1831 Maori petition to King for protection
by John Ansell
This is T.L. Buick’s account of the petition from 13 Ngapuhi chiefs that the King responded to in my earlier post.
For ease of reading, I’ll spread out the words below.
Then I’ll show you some blow-ups of relevant parts of the original English and Maori documents.
You will notice some words which have a bearing on what Maori are claiming today.
First, the words:
TO KING WILLIAM, THE GRACIOUS CHIEF OF ENGLAND
KING WILLIAM — We, the chiefs of New Zealand assembled at this place, called the Kerikeri, write to thee, for we hear that thou art the great chief of the other side of the water, since the many ships which come to our land are from thee.
We are a people without possessions.
We have nothing but timber, flax, pork and potatoes, we sell these things, however, to your people, and then we see property of the Europeans.
It is only thy land which is liberal towards us.
From thee also come the Missionaries who teach us to believe on Jehovah God, and on Jesus Christ His Son.
We have heard that the tribe of Marian [the French] is at hand coming to take away our land, therefore we pray thee to become our friend and the guardian of these Islands, lest through the teazing of other tribes should come war to us, and lest strangers should come and take away our land.
And if any of thy people should be troublesome or vicious towards us (for some persons are living here who have run away from ships), we pray thee to be angry with them that they may be obedient, lest the anger of the people of this land fall upon them.
This letter is from us the chiefs of the natives of New Zealand:
Warerahi chief of Paroa
Rewa chief of Waimate
Patuone chief of Hokianga
Nene chief of Hokianga
Kekeao chief of Ahuahu
Titore chief of Kororarika
Tamoranaga chief of Taiamai
Ripe chief of Mapere
Hara chief of Ohaiawai
Atuahaere chief of Kaikohe
Moetara chief of Pakanai
Matangi chief of Waima
Taunai chief of Hutakura
Spot anything interesting there?
Let’s have a look at the original English document:
“We are a people without possessions. We have nothing but timber, flax, pork and potatoes.”
No mention in 1831 of Maori owning fish, land, water, or wind — let alone an electromagnetic spectrum from which to extort radio licences.
Now here’s an excerpt from the Maori version of the same petition.
Note how the word taonga is used for both possessions and property.
Lee’s linguistic consultant on that dictionary was none other than the great Ngapuhi chief Hongi Hika, in England seeking muskets with which to massacre his rivals on his return.
Hongi clearly didn’t feel his taonga included the Maori language or radio waves. Or watery waves for that matter. Or treasures of any kind.
His taonga was clearly his stuff.
Here it is again in English:
Note the archaic rendition of the double ‘s’.
And did you notice that bottom line…
“It is only thy land which is liberal towards us.”
In other words, the Maori knew the British were a compassionate people.
And they desperately wanted British protection before the French got to them.
Why were they so afraid of the French?
Because of what they did to a French captain and his crew in 1772.
And, more to the point, what the French did back to them.
In that year, 59 years before this petition was signed, Northland Maori murdered French captain Marion du Fresne and 27 of his crew.
Their crime: fishing without a licence.
As you can sort of see in this painting by Charles Meryon, the captain had been getting on very well with the locals up to that point.
But unbeknownst to him, the bay in which he chose to take his men for a spot of angling was tapu. How was he supposed to know?
Still, ignorance of the lore was no excuse.
And being god-fearing types, his new friends thought they’d better kill and eat all 28 of their visitors, just to be on the safe side.
(As you do.)
Their mistake was to assume that only Maori were into massively disproportionate overreaction.
Because when the rest of du Fresne’s crew saw that their captain and crewmates had been torn limb from limb and served up for dinner, they torched the whole village and killed 250 of its inhabitants.
And when news of the massacre reached the French homeland, they were none too impressed with these South Sea Island savages. One day they might have to teach them some more lessons.
So when the French came calling in the 1830s, the Ngapuhi were justifiably terrified.
The last thing they needed was to be colonised by a people who seemed every bit as barbarous as they were.
And that is the main reason why they petitioned King William IV for protection.
Also right up there in their list of fears was the “teazing of other tribes” — not just the “tribe of Marian”, but also Ngapuhi’s now-well-armed neighbours who would soon want to avenge the one-sided ethnic cleansing campaigns of Hongi Hika with his muskets.
And thirdly, they wanted British protection against lawless British who had escaped from the convict settlements in New South Wales.
The Brits were a worry, but not nearly as much of a worry as the French — and each other.