Thursday, October 22, 2009

A small victory at Dargaville museum?

Here's the text of an e mail I received yesterday from Dargaville museum, along with my reply to it.

Dear Dr Hamilton

Thank you for your interest and consideration.

Our organization is run by volunteers, without whose help we would not be able to operate. We are not in the fortunate position to be able to employ professionals. We are not experts but do endeavour to be as accurate as we can and visits from a person such as yourself and the informed comments you make are appreciated. However we were disappointed that you did not approach the Museum manager for her verification of the volunteer's expressed opinions prior to posting your views on the internet.

The Pouto carving has been in the Museum's collection for 13 years and we had inherited the information with it from a previous administration.

Our Te Uri O Hau representative on the Museum Committee had already raised similar concerns as yours, pointing out that there was no empirical evidence to support the text.

The issue of labeling, provenance and display was to be discussed by the committee but was held in abeyance, due to several important prior commitments of the Te Uri O Hau representative. This matter will be on the agenda for the next meeting where your informed comments, which supports that of the Te Uri O Hau representative, will be taken into consideration as well as those of the Iwi on whose territory the item was found. We will address the issues raised in you e-mail.

Mr. Noel Hilliam was a past President and curator of the Museum. He is no longer involved in the running of, nor is he a spokesperson for the Museum. At no time has he been banned from the Museum or interfered in its "correspondence".

Mr. Hilliam's beliefs, opinions and theories on New Zealand pre-history are his own and are not endorsed in any way by the Museum's current administration.

In the meantime we have removed the information panel from the exhibit. We propose to seek guidance from National Services Te Paerangi Te Papa on the appropriate person or institution to seek provenance on the carving.

Pene McKenzie

Kia ora Pene,

I congratulate Dargaville museum on its decision to remove the pou found at Pouto from display.

Whilst artefacts held at museums, especially artefacts as beautiful and rare as the pou, should be accessible to the public, they must be displayed appropriately, and accompanied by responsible interpretation. Your museum's display and interpretation of the pou were nothing short of an insult to Maori, and to all New Zealanders interested in the truth about their country's history. I hope that the museum will take the opportunity to apologise to Te Uri o Hau, who had to wait far too long for you to end the desecration of an object found within the boundaries of their rohe. It seems to me that, if it were not for the public criticism you have received over the last week from outsiders, Te Uri o Hau would still be waiting for its voice to be heard.

You attempt to excuse the desecration of the pou by pointing out that the museum does not employ 'professionals' and 'experts'. This excuse seems to me only to underline a basic problem with Dargaville museum's attitude to Maori culture and history. The museum offers a small display of pre-contact and nineteenth century Maori artefacts in the last room that visitors pass through, as they make their way through the building, but its many other spaces, which deal with subjects as different as farming, gum digging, shipwrecks, and sports, are almost completely devoid of Maori content.

It is as if you believe that Maori culture and history ended with colonisation, and that Maori culture and history therefore don't need to be understood by volunteers, and can be left to the occasional 'expert' to interpret (as Noel Hilliam's 'interpretation' of the pou has hopefully shown you, not every self-proclaimed expert is to be trusted). The 'us and them' attitude toward Maori that I experienced when I talked to one of your staff only reinforces my belief that your museum does not consider Maori history and culture as integral parts of most of the stories it tells.

The attitude of your museum reminds me of the approach that many books of local history written by amateur Pakeha researchers take to the past. All too often, such histories open with a brief chapter on life in a district before the arrival of Pakeha, and then forget about Maori and plunge in to stories about pioneer families, great sporting events, the impact of foreign wars, and so on.

The approach that I have been describing does a disservice to Pakeha, as well as Maori. In regions like the Kaipara, Pakeha culture and society have been shaped by constant interaction with the tangata whenua. Sometimes this interaction has been difficult, even violent; at other times it has been friendly and enriching. By excluding Maori from so much of the story it tells, your museum gives its visitors a one-sided version of the history of the Kaipara.

I'd like to offer a couple of examples of the one-sidedness I am complaining about. Your museum offers artefacts and interpretations in an attempt to describe the lives of some of the Pakeha pioneers in the Kaipara region. While the material you display and interpret is interesting, it lacks context, because it is not accompanied by a discussion of the role that Maori played in hosting Pakeha pioneers.

