Wednesday, May 26, 2021

We're all in the same waka

One thing that struck me about the background profiles published about Dame Cindy Kiro this week was that while listing her tribal affiliations, they also mentioned that her father came from the north of England.

It was only an incidental point, but it stood out because prominent Maori often don’t acknowledge their Pakeha antecedents.

It has become the norm for people of part-Maori descent to recite iwi connections, but without any reference to their European lineage. That inconvenient part of their ancestry is routinely erased.

I say “inconvenient” because I suspect it suits many part-Maori activists not to acknowledge their bicultural heritage, the reason being that their bloodlines demonstrate that New Zealand is a highly integrated society. This conflicts with their aim of portraying us as intrinsically and irreparably divided, with one side exerting dominance over the other.

Here lies a central paradox of Maori activism that is never confronted, still less explained. It has possibly never been more relevant than now, when a radical agenda of change is being aggressively promoted by people whose mixed ancestry ironically gives the lie to the notion at the heart of their grievances – namely, that this is a country indelibly stained by racial prejudice and divided along racial lines into privileged and disadvantaged.

The truth, to put it in simple terms, is that we’re all in this together. We’re all in the same waka.

If this were truly a racist country, those “Maori” activists with distinctly European features and Anglo-Saxon surnames – testimony to a high degree of historical intimacy between Maori and Pakeha – would not be here. They exist because somewhere in their past, Maori and European partners were attracted to each other and procreated on equal and willing terms. That hardly seems indicative of a racist society.

It suits 21st century agitators to overlook the fact that they carry the DNA of their supposed colonial oppressors and therefore have inherited their supposedly racist legacy. But if those of us who are descended solely from European colonisers carry the taint of racism, then so do they. Have they disowned their Pakeha bloodlines, or are they in denial? Do they, in dark moments of the soul, confront their forebears’ wicked acts as colonisers? I keep waiting for someone to explain how they reconcile these contradictions, but I suspect it’s easier to ignore them.

Of course it’s the absolute right of anyone of part-Maori descent to identify as Maori if they so choose, and to take pride in that side of their heritage; no one should deny them that, and to my knowledge no one wants to. But when they exploit that point of difference to procure political advantage over their fellow citizens, despite sharing the same stain of European ancestry, I think we’re entitled to be sceptical. 

This selective exploitation of racial heritage seems to illustrate the powerful allure of the politically fashionable culture of grievance and victimism. It's just one of many awkward incongruities and half-truths that go unremarked in the divisive propaganda with which New Zealanders are bombarded daily.

Here’s another one. We’re told that Maori were profoundly disadvantaged by colonialism, and that’s true – but only up to a point. Pre-European Maori were a warrior culture that lived by violent conquest and showed no mercy to tribes that were subjugated. Cannibalism, mass murder (including of women and children) and slavery were the norm.

So while it’s incontestable that colonisation resulted in Maori being dispossessed of their lands, a loss that had enormously damaging and demoralising consequences, it’s also incontestable that the British Crown treated Maori with far more respect and dignity than pre-European Maori tribes demonstrated to each other before they were pacified by colonisation. Dare I even mention the peaceable Moriori of Rēkohu (the Chatham Islands), who were massacred and enslaved by invading tribes from the mainland?

It’s also a fact that some Maori chiefs were themselves instrumental in the process of dispossession, sometimes for personal gain and without their peoples’ consent. But don’t expect any of these truths to be highlighted, or even mentioned, when the teaching of New Zealand history becomes compulsory in schools next year (as it should be, but only if the teaching isn’t ideologically skewed in favour of the woke interpretation, as seems likely).

And since I’m on the subject of inconvenient truths, what about the determined campaign – with tacit if not active government endorsement, but no public mandate whatsoever – to replace the recognised names of towns and cities with Maori ones? Like them or not, names such as Auckland, Christchurch and Hamilton reflect the fact that these cities are colonial, not Maori, creations. That’s an historical reality. The fact that the locations where these cities sprang up were once occupied by villages called Tamaki Makaurau, Otautahi and Kirikiriroa – the names now bestowed on them by media such as RNZ and Newshub – is neither here nor there. The cities are not Maori and never were.

