Kūpapa – The Bitter Legacy of Māori Alliances with the Crown
Penguin Random House, $65.00,
Recently, we as a nation have experienced more commemoration and public history about New Zealand’s military history than ever before. We have embraced these poignant and brave retellings of our involvement in conflict. However, when it comes to the history of conflict in our own lands, we struggle to publicly address these histories and gain support for their commemorations. Kūpapa – The Bitter Legacy of Māori Alliances with the Crown is an historical account of armed conflicts during the 19th century in Aotearoa New Zealand. Ron Crosby discusses the Crown’s engagement with, and support sought from, iwi and hapū to battle other iwi, or at times, battle fractions within their own iwi. This history spans several military engagements, from the conflicts in the far north in the early 1840s to the “final allied Māori Campaigns” on the East Coast in the early 1870s. The wider politics of Crown and iwi relationships are considered as a broader narrative to military events on the ground. The disappointment of some chiefs at the Crown’s lack of engagement in economic policy required by the partnership, forged with the signing of the Treaty, is used as a platform to discuss the theme of alliance. Kūpapa argues that it was never just one event or Māori worldview that drove some iwi to work with the Crown. Instead, it suggests that several disagreements about Treaty obligations, land alienation and the health and wellbeing of iwi culture, and a history of conflict with other tribes, influenced some iwi and hapū to enter into military conflict with each other, alongside Crown forces.
While Crosby engages with the backdrop of historiography about iwi and Crown military battles, in particular James Cowan’s and James Belich’s work, his premise is that, rather than utu, there are other complex explanations for intertribal peace and war, such as the change in Māori ideology related to religion and customary mechanisms. The growing relationship between chiefs and religious leaders, combined with the value of settler communities to chiefs and their people’s economic growth, is regarded as a fundamental feature of some intertribal disputes. The Kīngitanga and Paimārire supporters are discussed at length, as is the impact they had on Governor George Grey’s policy to confiscate land from iwi seen to support these movements. There is no doubt in Crosby’s argument that Grey immersed himself as much as he could in Māori culture and knew exactly what he was doing when he invaded the Waikato, and then later sanctioned the removal of iwi from their own land. Grey struggled to accept Māori adaptation and incorporation of Christian religion into their own identity, as the fusion of ideas was developed to govern their own people.
The Māori language translation of the Treaty of Waitangi, which was signed by many chiefs, and concepts of rangatiratanga, mana and kāwanatanga, are unpacked and considered in comparison to the English language translation of the Treaty. It is understandable, Crosby argues, that many chiefs did everything they could to work with Governors FitzRoy, Brown and later Grey for the Crown to uphold their partnership agreement. The relocation of an important commodity for Māori, in the form of the seat of the Governor from the Bay of Islands to Auckland, caused concern for chiefs who had secured the establishment of a British presence in the far North. The report of the British Parliamentary Select Committee in 1844 that resolved to challenge Māori authority over their land rights, Crosby argues, irked chiefs and provides insight into the British parliament not understanding Māori society or respecting the regulations that governed it.
The political landscape of tribal leaders expanded dramatically during the 19th century. Their attention needed to be engaged with the governing of their own people, Crown officials, and their relationships with religious leaders and trading partners. They also continued to play important roles with regard to the diplomacy of tribes outside their immediate relations. All of these relationships, Crosby argues, are integral to understanding the multifaceted rationale for some chiefs taking up arms in defence against the institution of British sovereignty. For others, their priority was to work with the Crown as a principal partner for safeguarding rights to the Treaty. Many chiefs, however, felt that the Crown was not protecting their communities even after the Treaty had been signed. Government was reluctant at times to defend Māori communities from iwi who wished to disrupt settler occupation, even if some tribal leaders had sanctioned their settlement. Much thought went into both Crown and Māori trying to protect their land by placing Pākehā settlers in between themselves and armed iwi. Pākehā settlers were not only good for trade, but were also human shields, due to the Crown only becoming engaged with disputes if settler stability was at stake. Taranaki and the conflicts that arose there, Crosby argues, are an example of where the Crown refused to protect their tribal supporters until its own interests of land development became apparent.
