Friday, December 05, 2014

Te Puoho's weird war

[Over at Chris Trotter's blog, the debate that I started last week about the New Zealand Wars and the meaning of the Treaty of the Waitangi sputters on. Here's a comment I made about one of the most fascinating characters in our nineteenth century history.]
Charles claims that the Treaty of Waitangi was designed to subject Maori as well as Pakeha to the laws of Britain. He insists that the arrival of beneficent British law ended warfare between Maori in the South Island. But Te Wai Pounamu's last armed inter-iwi conflict - a bizarre and pathetic but very instructive affair - occurred in 1836 and '37, when the Treaty was not even a twinkle in Hobson's eye. 
The south's last armed conflict was provoked by Te Puoho, a rangatira from the Ngati Tama iwi, whose members had been driven from their traditional north Taranaki rohe to Port Nicholson by the Musket Wars. Te Puoho decided that the iwi should make a new and permanent home in the South Island. In a series of meetings with dubious relatives, he announced plans to lead an army the length of the island, storm the trading and whaling stations that Kai Tahu had established on the Fouveaux Strait, and put the members of that iwi to work as slaves. 
When more cautious members of Ngati Tama noted the huge size of Kai Tahu's territory, Te Puoho claimed that, by hitting the iwi's southern strongholds unexpectedly, he would 'skin the whole eel' in one stroke, and make resistance further north impractical. Kai Tahu would surrender, and Ngati Tama would be transformed from a small and landless iwi to the masters of most of Aotearoa. 
Te Puoho won less than a hundred men to his cause. He exhausted his little army by marching it down the South Island's West Coast and across the Southern Alps. Eventually Te Puoho and his warriors came across a small and almost empty Kai Tahu kainga: they stormed its pig pen, and pulled up and devoured some half-ripe kumara. While they were sleeping off their exhaustion in a hut near the conquered pigsty, Te Puoho and his comrades were ambushed and despatched by a much larger Kai Tahu war party.
The story of the 'war' of 1836 and '37, which the young Atholl Anderson told in his 1986 book Te Puoho's Last Raid,  reminds us of the changes that were occurring in New Zealand during the decade before the treaty of Waitangi was signed. 
Te Puoho was both an anachronism and an innovator. His faith in the musket made him a throwback to raiders of the 1820s, like the Nga Puhi chief Hongi Hika, who returned from visits to London and Sydney with an arsenal of guns that he quickly tested in the territories of his iwi's traditional enemies. 
By the 1830s other iwi had acquired guns, and what Chris Trotter calls 'a balance of terror' was achieved, as chiefs realised that new armed expeditions would likely be costly and futile. Kai Tahu were trading and interbreeding with the whalers and sealers of the Fouveaux Strait, and had accumulated muskets, money, and mana. It is not surprising that most of Te Puoho's relatives were reluctant to join his adventure. 
The fate of Te Puoho's invasion shows us how anachronistic and ineffectual inter-iwi warfare had become in New Zealand's main islands by the middle of the 1830s. 
In one way, though, Te Puoho was an innovator. During the halcyon days of the Musket Wars Hongi Hika had never attempted to hold onto the lands he attacked. Hongi and his warriors would float over the horizon on their waka, storm, loot, and burn a pa, and leave with prisoners, most of whom were considered floating kai rather than slave labourers. 
By contrast, Te Puoho wanted to conquer and administer the whole of Te Wai Pounamu. He would put Kai Tahu to work, grow food to barter or sell to Pakeha, and become rich. 
Although Te Puoho failed, his plan for Te Wai Pounamu was to some extent realised in the distant Chatham Islands, whose indigenous people lacked not only guns and any sort of military tradition. Some of Te Puoho's relatives joined with their fellow North Taranaki iwi Ngati Mutunga and invaded the Chathams in 1835. They killed hundreds of Moriori, and made the rest work as slaves on farms that supplied Pakeha towns like Port Nicholson, Sydney and even San Francisco with potatoes. 
The society that Ngati Tama and Ngati Mutunga established on the islands they called Wharekauri was unprecedented in New Zealand history. With its mixture of slavery and cash cropping, it resembled, on a small scale, Confederate America or Europe's slave colonies in the Caribbean. 
Only the confluence of a number of factors - the isolation and pacifism of the Moriori, the demand for food from Pakeha towns, the use of guns, which made large-scale coercion possible in a way that the traditional armoury of Maori war didn't - made Wharekauri possible. (Unfortunately, and for obvious reasons, conservative Pakeha have in recent decades tried to make Wharekauri into a symbol of pre-Treaty Maori society in general.)
Because the British Crown did not consider the Treaty a charter to interfere in Maori affairs, and had no interest in bringing British law to Maori society, the slave colony on the Chathams persisted into the 1860s. 
The story of Te Puoho shows why the Musket Wars were petering out in the 1830s, before the treaty of Waitangi was signed. And the story of the society Te Puoho's relatives established on the Chathams suggests that, even after the signing of the Treaty, Britain had no desire to impose its legal code on Maori chiefs, as long as those chiefs did not interfere with Pakeha colonists and British businesses. 

