Mykeljon picks another loser
A year has passed since Mykeljon Winckel inserted an article called 'An Unpalatable Truth' into the Franklin E Local, the free magazine he publishes from the south Auckland rural service town of Pukekohe.
With its claim that a coalition of historians, museum curators and Maori activists conspires to suppress the fact that Celtic people landed on New Zealand shores thousands of years ago and founded a great civilisation, 'An Unpalatable Truth' certainly stood in contrast to the Franklin E Local's usual fare of advertisements for fertilisers, reviews of new tractors, and reports on pig hunts. And Mykeljon seemed to believe that 'An Unpalatable Truth' represented a scoop of historic proportions, which would propel him into the journalistic limelight: at the end of his rambling article, he suggested that his findings would lead to major changes in contemporary New Zealand society, as the truth about the past undermined present political arrangements based upon biculturalism and the Treaty of Waitangi.
If 'An Unpalatable Truth' has not caused a sensation of Watergate-like proportions, it is perhaps because Mykeljon's 'Deep Throat' was Martin Doutre, a self-proclaimed 'astro-archaeologist' who has for more than a decade been furrowing the brows of Kiwis with his strange claims about both ancient history and contemporary events. After I published a critique of 'An Unpalatable Truth' in the Scoop Review of Books Doutre emerged in the comments boxes to acknowledge his part in producing the article, and to make a series of increasingly odd comments about Maori, Jews, the Holocaust, 9/11, and leprechauns.
Under interrogation from philosopher Matthew Dentith, archaeologist Edward Ashby, and the distinguished writer and scholar Keri Hulme, Doutre claimed that there was no evidence of Polynesians ever making long sea voyages, announced that the ancient Egyptians were a Celtic people, saluted David Irving as the 'leading expert' in the field of World War Two history, proclaimed the Holocaust a Jewish myth, denied that Osama bin Laden was involved in the 9/11 attacks, and made a stream of other statements that called his sanity as well as his scholarship into question. It is not only at the Scoop Review of Books that Doutre has faced ridicule. In a separate controversy earlier this year in the New Zealand Herald, Doutre's claims to have discovered Celtic standing stones north of Auckland were dismissed as inane by a series of scholars, including the historian Paul Moon, who characterised Doutre as part of the 'lunatic fringe' of historical research. Moon's condemnation was particularly significant, because the Franklin E Local had cited him as a supporter of Doutre's views.
A year after Doutre's implosion, Mykeljon Winckel has been canny enough to find a different 'expert' to help with his new attack on the 'conspiracy' to suppress the true history of New Zealand's ancient white people. Unfortunately, though, his new article - which is called, with suitable pomposity, 'NZ History Fights for its Life: our country's secret shame' - is based on the fantasies of Noel Hilliam, a man with no more credibility than Martin Doutre.
A farmer from Dargaville with no training in history or archaeology and a tendency towards New Age mysticism and far right politics, Hilliam has long been treated with suspicion by both serious researchers into New Zealand prehistory and Te Uri o Hau, the tangata whenua of the northern Kaipara. Like Martin Doutre, with whom he has collaborated on a number of political and pseudo-historical projects, Hilliam believes that an advanced, spiritually enlightened civilisation of white people settled in New Zealand thousands of years ago and flourished, before a few 'primitive' Polynesians conquered them, took their women as sex slaves, and stole their carvings and meeting houses.
Hilliam's fantasies encounter the same problems as those of Doutre - the absence of any evidence of large-scale forest clearance in New Zealand more than a thousand years ago, the absence of any sort of human remains under the tephra left by the Taupo eruptions, the absence of evidence that Celts had ocean-going ships thousands of years ago, the absence of a prehistoric DNA link between Maori and Europeans - but these problems can be explained, by those with a paranoid cast of mind, by the machinations of the same sort international conspiracy that invented the Holocaust and staged 9/11.