After suffering heavy losses at the hands of Nga Puhi warlord Hongi Hika's musket-armed forces in 1825, Te Uri o Hau were keen to attract Pakeha missionaries and settlers, because they believed that the Pakeha might ensure a supply of muskets and a measure of protection. A Methodist mission was established in the north Kaipara in 1836, and the farmers who began to arrive a decade or so afterwards were treated with generosity by Te Uri o Hau. The iwi did not join in the wars that broke out between Pakeha and Maori in other parts of the country in the 1860s. When a group of Waikato prisoners who had escaped from Kawau Island in 1865 travelled into the rohe of Te Uri o Hau and urged the locals to join them in a new war, their request was respectfully declined.

As more and more settlers arrived and land was taken in dodgy deals, many Te Uri o Hau came to feel that their goodwill had been betrayed. Nevertheless, the iwi played an important role in the success of the early Pakeha settlers of the Kaipara. The story of the settlers cannot be properly told without reference to the Maori who hosted them.

One of the most interesting parts of your museum attempts to tell the story of the Dalmatians who came to New Zealand in the first decades of the twentieth century. Although your presentation of the Dalmatians' story is full of artefacts and anecdotes, it suffers from a lack of attention to the rich history of interaction between the new arrivals from southern Europe and the tangata whenua of Aotearoa.

Like Maori in the early twentieth century, the Dalmatian immigrants comprised an impoverished minority which was prevented from participating in many parts of the economy. Because of a lack of alternatives, both Maori and Dalmatians were drawn to the hard and unglamorous work of gum digging in remote areas of Northland. Isolated from the rest of New Zealand society by poverty and racism, members of the two groups were soon forging friendships and intermarrying. In her book Tarara: the cultural politics of Croat and Maori identity in New Zealand Senka Bozik-Vrbancic celebrates the unique coming-together of southern European and Maori cultures in northern New Zealand. With its one-sided approach to history, though, your museum ignores the story of Dalmatian-Maori interaction. I am not asking the unpaid volunteer staff of your museum to become 'experts', in the sense that those trained at universities in fields like archaeology or biology or history are, within their particlar fields, experts. Even those 'experts' with university training in a particular field of inquiry will often require assistance when they deal with adjacent fields of inquiry. In the world of modern scholarship, no one can hope to be an expert on everything.

It would be unreasonable to expect your staff to be authorities on the finer points of historical interpretation or radiocarbon dating. It is, however, very reasonable to expect them to see Maori culture and history as living, dynamic things, not as remote, arcane subjects suitable only for the inquiries of 'experts'. The Maori story is inextricable from all the stories your museum tells. If your staff had even a basic interest in and appreciation of Maori culture and history then they would never have tolerated the obscene display and interpretation of the Pouto pou.

Scott Hamilton


Anonymous Keri h said...

Kai te pai Maps!
And to all who sent 'Letters to Dargy' (I havent yet, and- given this result- probably will not.)
The less misinformation - harmful misinformation- around, the better.

6:19 pm  
Blogger Country Lane said...

Nice work. I didn't get a response but this is a jolly good start.

7:26 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott, maybe you should volunteer there and help them with their work instead. And set up proper Maori Culture centre there to tell the proper truth.

8:21 pm  
Blogger Timespanner said...

I hope the museum informs you of the outcome, maps. As others have said -- well done for taking the stand.

8:36 pm  
Blogger maps said...

I've been contacted by a representative of Te Uri o Hau, who tells me that our messages of protest have definitely helped speed up the complaint process that the group had already initiated.

Anon: I live four hours or so from Dargy and so can't really volunteer, but I have actually been a big supporter of the museum. The last time I visited I actually paid for some of my stingy mates to get in - they were just going to hang about outside because they didn't want to part with ten bucks each.

It's because I am enthusiastic about the museum - especially about its permanent collection of shipwreck artefacts, which is fantastic - that I have been so critical of the treatment of the Pouto pou.

8:59 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Maps - who were the "mates" in question? I suspect certain poets.

Such a refusal to pay is almost as bad as misplacing the pou etc This is serious!

10:13 pm  
Blogger Edward said...

Nice work Maps. Very good reply which sums it up nicely. When I heard of their reply I thought 'good news', but it also seemed to be a bit weasily with trying to excuse things which I think are inexcusable for any museum. Afterall, its one thing to claim ignorance (which as you point out can't be entirely true if an iwi rep was already up there telling them the display had problems), its an entirely different story to actively push pseudo-history. Why didn't someone up there try reading Michael King at the very least? I don't entirely but their plea to innocence. But I digress. Great work again.

8:29 am  
Blogger Edward said...

*buy their plea

8:30 am  
Blogger Marty Mars said...

Yes thanks maps.

This museum has the opportunity to turn this unfortunate mistake into a massive win. Instead of hiding and pretending it never happened they should embrace the mistake and the remedial actions they have taken. Invite local maori, have a correct dedication, have a celebration. Bring the community together and let the museum enjoy the limelight of correcting their mistake.

