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An Epitome of Official Documents Relative to Native Affairs and Land Purchases in the North Island of New Zealand

IX. Archdeacon Hadfield.—1860

IX. Archdeacon Hadfield.—1860.

Are you acquainted with the nature of the Native tenure of land?—I ought to express some diffidence in replying to that question, but I may observe (in reference to the tenure acknowledged by Natives of the southern half of this Island, with which I am acquainted) that there is little or no difficulty on the subject.

What opportunities have you had of becoming acquainted with the subject?—The opportunities I have bad of becoming acquainted with the subject arose from the fact of my having resided for four years in a Maori pa in which there were from five to six hundred men. My attention was particularly called to the subject at that time by the constant disputes about the purchases of land made by the New Zealand Company in Cook Strait. I was frequently applied to by Mr. Commissioner Spain to assist him in elucidating Maori customs about land. I may further state that after the collision at Wairau I made it part of my business to inquire into the subject, and after careful inquiry I came, in 1845, to a conclusion on the subject, which the experience of the last fifteen years has not tended in the slightest degree to alter.

State what you think to be the rights of the tribe in respect to land belonging to it.—I think that the right of each tribe to lands extends over the whole of the tribal territory, and entirely precludes the right of any other tribes over it. Such absolute tribal right may be classed under two heads: First, the territory which has been in the possession of the tribe for several generations, and to which no other claim had been previously known; secondly, the territory acquired by conquest, occupation, or possession.

State what you understand to be the rights of individual members of the tribes in respect to land.—I believe that the rights of the individual members of the tribes are limited to those portions of the lands of the tribe which they have either cultivated or occupied, or on which they have exercised some act of ownership which is acknowledged as such by the tribe. I must be understood to mean that their title to such lands was simply that of holding for their own use and benefit. Their right was a good holding title as against every other member of the tribe. They might exchange land among themselves, but no one could alienate without the consent of the tribe. In the year 1845 I drew up a paper on the tenure of Native lands, which I gave to Sir George Grey, who promised to return it. He told me he sent a copy of it to the Colonial Office. He did not return the original to me: I understand that it was burnt with other papers at Auckland.

What do you understand to be the rights of the chief of the tribe in respect to land belonging to the tribe?—While looking over some papers a few weeks ago, I accidentally discovered my original pencil notes, which formed the rough draft of the paper on this subject to which I have just alluded, which I now produce, and with the permission of the Committee will read as they must be conclusive as to what my opinion as to individual title was in 1845: "The chief of the tribe, since he has no absolute right over the territory of the various hapu, nor over the lands of individual freemen of his own hapu, cannot sell any lands but his own, or those belonging to the tribe which are undoubtedly waste lands: nor can he do this in opposition to the opinion of the chiefs of the hapu of the tribe, if they consider the territory; and thus the independence of the tribe, impaired by so doing. Allowing this very questionable right of the chief to alienate any part of the territory of a tribe, it can scarcely be allowed to any chief of a hapu, even should he act in accordance with the various individuals of the hapu. It must be remembered that a tribe, however subdivided into hapu, is one, and cannot allow page 23its integrity and strength to be impaired by the independent act of one hapu, which it is bound to identify with itself in all things, and to protect, if involved in any quarrels or difficulties. These remarks are more decidedly applicable in the case of ordinary freemen [tutua], who cannot alienate that land which is absolutely their own for all practical purposes, but is not to be disposed of in a manner contrary to the supposed interest of the tribe. There can be no doubt on this subject." The notes which I have now read to the Committee imply that the chiefs have power over some portions of the land. Fifteen years ago I set it down as a questionable right or power; I view it in the same light now. I limit such right of chiefs to deal with lands obtained by conquest only, and do not consider that it extends to any land which has become vested in the tribe by long possession. I wish to guard myself, in reference to what I am saying on this subject, by premising that I am speaking of tenure to land as it existed prior to the establishment of the British Government in the colony, and not since that event. The chief of a tribe must be regarded as holding his position by a double title. His first title must arise from his undoubted descent through a long line of well-known ancestors from the original head of the tribe. His second title depends on a more democratic principle: that is, he must be the acknowledged and the elected head of the tribe. The chief is the representative of the territorial right of the tribe, not because he is descended from numerous ancestors of noble blood, but because he has been acknqwledged as such on account of his personal qualifications and influence, and has in fact been recognized as the guardian as well as the mouthpiece of the rights of the tribe. I have no doubt whatever on this subject. I understand that whatever rights to land existed previous to the Treaty of Waitangi among the Natives are still rights with them, being guaranteed by that treaty. I investigated Maori title to land irrespective of the influence which may have been exercised by the Government, and eight or ten years previous to the establishment of British sovereignty.— [Evidence at the Bar of the House of Representatives, August, 1860: in Sess. Papers E.—No. 4.]