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Showing posts from August, 2012

The Great Kiwi OE Pioneered by Maori: Te Pehi Kupe's amazing Journey to England

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Maori were the original architects of the great Kiwi OE. That fact is easily forgotten in traditional narratives of early New Zealand history that emphasise European travel and discovery. But in the few decades before 1840 hundreds and perhaps even thousands of Maori had travelled outside Aotearoa — many to Sydney and elsewhere in Australia and others even further afield.

England remained the ultimate travel destination for many Maori. The story of Hongi Hika’s famous 1820 encounter with King George IV is widely known. But how many people know the tale of how one chief from the Wellington region went to remarkable lengths to make the same journey? This is the story of Te Pehi Kupe and his amazing travels, as told in my recent book, The Meeting Place: Maori and Pakeha Encounters, 1642–1840.

It must have been one of those rare Wellington days. In February 1824 the trading vessel Urania found itself becalmed as it attempted to make its passage through Cook Strait. Three large waka, tog…

Waikaremoana Lake and Lands — A Short History of the Ngati Ruapani Claim

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In 1840 the Ngati Ruapani people lay claim to an area of more than 250,000 acres around the shores of Lake Waikaremoana (much of it subject to overlapping or contested claims from other hapu and iwi). Today, with the exception of a few tiny reserves, they are a landless people. The process by which Ruapani lands were wrested from their ownership and control was a long and at times complex one. Yet one key theme dominates the history of land alienation in the region: the Crown’s acquisition of almost the entire land base of Waikaremoana Maori was achieved only through compulsion or coercion. Ngati Ruapani never willingly parted with any of their lands.

Ownership of the lakebed of Waikaremoana itself was also bitterly contested between Maori and the Crown. Although the Crown lost that battle, it effectively won the war by ignoring Maori ownership of the lakebed for half a century, and then imposing a settlement that gave it perpetual access to the lake. But the battle for control of Lak…

Back to the Future?

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It’s been said that history is just another excuse for us to feel superior to our ancestors. We are so much smarter, more sensitive and certain of our place in the world than they ever were. Or at least we like to think so.
But what if we could learn from those who went before us? That would be consistent with the old Maori saying about the past always being before us. From this perspective, history is less a linear story of boundless progress, than a more circular tale in which we sense we have somehow been here before.
New Zealand, here in the early years of the 21st century, stands on the threshold of a world it last inhabited nearly two centuries ago. That might seem a surprising claim, given that we associate the early 1800s with conflict and chaos. And it is true that pre-Treaty Aotearoa could be a dangerous and volatile place.


But what I argue in The Meeting Place: Maori and Pakeha Encounters, 1642-1840,is that what mostly bound Maori and Pakeha in those raw-boned decades was mut…