Farewell to Rangikotuku

Rangikotuku at Parihaka, early 2015, standing by the now-vacant area where Te Whiti O Rongomai's house once stood. We received the very sad news on Monday 13 November that Rangikotuku had passed away.

Rangikotuku Rukuwai lived in New Plymouth with his awesome wife, Ngaraiti. Rangikotuku was the inspiration for the book written about his great-grandfather, Te Whiti O Rongomai, which was published in 2015.

Rangikotuku was born in 1927 and was raised at Parihaka, amongst the families of Tohu Kakahi who was Te Whiti’s revered partner during the struggles which began in the 1860s. Rangikotuku and Ngaraiti were married at Pungarehu and lived for a time in the back of the Pungarehu Dairy factory.

Rangikotuku stands by the tomb of his great-grandfather, Te Whiti O Rongomai, at Parihaka in early 2015.Strangely enough, at the same time as Rangikotuku and Ngaraiti were living there, Danny Keenan (author of the book) was living a few houses away, thō at the time he was only a pre-schooler.

Rangikotuku was a quiet and gentle soul, a deeply cultural and intellectual person who nonetheless spoke simply, an awesome and loving person who always stayed true to the lessons of his upbringing.

One day, when we were walking around Parihaka, the question came up, why are we writing this book? So many fine books, articles and monographs had already been written, some by Māori. Rangikotuku said it was because the story of Parihaka needed to be told.

Rangikotuku addresses the tangata whenua during the powhiri, at the signing of the Te Ātiawa Deed of Settlement, Rangiatea, New Plymouth, 9 August 2014.Times were changing, he said. We were now living in a different age, when our Claims were being settled and our people were moving forward with economic development, papakāinga empowerment and cultural rejuvenation.

But our young people were coming home, and, in this new world, they were wanting to know their stories. This was why the book needed to be written, he said.

Rangikotuku talked about his upbringing, at Parihaka and for a time, living down on Pungarehu beach. All of the old people he had known were alive within living memories. The legacy of Parihaka and Te Whiti O Rongomai had always remained central to these lived memories, and to his lifetime of so many experiences.

'Ask That Mountain', Te Whiti's phrase, used by Dick Scott as the title of his book by the same name.In the end, Te Whiti had always talked about peace and unity, said Rangikotuku.  His teaching was about his people, and all peoples, living this way.  And that was Te Whiti’s legacy, he said.

It was also the legacy of Rangikotuku.

NZ Wars Seminars – Otaki Series

Click to see the full programme of the Lecture Series, including info on the awesome speakers featuring in the series. Final screen lecture tonight – Tuesday evening November 28 –  featuring pre-eminent wars scholar, Professor Jamie Belich, with Dr Hirini Kaa, young scholar and TV presenter from Ngāti Porou.


Acclaimed Māori filmmaker Tainui Stephens has organised a seminar series focusing on the New Zealand Wars, being held in Otaki.

The series began on 28 November – New Zealand Wars Day – with Tainui presenting and discussing his acclaimed TV Series on the wars, which featured Prof Jamie Belich.

Thereafter, on each Tuesday evening for the following 5 weeks, a panel of Māori historians and scholars will discuss each episode in turn. These discussions should be very interesting, with a wide variety of Māori perspectives on the conflicts being presented.

The list of awesome speakers featuring in Tainui's screen lecture series. Plse click on the poster (right) if you’d like to see more info as to who the awesome speakers will be – see also left for the programme line up. These screen lectures extend into late November.

Congratulations to Tainui for this awesome initiative, which  coincides with the introduction of the New Zealand Wars Day, for the first time this year.

The television series The New Zealand Wars, directed by Tainui Stephens, upon which the screen lecture series at Otaki are based.The date of the New Zealand Wars day – 28 October – was determined by a meeting of Māori kaumātua / elders last year.

The date was chosen because it represents the date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1835.

Tainui’s screen lecture series is one of several different initiatives being held around New Zealand to commemorate this important day on our historical calendar.

