Other factors in Maori conversion
Re: Confiscation before conquest, January 13 column.
Tēnā koe Tanith
Thank you for your thoughts. Your suggested timing of the widespread conversion of Māori to the Christian faith however is out by about 30 years. The first recorded baptism was in 1826. The biggest “pulse” of Māori Christian conversion though occurred in the 1830s. This was a surprise to many (including missionaries of the time) and had followed roughly a decade and a half of intense inter-tribal musket warfare.
One part of this conversion phenomenon was the release of slaves. As the northern tribes increasingly converted to the Christian faith, they released their slaves from other tribes. These returnees in turn often came back “home” and began evangelising their own whānau, hapu and iwi. An example here on the East Coast is that of Piripi Taumata-a-kura in the mid 1830s who was hugely influential in the conversion of Ngāti Porou. (I suggest you contact Dr Monty Soutar for more information on this.)
By the end of the 1830s the two populations stood at about 2000 Pākehā and 70,000-90,000 Māori. This negates your claim that Māori turned to the Christian faith due to an imbalance of power. In fact, at the zenith of Māori conversion, the balance of power was still very much in the hands of Māori.
Māori conversion to the Christian faith can be better explained by a combination of factors that include:
1. The attraction of exiting from the intense demands of inter-tribal “utu'.
2. The excitement of literacy and the bible.
3. The move of the spirit of God.