Mykeljon's new article presents Hilliam as a 'warrior' for truth who is enduring 'abuse and ridicule' as he labours to uncover the story of New Zealand's ancient white race. In truth, though, Hilliam does a very good of ridiculing himself through his actions and pronouncements. Last year, for instance, he made a fool of himself by telling the media that he had located a German U boat off the coast of Northland. According to Hilliam, the craft had arrived in New Zealand secretly in 1944 and dropped off 'thirteen high-ranking Nazis', as well as a pile of 'loot', before being scuttled. Strangely enough, Hilliam was not able to keep his promise to reveal the location of the ghostly submarine to the media.
Hilliam has also attracted ridicule through his misuse of a prehistoric pou found on the Pouto peninsula south of Dargaville. Although even a cursory view of the pou reveals that it is distinctively Polynesian, Hilliam decided that it belonged to the 'Universal Peace Nation of Waitaha', an ancient species which lived on a distant planet before coming to earth, settling in Egypt for thousands of years, and eventually migrating to New Zealand via South America. The Waitaha 'nation' is in fact a South Island family called the Rukas which makes a few dollars taking flaky Californians on New Age tours of 'sacred sites' in New Zealand. In 1996 Hilliam held a bizarre ceremony with Patrick Ruka, a Waitaha 'elder', to 'welcome' the Pouto pou into Dargaville, a private institution he once had some influence over. The Dragaville museum has now distanced itself from Hilliam, and removed his 'Waitaha' pou from display.
Some idea of Hilliam's research methods is given by an article by his fellow pseudo-historian Gary Cook in the latest issue of Rainbow News, the New Age magazine that keeps Kiwis informed about the latest developments in venerable pseudo-sciences like numerology and astrology. Cook's article explains how he and his mate Noel wander the beaches and farms of the Kaipara, tuning in to 'spiritual' energies and making 'intuitive' discoveries of ancient wrecked ships and Celtic open-air temples. Of course, these 'discoveries' invariably disappear mysteriously before they can be shared with other, less spiritually enlightened researchers. Cook's ramblings are illustrated with a photo of Noel Hilliam standing on a Kaipara beach holding a piece wood up to this nose. Apparently this 'nose test' is his way of identifying the origin of wooden objects.
If Hilliam's submarine-hunting and New Age mysticism have earned him ridicule, his desecration of ancient burial sites in the Kaipara region has earned him the contempt of the Maori people who have ties to those sites. Hilliam is currently being investigated by the Historic Places Trust, which has received complaints that he has violated the New Zealand Historic Places Act of 1993 by entering burial caves and removing skeletons without permission. Hilliam's own boasts to the media suggest that he may be liable for prosecution under the terms of the Act.
University of Auckland Law Professor David V Williams is a man who is particularly familiar with the antics of Noel Hilliam. Williams, who is an expert on New Zealand legal history, has had a long relationship with the iwi which has been the target of Hilliam's vandalism. After reading the recent posts about Hilliam's activities on this blog, Williams sent us this e mail:
Greetings. When I was advising Te Uri o Hau during their Waitangi Tribunal hearings and Treaty Settlement negotiations in the 1990s tribal elders expressed a considerable degree of concern about the activities of Noel Hilliam and the people then running the Dargaville Museum. The Tribunal hearings themselves included a good deal of evidence about the pillage of sacred sites by an Austrian taxidermist and grave-robber, Andreas Reischek, in the 19th century. It always seemed to me that Hilliam was a modern-day Reischek. I am hugely appreciative of the fact that there are signs your intervention will at last bring an end to this disgraceful saga. Kia kaha, kia manawanui.
Prof David V Williams, University of Auckland.
Along with Edward Ashby, who has also been heavily involved in the recent attempts to expose Hilliam and end his interference with burial sites and with Dargaville museum, I appreciate the words of support from Williams, as well as the words of support I have received from Te Uri o Hau themselves.
Somehow I doubt whether Franklin E Local's new 'scoop' will make Mykeljon Winckel's name as a crusading investigative journalist. Mykeljon's attempt to turn the grave-robbing New Age fantasist Noel Hilliam into a hero is just as quixotic as his attempt to use Martin Doutre's bigoted ravings to overturn the findings of thousands of serious, ethical researchers into New Zealand's past. Until Mykeljon learns the difference between research and fantasy he should focus on selling advertising space to fertiliser retailers and writing reports on pig hunts.