[Posted by Scott Hamilton]

13 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&d=OW18990914.2.47

2:59 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Colonialism, in a deep sense, is rarely part of a 'plan'. The Europeans competed for Africa and South Africa, the Indies etc. But it all developed more as a 'process' of history. Even in India. But then the advantages of colonial rule were realised.

The Treaty of Waitangi was not part of some feverish drive to colonise NZ and I don't even think the British (in general) were very interested in the War with Maori. That was basically won in the end by the numbers of colonists, who in fact used (willing) Maori (many of whom opposed certain other 'rebel' tribes. So eventually the local Pakeha were trained and lead by Maori who new how to get around the bush, how to fight etc It was the settlers with the help of some of the Maori (those tribes feuding with others, or Maori simply not interested in fighting the settlers for various reasons) who tipped the balance.

General Cameron resigned and refused to prosecute the war south of Taranaki (according to Mathews) but Grey (they exchanged angry letters) didn't see that the attack on Maori in that area was unjust as Cameron (it seems) had come to see it as...

Also, there does seem to be a difference, as indeed, the local tribe here - at Mokoia in Tamaki - were attacked by Hongi Hika (in both the book about the 'Pakeha Maori' and in 'Maungarei' written by a teacher who was at my school, Mrs Holloway.

These ended, it seems, well before the NZ Wars, and they began after the Treaty. I wonder if the Treaty seemed to some Maori as a very powerful, symbolic event, that Europeans (being from a place of centuries of cynical treaties endlessly broken) considered far less significant (or at least the Europeans had lost that sense of 'the immediacy of history' perhaps, that Maori saw, so they had utu, which is not just revenge, it is a kind of overall balancing process, whereas there was no 'balancing' by say, Churchill's great grandfather X who prosecuted the terrible near-fascist invasions and plundering of the Netherlands, which even conservatives, and certainly Swift attacked: perhaps - well it is certain - that while the Treaty was sincere enough - Europeans, in varying degrees, saw it with more or less jaundiced eyes?

The state as we know it now, took much longer to evolve. We became a nation, whatever that is.

History is complex. I admire such as Trotter and others who can analyse history. I am only in more recent years starting to learn more about history. It is a vast subject. History is in fact what we are all living through right now, so it is always important. It is never 'outdated' it is what is always happening.

I encouraged my son to read 'The History of the English Working Class' and he is finding it fascinating. I had started it when I was studying 18th C Lit. but only got part way through. It was fascinating though.

But what was happening in that book are reflected in what happened in NZ and Australia (where they sent even people who started book clubs, wanted wider voting, or stole a loaf of bread) to the terrible prisons. It was a precursor to Guantanamo and the Soviet and Nazi death camps.

10:12 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

By X I meant John Churchill who became 'The Earl of Marlborough' Perhaps I did him an injustice. I think Swift's opposition was, like quite a number of people in those times, to standing armies. Reading the Wiki on Marlborough reveals him as in the midst of a complex period of History including 'The Glorious Revolution' and 'The War of Spanish Succession'...I wandered a long way from our Treaty, but the point is the difference of cultures, and the many centuries of such wars. Were they qualitatively different from the Maori inter-tribal wars? Quantitatively they were.

10:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1 more down
https://nz.news.yahoo.com/a/-/world/25702966/worlds-fattest-man-dies-age-44/

7:06 pm  
Anonymous G O'Leary: straightshooter said...