Incidentally, if you’re interested in the topic of the New Zealand Wars on film, click here for more on this interesting topic : NZ Wars on Film.

Over the years, the wars have been featured in a number of movies, TV dramas and documentaries, though, these days, the topic isn’t attracting much attention from film makers.

Searching for Terror ..

Click here to see website where most of this book has been reproduced - 'Terror in our Midst?' Searching for Terror in Aotearoa New Zealand - edited by Danny Keenan, published by Huia Publishers, Wellington, 2008.Ten years ago, the global ‘war on terror’ arrived in New Zealand.

On 15 October 2007, private homes throughout New Zealand were raided by squads of police, for the most part in full riot gear, carrying machine guns and handguns with knives strapped to their black garments. The raids occurred at dawn, under cover of darkness.

They smashed doors, windows and furniture, arresting people, confiscating computers, cameras, electronics, files, and papers, searching for incrimminating material to support charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.

One of those arrested was Vietnam veteran Tuhoe Lambert, who lived in South Auckland with his family. At 6am, the police arrived, ordering the whole family into the street at gunpoint, including his 12 year old daughter, Patricia. The house was then ransacked.

Later that morning, the police occupied and locked down Ruātoki, a small Māori town on the western edge of the Urewera Valley.

Ruatoki Valley, Ruatoki, Te Urewera. The entire areas around Ruātoki and Taneātua were cut off. People were prevented from leaving their homes. Cars were stopped; occupants were ordered out at gunpoint. They were then searched and photographed. According to some witnesses, a school bus full of children was boarded by armed police.

Reporters from a local paper soon arrived – the pictures they took went around the world.

According to Tuhoe kaumātua Tamati Kruiger, a gross breach of civil rights occurred at Ruātoki that day – detaining people for hours without food or water, subjecting women to body searches, herding people into sheds while property searches were underway, and photographing onlookers near the roadblock entrance.

One young woman, Annie Rangihika, 17, was searched in full public view. When she was later approached by the New Zealand Herald, the Whakatane High School student declined to comment, saying only that she would never forget what happened.Life in Ruatoki, Ruatoki Valley, Te Urewera

At least 17 people around New Zealand were arrested. But, said Mr Kruiger, this did not include people taken from Ruatoki to Rotorua for questioning, before being released. Police at Te Ngae station had denied people legal representation, he claimed, and had moved them around police stations, thereby confusing concerned family and friends.

During a police press conference later that day, the police commissioner talked about the ‘terror raids’, thereby placing the language of the ‘war on terror’ into the public domain.

The raids had been necessary, he said, because certain individuals had been identified as posing a dangerous threat to the country’s peace and security. Eight key activists had attended terrorist training camps in Te Urewera, he alleged, learning all about civil instruction, assassination and naplam bombing.

Their ring leader was Tuhoe rangatira, Tame Iti, who stood accused of arranging and conducting these terrorist training camps. Iti’s house was raided, while he was asleep. At gunpoint, Iti, who is not a young man, was made to lie face down on the floor.

Those 17 arrested later appeared in court, charged with a range of alleged arms offences. Charges under the terrorism legislation would soon follow, it was said, once the police had amassed their evidence.

The police lockdown at Ruatoki, 15 October 2007.But the police case, and their evidence, never made it to court.

On 9 November 2007, Solicitor General, Dr David Collins, reported that, having reveiwed all of the intercepted evidence obtained by the police, he could not permit the material to be entered into court. He therefore refused to allow charges to be laid under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.

This was because the 2002 Act was ‘incoherent and unworkable’, he said. The Act could not be applied to those arrested in Ruātoki and other undisclosed locations. The Act could only apply after alleged terrorism acts had occurred, not before.

The Solicitor General’s ruling constituted a dramatic set back for the government, and the police. According to John Minto, the ruling proved that ‘no domestic terrorist cells existed’. The ransacking and raids had reaped no rewards for police.

