuals, but as a people made up of different tribes and with the right to disagree among themselves and with preferences of behaviour as valid as the European's.

Intellectuals and sympathisers often get impatient because of hesitancy of Maoris to interest themselves in wider public or international questions. It should be remembered that the Maori people are in deep confusion about the New Zealand pakeha world, let alone the whole world, or the stressful western pattern of living we are trying to impose on them. The local confusion may reflect simple unfamiliarity with pakeha institutions— a father wishing to decide on an atlas for his schoolgirl daughter visits a library but does not know where to look and does not ask for assistance because he doesn't know whether he has to pay.21 Often they avoid confusion in relation to the world situation by a simple acceptance of the official doctrine. Soldiers volunteering to shoot Malayans whose quarrel with their Government is of no interest to them do not doubt that, as they are told, they are shooting bad men. (No doubt there are other attractions— as Erik Schwimmer has given them22—secure employment, a regular life, the presence of other Maoris, pleasant inter-tribal rivalry.) I remember a Maori who turned up at a committee meeting of the Citizens' All Black Tour Association and argued that since Her Majesty the Queen had said 'We are one people', the Rugby Union was defying her, and that if this were pointed out to them they would be horrified at their effrontery and immediately mend their ways. Maoris are not trained in the subtleties and sophistications by which we discount the hypocrisies we profess. Nor do any except the more educated appreciate the fact that there is not one 'pakeha way' but dozens.

At the conference on research into Maori education it was suggested that there should be a sociological study of a European village by Maori social scientists. The suggestion was not made in any spirit of smart alecry page 125 —though it would be interesting to have 'Rakau' opinions on the way university psychologists bring up their children—but as a means of educating Maoris in the details of pakeha life. Maoris in general like pakehas—provided they are friendly. I am told, though I take it with a grain of salt, that in 1939 when the question of Maori support in the war was at issue, Sir Apirana Ngata told Peter Fraser that after long consideration the leaders of all the tribes had decided they would rather have him than the Japanese. There is something admirable in the calm and courtesy in which Maoris indiscriminately listen to Paul Robeson, teach action-songs to a Chinese theatre company, entertain an Indian diplomat, a Formosan or American Indian MRA man, Katherine Dunham and Rewi Alley.

The trend of Maori progress towards a cordial adjustment to the European occupation is in two apparently dissimilar directions. On the one hand, their freedom to withdraw for such affairs as they wish, to be Maoris among Maoris when they want to be. On the other hand, and this is less possible without the other, a greater participation in European activities at all levels—not only in employment, but in local bodies, voluntary organisations and in the arts and entertainment. There has been progress in this direction. Maori viewpoints are frequently expressed from positions in a pakeha social structure—a Presbyterian Synod, an article by a staff journalist, an adult education tutor-organiser, a women's welfare organisation. The changes and difficulties of contemporary leadership were represented in the apparent inconsistencies of Maharaia Winiata. Seeking ways to advance his people he chose the Methodist Church, anthropology, adult education and the King Movement, which he saw as symbolic of a possible national Maori identity—but which alienated him from tribes that traditionally did not recognise the Maori King. Seeking at the same time ways to bring about workable race relations he espoused Moral Rearmament, the Citizens' All Black Tour Association, visited China to study the treatment of minorities and it was possibly he who contributed informed notes on Maori affairs to the People's Voice. Maha alive made many enemies: dead he was unanimously praised. If he struck some pakehas as anti-pakeha, it was that pakeha arrogance and patronage made him angry. In his haste to achieve his goal, and his impatience with inter-tribal suspicion, he sometimes violated Maori protocol. He represented a change he himself theorised about, a change in the channels of leadership. Increasingly Maori leadership will come not from outstanding figures like Ngata and Te Puea, but from hundreds of smaller local people who are specialists in their own professions.

In the arts and entertainment there has been significant movement. Maoris have practically taken over popular entertainment. In the more sophisticated arts there have been stories in English in Te Ao Hou, the poems of Hone Tuwhare and Rowley Habib, the wood-sculpture of Arnold Wilson, the paintings of Ralph Hotere, Katarina Mataira and Muru Walters (it is difficult to imagine a prominent pakeha footballer who also page 126 paints). The work of all these artists is informed with a quality not European. Maoris have distinguished themselves in amateur acting and professional opera. If they have not entered other arts—symphonic music, few architects, no ballet dancers from a people so sure on their feet—it is because they are not familiar with these arts, as in the case of the father who didn't know how to use the library. From the other direction in the last few years there has been from pakeha artists and intellectuals an increasing interest in the Maori: there has been Noel Hilliard's Maori Girl and a greater number of short stories with Maori characters, two good children's books about Maori boys. And Bruce Mason's Pohutukawa Tree, for all its distorted view of race relations and its improbable Maori psychology, represented a gesture of pakeha conscience. More pakehas, partly dissatisfied with their own culture, have taken the role of what Erik Schwimmer calls 'mediators' and found Maori company enriching and satisfying. My guess is that, among the educated, intermarriage, especially between Maori men and European women, is increasing. It may be too much to hope that this movement, at educated levels of society, will be powerful enough to offset the unpropitious attitudes of a great many pakehas—the potential hostility, the impatience, the arrogance, the patronage and that kind of paternalism that is hostile to Maoris making their own decisions, the readiness of State-Advanced suburbia to condemn them in terms of its own inhuman values; the forces that made David Ausubel foresee a worsening of race relations.

The way of life we have been trying to 'integrate' on to the Maoris is a spiritually impoverished version of a deeply anxious, individualistic and often sadistic (and dirty-minded) Euro-American culture. If instead of forcing them into our uniform, we would allow Maoris to be themselves and recognise them as themselves, we could at once rid ourselves of our intermittent worry about what we are 'doing for the Maoris', and at the same time they could enter more confidently into bi-racial New Zealand activities, to our enrichment. If I may add a personal coda, if New Zealand weren't the home of the Maori people, it wouldn't be mine for long either.

20 'Hohere', in Here and Now, October 1957.

21 The incident is taken from 'Kaumatua' in N.Z. Monthly Review, July 1961.

22 Te Ao Hou, September 1961.