Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Don't Confuse Us With Facts, Part #2

Maori as Ignoble and Depraved Savage

We have argued in a previous post, that Maori history has become the victim of historical revisionism. The truth about Maori life and culture has been suborned to a revisionist recasting of Maori representing a noble warrior culture, subsequently destroyed by the coming of the European, to the damage and cultural dis-empowerment of Maori today. This is the widely accepted consensus view of the liberal-academic complex.

Recently, however, a number of historians have published works which are far more concerned with original sources than modern myth-making. The original sources and the actual record, not surprisingly, is at odds with the myths of the liberal-academic complex. One of these works is Trevor Bentley's Pakeha Maori.

The book, Pakeha Maori provides access to a significant historical record on a number of counts. Firstly, it gives a first hand insight into Maori culture and practice by Europeans “from the inside”--from Europeans who lived as, and became, Maori. Historian Trevor Bentley has researched and presented the accounts and activities of key figures who actually lived with Maori over the period 1790 to 1840, and who recorded or recounted their experience. Secondly, it provides a perspective upon European activities and attitudes in their interaction with Maori. Thirdly, it provides a classical illustration of the oft-neglected truth that human actions are far more shaped by cultural influences than race. (By “cultural” here, we mean the world-and-life zeitgeist accepted and operating amongst Maori at the time.)

Bentley writes:
During the early decades of the nineteenth century, the Maori tribes of New Zealand wre transformed by an unprecedented period of inter-cultural mixing. Several thousand foreign seamen and a number of convicts from New South Wales and Norfolk Island settled among the coastal and interior tribes as permanent and semi-permanent residents. . . .

Pakeha Maori were the foreigners who became part of the tribe and were treated by Maori as Maori. Some were kept as exotic curiosities or trading intermediaries. Others were designated traditional roles as slaves, artisans and fighting men. A handful became white chiefs and priests. . .
[We should note that Bentley excludes from his research]all consideration of Maori travelers and European missionaries, beachcombers and sawyers as mediators of meaning betweent the cultures. What differentiated the Pakeha Maori from other resident groups of Europeans was the extent to which they integrated with and depended upon Maori for their livelihoods. Like the squaw men of North America, the integration of Pakeha Maori with their host society went far beyond the norm.

Trevor Bentley, Pakeha Maori: The Extraordinary Story of the Europeans Who Lived as Maori in Early New Zealand (Auckland: Penguin Books, 1999), p. 9,10.
Pakeha Maori reveals that there were distinct aspects of pagan Maori culture that modern revisionism has preferred to ignore or sweep under the carpet in its relentless pursuit of the myth of Maori as noble savage. The first of these is a regimen murderous and bloody internecine warfare, provoked by an endless cycle of utu or revenge, and worsened by the indiscriminate lawless “retaliations” based upon recovery of mana (as compared to the Asian “face.”) If one had been beaten or had endured a loss of mana, it could be regained by achieving dominance or victory over anyone—not necessarily the original offender.

Second is the widespread institution of slavery amongst Maori. Slaves were usually prisoners of war or captives, whose life was therefore considered void. They could be killed at any time, for no reason. They were kept alive for pecuniary or pragmatic reasons, such as their utility in gathering or producing food. A large number of pakeha-maori were made slaves. Amongst them was John Rutherford, who lived for many years amongst Nga Puhi; whilst he eventually was tattooed and became a minor chief, he always considered that he was owned by the high chief Pomare to whom he was enslaved. Bentley records,
In his reminiscences he recalled the need for constant alertness and accepted that his life had been “forfeited” at the time of his capture and that his chief retained the right to take his life for a “sudden or slight . . . accident” or on a whim.
Bentley, p. 67.
As such, slaves themselves were “farmed” for food. This was not uncommon—and since their lives were forfeit on any account, it was accepted as “normal.” One pakeha-maori, James Heberly, a ship's pilot, became a fighting warrior with Te Rauparaha.

He provides the only eye witness account of the return of Te Rauparaha's great expedition after their successful siege of Ngai Tahu at Kaiapoi Pa, near modern Christchurch, in 1831:
The party numbered about 2000 all told including women and children and they had some 500 prisoners with them. Altogether there must have been sixty or seventy canoes, the bows of each which was decorated with dead men's hands and heads. . . . Te Rauparaha would send a party of salves, or prisoners to the bush to cut firewood and make a kapa-Maori—a hole in the earth in which stones were heated. When everything was ready the chief dispatched with his tomahawk, the salves who had fetched the wood and prepared the over, and the remainder of the slaves were required to cook the bodies of their friends and serve up the joints in baskets.
Bentley, p.86.
Third, the records and accounts of pakeha-maori show that cannibalism was both widespread and an accepted norm within Maori culture. There was the “normal” eating of one's slain enemies. But there was also the use of human slaves as a food source upon the long campaign marches. Bentley writes from the pakeha-maori records:
Without a permanent commissariat the great musket taua on their long-distance campaigns were dependent on the bodies of their enemy to sustain them on remote battlefields and at the conclusion of prolonged sieges.
Bentley, p. 176.
Slaves were also eaten at special tribal ritual occasions. When a taua was about to depart on a military campaign, slaves would be killed and eaten as part of a pre-campaign feast.