By all means, rename these places if that’s what the people who live there want to do. Personally I’d be very happy if New Plymouth were changed to Ngamotu, Napier to Ahuriri and Levin to Taitoko, to give just three examples.  Any significance the English names may have had when they were conferred in colonial times has long been forgotten. But these decisions must be left to the people who live in these places, not foisted on them by virtue-signalling elitists in the media.

The same applies to "Aotearoa" – but even more so, since it’s a name of doubtful authenticity. If the country votes to adopt it in a referendum, fine. But it’s an act of supreme arrogance to introduce Aotearoa into official usage without even a pretence of seeking, still less obtaining, the people’s consent. Such contempt for the public tells us a great deal about the prevailing cultural ethos.

None of this should be taken as meaning we shouldn’t honour and respect our Maori heritage. It is a rich part of our history and one that’s too often invisible, certainly to most Pakeha.

We still tend to think of our history in monocultural terms, assuming it began with the arrival of Tasman, Cook and de Surville. New Zealand’s centuries of pre-European history and its imprints on the landscape are largely ignored. Likewise, there is too little appreciation of the Maori achievement in navigating across the Pacific and establishing a society that, while technologically still in the Stone Age, was otherwise remarkably accomplished and sophisticated – a fact recognised by the first Europeans, who quickly grasped that Maori were not to be trifled with.

There is much about Maori culture that I respect and admire, and I’m sure I am not alone. I believe the Maori heritage has rubbed off on all New Zealanders. It’s one of the distinctive qualities that defines us as a country. The clichéd example is the All Black haka, but you can see the Maori influence elsewhere – for example, in the armed forces, which have traditionally had a high Maori participation rate (the army especially), and which are beneficially imbued with the Maori spirit of pulling together. The Maori influence is one of the reasons New Zealand forces are so respected overseas, especially in Third World countries; they have an easy affinity with locals that Australian forces apparently lack.

As an aside, I was recently reading about the exploits of the British army’s Long Range Desert Group, which initially consisted largely of New Zealanders, in the Second World War. Many of the soldiers in the LRDG were Pakeha farmers, but I found it interesting that they proudly painted Maori names on their vehicles – a tiny thing, perhaps, but indicative of pride in New Zealand’s Maori heritage and a telling signifier of cross-cultural solidarity.

We forget, too, that Maori men were able to vote 12 years before Pakeha males and that a Maori politician, Sir James Carroll of Ngati Kahungungu (Timi Kara to Maori, though his father was Irish) not only won election in a general seat as long ago as 1893, but twice served as acting prime minister. Mention these facts next time an ill-educated young zealot tries to tell you what a racist past New Zealand has.

The truth is that a great deal of beneficial cross-fertilisation has taken place between Maori and Pakeha, and a deep reservoir of mutual goodwill accumulated. Most New Zealanders would probably agree this is something unique in the world and worth preserving. We should steadfastly resist those who place it at risk by trying to drive us into angry opposing camps.  



Andy Espersen said...

Karl, I have been busy this afternoon sending your article here to friends and family, heading it :

"Karl du Fresne, our foremost NZ political and social commentator, retired after a long, distinguished career in journalism, writes in his latest blog : "

Karl du Fresne said...

Your support is appreciated, but I don't think I measure up to that glowing description.

Max Ritchie said...

For once Karl, you are wrong. Andy has it correctly.

Odysseus said...

This is by far the most eloquent and true account of race relations in New Zealand I have read for a very long time, not least for its exposure of the paradoxes that lie at the heart of the separatists' agenda as we see in He Puapua for example. If I had my way your article would preface any new textbook containing the New Zealand history curriculum for schools. Perhaps Karl you could supply a bound copy in large print as a wedding present for Jacinda?

Unknown said...

Absolutely brilliant read. What a shame it wont see the light of day in the MSM.

David McLoughlin said...

Kia ora Karl :-)

it’s an act of supreme arrogance to introduce Aotearoa into official usage without even a pretence of seeking, still less obtaining, the people’s consent.

My current 10-year passport (obtained in 2016) says I live in Aotearoa. My previous five-year one (from 2012) said the same. I'm not sure when that came in, but I do clearly recall my that my passports from the 1970s and 1980s claimed I lived in some French province called Nouvelle-Zélande. At least Aotearoa is a place I can happily call home, though nobody overseas would know where it is should I mention it as my home when travelling.

My point being that this official renaming of the country has been happening for a long while now. Both those passports were issued under National.

