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