Instead, he said, the police and politicians had done a great disservice to the country, exacerbated by their continuing use of words like ‘terror’ to justify their activities, imbuing their raids with a false moral purpose. Whole communities had been traumatised and civil liberities threatened, he said.

Meantime, discontent amongst Māori had grown. On 12 November 2007, on the day that the last of the 17 arrested were finally released on bail, a hikoi left Taneātua, heading for Wellington. 1500 peole eventually made it to Parliament, only to find the gates locked shut.

Te Rewarewa Marae, Ruatoki. Labour Ministers Parekura Horomia and Nania Mahuta spoke to the protesters, but they were loudly challenged and derided, their pleas for Māori to ‘wait and see’ falling on deaf ears.

According to Nicky Hager, the raids had constituted a ‘clossal over-reactiom, a gigantic anti terror operation where there were no terrorists’. The government, armed with new legislation, resources and an emboldened police force, had instituted the raids of 15 October 2007, confident that terrorism and insurrection would be found and rooted out.

But, like Sir Galahd who had searched in vain for the Holy Grail, officers had stumbled about, hoping that one day, they would set eyes on the prize. But such a policy came only at the continuing expense of visiting trauma, misery, and despair upon ordinary New Zealanders.


Congrats to Pikihuia winners

This year's awesome winners of the Pikihuia Awards for Māori literature.Congratulations to this year’s awesome winners of the Pikihuia Māori Literature Awards.

The 2017 Pikihuia Awards were announced at a function featuring this year’s finalists, on Saturday 9 September 2017, at the Wharewaaka Convention Centre in Wellington.

Every two years, the Pikihuia Awards are arranged to acknowldge young and exisiting Māori writers. They also encourage new and diverse Māori viewpoints and writing in both English and Māori.

The Pikihuia Awards comprise six creative fiction categories,  including short stories in English and Māori, film screenplays, novel extracts and especiallty new writing by secondary school students.

This year's Pikihuia Awards finalists.All of the Pikihuia finalists deserve acknowledging for their awesome creative work. It’s such a shame that the mainstream media made no mention of these awards. Acknowledgement of their awesome creative talents was left to the Scoop website and Māori media, especially Radio Waatea and Māori Television.

Whilst that coverage was excellent, it’s such a shame – these awesome writers, like Māori writers and artists at large, deserve a wider acknowledgment and appreciation which is not easy to come by. For example, this years Ockham NZ Literature Awards featured no Māori finalists, and the Whanganui Literary Festival this year includes no Māori writers.

But the good news is, this year’s finalists have had their awesome writings published in Huia Short Stories 12 Contemporary Māori Fiction, published by Huia Publishers, Wellington, 2017.

This year's winners have their writings published in 'Huia Short Stories 12', published by Huia Publishers, Wellington, 2017.The Pikihuia Awards are sponsored by the Māori Literature Trust, Creative New Zealand, the New Zealand Film Commission, Xero Digital Services, Te Puni Kokiri and Huia Publishers.

The Trust is chaired by Māori publisher Robyn Bargh and includes Patricia Grace, Sir Hirini Mead, Tilly Reedy, Whiti Hereake and John Huria.

Tina Makareti, past winner of a Pikihuia Award and acclaimed Māori writer.Past winners of Pikihuia Awards include acclaimed Māori writers like Tina Makareti, Ana Morley, Paula Morris and James George.

Tina (for example) has gone on the great things of course, having published her acclaimed literary memoir, based on her PhD, Where the Rekohu Bone Sings in 2014, and, this year, Black Marks on the White Page with the doyen of Māori literature, Witi Ihimaera.

Te Pouhere Korero – 25 yrs ..

Click to see Table of Contents - inaugural Te Pouhere Korero Journal, launched in March 1999.

Te Pouhere Korero turns 25 this year, thō sadly it’s a birthday that probably won’t be celebrated, with Te Pouhere long since subsumed into other academic associations, like Māori social scientists, or even into the always-dominant New Zealand Historical Association, which, from the outset, was always our worry. Still, it’s a birthday worth acknowledging.