Owning up to mistakes is hard and sometimes painful. Now is the time for the dargy museum to reengage with local maori and their community - for the betterment of everyone.

10:48 am  
Blogger maps said...

My sentiments exactly, Marty.

Richard: one of the misers was our old friend Muzzlehatch. He complained that he paying to enter the museum would cut into his 'whiskey fund'.

11:41 am  
Blogger Jayne said...

Well done!
As Marty Mars said - the museum could use it as a great PR event to highlight how history, heritage and culture centres such as theirs need not only more grants but time and priceless information from volunteers and local Pakeha and Maori alike with any further info that could enrich their collection and database.
This would not only encourage more people to volunteer their time but it would leave the impression in many people's minds that here is a museum who is willing to correct any mistakes and appeal to others for info and that it is an approachable museum not a cold, sterile pile of data.

1:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This blogger is criticising you as a bit of a bully Maps.
Hmm...maybe they don't know about the history of Noel Hilliam as an organised racist and that you are just backing up what local Maori in Dargaville are saying?

3:00 pm  
Blogger Edward said...

I don't think her post is too bad, though i'm not the one being called a bully. It seems the post is calling for a more softly softly approach, though when it comes to pseudo-history in New Zealand, to be honest I agree 100% with what the above anon is saying.

It isn't simply always a matter of holding a pseudo's hand and leading them back to the side of reason - if it was I would make more of an effort more of the time to take such an approach myself - instead, what one usually finds is a wall of paranoia, racism, and anti-intellectualism that simply isn't open to reason. You find this when you try again and again to reach out to people who believe this garbage. Granted that some members of the museum seem to be genuinly concerned about the issue here, but I am suspect of the notion that it was an innocent blunder.

It seems more than apparent from the email correspondance that the museum council has been stonewalling and ignoring what the local Maori have been saying. I think Maps has done the right thing in how he has approached this - if he had tried a softly softly approach it would have fallen on deaf ears. They needed enough of a movement to poke their rather resistant buts into action.

The thing with pseudo's is that a polite "excuse me sir/ma'am, why don't you read these articles, perhaps they will clarify things" is a complete and utter waste of time unfortunately because they are actively promoting these ideas rather than just passively absorbing them. I personally think they more than deserved a good info bludgeoning to be honest.

The next step is where to go from here. All we can do is wait and see. I have a ton of references I could give them if need be, though i'm a little resentful they couldn't muster the common sense to read some basic history texts themselves - we shouldn't have to spoon feed museum workers. Hopefully a resolution will be worked through soon and they can seek aid from the necessary institutions and iwi. Then, as Marty says, they can celebrate moving into the 21st century as a celebrated museum.

4:00 pm  
Blogger maps said...

I've just made a slightly tetchy comment over at Cheryl Bernstein's, which actually looks like quite a nice blog.

What irritates me about her post is not the suggestion that I'm a bit of a bully boy, but the misrepresentation of this controversy as some sort of conflict between well-meaning but bumbling Dargavillians and more sophisticated outsiders.

The conflict has been between the tangata whenua of Dargaville and a section of the Pakeha community in Dargaville which has some very dubious views about Maori. Te Uri o Hau have been trying for years to get Noel Hilliam's intentionally racist display removed - I'm a latecomer to the controversy. To completely ignore Hilliam's racist connections and Te Uri o Hau's long struggle, and then to go on and suggest that a Pakeha outsider like me take up some sort of position educating people in Maori history at Dargy museum - it's enough to make you weep...

4:12 pm  
Blogger Cheryl Bernstein said...

I've responded to Maps and Edward's comments made over at Art, Life, TV, Etc.

(And, um, Maps, I wasn't for a moment suggesting that "a Pakeha outsider like [you] take up some sort of position educating people in Maori history at Dargy museum": clearly that would be for the local iwi to do when and if they wished. What I said was that it could be useful for the NZ museum profession to run training workshops for small museums by showing them "how to distinguish between reputable scholarship and pseudo-history". Which is quite different, and judging by the situation you describe in Dargaville, clearly necessary. Sorry for having been irritating in my blog post, but I'm not reponsible for the weeping you mention above.)

10:23 pm  
Blogger Jack Ross said...

Dear Joseph Alois Ratzinger (or "Pope" Benedict XVI, as you so audaciously term yourself),

It has come to my attention that the quasi-fascist organisation over which you preside has displayed, and what is more continues to display a number of incorrectly labelled artefacts in the ill-ventilated barn generally referred to by the members of your cabal as "St. Peter's" in Rome.

