I wrote the following letter to the editor of the Dominion Post in response to a lengthy article in which journalist Joel Maxwell, writing about an apparent reluctance to give Maori names to sections of the former SH1 on the Kapiti Coast, somehow contrived to mention killings perpetrated by James Cook. The Dom Post published the letter this morning and a reader of this blog suggested I post it here:
He could have mentioned, but didn’t, that 10 crewmen from the Adventure, sister ship to Cook’s Resolution, were killed, butchered, cooked and eaten in the Marlborough Sounds in 1773. Cook resisted the urging of his men to take revenge.
My own namesake, Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne (actually, no relation) was killed and cannibalised in 1772 in the Bay of Islands, along with 26 of his men, although most historians seem to agree that the French explorer was totally benign in his dealings with local Maori. He unknowingly caused offence by breaching tapu and paid the penalty.
The point is, things happened 250-odd years ago that look appalling when viewed through a 21st century lens. But as long as we allow ourselves to be defined by those awful events, we’re not going to get anywhere.
Karl du Fresne, Masterton