Gerry Te Kapa Coates
Kūpapa: The Bitter Legacy of Māori Alliances with the Crown by Ron Crosbie (Penguin Random House, 2015) 504 pp., $65
Ron Crosby is a barrister with a keen interest in Māori history, and a recent member of the Waitangi Tribunal. He also is the author of The Musket Wars (1999), which is about the conflict between Māori in the two decades before the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. These violent conflicts were spurred by the introduction of firearms as a new weapon, allowing old grievances between iwi to be addressed at a level not seen before, and leaving their own ‘bitter legacy’, the precursor of the Māori alliances with the Crown resulting from the Land Wars from 1845 to 1870. These alliances with the Crown were as flexible and pragmatic as those between iwi or hapū.
In his Prologue to Kūpapa, Crosby says that when the noun ‘kūpapa’ first came into common Māori and English usage during the wars of the 1860s, it was used in reference to Māori who were either neutral, ‘friendly’ or ‘loyal’ to the Crown. Its even earlier limited written recorded usage had simply meant ‘neutrality’. By 1999, however, the connotation of ‘neutrality’ or ‘friendliness’ had turned almost 180 degrees to mean ‘traitor’. In practice, that latter usage has now become commonplace among some Māori, ‘as a derogatory term directed at other Māori perceived as being too close to the Crown position in any modern dispute’. This then, ‘gives rise to the question of just how such a shift could happen so rapidly’. Crosby says the starting point is ‘to understand who were the “neutral”, “friendly” or “loyal” iwi and hapū to whom the term was originally applied and what were their roles in the various wars’. Hence this large book dealing with a complex number of events, which Crosbie analyses in an accessible and intelligent way.
He says the aim of his book is ‘to record in detail the roles and actions of the iwi who aligned themselves with the Crown in particular circumstances’. The book argues that these tribal groups are best described as ‘allied’ or ‘aligned’ rather than as kūpapa, or, using the Ngāti Porou term, he iwi ngā piri pono (adhering to the truth: ‘loyal iwi’). He argues that any sense of alliance arose more from protecting their tino rangatiratanga rather than any sense of ‘sovereign equality’ with the Crown – a case of enlightened self-interest, perhaps. Tribes often accepted general direction and supplies from the Crown but did not accept that they were bound to obey specific directions or on-field commands, to the frustration of British and colonial senior officers.
‘What is lacking … is detailed analysis of why many Māori throughout the whole course of the New Zealand wars aligned with the Crown or settler Government in fighting against other Māori,’ Crosby asserts, and states that in recent times, ‘there is no one detailed narrative’ on this topic, hence his book (funded by a grant from the Ministry of Culture and Heritage in 2013).
He points out that: ‘It is often not appreciated that some of the foremost Māori leaders in later fighting against the Crown actually started out fighting on the Crown side.’ For example, the first major adversary of the Crown at the start of the Taranaki Wars in 1860, Wiremu Kingi Te Rangitake, was someone who had supported the Crown in the 1845–46 conflict in Horowhenua/Upper Hutt between the Crown and Te Rangihaeata. Te Kooti, the last Māori leader to play a significant role in the wars, also fought on the Crown side in 1865. Even in the Crown’s major Waikato campaign in 1863, many hapū of the Lower Waikato were loyal to the Crown. In 1847 Te Wherowhero voluntarily accompanied Governor Grey to Whanganui to persuade Te Ati Haunui a Pāpārangi to support the Crown against the upper Whanganui hapū. He reportedly vowed then that ‘if necessary he would die for the Government’. A decade later, Te Wherowhero was to become the symbol of allied Māori resistance to the Crown as the first Māori King.
The reasons for alliances with the Crown (or settler government) varied considerably over time but largely fell into ‘different, ill-defined phases’ that included:
- The initial post-Treaty struggle by Māori to exercise tino rangatiratanga in the face of the exercise of Crown sovereignty supported by strong military presence.
- Conflict between different religious beliefs among Māori and the linkage between Church and Crown in the minds of allied Māori. In particular, the ‘wildfire embracing of the Paimārire faith in the central North Island’.
- The desire to ensure that the benefits of European civilisation and trade for Māori were protected, and later that Māori society and culture and retention of land were maintained in the face of Crown and settler pressure.
