Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hybridity and the Maori Response to Colonialism

Anxious to take control of their own destiny, Maori leaders opened the first Maori Parliament at Waipatu June 1892.  It was the nineteenth century culmination of resistance, accommodation, and assimilation with British colonial powers in New Zealand.  After two years in Waipatu, the annual meetings of the Maori Parliament rotated among Maori villages, most of which were located near European settlements[i].  Unlike the governing council of the King movement, which based its claim to authority on the Maori’s traditional autonomy, the new parliament based its authority on the Waitangi Treaty and the Constitution Act.  Both documents defined the relative positions of Maoris and Europeans, providing a legal framework for the Parliament’s activities.[ii]

To minimize the inevitable conflict with the Crown, the Maori Parliament attempted to convince the colonial administration to grant it the power to govern Maori internal affairs. The first effort, drafted in 1893 and presented to Native Minister A.J. Cadman, formally asked to establish a council with the power to govern the Maori.  The council, called the Federated Maori Assembly of New Zealand, was effectively identical to the Maori Parliament.  It contained two houses, with the upper composed of hereditary Maori chiefs, and the lower elected by the voters of the various tribes.  In this form, the Parliament would have the power to create local governments and be theoretically equal to the New Zealand Parliament, answering only to the Governor and the Crown.[iii]

Predictably, the only response the Maori received was an acknowledgment of their petition.  The New Zealand Parliament neither passed, nor debated their bill.  Lacking any response, the Maori Parliament tried again in 1894 with the Native Rights Bill, which simply asked for constitutional guarantees for Maori and a future Maori Parliament, with details of structure and authority at the discretion of the New Zealand Parliament.  The primary goal of the Native Rights Bill was to place Maori and Pakeha as social, political, and civil equals responsible only to the Queen.  This Bill was introduced for debate by Hone Heke, one of the New Zealand Parliament’s four Maori members, in 1894.  During the debate, European members slowly trickled out of the Parliament chambers, and when the number of members remaining dropped below the number required for a quorum, debate ended.  New Zealand’s Parliament finally gave the Maori an answer in 1896 – rejecting the Native Rights Bill.[iv]  The defeat forced Maori leaders to look for other options.

In addition to its obvious historical importance, this episode in the long Maori struggle for autonomy clearly illustrates Homi Bhabha’s theory of hybridity in colonial and imperial settings.  Bhabha defined hybridity as the process in which colonial authorities attempt to alter the culture and political organizations of the colonized to fit within its own framework.  The colonizer’s attempt to redirect its new subjects’ culture fails. However, it produces something new that the colonizer neither fully understands or controls.  Indeed, the colonial power may not even understand that the objects of its domination are using its own tools against it.[v]  As a result, Bhabha argues that the clash between colonizer and colonized creates a new identity for the subject peoples in colonial settings, creating challenges and opportunities for both sides of the colonial equation.  Ultimately the conflict creates new identities and destroys the “essentialist” aspects of the previous identities of both colonizer and colonized.

Perhaps more than any other culture, the Maori response to European contact and colonization illustrates a conscious effort to adapt new technology, institutions, and religions to manage a changing world.  While muskets radically altered warfare among the Maori, other technologies introduced radical economic, political and religious changes which stand as the most important results of contact with Europeans.  That these changes occurred at all show the Maori’s remarkable willingness to adapt in the face of challenges, but also their determination to remain Maori, not merely become Europeans.  These religious and political changes are evident in Maori political efforts spanning from the King Movement to the Young Maori Party of the early twentieth century and the Maori response to Christianity and Judaism.  These changes exemplify Homi Bhabha’s theory of hybridity in colonial situations

The earliest example of Maori response to Europeans was in the adoption of the label “Maori” to distinguish “normal” brown-skinned islanders from the pale-skinned “Pakeha” who arrived in New Zealand starting in the seventeenth century.[vi]  Adoption of these biracial labels created the first pan-tribal Maori identity in reaction to the arrival of the Pakeha “Other”.  Maori identity as we understand it today, is therefore a constructed hybrid identity.  In modern New Zealand, as in the past, this created Maori identity provides political and social identity in the face of potentially overwhelming outside influences.

