The author of a book on cannibalism in Maori history is
disappointed a racism complaint has been made about it to the
Human Rights Commission.
Historian Paul Moon is defending his book This Horrid
Practice and stands by his research.
"I spent several years researching this book, using an
enormous body of documentation, and I'm not about to denounce
it just because it upsets a few people," he told the New
An anonymous complaint said the book "describes the whole of
Maori society as violent and dangerous. This is a clearly
racist view claiming a whole ethnic group has these traits".
The commission has taken no action on the complaint yet but a
spokesperson told the paper any mediation would occur in
confidence and the complainant's name would not be released.
The book suggests that consuming vanquished enemies' mana had
little to do with the underlying reason for Maori
cannibalism. Instead cannibalism, in pre-colonial times, was
simply about "rage and humiliation".
Dr Moon said he approached the topic "honestly" and applied
standard methods of research to it.
"I think it's just very sad that it's come to this stage that
when you write about certain topics in New Zealand history
you get complaints and accusations of racism levelled at
The book had received mixed reviews with Canterbury
University's Rawiri Taonui calling the book an example of
"poor scholarship" which "demonises" pre-European Maori
society as obsessively violent.
"He's looked at no Maori language evidence, nothing from the
Maori Land Court. He sets that all aside and makes a
giant-sized conclusion about pre-European Maori society
that's based on the view of a few Europeans."
However, Auckland University of Technology's Te Ara Poutama
dean Pare Keiha -- Dr Moon's boss -- said the book was
"inspired" in some areas.
"So, yes, if some wish to call him a racist we will defend
him, we'll be right alongside him."