There is no doubt in the minds of serious, Academically-trained scholars such as myself that a number of these artefacts (or "saint's relics" as you term them) are not what they appear to be. Above all, I - & all right-minded thinkers - remain unconvinced by your multiple heads of John the Baptist. I simply cannot accept the explanation that they represent the Saint's head at different stages of his development! I mean, two or three heads, yes, but up to seven heads for the same man is a scientific impossibility - even in the relativistic cosmos opened up to us by quantum physics.

So - jack your ideas up!

I remain, your humble and obedient servant, MNZSA [Member of the NZ Society of Anti-Fascists], CMBPC [Contributing Member of the brief Publications Committee], Dr Maps McMaps ... etc. etc.


Yep, gotta say there's a bit of a self-righteous witch hunt tone about some of this stuff. After all, isn't it really just shooting fish in a barrel? Who seriously disagrees with you on the provenance of this particular artefact?

"Thank goodness for high-minded bullying mobs," you say in the comments section of Cheryl's rather amusing riposte post. Couldn't agree with you less, I'm afraid. The thing about mobs is that they tend to be a bit fickle - mainly because it's the excitement of beating up the scapegoat that gets them going, not who that scapegoat actually happens to be.

I think the response from Dargaville museum is courteous and pretty much covers all the bases. Don't you think you could have reined it in a bit in your own rubbing-salt-in-the-wounds reply?

11:05 am  
Blogger maps said...

I have a certain amount of difficulty imagining Oswald Mosley and the National Front - the example of fascists stopped by self-righteous mobs which I offered in my comment on Cheryl's blog - as 'scapegoats'! I'm afraid I would be on the side of the Cable street mob in 1936, even if that made me a self-righteous bully in Amanda's books.

I think the ultra-liberal 'solve everything through dialogue' approach to contemporary fascism and racism has the same nobility, and the same futility, as the pacifist response to fascist aggression had in the
'30s and '40s. It's a nice idea, but the people preaching it - often rather self-righteously - normally aren't the ones under attack from the fascists.

After a group of anarchists, socialists, and Maori activists cracked a few skulls and smashed the National Front a few years ago in Wellington - thus ending the spate of violent attacks on minorities in the city by thugs associated with the party - there were plenty of liberal bloggers (stand up Idiot/Savant No Right Turn) condemning them from the safety of cyberspace as 'thugs' who were 'as bad as the fascists'. None of these impeccable liberals were on the anti-fascist demo themselves, of course.

As far as the tone of the email to Dargy museum goes, the question really is whether the museum is some well-meaning but bumbling institution which made an honest mistake or whether it is institutionally racist. Edward and I have put the case for the latter proposition; people can decide for themselves whether they find us persuasive. Those who want to make the case for the museum's essential innocence will have to explain why the institution allowed Noel Hilliam to give an explicitly racist lecture on his looted bones there in 2007, and why 40 museum volunteers turned up to this meeting.

If the problems of the museum are as deep-rooted as Edward and I argue, then we need more than a courteous reply and a disappearing exhibit. The entire institution has be transformed so that its systematic exclusion of the history of a key part of the north Kaipara community is ended. My latest epistle was intended to give a couple of concrete examples as to how that transformation could begin.

12:34 pm  
Blogger Edward said...

If it's as simple as "just shooting fish in a barrel" and that "who seriously disagrees with you on the provenance of this particular artefact?", then I wonder why these ideas have worked themselves into the core of the museum and sections of Dargaville society for so long? If it's as simple as fish being in a barrel, I wonder then why no one has been able to shoot them? Perhaps they are resilient fish? Or perhaps no one bothered to actually shoot them so they flipped and flopped their way out of said barrel and back into the sea where they spawned more pseudo-fish?
It's easy to jump on the side of 'the underdog' here and take pity on the 'bumbling but well meaning townsolfk', but the truth of the matter is that these ideas are persistant and very damaging. Think about the Moriori myth, it's pervasive and is really damaging for the Moriori people today as well as those of us trying to educate in this area.

At the end of the day, to answer your question, many, many people in fact disagree with Map's discussion of the provenance of this artefact. Of course they are talking out of the hole in their asses, but then I suppose my saying that is self-righteous? In the same way a climate scientist attacking a climate change denialist or a medical proffessional attacking an anti-vaccination proponent is? Perhaps if we close our eyes it will all go away? I can't understand why commenters on here assume these ideas are only in the realm of innocent but ignorant members of the public or just a handfull of local loons. They are not. They are widespread and they are damaging and the Dargy museum has been a bastion for them. If you were an archaeologist you would soon see just how widespread these kinds of racist pseudo-ideas are. Probably 8 out of 10 people I talk to believe this shit, and they only bring it up when they learn i'm studying archaeology. To ignore it and not actively fight it is to fail our history, serious scholarship, and Maori.