'Colonialism, in a deep sense, is rarely part of a 'plan'.'

What about the Rhodes plan?

7:07 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

A link to the Rhodes plan:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_to_Cairo_Railway

I hadn't known about it. But I do know about Kitchener and his concentration camps, and the big death rate there among the Afrikaners. (This stuff started in the US Civil War, was somewhat copied by the Spanish in Cuba, then the US used it (partly) as an excuse to start a war with Spain. Meanwhile they also caused much grief in the Philipines. (Everett in 'The New Moderns')

But I think that my meaning was that the processes that lead to these things are never as clear cut. A lot of bumbling around by the many European powers before they got going in earnest. Certainly the drive to get good trade from the East Indies assisted the British (but the Portuguese, Spanish, French, Belgiums and many others were involved. Undoubtedly also the Russians.

But it didn't all a start with some plan do decimate or anything. It was a resultant of capitalism's rise and increasing trade. The British also had a slave trade (I just read through a little booklet on 'Black People in Britain ca 1650 to 1850)

I think probably by the time of the Rhodes plan there were definite plans and plots. Many failed of course. Most failed in the long run, but did a lot of damage. Like many of the CIA and US military adventures will fail in Iraq etc

Of course while not primarily, there was an "Imperialist element" to the colonisation of NZ. But it was complex which I think what Maps is getting at here, somewhat.

12:32 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
1 more down
https://nz.news.yahoo.com/a/-/world/25702966/worlds-fattest-man-dies-age-44/

You can see this as comical. And indeed in some ways it is. But it is also a tragedy. I feel for that man.

12:34 am  
Blogger Richard said...

The issue of obesity throughout the world (in many cases it is triggered by an emotional event, such as the death of a parent [I know one friend who is very obese and that is the cause] and this issue of ill health and obesity, as well as suicide is increasing throughout the world. It is insidious and tragic.

12:37 am  
Anonymous G O'Leary: straight shooter said...

Picture the Pope praying in a mosque alongside top Muslim leaders. That’s what happened in Turkey last weekend.

Pope Francis was at the Blue Mosque in Instabul on Saturday as part of his three-day visit to the predominantly Muslim country. He also celebrated Mass at the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in the city.

The visit to the mosque is significant as the Pope tries to promote peace and unity between Muslims and Christians. He’s the second Pope to worship at the Blue Mosque. The first was his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who was there in 2006 for a similar purpose.

The world has made remarkable progress in bringing Muslims and Christians together, partly through efforts by world leaders such as Pope Francis. However, there’s still a fence between Christians and Muslims today.

A lot of believers today minimise their contact and association with people of the other faith. This manifests in everyday life, like the Christian who immediately changes the channel when a Muslim preacher shows on the TV, or a Muslim who will not date a Christian. It’s like the world is still far away from the point where people can cross the fence freely without bias or condemnation.

So the Pope’s worship at the mosque is considered nice from a diplomatic perspective. But is this the cool, progressive thing for the rest of us ordinary Christians and Muslims to do? Is this the way to go? To what extent should we be willing to cross the fence and bond with people of the other faith?

Taofeek says, “I read about the Pope’s visit in the news. I think it’s timely because of all the terrorist stuff happening right now – the Isis, the Al Qaeda and all that. He’s trying to connect with the Muslim world. It’s a good one from that angle. But personally I think they shouldn’t have allowed a person who doesn’t believe in our faith to worship in the mosque. I think it’s not right. The Pope is not Muslim and obviously doesn’t believe in Islam. He shouldn’t be let to pray in the mosque with Muslims.”

The feeling is mutual.

3:08 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

some say things have gone too far in the other direction

1:34 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Religious tolerance is important. I don't subscribe to any particular religion but I know the value of religious-philosophic thought. And the need to realise that all people on the earth are oppressed by the same big capitalists. So we have a common cause.

6:24 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

Hi Richard, I thought this was fascinating:
http://climber.co.nz/87/news/te-puoho
Te Puoho has taken possession, in death, of a fragments of the South Island landscape, but his killers tower over him!

8:45 am  
Blogger AngonaMM said...

The Pope is an interesting fella. But I'm not sure he is infallible.

9:52 am  

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