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Te Ika a Maui, or New Zealand and its Inhabitants

Chapter XVIII. Native Chiefs

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Chapter XVIII. Native Chiefs.

The kiri kiri Station, bay of Islands.

The kiri kiri Station, bay of Islands.

Closely connected with the subject of colonization, and general advancement of the colony, is the treatment of the native Chiefs. With a few exceptions, this subject has been too much overlooked; and yet more than many are inclined to allow, depends on those who are still the lords of the land, and supreme in their own districts. Their power has been undervalued, but whenever anything has occurred to call for its display, the settlers and Government have found that it is not imaginary. Governor Hobson, immediately after the signing of the treaty at Waitangi, expressed his intention of giving a small annual pension page 271 to the head chiefs, and a suit of some kind of uniform; but in the press of other matters and declining health, he forgot to do anything for them; his successor, Governor Fitzroy, also overlooked the subject. Governor Grey found the necessity of doing something; he gave them presents, but not always with judgment, as the shrewd discerning natives themselves could see through his object. One of the principal recipients of his liberality was Rangihaeata, who had constantly opposed Government, and been the chief leader in the late war. When that chief was induced to make peace, the Government made him presents at various times, which the natives saw were intended to keep that turbulent chief quiet, whilst comparatively those who had been forward in supporting Government during the struggle, received nothing, and even had bad motives for doing so imputed to them. “Ah!” said a chief, “I see how it is: if we want to get presents, we must not sit quiet, and give the Governor no trouble, but we must imitate Rangihaeata!* and be tutu (troublesome).”

British law is nominally established in the land, but it is only nominally, and likely to be so for years, unless some measures are taken to obtain the co-operation of the native chiefs. Two instances which fell under my cognizance, may be selected from a host of similar ones, to prove the necessity of something being done. A troublesome native had a quarrel with one of the settlers; there were faults on both sides. The native considered himself injured; having built a house for the other, for which he had repeatedly asked payment in vain. The native then went and plundered the other's house of what he thought was an equivalent for the debt. This made a great commotion. The settler called from one side of a broad river to the native on the other, who, having been told that he would be thrown in prison, fired at the settler, who then lodged his complaint with the magistrate.

A warrant was issued for the apprehension of the offender. The native policeman had not courage to execute it. The page 272 magistrate, interpreter, and policeman then went together, and when they were about a mile from the house of the offender, the policeman was sent forward to take him: he returned without his prisoner, and the whole party left. A full report was then forwarded to head quarters. After several weeks' delay, and much ridicule being made of the affair, a Land Commissioner, who had more influence amongst the natives than any other Government officer, was sent: he deemed it necessary to call in the aid of the head chief of the neighbouring tribe, who, for the stipulated payment of fifty pounds, agreed to go and take the culprit, who was accordingly given up and lodged in prison, where he still was when I left the country. Now, this affair could have only one effect upon the native mind—plainly proving our weakness, and making them laugh at all our terrible threatenings of vengeance which are always so liberally expressed for every little misdemeanour they may be guilty of. A one-sided view is too frequently taken; the native is not represented. He is threatened on every trifling occasion, without knowing anything of the law, and his confidence in our authorities is destroyed. In the above instance, power should have been given to the magistrate to hold a court on the spot; and I am persuaded that if the case had been fairly tried, the native would have given an equitable satisfaction, if proved to have been in the wrong.

The next case was the violation of a settler's infant daughter, aged about six, by a native lad; the same wavering vacillating conduct was adopted. The magistrate went to the neighbourhood where it occurred. The culprit, with a number of his friends, attended; there was nearly an equal number of the settlers present. The magistrate proposed that he should go to the town to be tried: his friends of course refused, knowing that there they should be unable to defend him; and thus his visit was worse than useless; and the culprit went back with his friends in triumph, without anything being done to him. Even without physical force, moral influence, properly used, would have prevailed; as it was, he escaped altogether.

These two instances are sufficient to show, that at present page 273 English law in New Zealand is confined to English towns, and that outside of them, Maori law still prevails. This is a very great evil, and productive of many others; it is calculated to increase crime, destroy the want of confidence in British justice, and also diminish that good feeling which, in spite of all obstacles, still exists between the two races.