In 1992, a small group of Māori interested in Māori history established Te Pouhere Korero, which was a network of Māori historians, or at least, Māori interested in history.

At that time, there was no dedicated organisation catering for Māori who were interested in history, be they students, academics, librarians, museum workers, iwi researchers and the like.

An inaugural meeting was held in late September 1992 at Māori Studies, Massey University. This gathering attracted a surprisingly large number of Māori writers, authors and scholars, with many notable apologies also given.

On the invitation of Mr Joe Pere (left)and Mrs Rose Pere, a further hui was held at Manutuke Marae, near Gisborne, in late November 1992.  Here, Te Pouhere Korero was formally established. We had thought that Joe might be prevailed upon to accept our inaugural Chairperson position, but he humbly declined. Sadly, Joe passed away in 2012, but not before he published his biography (with other writers) of his illustrious forbear, Wiremu Pere. Dr Manuka Henare (now of Auckland University) was appointed our inaugural Chairperson.

Mr Joe Pere who, with his wife Rose, invited Māori historians to his marae at Manutuke for the inaugural Te Pouhere Korero gathering, 1992.Many Māori interested in history were involved, including Te Ahukaramu Charles Royal, Tania Rei, Aroha Harris, Monty Soutar, Tairongo Amoamo, Ailsa Smith, John Delamare, Tui Macdonald, Danny Keenan, Jim Williams, Bernadette Arapere, Te Maire Tau, Brad Haami and Buddy Mikaere – quite a formidable line up.

Joe Pere's biography of Wiremu Pere MP 1837-1915.Our leading light however was undoubtedly Dr Miria Simpson (left,  below) who held sway over all of our proceedings, providing support, inspiration and encouragement. Sadly, Miria passed away in 2002. Our Huia Histories of Māori, published by Huia Publishers, Wellington, in 2011, was dedicated to Miria.

Meeting with Pākehā

Perhaps the highlight of those early days was a gathering where Māori historians met with Pākehā historians over 3 days, discussing at length what ‘Māori history’ was, or might be, vis-a-vis mainstream New Zealand history. Not all of our members were happy that the meeting went ahead, not least Miria who nonetheless sat patiently through all of the proceedings.

Dr Miria Simpson, Te Pouhere Korero's leading light.During that conference, looking around the room, you could say it certainly was a ‘who’s who’ of New Zealand history, at least, of Māori-Pākehā history.

Thereafter, regular hui were convened around the country, attended by a small yet dedicated group of Māori interested in presenting papers on further developing the notion of ‘Māori history’ as a legitimate focus of academic study – strange as it may seem today.

At one of these hui in 1999, our academic Journal Te Pouhere Korero was launched.

In the first two issues, Danny published two articles, one on Māori historiography (issue No 1), and the second article in issue No 2 on Māori/Native American comparative history.

Māori History Challenges Māori Students 

In time, a really talented group of younger Māori interested in academic history did emerge, and it did seem that Te Pouhere would eventually pass into their capable hands. In fact, a student group of Māori history students was formed in 2009, named Te Pū Nehenehe.

Front page of inaugural Te Pouhere journal, signed by those present when launched in March 1999.This group asked the question ‘ ‘where, in the histories of Aotearoa/New Zealand, are the Māori values that lie at the foundation of the Māori experience’? A searching essay posing such questions was published in Te Pouhere Korero 3 (2009, pp. 105-115), written by Erin Keenan and Arini Loader, with Rewa Morgan, Kara Pennington, Mathew Mullany, Tawhana Chadwick and Kesaia Waugh.

Ten years earlier, Sheryl Connell, Mereina Pelling and John Chapman had published a similar piece the Te Pouhere Korero Journal, 1:1, March 1999, pp. 36-45. This article had pointed to the ‘strange land’ within which Māori students of University history found themselves. Ten years later, Te Pū Nehenehe emerged; Māori students were still asking important questions.