I just looked in my wallet and, my god, there is a $20 note in it. What a relic! But it was issued in Aotearoa, too.

It doesn't worry me that Radio NZ (the only NZ radio station I follow, for its comprehensive coverage) has renamed our major cities. But I do suspect that this renaming -- and Susie's insistence on giving us the time, at great length to the minute and possibly second, in te reo Māori in her strong Scots accent throughout Morning Report -- might be annoying some listeners less PC than me.

Guyon often introduced and welcomed guests in Māori, but he took listeners with him, bit by bit as he learnt himself over many many months, thus sharing his joyous learning with us. His straightforward Māori was easy to follow, even without the simple English translations he also gave. I suspect Susie is just trying to demonstrate she is smarter than everyone else. I hope I am wrong as I had hitherto quite admired her (and loved her accent).

Lindsay Mitchell said...

I had just been looking at the photo here ( My eyes were drawn to the historic photographic portraits in the backdrop and I wandered, looking at the present-day participants, why only photos of their Maori ancestors are on display. That was just before I read your post.

Kiro said she was "proudly" Maori but only acknowledged her British ancestry. As you say it an individual's right to identify as they choose but I think the rejection of the 'other' heritage is part of being tribal. Europeans are more individualistic and just as we see the downsides of tribalism/collectivism, Maori-identifiers see the downsides of individualism. I think that's because individualism is misunderstood.
For me it's always been about individual rights and voluntary associations. Personal responsibility - not collective (acknowledging there are unavoidable areas of overlap). We see the tension between the two playing out in OT right now. Incidentally Kiro believes the bigger the family is, the better, because more eyes are on the child. Whereas I believe if just one person dedicates themselves to the child his or her interests will be well-served.

Most see today's division as a conflict about race. It's actually about a clash of world views.

Brendan McNeill said...


Your article resonates because it is insightful and grounded in truth. It is a narrative that can and ought to form the basis for national unity, and social stability. We are truly in the same waka.

I'm conscious of the words of our National Anthem. "From dissension, envy, hate, and corruption guard our State, make our nation good and great, God defend New Zealand." We live in days when this must be our prayer.

Thank you for this great reminder of who we are.

Doug Longmire said...

Excellent article Karl. Well balanced, thoughtful, perceptive and fair.
By the way - Andy had it right !!!! You deserve the credit.

Doug Longmire said...

Thanks Brendan,
Very well put. Yes we truly are all in the same waka.

Doug Longmire said...

However, it is with disgust that I have just read in the local community newspaper that Palmerston North city council who had voted to delay Maori Wards until 2024, have just changed their mind and have decided to have Maori Wards from 2022.
The major driving force behind their change of mind was apparently the demonstration in Feilding of 500 Maori protestors.
No account taken of the opinion of the other 87,500 citizens of Palmerston North

Eamon Sloan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Karl, I always enjoy your thought provoking blogs when I come across them sometimes in the newspapers and other times on the Hide, Brash and Prebble site. How do I subscribe to receive them directly so as not to miss out ? Gerard Martin

Karl du Fresne said...

All I can suggest is that you check this blog periodically. I gather there's some means by which you can be alerted every time there's a new post, but I don't have a clue how to set it up.

Andy Espersen said...

Unknown - Karl collects more hits by doing it (t)his way.

ThroughJen'sLrns said...

You hit the nail on the head Karl. So refreshing to read a well researched, considered piece. Such a shame that most of New Zealand's reading community will not get to read this perspective, but instead be constantly presented with the current pc brigades woke view of both our history and the future they intend to impose on us. Unfortunately most people don't take the time to read past the headlines and will simply accept what is spoon feed. It is worrying!

Unknown said...

Karl has always been a great read, way back to Curmudgeonly days. I'm privileged to still be able to read the views of so many Kiwis so eloquently put together by Karl.

Hilary Taylor said...

Everyone has said it and I heartily concur...well done. If I may respond to Lindsay M above...she touched on the matter of 'eyes on the child' and the different view on that between Kiro & many times over the years have we rhetorically asked how child abuse occurs in whanau families where there are lots of individuals around? I'm with Lindsay...a child needs 1 dedicated parent/carer who is where the buck stops and takes that seriously. When many are around the dwelling and the care is shared, the answer to that question is 'the care is provided by everyone and no-one'.

Andy Espersen said...

