Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Long Term Effects

Not the Same

We have been reading through A. W. Reed's volume, Auckland: The City of the Seas.  [Wellington: A. H. and A. W. Reed, 1955.] It's an entertaining read.  But one piece caught our eye as being indicative of a much wider canvas.

The account is innocuous enough.  It consists of Miss Eliza Jones describing a visit to a school in "south" Auckland in 1857.  Reed describes the landscape:
The volcanic mounds were pitted with natural caves, formed by the hot lava rolling over marshy ground countless years before.  The gases which were generated formed gigantic bubbles which became frozen into the rock when congealed.  Early explorers and, at a later date, settlers and visitors found borken bones thickly carpeted over the floor of the caves. . . [Ibid., p. 199]
Miss Jones takes up the account as follows:
We proceeded straight to the school, through a paddock dotted with sheep.  The appearance of this picturesque , peaceful spot, and the happy looking, neatly clad Maori boys whom we met, gave no suggestion of being in the 'Cannibal Islands'.  Still less did the school room, where we were warmly welcomed by the master, Mr Reid.

We saw a number of intelligent looking boys and girls, as neat and orderly as any to be found in an English school, and their quickness would put many an English child to shame, especially in arithmetic, for which they showed extraordinary aptitude; questions in mental arithmetic were scarcely put before they were answered, and difficult sums in fractions and proportion were correctly worked out in a wonderfully short time.  Their reading of English quite impressed us, especially their successful rendering of the letter 'S', which Maoris find so difficult to pronounce.  They wound up by singing several hymns in a manner that touched my feelings very much, for it was impossible to rid one's mind of the thought that they were children of parents who were once cannibals and now, by God's grace, one with us in faith and practice.  [Ibid., p. 201f.]
There are numerous accounts elsewhere of the mental acuity of the Maori.  Descriptions such as those above provided enormous hope for the future of Maori in New Zealand.  But such hopes were soon dashed.
The splendid work of the school was brought to a close by the Maori War.  At the time, the years of labour seem to have been wasted.  The students were forced to return to their own people and few, if any, ever returned.  The buildings fell into disrepair and, although the missionary teachers returns to their station after the law, it was a long time before the Maori could be induced to attend the school. [Ibid., p. 202.]
The devastation caused by the Maori wars went far deeper and it was more extensive than the immediate wounds of battle.  We live in its echo today, still tasting its bitter fruits amongst which are resentment and lingering anger.  Despite enormous progress being made in financial and economic restitution, in some quarters the bitterness lingers on.  For many it has become an excuse, a justification for personal and familial irresponsibility.   Unfortunately the guilt manipulation and grievance industry has consigned far too many to the bitterness of the past.  Thankfully, the majority of Maori have moved on. 

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