Some of the earliest observable changes in Maori culture resulting from European contact are military and economic in nature.  Adopting muskets both as highly efficient weapons and symbols of mana, the Maori suffered through two decades of vicious warfare that leapt far beyond the highly structured confines of previous tribal conflicts.  The depopulation resulting from the destruction of entire tribes and increasing levels of slavery forced social and economic change on the Maori.[vii] 

Beyond warfare, the economics of Maori life changed drastically in response to increasing desire for finished goods from Europe that included not only muskets, but blankets, clothing, and iron tools.  In order to more efficiently harvest flax, timber, and kauri gum for export, entire villages moved from secure locations on hill tops and along rivers to the gum fields and marshes that their agricultural products came from.  Increased European settlement after the completion of the Waitangi Treaty in 1840 brought even larger changes as the Maori began to participate in a market economy aimed at providing goods and services to Europeans.  By the 1850s, multiple tribes were practicing commercial agriculture, and some owned their own blue-water sailing vessels – 111 by 1867 – and others built flour mills and manufactured their own gunpowder.[viii]

Changes among Maori during this age of economic expansion included union organization among sheep shearers, providing higher rates of pay than those available to Pakeha shearers.  However, production of all goods fell into distinctly Maori patterns.  Once Maori demand for European goods, such as muskets or horses decreased, so did Maori production.  Economic activity was a means to an end, as were land sales and leases.  While some land transactions were driven by desire for cash on the barrel, Maori also frequently sold or leased land in order to draw settlers to the area in an effort to increase economic activity.[ix]  Towns were also sometimes welcomed as tools to reduce the likelihood of attack by other tribes since it might involve harming Pakeha anywhere.[x]

Unfortunately for the Maori, increasing numbers of European settlers led to conflict over land.  Disputes between the colonial government and the tribes over land sales and European settlement led to a series of disastrous wars, which both reduced the tribal population, and further reduced Maori autonomy.  Self-government, beginning with the Constitution Act of 1852, gave the settlers control over the colony, including the Maori minority.  As theoretically equal subjects of the Queen, Maori could, and did, participate in Parliamentary politics, but with only four seats in Parliament, all Maori MPs could do was protest anti-Maori policies.[xi]  Indeed, the main effect of Maori representation in Parliament was to remove the guarantees to self-government found in the Treaty of Waitangi and the Constitution Act, and to allow settlers to argue that no oppression of Maori existed in New Zealand.

The 1850s witnessed the development of the first significant pan-tribal movements beyond the simple development of the Maori-Pakeha dichotomy.  One of these early movements, Kai Ngarara was religious, but the others were secular in nature.  The earliest of the secular pan-tribal movements was simply a loose grouping of tribes opposed to selling land to settlers – any land, to any settlers.  This early opposition to land sales provided a basis for a larger and more important pan-tribal reaction to European settlement – the King Movement[xii].  After electing Potatau Te Wherowhero King of the Maori in 1858 in an effort to place the Maori leadership at political level equal to the Crown, open warfare between the King’s supporters and the British erupted in 1863.[xiii]  Pan-tribalism during this period was not monolithic, however; only 15 of the 24 tribes sent troops to support the King, while some Maori sided with the Queen.  Others claimed they didn’t want to eject the Queen from New Zealand, but merely to bolster Maori autonomy.  This cleavage leads some historians to argue that the King movement was local to Waikato, rather than truly national in scope.[xiv]

Potatau Te Wherowhero, provides a vivid illustration of this hybrid Maori response to European colonialism.  When New Zealand Governor Gore Browne refused to participate in meetings related to the conflict between the Taranaki Land League, settlers, and Pakeha Maori, Te Wherowhero argued that the Governor was responsible for the conflict, and was turning to the old Maori Gods, while the Maori accepted Christianity.  Indeed, in a speech at Hawke’s Bay, Te Wherowhero accused Browne of worshiping the old Maori deity Uenuku, the man-eater, and using Uenuku’s war-like nature and blood-lust against the Maori, who had adopted the peaceful path of Christianity. Referring to the Old Testament, Te Wherowhero claimed to worship Jehovah, which Christian missionaries urged upon his people, hoping to find that this would gain him a measure of respect and equality with the Europeans.  To his sadness, Europeans ignored the unity of their shared religion for their own selfish purposes, and went to war over land in Taranaki.[xv]  This led Te Wherowhero to accuse Governor Browne of adopting the path of the violent Uenuku.