The future of the discipline of Māori history was continuing to challenge our students, and looked interesting. Perhaps Te Pouhere had a role in fostering these continuing discussions.

Click to see Table of Contents - Our second Te Pouhere Korero Journal, issued 2002.

Māori History Becomes Social Science ?

However, other fairly dominant personnel changes in Te Pouhere, especially from Māori Studies Departments, saw Te Pouhere’s focus move markedly away from such directions, and dedicated ‘Māori history’, towards an eclectic amalgam of Māori Studies / Māori Language /Māori Social Sciences/ Māori Literary Studies/Indigenous studies.

As a result, Te Pouhere’s  original focus on the ‘discipline of Māori history’ was subsumed by Māori more interested in the social sciences, where ‘ Māori history’ had an uncertain place. Other agendas were also running at the time; a political pendulum of sorts had undoubtedly swung towards Māori social science, leaving Māori historians in its wake.

Danny presented a paper to this effect at a Māori Social Science conference in 2008, where he argued that the discipline of ‘history’, much less ‘Māori history’, were not ‘social sciences’. However, it was a difficult argument to get across, in an environment where Māori academics were clearly looking to move beyond the real, or perceived, constraints imposed by such a discipline as ‘Māori history’.

Grounded in the Land and Culture

Huia Histories of Māori, published in 2013 by Huia Publishers, Wellington. When Danny wrote the Introduction to the Huia Histories of Māori (2011),  he entitled the chapter, ‘Land, Culture and History Interwoven’ (pp. xviii-xl). This was  a quote from an earlier, interesting article written by Joe Pere (Joseph Anaru Hetekia Tekani Pere, ‘Hitori Māori;, The Future of the Past, Themes in New Zealand History, Department of History, Massey University, 1991, pp. 29-48).

In this Introduction, Danny summarised some of the academic/theoretical  ground that had been covered by Māori historians in those early years. Most of those historians, as it happened, had participated in the early Te Pouhere Korero debates about the nature of Māori history, as indeed had many of the contributors to that auspicious publication.

Danny acknowledged Joe’s view of ‘land, culture and history interwoven’ as providing the essential basis for all Māori knowledge, including knowledge of the past, or history.

The first two Te Pouhere Korero Journals were produced in 1999 and 2002. The contents of these two journals will be uploaded here shortly.

You can also read more about ‘Māori history’ here – Māori history.


The Dead Lands

Click to read advertising brochure - The Dead Lands movie.Now also on TV, this recent movie by acclaimed New Zealand director Toa Fraser, The Dead Lands is a terrific film. The movie is totally recounted in Māori, too, appropriately since the action occurs in the days before Europe encountered New Zealand. The movie was released in New Zealand in 2014 and is now available on DVD.

James Rolleston (Hongi) and Lawrence Makoare (The Warrior) are also terrific in their respective roles as an aggrieved young warrior seeking the guidance of a reclusive but violent elder, who inhabits a desolate landscape known as the Dead Lands. Hongi seeks advice on an urgent matter of tribal revenge.

Raukura Turei stars as Mehe in the movie The Dead Lands (2014).Te Kohe Tuhaka is terrific as Wirepa, almost stealing the movie from his better known cast members. Xavier Horan also stars as Rangi, with Raukura Turei as Mehe, a wahine toa – woman warrior – who confronts The Warrior in a bitter hand-to-hand struggle.

Veteran and accomplished Māori actors George Henare and Rena Owen also star in this movie.

Te Kohe Tuhaka, Māori actor who almost steals the movie, The Dead Lands, not an easy thing against actors of the quality of Lawrence Makoare. The movie did fairly well in New Zealand, but it is a terrific watch – though, be wary, it is also quite violent, though these days, with quick-editing, you don’t get to see the worst of it.

The movie also depicts a Māori world given to unrelieved warfare, warfare as the modus through which all tribal and personal relations are mediated.