- Reaction against Te Kooti’s ruthlessness towards other Māori and the threat this posed to their rangatiratanga.
There were also traditional enmities and grievances over land lost by conquest in past inter-tribal wars, and a desire to avoid possible confiscation of land by the Crown. Crosbie states: ‘It has been of no benefit to Māori in this new process [of Treaty claims] to trumpet an iwi’s past alliance with the Crown.’ Indeed, ‘The only reward has come from identifying the more egregious acts of the Crown in breach of the Treaty’, of which there was no shortage, even against those iwi who had aligned themselves with the Crown. The Crown has been highlighted as the perpetrator of any breach, while still remaining judge and jury on any redress. The Crown’s apology has always been seen as very important in Treaty settlements.
In books before 1986, Māori fighting alongside British were commonly described in colonial terminology as ‘loyal natives’, ‘friendlies’, ‘auxiliaries’, ‘Queenites’ or ‘loyalists’. The significance to Māori of the Treaty promises of protection were given little weight. Crosby says, ‘later governors and the settler government found it easier to ignore the Treaty’, and this increasingly became an ‘ingrained attitude’. The contribution of Māori aligned with the Crown was generally downplayed, with few exceptions until the writings of more modern historians such as Sir Keith Sinclair, James Belich and Michael King began emerging in the 1950s and after. It was Belich who first observed that ‘the conflict [at Moutoa Island in 1864] was becoming rather like a civil war’, saying also that ‘the first loyalty of virtually all kūpapa was to the tribe.’
Crosby’s view of the motivations of Māori who aligned with the Crown are encapsulated in the recent major book Tangata Whenua: An illustrated history by Atholl Anderson, Judith Binney and Aroha Harris: ‘Their [kūpapa] decisions and actions would always be their own based on intricate calculations on the balance of power between tribes, and on the best means to protect land and resources.’ In some ways, this is reminiscent of the intense jockeying for position of allocation of Māori fishing quota over the decade following the settlements in 1989 and 1992.
Only five years after the Treaty was signed, the British sent over 200 soldiers accompanied by about 100 Māori warriors in waka in a failed attempt at a surprise attack of Te Kapotai’s pā in the Bay of Islands. This was a response to the continuing provocation by Hone Heke. It was followed by strained relations between the various rangatira, much skirmishing, and the building of fortified pā in the area. There is a huge amount of detail about this, which sets the tone and the standard for the rest of the book. Around this time Colonel Despard, in charge of major British military reinforcements of Koroareka, spurned the offer of support from Waka Nene – who was well disposed towards the British – saying, ‘When I want the help of savages I shall ask for it’, a response the interpreter tactfully didn’t translate into Māori. Despite his attitude, Māori warriors, who had carried ‘the whole of the active fighting on the Crown side’ until then, continued to provide strategic support. Gradually Despard became more trusting of his Māori allies. However, negotiations for making peace with Heke – and his ally Kawhiti – were derailed by a British condition requiring important land to ‘remain unoccupied’ – or in practice confiscated by the Crown. The Crown was determined to assert its sovereignty through the power of the British army, which Hone and Kawhiti were equally determined not to accept.
The book looks at conflict and tension in many other areas, as well, such as Heretaunga (Hutt Valley) – where settlers felt exposed to attack by Māori in 1846 – and requests from Whanganui settlers for military protection in 1847.
After 1847, the increasing pressure on Māori to sell land to the Crown began to have a dramatic effect, culminating in the outbreak of war at Waitara in 1860. The growing concern among Māori of continuing land loss was exemplified by the visit to Te Wai Pounamu for some months of two young highly ranked Ngāti Toa men who had converted to Christianity – Matene Te Whiwhi, the son of Te Rangihaeata’s sister, and Tamihana Te Rauparaha, the son of Te Rauparaha. They were aware of the considerable risks to themselves of going south to cement peaceful relations with Ngāi Tahu, but their visit, intended to advocate the concept of unity between tribes, won respect and increased their mana.