If you guys think it really is as simple as shooting fish in a barrel, then I invite you to swap places with me for a week and see how easy you find being verbally spat on for being "PC", "pro-Maori" and part of the conspiracy as an archaeologist. It really is just plain naieve to have a relativistic attitude to this.

1:06 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Intellectuals like Jack R are so smart they can't understand that many people believe dumb things. But they do. Just look at how many people think that Jews control the world or that 9/11 was an inside job. We have to shoot fish in barrels again and again. Stupidity is a reality of life.

5:45 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



7:18 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

"Richard: one of the misers was our old friend Muzzlehatch. He complained that he paying to enter the museum would cut into his 'whiskey fund'."

I see - well that's is excusable!

Och! Ye canna dee awa' wid da wuskey!

12:54 am  
Blogger Richard said...

But this is a good result. Some progress.

12:55 am  
Blogger Richard said...

"Anonymous said...



What's all this!!???

This is insulting and stupid.
Jack has right to give his views here. Helps to keep Maps honest...

I admire and respect Jack in many ways - not only his literary abilities, but his concern for people and history, culture, freedom etc - but indeed we probably disagree on a lot of things. Or we have a different "world views"

Jack has his views - Jack's fear is of the mob rule of things (not entirely irrational) - now I've been in such situations where either the mob or crowd (or in some cases the police) have gone beserk etc (I have seen terrible police brutality here in NZ, and violent actions, sometimes excessive, by the "mob") and I have been a part of it OR in one case the "people" - in Otara - many years ago - came in numbers to Council meeting and stopped rate rises. The Council members were able to SEE how angry people were about the unfair rate increases. Now that is hard these days - that is centralization (no local Borough Councils, Auckland to be a huge Super City and so on) has made it harder for the people...Jack somewhat fears the people. He has some reason. There is danger in the approach of a Maps BUT there is danger also in being too soft.

Once the 'truth' of all can be established (in as much as any such 'truth' can be, then strong action or other needs to be taken -and it seems that this Hilliam bloke is a worry.

Once we know who the enemy are (but we DONT want a repeat of "The Enemy of the People" situation as depicted in Ibsen's play of that name.) Then in critical situations 'the people' have to go on the offense - in the case of fascists it is necessary to match them slogan by slogan, word by word blow by blow, and so on. And before the 2nd WW the Socialist and others failed to gun them down. Literally - with real guns. These guys are totally ruthless. That is what has to happen before they seize total power - that is a long way off. (Or maybe not so far off...) But we need to be ready.

But in the turmoil and excitement we may become self-righteous. But as Mao tse Tung, the great leader of the Chinese Communist revolution said:

"A Revolution is not a tea party."

He also pointed to the need for criticism and self criticism.

And it is essential local Maori are involved in all this. They should be given a leading and a guiding role in this.

I suspect that Dargaville, like Pukekohe, and much of rural NZ, is full of racist and right wing hicks. This is udoubtedly unfair...but NZ is a dark country for sure. Fortunately there are some enlightened people in all places also...

1:39 am  
Blogger Dr Jack Ross said...

Well, Maps, I'm no fan of Oswald Mosley. I don't believe that the riots you mention ended his organisation or his influence, though.

What ended them was the extraordinary powers granted the goverment under the DORA regulations, which enabled the authorities to crack down on him or anyone else who got out of line. Up to then he'd had virtually carte blanche, and the active cooperation of many highly-placed people. But unfortunately the beneficent influence of Uncle Joe and his buddies in the internationale doesn't look that much better to me from this distance in time (as the massacred anarchists in Spain could tell you).

I would continue to contend that mob riots are not the best way of winning an argument, and you should be careful of invoking such double-edged examples.

Edward, I respect your point of view, and accept that pseudo-science and pseudo-history is very hard to detect and combat. The implicit offer in the museum's letter to accept some instruction from informed people such as yourself on what they should be saying on their exhibits, though, seems to be a valuable olive branch which should not be ignored.

Better to keep the moral high ground on such issues, don't you think? People's belief systems are a touchy area to intrude into.

Anyway, that's my tuppence worth.

7:50 am  
Blogger Edward said...


Yes I fully agree with you that they have offered at least something on the way to change. And that this should not be ignored. I think it's fantastic. Furthermore I can appreciate yours and the other's views, as I think its important that things are continually checked or self-critiqued. I also agree with you that the moral high ground should be kept and that people's beliefs are a tricky area which one should be careful in.