Some scholars agree with this view, like Māori jurist Sir Eddie Durie, in his masterful study, Māori Custom Law (1994). Dr Angella Ballara has also argued that ‘warfare was endemic in Māori society’, though she has equally written of peace-making protocols that also existed, alongside the Māori propensity for war.

Mehe (Raukura Turei) fights hand-to-hand with The Warrior (Lawrence Makoare) in The Dead Lands. Click on The Dead Lands’  poster (above left) to see a copy of an advertising brochure released with the movie. For more on the New Zealand Wars on film, click here – NZ Wars on Film.

‘Hobson’s Pledge’? Unlikely ..

Governor William Hobson (1792-1842), who served as Lieutenant Governor / Governor of New Zealand from 1840-1842.New Zealand history is fraught with myth – things that never happened, or at least, the evidence is sketchy. ‘Hobson’s pledge’ is one example. Was there ever such a thing?

During the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February 1840, we are told, Lieutenant Governor Hobson (right) shook hands with each Māori signatory, saying ‘he iwi tahi tatou – we are now one people’. But did this actually happen? Where is the evidence?

The ‘evidence’

The account of ‘Hobson’s pledge’ comes from William Colenso (below, left), a mission printer, who was present at Waitangi, on the day of the Treaty signing. His version of events can be found in his The Authentic and Genuine History of the Signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, published much later, 50 years after the event, in 1890. This was nine years before his death aged 89 years in 1899.

Hobson's Grave, Symonds Street cemetery, Auckland. Other accounts however do not mention Hobson saying such a thing, or anything like it. Such sentiments were not expressed; instead, what caught the attention of most Pākehā observers was the rancour and discord evident amongst Māori, and the suspicion directed at Hobson.

Forty five chiefs signed the Treaty that day, but few of them, says Colenso, were of ‘first rank’. And none were present from any distance, save a small number from the Hokianga.

Earlier, Colenso had asked Hobson – was he sure Māori knew what they were doing, by signing the Treaty? Did they understand the Articles? Hobson’s reply – the expression of a different sentiment – was clear; if they don’t understand, then this was of no concern to him.

Meantime, says Colenso, other chiefs like Marupo of Wanaurara, and Ruhe of Ngāti Hineira were urging Māori not to sign, as indeed, by some accounts, was a clearly ambivalent Hone Heke Pokai. Such was the level of disagreement amongst Māori, on that fateful day at Waitangi.

Later accounts of the signing

The Treaty House, Waitangi. The Treaty was signed on the site of the flagpole in foreground of the photo.Colenso’s account of Hobson’s statement does not appear in earlier accounts of the Treaty signing, written by other Pākehā who were present.

Missionary Richard Taylor’s account of 1840 does not mention any such statement, nor such sentiment, being expressed by Hobson. Instead, he wrote of the hostility shown to the Governor by Māori.

William Baker’s account of 1865 also fails to mention Hobson’s supposed statement. Baker was a translator for the Native Department who was asked to provide an account for Parliament, which he did, on 8 July 1865.

Baker’s overriding concern was the discord and disagreement amongst Māori – a war of words which had provoked a crisis, threatening to derail the signing ceremony. Even Hobson himself did not mention his supposed ‘pledge’, instead recalling that he had been opposed by Māori with displays of ‘great violence’.

Was there ever a ‘Hobson’s pledge’? This seems unlikely. The evidence for it is confined to the recall of one participant, written down some fifty years after the event, about the same time distance as between (say) the writing of the first gospel, Mark, and the death of Christ. Colenso’s account is written in verbatim style, with dialogue recorded in detail, a precise if unlikely remembering of minutiae and nuance, some 50 years after the event, through years of intervening, turbulent history.

Colenso’s record of events, then, is structured around remembered – or invented – conversations, written for effect rather than accuracy. Some popular historians use this method, it is true, but you wouldn’t get away with it in your PhD thesis.

William Colenso (1811-1899), missionary printer and later explorer.Claiming New Zealand for Pākehā

It’s worth bearing in mind that, by 1890, when Colenso published his account, Māori had lost the New Zealand Wars. They had had thousands of acres of land confiscated, or alienated through the Native Land Court.