This illustrates two modes of hybrid adaptation by the Maori: political and religious.  The political aspects of the Maori response to colonization are perhaps easier to identify and engage.  Although the Musket Wars of the 1820’s and 1830’s created deep divisions among the Maori, by the 1850’s many Maori recognized the need for unity in the face of European economic and political expansion in New Zealand.  The first pan-tribal effort to create political unity came with the election of Potatau Te Wherowhero as the first Maori King in 1858.  Creating a Maori monarchy represented not only reaction to the European threat to Maori land, which was disappearing due to land confiscations and unscrupulous sales of tribal land, but was a European institution adopted for the Maori purpose of protecting traditional Maori rights and usages.[xvi]

Those Maori that accepted the creation of a Maori King did not see the move as part of a struggle for independence from the British Empire.  Kingites viewed their new monarchy as the elevation of one of their own to a spiritual plane equal with that of Queen Victoria.  Maori argued that in this way, the King would have mana over the Maori, while the Queen maintained her mana over the Pakeha.[xvii]  The idea was to gain autonomy and protection for the Maori in their own land, while still bowing to the overall suzerainty of the British Crown.  When crowning Te Wherowhero, Iwikau Te Heuheu proclaimed, “…this day I create you King of the Maori people. You and Queen Victoria shall be bound together as one.”[xviii]  Te Wherowhero’s successor as King, his son Tawhiao, went so far as to argue that his crown was not intended to separate the Maori from the British, but accepted it “…in order that the natives might be united under one race, ever acknowledging the supremacy of the Queen, and claiming her protection.”[xix]

Maori sought autonomy not only to preserve their lands from the greed of unscrupulous Maori and land-hungry settlers.  The authority of the colonial government did not extend deep into the interior, although colonial laws did.  The lack of local constables and courts led Maori such as William Thompson Tarapipipi to argue that the Maori needed a king because they wanted law and order, which, “A King could give these better than the Governor.  The Governor never does anything except when a Pakeha is killed.  We are allowed to fight and kill each other as we please, a King would end these evils.”[xx]  The Maori conception of the benefits of monarchy, are clearly not merely those a European would have articulated.  Instead of mere independence from the British Crown, the Maori desired local law enforcement, peace, and the preservation of their lands according to the Treaty of Waitangi.

The massive dislocations caused by armed conflict brought cultural revitalization movements such as the Pai Marire.  These movements represent another form of hybridity – one that combined traditional Maori cultural practices with Christian ideology.[xxi]  Pai Marire, sometimes known as Hauhauism, combined Christian and Maori ideas to create a positive and non-violent response to European domination in New Zealand.  Promoting the idea of a New Jerusalem, Pai Marire was strongly opposed to land confiscation or sales and dedicated to revitalization of Maori identity.[xxii]  When the King movement and supporters among the Hau Hau refused to submit to British rule even after military defeat, Governor Sir George Grey condemned both movements and confiscated 3 million acres of Maori land.[xxiii]

By 1891, Maori constituted only 7 percent of New Zealand’s population, and were reduced to subsistence farming and day labor, suffering from disease and dire poverty.  Despite these conditions, perhaps even due to them, Maori continued to resist the British policy of amalgamation using both separatist movements and Western political structures.  A good example of these efforts is the continued efforts of a much reduced King movement under Tawhiao, which petitioned Queen Victoria for self-government in 1884.  Failing again to gain any measure of autonomy, the Kingites setup an independent Great Council with a constitution, cabinet, and minister of Pakeha affairs.  The constitution directly dealt with issues of land reform.  Under the constitution land disputes of all types were the province of the king, who would determine title to papatupu land held by the tribes and might rehear cases already decided by the Native Land Court established by the British.  Individuals were not allowed to sell off their shares of communal land, rather the people would collectively make such decisions, which then went to the King for final approval.  Finally, the Great Council’s constitution reduced European governments to consultation only at the approval of the King.[xxiv]  This shadow Maori government claimed the right to collect taxes, to levy fines, to deputize justices of the peace, and prohibit liquor and rabbit poison from Maori settlements.  The Great Council even posted notices that Pakeha were liable to its laws and subject arrest by Maori constables.[xxv]  While this effort did not secure a large amount of support even among Maori, it persisted in limited form for a decade, and inspired the creation of the Maori Parliament in 1892.  The Maori Parliament garnered more support among Maori, including those normally allied to the New Zealand Parliament and British government, and attempted to work primarily within the structure of New Zealand and British government, rather than in opposition to it.[xxvi]

Maori also turned to other extra-legal organizations, usually committees, to handle necessary tasks.  As with earlier efforts, the committees Maori created were European-style institutions turned to their own purposes.  In some cases, the committees were land tribunals that offered advice on rulings to the Native Land Court, but in others they provided other vital social and governmental functions.  Many Maori villages turned to committees to fulfill the roles of local government or magistrates.  The committees, which were composed of village chiefs or local clergy, levied fines from offenses like drinking liquor, or more serious crimes such as assault, rape, or adultery.  The committees’ power was largely customary, but sometimes backed with legal force when committees petitioned for the right to hear cases involving values of more than 20 pounds sterling, to try crimes under the Magistrates Act, or even for government seals so that their verdicts would have official weight.[xxvii]  In effect, the Maori were attempting to make up for a lack of officialdom in their local areas using Western-style mechanisms and petitioning the colonial authorities for the right to govern themselves at the most local levels.