It was the beginning of the concept – first advocated by Tamahana after returning from a visit to London in 1853 – of Kīngitanga: the creation of a Māori king as a way to stop the continuing purchase of Māori land and to reinforce the guarantee of chiefly rangatiratanga in the Treaty. By May 1854 Matene had sufficient support to call a hui in South Taranaki, and while the question of whether or who might be the Māori king was not answered, it was resolved that ‘all sales of Māori land should be resisted in future’. Another hui followed at Pukawa on Lake Taupō, in Ngāti Tūwharetoa’s rohe, where names such as Te Heuheu were mooted as the first king (he declined). However, Te Wherowhero agreed, and became the first Māori king, adopting the name Potatau in 1858. The emergence of this new political movement became another major factor in maintaining the delicate balance of Māori and Crown/settler relations.
Northern Taranaki had been subject to Tainui raids by large war parties during the musket wars in 1833 and 1834, causing Te Atiawa to leave and join their relatives in the Wellington region, leaving the area largely unoccupied – apart from a few on the Waitara river maintaining ahi kaa rights – when the first Europeans arrived as settlers in 1839–40. Governor Grey’s Land Purchase Commissioner Donald McLean had purchased more than 12,000 acres southwest of New Plymouth from local tribes in 1847, but had his eyes on land at Waitara for settlers. Governor Fitzroy had already signed a Deed of Purchase with Te Wherowhero from Tainui, purporting to be all of Waikato’s land interests. Grey then opted for a heavy-handed approach at a hui in 1847, stating that returning Te Atiawa ‘had no customary rights that he would recognise’ – and asking their rangatira only to identify ‘reserve’ areas for their own homes and cultivations. Matters became complicated when Wiremu Kingi arrived back in September 1848 with 580 Te Atiawa supporters to reoccupy their ancestral lands in the Waitara valley.
In March 1860 Wiremu Kingi rejected an invitation from the new governor, Gore Browne, to meet, and started building a fighting pā in plain view of the British redoubt, a challenge resulting in artillery fire on the pā and the realisation by Māori that Governor Browne was prepared to resort to arms to enforce the purchase. Within a few weeks, open warfare erupted. Browne ignored the friendly advice sent in a letter by Sir William Denison, the governor of New South Wales, that the use of war ‘is a very costly mode of dealing with such a matter, to say nothing of its immorality and injustice’.
The Kohimarama conference in Auckland during July 1860 was a direct result of the Waitara conflict. The depth and breadth of alliances with the Crown and their changing nature was evidenced by who participated, although these were at the selective invitation of the Crown. Even though travel was provided the meeting would have taken a significant toll in personal time as it lasted for a month in the middle of an influenza epidemic. Crosby says, ‘This represented probably the highest point of formal Crown–Māori relations since the signing of the Treaty.’ The Kohimarama conference resolutions, passed after a month of ‘robust discussion’, expressed support for the Crown, though this was not necessarily unanimous.
The Land Wars then dragged on for another ten years. New religions and ‘cults’, such as Paimārire (1865), appeared, and new leaders emerged including Te Kooti Arikirangi after his escape from the Chatham Islands in July 1868. Te Kooti, along with 320 other East Coast Māori, had been exiled there without trial in 1865. Meanwhile, Donald McLean, Grey’s erstwhile Land Purchase Commissioner, came to hold the two most important portfolios in the new government in late June 1869: Defence and Native Affairs. By this time the government had accepted the territorial boundary of the King Country. A meeting between the Māori king and Te Kooti ended in tatters. By March 1870 Te Arawa’s ‘flying columns’ were used to cut off Te Kooti’s attempt to enter the King country, although the ‘last shot’ had already been fired at him in 1869 south of Lake Waikaremoana.
Crosby’s conclusions – which are surprisingly brief – are that ‘The rangatira and other Māori who aligned with the Crown or settler Government … were being “loyal” to what was in the best interests of their own rangatira, hapū or iwi. Loyalty to ones’s own … could never create “treachery” or “disloyalty” to another iwi or hapū with different interests.’ Whether Māori who allied themselves with the Crown benefited in any major way is not made clear. Maybe the pittance of Treaty settlements should have been reward enough. Old enmities faded over time, perhaps exemplified by the visionary visit in the name of unity of the two young Ngāti Toa men to Ngāi Tahu in 1853.
GERRY TE KAPA COATES (Ngāi Tahu, Waihao), born in Oamaru, is the author of a collection of poems and short stories called The View From Up There, published in 2011, as well as various non-fiction works. He is a consultant, currently working on hearings as a commissioner for Māori, as well as other advisory work.