The Maori dictionary current in 1840 was the 1820 Grammar and Vocabulary of the Language of New Zealand by Cambridge University professor Samuel Lee.
Lee’s linguistic consultant was no honky with an axe to grind.
It was none other than the great Ngapuhi chief Hongi Hika.
(He loved axes too — tomahawks, to be precise — but was in England looking to upgrade to muskets.)
And Hongi defined taonga as property procured by the spear, etc.
It was purely physical
Hongi Hika’s down-to-earth definition of the 1820s could hardly be more removed from the ‘sacred relic’ status conferred by the Treaty negotiators of the 2010s.
To that corrupt one-eyed kangaroo court the Waitangi Tribunal, taonga now means anything our tribal clients can get their hands on.
Physical or metaphysical, doesn’t matter. If it can turn a dollar, it’s a taonga.
But to Hongi Hika, and Hone Heke and the other 511 chiefs who signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi, their taonga was their stuff. Continue reading