Māori had seen their communities decimated by settler economic encroachment and their population numbers had fallen to about 40,000, from a high of about 100,000 in 1840. The evidence for this is of course overwhelming.

However, in 1890, Colenso would have had good reasons for presenting Hobson as being benevolent and conciliatory to Māori because, by then, New Zealand was in the grip of a new Pākehā nationalism.

The good old days, as described by FE Maning in his book Old New Zealand, published in 1863.Scholars like Edward Tregear and William Pember Reeves were searching amidst the literary and figurative landscapes of New Zealand, which they saw as empty, looking for an organic foothold for Pākehā amidst the undergrowth. They were trying to recapture the heady days of the young F E Maning, as described in his book Old New Zealand (1863) – a time when Pākehā were few, carefree, and felt as if they belonged, even if they were living under the sufferance of Māori.

A resurgent literary nationalism propelled this search for an organic foothold forward. New journals like the New Zealand Graphic and Ladies Journal aimed to foster and assist this revived sense of belonging amongst Pākehā. Native Associations were established all over the country, comprising Pākehā determined to secure their space, and place, here in Aotearoa. They adopted a new organic ensign – the silver fern –  to  symbolise their new-found attachment to the otherwise desolate  landscape.

The Silver Fern badge, adopted by the new Native Associations after 1890.

Inventing An Early Regard for Māori 

Putting across that the Crown, and Hobson, were well-meaning and benevolent towards Māori, from the very beginning, served Colenso’s purposes. Despite everything, said Colenso, Pākehā had really meant well.

Such a new-found regard for Māori absolved Pākehā for the ravages inflicted on Māori since 1840 on the way to a new sense of identity, hegemony and nationhood for Pākehā. But to most Māori, as to many discerning Pākehā, this all rang hollow, as it does today.

Footnote – Hobson’s Pledge or Colenso’s Conceit?

For those interested in literary terms, or the functional language of history, ‘Hobson’s Pledge’ might be described as a historical feint, defined as a deceptive movement, or statement, intended to conceal one’s real intent.

In literary terms, Hobson’s alleged utterance he iwi tahi tatou might be said to be a conceit, defined as a metaphor with a certain logic, used to draw readers into a more sophisticated understanding of a certain object or event – or, in this case of course, to perpetuate a misunderstanding vis-à-vis Hobson’s intentions.

‘Hobson’s Pledge or ‘Colenso’s Conceit’ ?

Black Histories Matter

Native peoples everywhere will have great sympathy for the African-American struggles in the USA. In the past, Native peoples have faced their own significant challenges, not least our Native American colleagues and their families. 

These challenges exist across a significant spectrum, at all levels, temporal as well as intellectual, not least – as with our African-American friends – the writing and representation of histories, which is the focus of this site : See for example this very interesting article published in 2015:  Black Histories Matter.

One such important challenge for Native Americans – and for all Native peoples – is discussed in the book ‘The Hunt for Willie Boy’ .

Published in 1994, this terrific book tells the story of a manhunt in Southern California in September 1929. Written by two fine ‘white’ historians (as Pākehā are called in the USA), the book’s essential point – how ‘Indian-hating has uncritically permeated popular culture in the USA – certainly resonates in other communites elsewhere of which Native peoples are an intengral part. 

From the Museum for African American Peoples, Washington DC.

The Manhunt

The focus of the manhunt was a young Chemehuevi Indian named Willie Boy who, it was falsely alleged, had consumed too much liquor, stolen a rifle and kidnapped a 16 year old girl named Carlotta, shooting her father in the process. He then fled into the desert. When Carlotta was later found dead, the manhunt went into overdrive, with numbers of possees combing the desert.

The book is hugely interesting, written by two accomplished academic historians from Redlands, California, where the book’s action is set – James A Sandos and Larry E Burgess. Sandos and Burgess examine the various ‘white’ versions of the story.

