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"Colonisation’ has become a weaponised word, a lazy way of throwing rocks at Pakeha or "Western" culture, and the word’s associated codes for racism, sexism and Maori as victims.
But there is something disingenuous about some of our stone throwers. Migration and colonisation form the founding social characteristic of the entire human race. Increasing populations that outgrew food and other local resources, and engaged in fights over these, prompted groups throughout history to move on or to out-source.
Polynesian voyagers found this country and colonised it around 1300. There was apparently no-one else here when they arrived. But competition for resources and its associated land in Aotearoa, as some northern iwi knew it, intensified and caused migration, armed conflict and internal colonisation.
Meanwhile, half a world away, European tribes/nations were up to the same thing. But by the late 18th century Europe had "discovered" the rest of the world and begun to colonise it with the persuasive moral certainties of Christianity, the logics of science and political control with guns, machines and, above all, disease. Covid-19 has nothing on measles and smallpox. This was all bad news for indigenous peoples.
Rampant capitalism and "free" trade were bad for Maori. They were also bad news for the bulk of the population of the colonising countries. People were pushed off the land into polluted industrial ghettoes, enduring almost slave-like working and living conditions that lasted well into the 20th century. (My Yorkshire grandfather died at the age of 31 from lung diseases caused by coal mining). It is not surprising that, offered the chance, many took off for countries, colonies, that offered a better life.
Nothing was going to stop the world-wide surge of colonisation that took place after the Napoleonic Wars. Yet Maori benefited from a rare "sweet spot" in the process. In the 1830s, evidence of the terrible consequences of uncontrolled colonisation, such as the slaughter of indigenous peoples in Tasmania, caused such groups as the Church Missionary Society and the Aborigines Protection Society to influence the Colonial Office into taking a relatively progressive approach to treating with indigenous peoples where British settlement was taking place. This provided a window of opportunity for the Treaty of Waitangi. Not long after that, Britain as the world’s greatest industrial and military power kicked such ideas into touch. And this was reflected in settler attitudes to Maori from the mid-19th century.
Maori rightly expect Pakeha to respect and value their unique culture, to reject racism, to understand and help fix the problems associated with their social and economic problems. Although it should be remembered that not all Maori are part of an under class. Many are doing well under "colonisation" without losing their cultural identity and mana.
Has "colonisation’s" rule of law, Christian values, technology, medicine and cultural breadth been all bad for Maori? If Maori rightly ask that their culture be valued and respected, and that much of it should be absorbed into the national way if life, it should also be acknowledged that Pakeha have whakapapa, too, and their own Hawaikis.
It is not useful to refer to them as "tauiwi", a word that has transmogrified from meaning "strange tribe" to "other" and which is dismissive of the bulk of the nation’s population. It is also close to the dangerous concept of "The Other", those who do not conform to one race’s view of what is "normal" to a place and are seen as alien. This is the road to separation and conflict.
Back in 1995, the magnificent Rangiatea church at Otaki was burned down by Maori activists. It had been built with the support of Te Rauparaha. Totara logs had been used from his own reserve.
Three million dollars was raised to build a replica and governor-general of the time, Sir Anand Satyanand, commented on what could be achieved by people in a spirit of partnership, "when our differences are harnessed for the common good".
We need to celebrate all our whakapapa, all of the values and cultures that form this special nation. Kaua e rangiruatia te ha o te hoe e kore to tatou waka e u ki uta.Do not lift the paddle out of unison or our waka will never reach the shore.
- Dr Philip Temple ONZM is the author of a multi-prizewinning biography of the Wakefield family, A Sort of Conscience, and a best-selling history, Presenting New Zealand.