One of the great wants of New Zealand is roads. They are as essential to the welfare of the community, as arteries are to the body; and until they are formed, no great progress can be expected to take place. Settlements have been formed in almost every part of the Northern Island, from the Bay of Islands, and even further north, from Manganui to Wanganui and Wellington, and these may be said to encircle the entire island; yet, at present there are not two places connected by roads. Each located spot is as completely isolated as if cut off by a strait, as many miles wide as the places are distant. It is evident, that the sooner this is remedied, the sooner will the settlements advance. Governor Grey made the attempt to connect Auckland with Wellington by a grand central road; but directly the chiefs of the interior heard of it, they declared their determination not to allow it. The project was given up. It is evidently necessary that roads should be made, and equally so that the consent of the Chiefs must be obtained; and this can only be accomplished by conciliatory means, and not by force; for such is the character of the country, that it could not otherwise be done without exterminating the entire race, and even that could not be effected without there being first a great sacrifice of life on our side.

How then are roads to be made? By simply doing what ought to have been done at the commencement of the colony. The head Chiefs must be acknowledged by the Government as officers; they must be treated and consulted as such. Their native rights, as British subjects, claim to be represented as much as our own; and until they are, there is no advantage derived by them from their alliance with us. They will continue to feel as Honi Heke did, that their connection with us has been a degrading and not an elevating one. Honor them, page 274 by giving them that place in the Council which their rank and influence demand, and they will be the firm supporters of British power. Naturally they are attached to us, and even the wars have not destroyed the good feeling,—why should we despise them? They are not a conquered race. We first acknowledged their independence—we gave them a flag—we condescended to enter into treaty with them, as an independent people;—why should we not treat them as they ought to be, and give them the privileges we promised? We are the offenders; we treat them with the utmost indifference. It is true, the late Governor bestowed upon them presents, and his doing so occasioned a general display of a most kindly feeling towards him in return, for he was the first who gave them anything. But, after all, what were the presents they received, but so many sops for Cerberus. They have not altered the native view of our policy, however friendly their feelings may be to individuals. Walker Nene has a pension of £100 a-year for his aid in the late war, and he deserved it, for without him every one knows the British troops could not have penetrated half-a-dozen miles inland. George King, of Wanganui, has a pension of £20 a-year for his aid during the late war; and, I think, Te Werowero, the head Chief of Waikato, may have something annually; but of this I am not sure. Yet, although this is very well, these Chiefs are not raised; they have no voice in anything relating to the welfare of their race or country at large.

Several Chiefs, indeed, have been appointed assessors, and as such have a right to sit with the magistrate; but even this honor is not intended to raise them; it is only in purely native cases they are entitled to sit, those they are enticed to bring before the magistrate, in order to accustom them gradually to submit to British law; and to coax them to do so, the assessor receives 10s. each time he attends. Even when the case is one of dispute between a native and European, he is not entitled to take part in the judicial proceedings.

The general estimation of them is, “Oh, they are only Maori.” But these despised natives have not forgotten that they are Maori Kings, and dwell in districts where they have page 275 little to apprehend; that whilst in our towns they are thought nothing of, in their own pas they are obeyed and respected. It is amusing to see how differently our countrymen regard them, when passing through their dominions; there the Chief, clad in his dirty blanket, is the prince, and the English visitor the pakeha noa—the person of no consequence.

The country, it is true, has got a popular form of government granted it, where the councillors are little less numerous than their constituents; and there is nothing in that constitution to hinder the native from being a representative of the people as well as his European neighbour. But has anything been done to make the native acquainted with his newly-acquired rights? Were any of the writs for electing members sent to them? That would have been quite preposterous in the idea of the settlers. Such a step was about as likely to have been taken, as for the South American States to have summoned their slaves to their councils, or the Northern States to have sat with a man of color. Nor must these strictures be confined to us in New Zealand. The notorious despatch of Earl Grey, ordering the Governor to take possession of the waste lands of the natives; the quiet way in which he sanctioned the violation of British faith, pledged in the Waitangi treaty; plainly proved the estimation in which he held the native Chiefs.

But, without carrying this subject further, which might easily be done, let us consider two means for effecting the permanent benefit and union of the two races.

