Monday, February 09, 2015

The more things change...Feb 9, 1935

Here is a piece written and published in the Evening Post 80 years ago.


There is a widespread belief that no native,people have ever been so fairly treated by Europeans as have the Maori people, said Dr. I L G Sutherland, of Victoria University College, in a paper read before the Melbourne meeting of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science. If the story of .the contact of Europeans with native peoples is fully told it is everywhere much the same.

The  Maori people have survived, but this on analysis proves to be largely due to their own characteristics and their own efforts rather than to any specially favoured mode of treatment.Themselves immigrants from Central Polynesia, they had already proved that they were strikingly adaptable before they had to face the task of adaptation to European civilisation

The first European observers of the Maori were shocked by some of their customs, but the splendid physique of the race, their intelligence, and their dignity and grace of bearing were so impressive that again and again we find the chiefs and the people as a whole described them as noble.

MIND AND CULTURE. Present-day psychology makes it clear that since mind and character are so largely constituted and determined by culture and its institutions, when culture is progressively destroyed minds disintegrate. Their reintegration in terms of the new and more complex culture or in terms of a com- promise between the new and the old is a difficult process With the coming of Europeans, at one bound the ideas of the Maoris became enormously extended and their established equilibrium at once disturbed The outstanding first result of the coming of Europeans was a great intensification of inter-tribal warfare and a fearful slaughter of Maori by Maori

The story of the subsequent conflict of Maori and .European is one of a struggle for the ownership of the land of the country At first the Maoris largely received the useful white man and adopted, his ways, but they were quick to see the threat to their natural existence of organised settlement. By the sixties of last, century they were feeling the disintegrating effects of the loss of their own ways of life and feared that they were in danger of national submergence. But land sales were insisted upon and war was the result. When the  Maoris were defeated wholesale confiscations took place ,

LOST LEADERS. When the wars were finally concluded in the early-seventies most of the tribes were in a mood of utter defeat. They had suffered outward .and also inner defeat. With the loss of their ancient religion in particular the people felt that they were destroyed. The leadership of the chiefs had always been an important feature of Maori society, and this had been lost and nothing put in its place. Characteristics actually resulting from the destruction of Native culture were now assumed to be inherent in the people and the Maoris were blamed for becoming what the white man had made them.

The extinction of the race was for a long time predicted and their numbers fell as low as 40,000. The present day shows an astonishing change. The Maori population is now 73,000, though probably only half of this number is of full blood. Their rate of increase  is now greater than that of the European population.. The Maoris will not be rapidly-absorbed or assimilated as is often stated Their present renewal of life is largely the result of their own efforts through the re-emergence of leadership m the form Of the Young Maori Party. 

One knows of no other instance of a native people, so largely dispossessed and destroyed setting to work to regenerate itself and adjust itself to new demands. 

THE FARM SCHEMES. In the Young Maori Party the moving spirit has been Sir Apirana  Ngata. The farm schemes initiated by him are of the greatest significance for the future of the Maori people. They have no aptitude nor inclination for commerce and their future is on the land. Already 8000 persons are involved in the schemes. Maori economic life will approximate to that of Europeans, but their mental and social life will for a long time in many ways remain distinct. Many features of Maori artistic and social life persist and others are deliberately revived.  Maori leaders are consciously aiming at some degree of Maori individuality. Maoris cannot really be Europeans and there is. no good reason why they should try. There are two races in New Zealand and there are likely to be for some time to come. Good will towards the Maoris is shown by the European majority but thf»re is need for more understanding. The Maoris cannot be a self-respecting people if they are regarded only as museum objects or as a show for tourists. They are a living and increasing people whose experience has been on the whole a bitter one and who have been making their own efforts at 
renewal and adjustment.

Unfortunately this was written on the eve of the great exodus from the land to towns and cities. Maori could not derive their economic parity with Europeans from farming.

The further difficulty is for those people who were the product of both races. If, "Maoris cannot really be Europeans" the reverse is also true. Which world do the children of Maori and NZ Europeans move in?

The question of leadership is as pertinent today but Maori leadership itself is riven.

So while some of the above has familiar overtones, much of the prediction was wrong. And to indulge my own theory, the prediction about achieving economic parity would have had a better chance without government hand-outs in the form of benefits.