Banning, South California, where the hunt for Willie Boy took place.

The book also includes a Chemehuevi version of events, strengthened with a careful reading of the documentary sources. This ethnohistorical approach is masterful, revealing a sad and tragic story, recovered from the layers upon layers of false and misleading ‘white’ versions (‘white’ is used in the USA for Pākehā).

Their research was extensive, and included working with elders from the Chemehuevi tribe, plus members of Willie Boy’s and Carlotta’s families, based around Banning and the Morongo Indian Reservation, in the desolate American south-west desert.

The Movie

This tragic tale was made into a movie by Abraham Polonsky called Tell Them Willie Boy is Here in 1969. The movie starred Robert Redford, Katherine Ross, Susan Clark and Robert Blake as Willie Boy. Polonsky had earlier been blacklisted by Hollywood as a communist sympathiser.

The screenplay was based on an earlier ‘gripping non-fiction novel’ published by Henry Lawton in 1960. However, as the authors point out, the Willie Boy story had been published some 30 times in various forms by the time the movie was made; and both the movie, and Lawton’s book, possessed serious flaws.

New Indian History / Ethnohistory / New Western History .. ?

When the book was published, in 1994, histories of Native American peoples were undergoing some critical analysis, especially those written over time by ‘whites’.

Historians like Patricia Limerick and Richard White were re-examining the writing of Native history, insisting that, for starters,  Native peoples ought to be both central to the story, and involved in the research and writing.

Santos and Burgess analyse the narrative and writing of the Willie Boy story against the complex historiographical background, including the work of New Indian historians. They also comment on historians positioned within the (then) emerging field of American Ethnohistory, like Fred Hoxie.

What is interesting is these debates in the USA found their way to New Zealand, and did influence how some Māori at the time went about writing our own Māori/tribal histories. Our impression, then, thō, was that the Native American voice wasn’t really coming thrū, unlike in New Zealand where Māori voices were being heard, and acknowledged by academic historians.

Native Historians Write Back, edited by Susan A Millar and James Riding In (2011).

Native Historians Write Back

In light of this, one of the best books recently published by Native American historians is undoubtedly Native Historians Write Back. Decolonising American Indian History , edited by acclaimed Native American historians, Susan A Miller and James Riding in, published in 2011.

Susan A Miller, Native American historian

This book is hugely important; it examines from varying native and tribal perspectives the writing of Native American history. When discussing indigenous historical paradigms, Susan actually discusses briefly some of the work then being done by Māori historians in New Zealand. Her comments in part arise from a panel discussion that Susan and Danny did together (with Donna L Ackers) at an Ethnohistory conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2009.

Huia Histories of Māori. Ngā Tahuhu Korero, edited by Danny Keenan, published by Huia Publishers, Wellington NZ in 2012.

Native Historians Write Back is undoubtedly a landmark publication. In New Zealand, Māori were able to attempt something similar with our Huia Histories of Māori. Ngā Tahuhu Korero, published the following year in 2012.

Native Historians Write Back is a particularly interesting book when we consider The Hunt for Willie Boy. Published some 15 years earlier, The Hunt for Willie Boy raises important issues about the writing of Native American history, issues that fine Native American historians like Susan were able to address (and much more).

To read more on the work of native historians, click here – Native Historians.

Wars Without End

Danny Keenan, 'Wars Without End,'The Land wars in 19th Century New Zealand', revised Edition, published by Penguin Books (Auckland, NZ), September 2009.The New Zealand Wars ended in 1872, at least, according to most historians. And, militarily speaking, this makes perfect sense.

But for Māori, the wars never ended, with the conflicts over land and te tino rangatirantanga – or sovereignty – moving from the battle fields into the Courts and Parliament.

John Ballance statue, Parliament Buildings, Wellington.

The Native Land Court, in particular, proved to be a blunt weapon used by the Crown to acquire customary Māori land.

Parliament enacted the legislation necessary for this to happen.

This section examines this process in detail.