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Confiscation before conquest

Opinion Piece
Tanith Te Waitohioterangi

Long ago in a distant land, George Grey, the shapeshifting master of darkness, unleashed an unspeakable evil. But foolish Māori warriors, wielding their magic taiaha, stepped forth to oppose him. Before the final blow was struck, Grey's forces tore open the Waikato and massacred innocent non-combatants, churches were burned, and victims incinerated alive. Now many uri whakatipu must return to the past and undo the persisting structural racism of George Grey!

From the late 1850s, settlers began to challenge Māori for institutional and cultural dominance, resulting in the demographic and political marginalisation of Māori through legal conquests. The story of Maui fishing up Hahauwhenua could no longer explain why our land was lost, only the separation of Te Ranginui from Papatuanuku by Tumatauenga, the atua of war. To explain the shift in power many Māori turned to Christianity, and saw themselves like wanderers of Israel.

The New Zealand Settlements Act 1863 provided a package of measures by which the settler government crushed Māori independence. The Act provided the legal and arbitrary means to seize land and to recoup the losses through resettlement, defining the terms of confiscation where “any Native Tribe . . . Section . . . or any considerable number” . . . had committed acts of “rebellion against Her Majesty's authority since January 1863” could be subjected to the Act and their lands consequently confiscated from them.

But as Frederick Whitaker noted in a memorandum, “It will be observed that the provisions of the Act may be made to include lands belonging to persons who have not justly forfeited their rights by rebellion. In order to carry out the scheme, this is absolutely necessary.”

Vincent O'Malley has pointed out confiscation was not an afterthought or response to actions by Māori, but a critical factor for the success of the invasion. In July 1863 Grey had the confiscation plans prepared before the invasion plans. In Parliament, Henry Sewell highlighted the point of the Act was to “bring the bulk of the lands in the northern island . . . within the reach of colonisation” and the “detribalisation of the natives . . . to destroy . . . the principles of communism upon which their social system is based and which stands as a barrier in the way of all attempts to amalgamate the native race into our own social and political system”.

The Government now possessed the power to a) pass laws against rebellion and confiscate land from rebels, b) direct the constabulary to arrest rebels, and c) adjudicate on all cases of rebellion where a judge decided who was a rebel whether they were or not; and to take land from these defined rebels. Just like Lt James Cook, whoever can prove self-defence is the victim, and can then justify self-defence and punishment.

Confiscations in Waikato and Taranaki enabled the government to pay its forces, which was coupled with the unconcealed wish of many colonists and politicians to, as Cowan put it, wage “a war of extermination against the Māori”. As the Speaker of Parliament David Monroe said, “The Maories are a confounded nuisance: and will never be brought to reason until they get an uncommonly good thrashing.”

Throughout these dark times, iwi, hapu and whanau were in a constant state of unrest and unnatural tension. The wars for sovereignty on the west coast and in the north were followed by suppression of the Pai Marire uprising and Te Kooti's whakarau.

  1. Roger Handford says:

    You, sir, are sick. You need treatment.
    I cannot understand why the Gisborne Herald gives you a platform to utter such vile rubbish.
    Wallowing in recriminations, raking over the misdeeds of the past, is not in the slightest bit helpful.
    Many of us understand the mistreatment of Maori, and want redress for past and present wrongs – but your verbose ranting merely antagonises and alienates the very people who would wish to make amends.
    We need to look to a better future for Maori and for all.
    Your words do not promote that cause – your words lash out to castigate and punish, not to reconciliate.

    1. Tanith Wirihana Te Waitohioterangi says:

      Wait till you see the one on Ngatapa – I promise you won’t be dissapointed.

      You may laugh, you may cry… but I promise you it will be good. You will leave understanding our pain.

      1. G Webb says:

        Do you think many people are interested? The story is well told – NZETC and Waitangi Tribunal Reports

        1. Tanith Wirihana Te Waitohioterangi says:


          Too much bias – not enough research. Focuses on vindicating without acknowledging the laws breached.