The first is, that a certain number of the high Chiefs should have a seat in the General Assembly; the second is, that they should be acknowledged as the preservers of peace in their several districts;—and to make sure of their ready support in all such cases as have been enumerated, that they should be salaried. This is no more than our own members expect, as they have all their expenses paid. Supposing a dozen high Chiefs received £100 a-year each, and twice that number of secondary Chiefs, the half of it; what would the amount be compared with the benefits acquired. The government would have firm supporters in places where, at present, it has no page 276 power. The honor of these Chiefs would be staked to maintain peace, and to prove their power, by arresting native offenders; and it would be their evident advantage to live in peace. Their having a voice in the Councils of the nation, would raise their importance in the eyes of their countrymen; and whilst it would attach them to the government in which they had a share, they would not feel they were foreigners and aliens, but one with us. Having no longer, therefore, any reason to regard with fear the making of roads through their districts, they would be the very first to aid in their formation, whilst, at present, they view them as intended chiefly to facilitate the movements of the military, and a great means of destroying their power and independence. Further, it would cause them really to try and learn our language.

Another great object also would thus be effected—the acquiring land. If anything be calculated to give an idea of the general native feeling at the present moment, it is their views on the subject of land. The anxiety showed by Government to buy, and the effect that desire has upon the native mind, is very perceptible. Immediately a district is sold, they are made to feel that they have no longer any business in it. The injudicious way in which some settlers have ordered the natives from their doors, has been very grating to their feelings. It is true, many are troublesome, very troublesome; but the law of kindness should never be forgotten; the doing so has caused many evils, by gendering feelings of revenge in the native mind. At the very time the natives of Kapiti were offering addresses to the Governor, expressing their sorrow for his departure, and their deep regard for him personally, the Governor imprudently broached the subject of buying Waikanae, when he was treated with rudeness, if not insult.

On a former occasion, I accompanied the Lieut.-Governor to Puratawa, the residence of Rangihaeata. The old Chief seemed much gratified by the visit, and evidently regarded it as a compliment. He received us in the marae, sitting in front of his house, with his wife, or wives, and friends on one side, we placed ourselves on the other, where new mats were laid for us to sit on. After having sat some time, we were re- page 277 quested to adjourn to a house at a little distance, in which we found a repast laid out for us in as much style as the shortness of the notice and his means would allow; but when we returned, and the Governor began to speak of purchasing land, I strongly recommended him not, as the time was very inopportune, and declined to act as his interpreter; he therefore, tried to speak for himself. At first, the old Chief could not make out what he said, but when he did, he was very indignant, and put out his tongue at him, which terminated our visit, and caused the Governor to beat a retreat as quickly as possible.

But this last year witnessed the holding of a very important meeting amongst the natives, which plainly proved what their sentiments were. During the preceding year, a deputation of Chiefs from Otaki, with one from Wanganui, went to Taupo, Rotorua, Maketu, and Waikato, with the ostensible object of getting the interior Chiefs of the island to submit to the authority of the Governor, but with the real intention of trying to form a confederacy of all the tribes, and to appoint one Chief as a King or Governor. The most influential Chief who went was Matene te Whiwhi, of Otaki, the nephew of Rangihaeata, a very shrewd intelligent man, who speaks a little English, and lives in the European style, in a very good house. This Chief, although much noticed by the Governor, and in fact by most of the influential settlers, no doubt felt his political degredation, as well as that of his countrymen. It was, therefore, through him that the deputation to the interior arose, and although he was baffled in his plans by the jealousy which each great Chief entertained of any native standing in a higher position than himself, still he did not give up his efforts. He brought a letter signed by the Rotorua and Maketu Chiefs, addressed to those of Wanganui and Ngatirua-nui, expressive of their desire to live in peace with all. The substance of it was as follows:—“We salute you all: this is our word to “you,—New Zealand is the house, the Europeans are the “rafters on one side, the Maori are the rafters on the other “side; God is the ridge-pole, against which all lean, and “the house is one.” This was all Matene succeeded in obtaining from them; but immediately he returned, he wrote page 278 a letter to the Ngatirua-nui and Taranaki natives, calling a meeting at a central place, Mana-wapou: there the natives erected a very large building, the largest, perhaps, which has ever been made in New Zealand, being 120 feet in length, by 35 in width; this was named Tai poro henui, or the finishing of matter, and there all the head Chiefs from Wellington to the Waitara, a distance of near three hundred miles, assembled. Five hundred were present, and much speaking and bad spirit was displayed. The result of it was, their determination to sell no more land to the Government, and to hinder any who felt disposed from doing so. It was not many months after this meeting that a Chief at New Plymouth did offer his land for sale, and, when he went to mark out the boundaries, he was shot with several of his tribe, which led to reprisals, and there is much fear that the evil will extend. The natives feel, the more land is sold the more are they weakened; and their feeling is correct, so long as they are denied equal privileges with ourselves. When they find the parting with their surplus land is not also parting with their political existence, then, I am persuaded, there will be no difficulty in obtaining, at an equitable rate, that land which they, from the smallness of their numbers, cannot make use of.