Fourth, pakeha-maori record the widespread practice of polygamy, often taking several wives themselves as part of their assimilation into Maori culture. Women, not taken to “the blanket” in a publicly sanctioned marriage were “fair game”. It was not uncommon for chiefs to welcome European ships by providing them with large numbers of women for sexual exchange. Indeed, it is apparent from the records that the opportunity for sexual license was one of the biggest attractions for pakeha to aspire to live amongst Maori.

Bentley recites the account of the French Naval Officer Premivere Lesson when the ship La Coquille arrived at the Bay of Islands in 1824:
Canoes arrived crammed (the word is not too strong) full of women and our bridge was overrun with swarms of girls; for the seventy-man crew, more than a hundred and fifty samples of this unorthodox merchandise cam like a flock of ewes in search of buyers. The captain tried to get rid of this lascivious livestock, but to no avail—for every ten females who left from one side the the ship twenty more clambered up the other; we were obliged to give up trying to enforce a measure that so many people were concerned to infringe. Poets represent the divine Venus on a chariot carved from sea-shell; our Coquille, throughout our stay at the Bay of Islands, became her temple, and her altars were raised on our orlop. The [Maori] men quite artlessly and without any sense of shame held out their hands to receive the profits, and took from the girls everything their lovers had given them.
Bentley, p.193.
Pakeha-maori reported that it was customary for chiefs to offer the sexual services of women to visitors though there was no expectation of payment. (Bentley, p. 194). It seems that the practice of pimping their women was widespread. It explains why such a large number of Maori prostitutes appeared so quickly in places like Kororareka.

A chilling insight into Maori domestic culture, as well as of the depravity of many pakeha-maori is provided by Jacky Marmon, possibly the most notorious pakeha-maori of all—who eventually rose to the rank of tohunga in the North.

Marmon took numerous wives, one of whom proved unfaithful. He recounts:
One of them had cherished a fondness for a young chief called Kakanui, before her marriage, and after it kept the tender regard up, so that I occupied but a second place in her affections. This might have been overlooked, but when I was convinced that the matter went further and that her character was not spotless, it was time for man's self regard to take arms and reassert itself. What did you do? I hear the gentle reader ask; give her a writing of divorcement, or send her back, in disgrace, to her friends? No such thing. I simply provided myself with a musket, summoned her, told her of her fault, and quietly blew her brains out. I never found my wives unfaithful again, and it raised my mana (reputation) vastly in the tribe. I was regarded as a man who would stand no humbug and who must be implicitly obeyed.
Bentley, p.200.
Finally, a further insight into Maori domestic life is provided by one Captain Harris, a pakeha-maori dwelling in the Poverty Bay region. This incident is particularly significant because revisionists want to ascribe the present breakdown in family life amongst modern Maori—the over representation in national statistics for violence, crime, drug dependence, etc—as being the fault of the European. For example, during the recent national debate over Bradford's anti-smacking Bill, the co-leader of the Maori Party, Tariana Turia argued that domestic violence against children was unknown amongst Maori prior to the coming of the European. (Read an account of Turia's assertion here, and a critical refutation, here.) Maori had learnt to practise violence upon their children from the missionaries. This is a view also propagated by Bradford herself, one of the great revisionists of our times:
"I think that the concept of parents' right and duty to bring up their children with violence was a belief system brought to Aotearoa by our Pakeha missionary and settler ancestors, and is part of the legacy of European colonialism with which we are still wrestling".

Turia spoke of the tremendous indulgence afforded tamariki by Maori. She argued that this indicated just how precious children were to Maori. Yes. So precious, so indulged apparently that it was accepted that male children, particularly of chiefly families, could beat their mothers violently when it pleased them. This violence was sanctioned by the laws of mana and tapu. Harris recounts how he saw the son of a chief, about eight years old, one day beating his mother with a great stick. Harris sought to protect the mother and gave the boy a slight blow to make him desist.

This created an enormous clamour. The pakeha-maori had struck a chief's son—an unpardonable offence. The boys mother also joined in the upbraiding of the pakeha. His life was spared by the chief himself, who judged, “What else could you expect from an ignorant pakeha?” (Bentley, p.151). No doubt the life of Harris was spared for the mana of having a “tame” pakeha, was greater than the insult arising from one's son being struck.

Noble savage Maori was most certainly not. Savage he most certainly was. The savagery of his fallen nature had become culturally institutionalised into a wretched and degraded existence. But, as we have argued in a prior post, this was not something isolated to Maori. This leads us to the other great contribution made by Bentley. His work on pakeha-maori demonstrates once again that the veneer of civilisation is but skin deep and that degeneracy and savagery is present in every human heart ever since the Fall.

The course of pakeha-maori in eighteenth century New Zealand shows the accuracy and reality of William Golding's Lord of the Flies. It turns out that many pakeha-maori readily adopted the most vicious and evil practices of Maori culture as they participated in Maori life and lived as Maori.

It is to the degeneracy of the pakeha-maori that we will turn next.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that excellent post, I am learning a lot!