    2. Bob Hughes says:

      Hi Roger
      Do I detect racist bias in your comment?
      I’m surprised you should be so insensitive.
      You insult Tanith saying he is sick and needs treatment
      Yet all he says is true, indeed there was much abuse of law and human rights in the early colonial days, and later.
      Many of us (Pakeha) do (I add not) understand the mistreatment of Maori, do (again, not) want redress for past and present wrongs.
      Nowhere can I see any of the verbose rantings that lash out to castigate and punish, only a well-constructed criticism of the many injustices Māori suffered at the time.
      Of course The Gisborne Herald needs to give a platform to air the issues, you are quite wrong to say otherwise.
      All those past Pakeha wrongdoings need to be aired to reach a better understanding, so as Pakeha we can better understand, so to forgive ourselves and feel compassion.
      Only then can we fully deal with past grievances and thereby achieve a better future for Maori and all.

      1. Tanith Wirihana Te Waitohioterangi says:

        I love your whakaaro – you understand the point.

      2. Roger Handford says:

        If you use inflammatory and emotive language, and tell stories with a “spin”, then you can expect a response. Mr Te Waitohioterangi is provocative, but to what positive purpose?
        Constantly beating other people over the head about your issues does nothing to encourage resolution and moving forward positively to a better future. All of which I have already said.
        Maori are not the only ones to have suffered in the past – humanity is rather good at inflicting pain on other members of the species. Where do you want to start with atrocities? The Nazis and the Jews? The Pol Pot regime? The Rape of Nanking? The Turks and the Armenians? The 30 Years and religious wars? Ireland? The Anglo-Saxons and Normans – just to name a handful out of the many? We all have other bloods running through our veins, but holding a blood guilt grudge against present folk reeks of pathological resentment.
        And to Mr Hughes, suggesting racism is unworthy. I am well aware of the wrongdoings past and present against our Maori brothers. So are many others who support redress and better relations in the future.

        1. Tanith Wirihana Te Waitohioterangi says:

          You feel beaten? Is this an appropriate time to talk about how our language was beaten out of our grandparents? No? Ok – another time.

          The rest of ‘humanity’ accepted what happened – most here ignore it or try to vindicate it – but history cannot be ignored. So up up up ye go to the pensive mountain called Ngatapa, and you will find death. Death without trial, without quarter, against the Crown’s own laws and in the Crown’s name. Amen.

          1. Bob Hughes says:

            Of course it is appropriate – what better time and place to discuss how language was beaten out of your grandparents. As an oldie whose first memories go back to my early school days in the late 1930s, I noticed the few Maori kids at Woodville were treated differently. I asked no questions why. It wasn’t until I attended Gisborne Intermediate school in the 1940s that it became obvious using their language was disallowed for the Maori students.
            One Maori classmate who lived with his Grandparents was banned at his parent’s place.
            Language aside, after leaving school in 1947 an older Maori workmate told me he had been unable to vote for his favoured Labour party candidate David Bill Coleman because he had to vote on the Maori roll, with only 4 seats to represent all Maori.
            These past injustices need to be talked about and thank God we have brave souls like you Tanith Wirihana, for fighting against the racism that still exists – as you have made it obvious to me and others.
            By their reactions, the Pakeha racists that appear on this page make it so obvious they are so, yet strangely they have no clue they are so.

          2. Tanith Wirihana Te Waitohioterangi says:

            Kia Ora Bob – like Leo Fowler you are a true taonga.

          3. G Webb says:

            Your comparison is totally unfair to Leo Fowler

          4. Tanith Wirihana Te Waitohioterangi says:

            Fowler had no time for colonisers… wait till you hear what he had to say about Biggs and Wahawaha.

  2. Dave says:

    If nothing else, you make people think, and that’s not a bad thing.