Hilary Taylor – You are right. We must, however, remember that the Maori system worked very well in old Maori (and Pacifika people) communities. Children in tribal communities really turned out successful adults, well brought up and properly protected throughout their childhood.

But our European cities present a different environment altogether – and that is what Maori (and Pacifika people), generally speaking, cannot get their heads wrapped around. European culture is what all residents in our cities must ascribe to if they want to succeed here. Here we have free, single individuals responsible only for themselves, their partners and their children. Nobody is dependent on tribal or family affiliations. This capitalist environment began in Europe. The old Germans said, “Die Stadt macht frei”, the city makes you free, meaning that here, for the first time ever in humankind’s history an individual could exist on his own. It was men only in the beginning, of course – but in the 20th century also women.

Maori will learn the hard way that to succeed in our European cities, in our capitalist, democratic system, they must ditch some (not all, of course) part of their tribal culture. I am grateful to Karl for allowing my opinions be published! But who knows – when hate-speech legislation is introduced perhaps both Karl and I may be prosecuted and punished!

Hilary Taylor said...

Andy E...thanks and fair point. I was referring to modern families of course, and I was generalising heavily. Perhaps I was influenced by something my mother used to say, that has stuck with me...she frowned on what she saw as 'children passed around like brown paper parcels'. Many, many modern families rely on help from g'parents and other rels, and that is how it should be, but I suppose my (pakeha?) perspective makes me believe at my core that there must be one person who vets all others and 'parses' delegated authority. Aligned with this is what I have observed over the years, and I invite your comment...what I would describe as a disinclination on the part of Maori to restrict or otherwise not encourage the company of known'undesirables'around the vulnerable...I just don't understand that. I mean, I do from a 'tribal' perspective, but in my parental days I would've removed my vulnerable kids from any environment I judged risky.

Andy Espersen said...

Hilary Taylor – Seeing you “invite my comment” I shall have a go : If there is, generally speaking, “a disinclination on the part of Maori to restrict ......the company ............of undesirables ........”, this, I believe, is caused by their tribal culture which simply does not work in our European city civilisation. We forget that Maori and Pacifika people actually only began mixing with the colonisers in the 1960s (as emphatically pointed out by eminent historian, Michael King). And, as a matter of fact, up until then we had no problems with excessive criminal behaviour from these groups. I was working in Porirua in the 1960s and remember clearly that the generation moving in here to participate in the available, industrial work in our cities were horrified and disappointed by the way their offspring began to behave. This was quite alien to the law-abiding manner and habits they themselves possessed – having been satisfactorily and successfully brought up in a tribal culture in their tribal settlements.

I believe this problem will eventually solve itself - as these two population groups slowly adjust to European city culture and begin to understand that they must not, and cannot, put up with certain types of people from their family or tribe – even if their tribal customs dictate that they should. The problem will NOT be solved by preferential treatment of these two groups, as suggested by our present government. This will only worsen the problem; and it will divide our people and cause massive resentment from other population groups.

Graham Hill said...

I commend and applaud your article. One point to note is that Maori too were colonisers of this land. What is pernicious, and never accounted for, is the intellectual colonisation by Neo-Marxism which underpins much of the current activist discourse. In the 1980's I attended a lecture where Dun Mihaka was the speaker. To watch him fumble an explanation of Marxist dialectical materialism undercut and compromised his authentic voice on Maori issues.

Your comment about 'virtue-signalling elitists in the media' is important. I have just finished Mark Levin's book, The Unfreedom of the Press (2019). He makes a point that US journalism, and I think it follows here, was colonised by Progressivism and its FDR Brains Trust like elevation of the elite expert and which from the 1980s (ex Rosen at NYU) moved to public/civic journalism and thus activism.

Given the foregoing, I believe, we need to be clear that the NZ experience is not the USA one and the uncritical reception of US news feeds the current race discourse too.

Unknown said...

Hi Karl, wonderful article "were all from the same waka" i was hoping to get in touch with you personally, as in another article i located you mentioned your children being descendants of Paeroke and Rawiri Nukaiahu from Ti Ati Awa, and i too also descend from them and wanted to see what further information i could locate on them and there could be some form of connection.

Karl du Fresne said...

The letter you refer to was not mine. It was written in response to a column I had written. My late brother had Maori children, but not from the iwi you mention. Sorry.