Another thing is also to be borne in mind, viz., that all the central tribes are independent; it was only a few who signed the treaty, not more than a dozen tribes; the rest are as independent now as they were before the landing of Captain Hobson, for, by our own declaration, they were proclaimed independent. And now it becomes us to show, that if they lay aside that independence, they really gain something. Hitherto, our gain has been evident; theirs more doubtful. It is the perfect union of the two, that will lay the foundation of future greatness,—let it be done by basing the fabric on justice.

By the treaty of Waitangi, the right of Pre-emption was granted to the Crown, which means that no land should be sold by the natives to private individuals, but only to the Crown. It is a great question whether this exclusive privilege has been beneficial, or, rather, whether it has not been positively injurious.

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The Crown only purchases a district at a time, and the natives, when they have sold and vacated that district, not only feel it more, but also, that with the land, their mana, or power, has gone likewise; few, therefore, can now be induced to part with land. This is the universal complaint at Auckland, at New Plymouth, at Kapiti, in fact, everywhere, and as the cattle and goods of the natives increase, and they are doing so rapidly, it is most probable the difficulty of purchasing land will increase also. On these accounts, important as it is that settlers should be obtained for New Zealand, it is still more so, that lands should be procured for them beforehand, and it is evident there will be much difficulty in doing so by the present system. Further, should the natives persist in their present determination of not selling, they cannot be compelled to do so; they are their own masters, and we have guaranteed to them all the rights of British subjects. What then can be done? The remedy is simply to do again what Governor Fitzroy did, and for which he got so much blame. The Penny an Acre Act, as it was termed, I have always regarded as one of the wisest measures which has been adopted, either before or since. The meaning of this Act requires explanation. It is simply this: the Governor waved the right of pre-emption, and allowed individuals to purchase from the native proprietor, subject to the approval of Government, and a fixed charge per acre. The knowledge of this immediately caused the tide of emigration to flow into the district; there never had been such an influx before, and it is doubtful if it has had since, until, at least, the price of land was reduced, in the last year of the Governor's stay. The advantage of this measure was, that an individual did not make a large purchase; he bought a piece of land, which a single native might have for sale, and in doing so he still left the surrounding lands in the hands of their proprietors; there was no expelling of them from an entire district; they did not feel they were parting with their own power as well as the land, but rather regarded the individual as one gained by their tribe, and, by way of distinction, called him their “pakeha,” or European. Were this plan of Governor Fitzroy's to be re-adopted page 280 with any modification which might be deemed proper, such as restricting the purchaser to a certain quantity, and requiring him, under certain penalties, to reside, and restraining him from selling before a fixed term of years, every object would be gained which the Government could want. Settlers would be secured—a certain revenue would be derived. It would resemble the very steps the Government is adopting with the gold diggers, the waving the Crown's right for a certain fixed compensation. I am persuaded, that had Governor Fitzroy's Act been continued, New Zealand would have had treble the European population it now has, and that population would have been at this moment cultivating those lands which are now laying unoccupied and waste.

He Papa, or Carved Box.

He Papa, or Carved Box.

* Rangihaeata, at the very time of his receiving these presents, was protecting Pitama, the man who murdered the Gillespies, a year or two before, and that man was living in the pa with him.