But I also think a stance of eternal agnosticism on issues like this are neither useful or honest. There are real people in real time who are being affected in a negative way by this. In other words the cause and effect dynamic here can't be ignored. I also think just because one example was worse than the other (i.e. National Front vs Racist Museum workers) doesn't mean that nothing should be done about the latter. If we always took such a line of thinking where would we end up? Only confronting wars when they are worse than WWII? The point is it is bad, and, in my opinion their reply equates more to 'corporate responsibility' than to any sincere form of accountability where a shift in the way they think about these things is indicated. In short, they seem to be throwing scraps to appease the raving academics so as not to get into trouble.

Their letter seemed more like a series of pathetic excuses to me than a sincere apology. And, they should be apologising to the iwi firstly, not necessarily Maps or me or whoever. As indicated by their response where they will basically end up "thinking about it", they do not appear to show any real concern other than bad publicity.

How is such an attitude ever enough? It simply isn't enough for me. I don't think their self-preserving respone is good enough. And I don't think their attitude is good enough. If this is what we can expect (and be forced to forgive according to commenters on this and the other blog) by "innocent bumbling townsfolk" volunteers in this museum, then perhaps we would all be better off not having such museums at all! Afterall, what is its purpose if not to have at least some general sense of educating and honesty?

The other commentaters on this and the art, life, tv blog may be content with a half hearted "my bad, we'll have a 'whites-of-the-round-table' council meeting to 'consider' the complaints", and forget about, but it simply is not enough to me. As Maps points out, if 40 of their staff are happy to go along and see a well known racist fondling pillaged bones from urupa and claim they belong to fairy folk from Ireland, then something is seriously fucked up with that institution and the mentality of the people who miseducate within it.

12:28 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although this has been an interesting investigation of the "Dargy scandal", the black-and-white violent rhetoric is all a bit much. Maybe there is an element of just saying what needs to be said, marae-style, in some of the initial comments, but also a lack of perspective and proportion.

Are you all quite sure this compares with Hitler and appeasement?

Oh gee, I guess you're right. Let's all toddle down to Dargaville and stamp out this little nest of provincial fascism. I mean, basically it's like Germany or Italy in the 1930s starting up there, eh?

And yes, we must be prepared to "crack a few skulls" (was that the phrase Maps?) - after all, sometimes you basically have to smash the truth into some people's heads, eh. They just don't seem to get it, it's so annoying, even when you email them repeatedly about what's what.

Maybe some happen to, er, die when their skulls are "cracked" - hey, it's just one less incipient fascist or racist to deal with. It was their fault really anyway, they chose to work in the museum, that crucible of racism, f**king stooges.

Hmm, their family members might start a vendetta against us in retaliation - safer to wipe them all out while we're at it. Yeah, napalm the f**king redneck hellhole into rubble.

Welcome to the revolution.

7:14 pm  
Blogger Edward said...

No one is calling for violence or personal insults or any of that. That's just silly. It's not a revolution, and no one is going to get tarred and feathered, it's just something which needs to be said and actively pursued. I don't like mobs either, but apparently i'm in one anyway according to many of the comments - although this one seems to consist of only two or three people - scary.. If you don't like it, you don't have to bother trying, though it seems not many of the commenters would actually bother anyway when push comes to shove. You can instead just sit back and criticise those who are passionate and are trying right? I guess its always easier to criticise than to act. Nice one for you.

Anyway, each to their own. Nothing more I or Maps can say really. I just feel a bit disheartend by the lack of support for this other than "I agree, but i'm not going to actually do anything". There are a few here who seem to be able to get past the knee-jerk underdog reflex and see it in its wider context, and i'm thankful for that. But I'll just have to agree to disagree with the other side of the argument and spare you more of my ramblings. I will at least say that it's been interesting reading the articulate replies of the reasoned and thoughtful people on here, even if I do disagree with the majority of you on the finer points of this issue.


9:01 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Over at Cheryl Bernstein's I tried to explain my understanding of how to tackle racism and fascism, by using examples from the history of anti-fascism, many of them drawn from overseas, and some of them drawn from the '30s.

I was trying to clarify discussion by laying out the tradition of anti-fascism I identify with, and distinguishing it from other traditions.

It's extremely dishonest to claim that I was comparing contemporary New Zealand to '30s Europe, or comparing the small but nasty racist and fascist groups which exist in Northland to Hitler's or Mosley's gangs.

I think that those who build such strawmen are just looking for a way to deny institutional racism at Dargy museum without having to deal with the facts that Edward and I have put forward.