A final example of a politically hybrid attempt to revitalize Maori culture was the Young Maori Party, which attempted to work within the Pakeha system in order to turn it to their people’s benefit.  YMP leader, Apirana Ngata argued that Maori needed to develop technical skills and the ability to move in Pakeha circles of power while still maintaining their cultural heritage.  His understanding and use of traditional modes of respect in dealing with Maori elders combined with his focus on future development rather than old grievances made him acceptable to both Maori and Pakeha.  The acceptance of majorities of both groups allowed him to work for Maori rights from within the government when he served as Minister of Native Affairs from 1928-1934.[xxviii]           

If hybridity is obvious in Maori political efforts, it is also apparent in their religious responses to European contact.  Te Wherowhero’s comments at Waiuku about land confiscations were almost exclusively religious in nature, referring both to the Maori Uenuku, but also the Judeo-Christian Jehovah.  As early as the 1846, Christian missionaries recorded that some Maori identified with the lost tribe of Israel, viewing themselves as a lost and persecuted group, identifying the warfare of the 1860s with the desolation described in the Old Testament Book of Daniel, and in some cases strictly following Mosaic law.[xxix]  Some of the Maori identification with Judaism may be due to contact with missionaries and amateur linguists who believed that Maori and Hebrew were related languages, or even to contact with Jewish traders and merchants working in New Zealand.  However, other reasons for the Maori affinity to Judaism in its ancient form also exist.

Because there were no Maori versions of the Old Testament until the 1860s, it represented esoteric or secret knowledge that Europeans must be keeping to themselves, either because they did not want the Maori to learn of their supposed connection to the lost tribe of Israel, or because Europeans believed themselves to be superior in their capability to understand the Bible.[xxx]  Bronwyn Elsmore also argues that the content of the Old Testament appealed more to Maori than that of the New Testament – the depiction of lineages, polygamy, and the ability to seek redress from a powerful, even vengeful, deity more closely aligned with traditional Maori culture.  Contrasting this to the passive, peaceful figure of Christ, many Maori concluded that Jesus had not yet gained sufficient mana to help worshipers.[xxxi]
In addition to these features of the Old Testament, which drew Maori in, many turned away from the Christianity of the Missionaries.  By adopting a uniquely Maori interpretation of Judaism, adherents were able to accept the Bible, but also preserve their own culture.  Elsmore argues that this was a reaction to Christian attacks on the core of Maori culture, to land confiscations, and the other activities of missionaries and settlers.  The Maori also did not adopt nineteenth century Judaism, but identified with the Israelites of the Old Testament for their own purposes – they gained the power of the Old Testament Jehovah and European religion without having to give up their own culture.[xxxii]

This background of hybrid reaction to the Judeo-Christian tradition is evident in Maori justification for their own monarchy.  Arguing in favor of a Maori King, Paora Te Potangaroa relied on a semi-Biblical justification that, “God is good.  Israel were his people, they had a king.  I see no reason why any nation should not have  king if it likes.  The Gospel does not say we are not to have a king.”[xxxiii]  Wiremu Tamehana made a more explicitly Biblical argument in 1863 after Governor Grey threatened to dig out the Kingites root and branch. 

Despite accepting the Queen’s sovereignty over New Zealand, Tamehana nevertheless argued for Maori autonomy by quoting Deuteronomy, in which the Israelites were instructed that, “one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee.”[xxxiv]  Tamehana then moved beyond the text of Deuteronomy to justify the elevation of Te Wherowhero, arguing that the Books of Proverbs and Samuel also provided justification.  Since a primary goal was to stop conflict among Maori over land sales to Europeans, the Israelites plea in Samuel for God to “Give us a king to judge us” was particularly important.[xxxv]  In earlier arguments supporting Maori autonomy, Tamehana had also appealed for Maori control of their lands under the rule of a coterie of benevolent Christian chiefs working for the best interests of the people.[xxxvi]  Kingship, then, was something that sets aside a people of the Bible as belonging to Jehovah, and allowed them to function in the world.

The process of the Te Wherowhero’s coronation was also explicitly religious in form and function.  In one account, when proclaiming Te Wherowhero King Potatau, Iwaikau pronounced that, “The religion of Christ shall be the mantle of your protection.”[xxxvii]  In accepting his crown after first refusing the burden, Te Wherowhero reportedly did so referencing Christ’s parable of the camel and the rich man, stating that, “There is but one eye of the needle, through which the white, the black, and the [sic[ read threads must pass.”[xxxviii]  Finally, to complete the ceremony, Wiremu Tamehana anointed the new monarch with oil in the method prescribed in the Old Testament for the coronation of new kings of Israel.