What’s in a name? This work provokes us to think more deeply about the word kūpapa and the power it had to strengthen established tribal divisions and at the same time provide agency to iwi and Crown relationships. The term kūpapa, as Crosby acknowledges, is one with many faces. The naming of his history, then, does little to play down any controversy of the multiple memories of Māori alliances to the Crown. While he acknowledges that the meaning for some has changed over time, there is little here from Māori newspapers, mōteatea or Māori language resources to enable a full analysis of the word’s etymology. How did Māori first use the term? Were they dismissive in their usage? Was this a term popularised by translators, military personnel, and Crown officials?
Such considerations would provide valuable contextual insight into Crosby’s history, which surpasses single generations and experiences. Crosby argues that the term first came into popular use during the wars of the 1860s, but he begins his examples of Crown and Māori military relationships much earlier in the 1840s. He does show how these divisions were favoured by the Crown and some iwi. Many believed that their partnership with the Crown would safeguard their land. Some tribal militia and individuals earned a wage and food rations, although these seldom amounted to the same amount as those paid to colonial forces. Iwi leaders provided their knowledge of the landscapes, waterways and tactics of warfare. This enabled the Colonial forces to succeed in circumstances where, Crosby argues, they might not have.
Kūpapa’s publication enhances our discussion about the values that tribal leaders believed were integral to leadership. The meaning of rangatiratanga and kāwangatanga and how these regulated tribal leaders’ responses to each other and to Crown officials is considered throughout Crosby’s narrative. Conflict in the Heretaunga Valley and Horowhenua regions exposed the beginnings of Grey’s insecurities towards Māori chiefs. Crosby argues that a lack of attention by Te Rauparaha of Ngāti Toa and Ngāti Raukawa to shut down the actions of his nephew, Te Rangihaeata, who disputed settler occupation of land in the Hutt Valley, irritated Grey. Correspondence to Grey by chiefs in the area gives some evidence of internal tribal divisions and their motives for opposing what some saw as interference from Te Rangihaeata in their own business.
The emphasis of whakapapa (both the philosophy and pragmatic aspects) and the obligations it carried could have been developed in parts. Crosby relies on Waitangi Tribunal reports and secondary accounts of events that cannot always give his readers a full appreciation of the importance of intertribal connections. Here, Ranginui Walker’s Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou could have been a rich source of pan-tribal history. Crosby writes of the relocation of Te Ati Awa and Ngāti Raukawa to the Horowhenua and Kāpiti Coast in a manner that underwhelms the importance of the three tribes’ connections. Relationships and how they connect people is the oxygen of Māori history. The success of Ngāti Toa and their survival during and after their migration from Kawhia is not a lone narrative. The importance of unions and the offspring they produced, and of the resources supplied to an iwi in times of conflict, are treasured stories. Whakapapa, as Aroha Harris has written, is also a history of our experiences.
Kūpapa does engage with concepts of manaakitanga and kaitiakitanga on a tribal level; it would have been interesting to discuss these concepts on a national scale as well. Crosby includes important tribal leaders who have often stood in the shadows of general New Zealand histories. At times, I wanted to read more about the chiefs and their lives, and what experiences empowered them to uphold their mana in the face of such diversity. The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography is not referred to, nor is there any evidence of first-hand interviews with present-day tribal members. Kūpapa gathers its primary stories from Crown archives and, in doing so, is still able to place many of the great chiefs of the 19th century at centre-stage within the nation. Fine black and white images of chiefs are included along with maps outlining pā sites and geo-political areas of interest to both Crown and tribes. Poignantly, Crosby points out that tribal militia were left out of the painted record of battles.
This history challenges us to think about how we write about our past and what other rich narratives could be placed in the public domain. Although it could have engaged with more Māori resources to add texture, this important book continues the dialogue of how we as a nation and as members of iwi and hapū address conflict in our own lands. Crosby’s work is a welcome addition: a military history first and foremost that argues rangatiratanga and kāwangatanga were the core issues for both iwi and the Crown. This year marks the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. Crosby’s call to acknowledge the Treaty and the place of Māori and Crown relationships as a fundamental narrative of our national identity is a timely reminder of our complex and diverse pasts.
Rewa Morgan is a researcher and writer. She studied history at Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Auckland.
Kūpapa suggests that several disagreements influenced some iwi and hapū to enter into military conflict with each other, alongside Crown forces.