As for the attacks that destroyed the National Front in Wellington a few years ago, which involved the cracking of one Nazi thug's skull with a patu: I'm not going to condemn a community which decides to defend itself against folks that want to put its members in gas chambers. I'm pleased that Somali taxi drivers and Jewish cemeteries were spared from neo-Nazi attacks after the National Front's members were (quite literally) chased out of town.

10:15 pm  
Anonymous Keri h said...

Edward - I really appreciate expert academic opinion & statement & evidence - because, unlike anecdotal evidence I may offer - it has been judged and sieved & weighed by peers (trained experienced minds.)
This is the way of science - which is the best tool humans have yet developed (I'm stating this for some people who may still be viewing this thread.)

I wasted sveral minutes of my valuable eyesight on a 'Celtic NZ' site tonight, wrought by "Mitchell's Kilt Hire." Fuck o dear.
Or, phuque e Dia

10:47 pm  
Blogger Edward said...


Thank you for your comments, I really do appreciate your views and support. And i've found much of what you say is actually spot on rather than mere anecdotes, I have learnt from your contributions to Maps' blog.
And i'm still learning - I wish I could absorb the knowledge of those around me. I certainly hope I will always be as passionate about this stuff - I have felt somewhat let down by many of the comments on here, where it seems, as usual, archaeology is a discipline which is seen, even by 'relativistic' intellectuals, to be 'fair game' for anyone. Makes me think of pop psychology. And it makes me angry.

Anyway, try not to let the pseudo's get to you too much.

Always a pleasure.


10:50 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Err... of course, my little narrative was meant to be silly. But then I wasn't the one who mentioned Hitler, facist mobs and gunning them down, Mao, revolutions and tea parties, and the justification of "cracking skulls".

Basically if you're going to infer that the Dargaville museum staff are a thin end of the wedge of fascism, well one could also conclude some of your attitudes are the thin end of the wedge of mob violence (even if there's only 2 or 3 of you).

You're also being very simplistic and selective in your characterisations of non-violent "ultra liberals". What, were Gandhi or Te Whiti such pussies too?

As I said, there is clearly a need for Dargaville Museum to sort itself out. But if you keep banging on about at them, you're going to end up doing some harm. At one stage Maps said:

"the question really is whether the museum is some well-meaning but bumbling institution which made an honest mistake or whether it is institutionally racist."

What a simplistic analysis! Maybe its a bit of both, maybe its a more complicated story, and one that has to be given a bit of time to emerge.

11:00 am  
Blogger Edward said...


As I said, each to their own. I don't think we're going to see eye to eye on this, and I think your attempts to demonize Maps and myself as thugs are petty, exaggerated and not based in the context of what has been said.

Instead of criticism (which is fine so long as its constructive), would you like to lay out a framework as to how we should approach this in a useful way?
I ask genuinley as i'm interested and would appreciate constructive ideas - I don't know everything, in my opinion pressure is still needed to make any sort of meaningful change - but if you have a more useful idea i'm all ears.

So far, most of what i've seen has been people flappin' their gums in the breeze about how endearing pseudo-ideas are; how mean Maps has been to the poor little racist museum; how a relativistic approach where everything is fine and acceptable would be better; how self-righteous people who challenge the underdog are; or even how we're forming a 3 person violent mob (what a complete and utter load of garbage).

Forgive me for saying all of this rhetoric is not very useful. Its neither informative or practical. It just seems like waffle to me. Hense it seems Maps' accusation that the 'ultra liberals' really don't end up putting their money where their mouths are seems rather fitting. Unless, of course, you wouldn't mind outlining the correct way to go about this which has useful and immediate effects, and perhaps help us by contributing to this issue yourself in real time. Afterall, that's really all that Maps or I have been asking for all along. Either support or constructive suggestions.

Are you willing to meet us half way, or can we expect yet more strawmen coming our way? If you have nothing constructive to say, then I suggest you bite your tongue.

12:56 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


All I have been doing is applying your own dialectic to your rhetoric, in a satirical way, just to point out how the tone of your discussion might read to people.

My ultimate comment would be that it, if you want to effect change, it is helpful to try and win hearts as well as minds. And, in the case of certain Pakeha mythologies, that may take a long time, maybe several generations.

Polarising the debate may make that quite difficult. Maybe you think to speed up change, instead you may slow it down.

Pretty simple point. But you guys seem a bit defensive when its raised.

I will now bite my tongue.

2:01 pm  
Blogger Edward said...