While Te Wherowhero was not speaking explicitly in favor of creating a Maori King when addressing the attendees at Waiuku, his topic addressing land sales and Maori organization to protect their interests speaks to the same concern – of Maori unity in the face of colonial challenges.  That some Maori were banding together beyond their tribal organizations itself is a hybrid response to British colonization.  His use of both Maori and Pakeha religious terms in addressing Governor Browne over the issue is explicitly hybrid in nature.  By identifying the British Governor with the Maori deity Uenuku and himself with the Judeo-Christian Jehovah, Te Wherowhero further adapts European religion to his own purposes.  In this way he shows the Maori as peaceful, while Europeans and their Pakeha Maori allies are violent and dangerous aggressors.

Maori attempts to develop hybrid solutions to the problem of living in a bi-cultural society dominated by Europeans continued beyond the 1930s.  Efforts to come to a successful accommodation between Maori and Europeans continue today.  Similarly, hybrid efforts at creating Maori institutions during the nineteenth century were not limited to the civil and political examples presented here, but include a wide array of religious figures and movements that combined Maori tradition with European institutions and language.

[i]            John A. Williams, Politics of the New Zealand Maori: Protest and Cooperation, 1891-1909 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1969), 53.
[ii]            Williams, 55.
[iii]            Williams, 55.
[iv]            Williams, 56.
[v]            Paul Meredith, “Hybridity in the Third Space: Rethinking Bi-cultural Politics in Aotearoa/New Zealand,” presented to Te Oru Rangahau Maori Research and Development Conference, Massey University, 7-9 July, 1998, 2.
[vi]            Simone Drichel. “The Time of Hybridity,” Philosophy Social Criticism 34, No. 6 (2008), 595.
[vii]            Williams, 11.
[viii]            Williams, 11. James Belich. Making Peoples: A History of the New Zealanders from Polynesian Settlement to the End of the Nineteenth Century (New York: Penguin Books), 215.
[ix]            Bellich, 216.
[x]            Bellich, 197.
[xi]            Williams, 13.
[xii]            James O. Gump. “A Spirit of Resistance: Sioux, Xhosa, and Maori Responses to Western Dominance, 1840-1920,” The Pacific Historical Review 66, No. 1 (1997), 27.
[xiii]            Bellich, 232.
[xiv]            Bellich, 242.
[xv]            Octavius Hadfield, The Second Year of One of England’s Little Wars (Hocken: Hocken Library, 1861), 80.
[xvi]            John A. Williams, Politics of the New Zealand Maori: Protest and Cooperation, 1891-1909 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1969), 37.
[xvii]            John Eldon Gorst, The Maori King; or, The Story of our Quarrel with the Natives of New Zealand (New York: Macmillan, 1864), 71.
[xviii]            James Cowan, The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns an the Pioneering Period: Volume 1: 1845-1864 (Wellington: R.E. Owen, 1955), 466.
[xix]            Richard S. Hill, State Authority, Indigenous Autonomy; Crown-Maori Relations in New Zealand/Aotearoa 1900-1950 (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2004), 34.
[xx]            Thomas Buddle, The Maori King Movement in New Zealand (Wellington: The New Zealander Office, 1860), 9.
[xxi]            Gump, 30.
[xxii]            Gump, 33.
[xxiii]            Gump 37.
[xxiv]            Williams, 44.
[xxv]            Williams, 45.
[xxvi]            Gump, 45.
[xxvii]            Williams, 84.
[xxviii]            Gump, 46.
[xxix]            Bronwyn Elsmore, Like Them That Dream: The Maori and the Old Testament (Auckland: Reed Books, 2000), Chapter 5, 2.
[xxx]            Elsmore,  Like Them That Dream, Ch. 5, 2.
[xxxi]            Elsmore, Like Them That Dream, Ch. 5, 11.
[xxxii]            Elsmore, Like Them That Dream, Ch. 7, 2.
[xxxiii]            Buddle, The Maori King Movement, 10.
[xxxiv]            Angela Ballara, Te Kingitanga: The People of the Maori King Movement (Auckland, Auckland University Press, 1996), 11.
[xxxv]            John Eldon Gorst, The Maori King, 61.
[xxxvi]            Cowan, The New Zealand Wars, 154.
[xxxvii]            Cowan, The New Zealand Wars, 446.
[xxxviii]            Idem.

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