No need to bite your tongue, I actually appreciate what you've just said. Thank you. I for one just think that the longer this stuff is out there, and the longer such attitudes lurk behind institutions such as the Dargy Museum, then the more time it has to do more damage. I worry that if not faced in an active manner, it won't actually get better there. I might be brash, and I might even be wrong in my approach, but I am passionately trying to do some good. If I come off as defensive, it is only because I get frustrated at rhetoric that has no action behind it.

Again, I really do appreciate your comment about change, I certainly hope that attempts to make sure it happens don't have a negative effect. But at the same time what is the correct way to approach this? If we don't push what do you suppose will actually happen up there? This has been going on for years, and it doesn't look like its getting better on its own. Surely there are cases when highlighting in stark contrast the warped nature of these mentalities is of benefit to raising awareness? Surely similar bouts can be found in animal rights, gender equality, domestic violence and many of the other worthy endeavours to raise consciousness about important issues? These movements can't always be about winning hearts as well as minds, despite that being the most desirable tact. I don't like confrontation, but I feel an obligation to try and effect change now for people now, rather than leaving it for my grandkids.
If i'm wrong i'm wrong. But at least I tried.

Thanks for the reply.


2:55 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Edward for your reply - I'm sorry if I riled you. I have no argument with what you guys are doing per se and support all the emails that have been written, but I was alarmed at some of the rhetoric going down on the blog comments.

I would suggest several possible directions to take if the Dargaville Museum does not in due course remedy the situation.

1. Contact Te Papa's National Services Te Paerangi. They may be able to guide DM in this matter.

2. Bring the matter to the attention of the local rag Dargaville & Districts News.

3. Raise the matter in national media.

From a cursory internet search, I can find little out about the museum. It seems not to be a council venture and does not appear on the NZ trusts and companies registers (under the name DM).

However I would think that if any NZ museum is going to have a Maori display they need to be consulting with iwi. (This would be an excellent piece of national legislation if it doesn't already exist). Even if the museum is privately-owned, iwi should expect to have some say.

If this case does prove intractable it may be best to first consult with representatives of the local iwi as to the best way to proceed further. There may be other issues going down locally and this may have some strategic side-effect.

Ultimately, they are going to be the ones having to live alongside other elements in the community, not any of us.

(I am presuming nobody living in Dargaville has actually commented on this blog, but could be wrong).

9:13 am  
Blogger Edward said...


Thank you very much for your informative and constructive reply. That's exactly what I was looking for. Very good points which I know Maps has also been considering. And no worries about riling me up - I know I can get worked up rather easily if I let myself (and when the mood suits i've no qualms about bulldozing my way into an argument). It is good of you to take the time to discuss the options, and I very much appreciate the effort.
You raise the point about Museums consulting the relevant iwi when using their cultural objects, even when privately owned. My understanding was that they do have to, and that this one appears simply to have not. Though, admitedly my knowledge of the ins and outs of legislation in this particular area is a bit limited. Either way, I agree with you that if not already, this should be made into legislation to prevent stuff-ups like this in the future.

Again, thanks for your input and thoughtfulness. I probably will continue to bulldoze my way towards the issue in some ways, but its always good to have someone with slightly differing views lay out their thinking in a useful and constructive way as you have done above, rather than waft in with whimsical rhetoric with no application.



10:37 am  
Anonymous KOTARE said...


If it is the hearts of those people who, through their lack of respect for the presence and roles of local Maori communities in the area regarding taonga Maori, if it is the hearts of those people who (most inappropriately)seek to usurp the right that Maori people have to be the guardians of both the ancestral relics and the stories that accompany these relics, if it is THEIR hearts whom we must wait to tame and heal with your softly-softly approach,

then I say (in all sincerity) fuck them. Restorative justice swings around the needs of the aggrieved, the ones who have been pushed off of their point of wellness. It may seem so small to you, but to be butted out of your traditional role as guardian of the treasures of your own ancestors, to see a Museum (!) usurp your own histories, and the truth of those histories, and then replace them with another set of stories that better suit someone elses agenda, to see this in modern day New Zealand, as a Maori, well this guts you right open. Unchecked, its like living in the 70s all over again.

In these situations the first thing you put right is the relationship with the disenfranchised, marginalized, and overlooked Tangata Whenua. We re-establish our relationship with them as custodial keepers of local lore and history because they are the living face of those who's fingers carved these taonga.

Healing the "racists" or the "racist policy" of the Dargaville Museum (yep I am sure they are all excellent people really) can come later. First things first though ay.

Jesse from Purakaunui.
@Keri ae cuz we have that same ancestress. Swap you a bucket of cockles for some of your whitebaits ay?

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