'...the relentless Maorification...

by tosca on Friday, July 15, 2011

... of every bloody thing in New Zealand.'
~ John Ansell

In which Tosca finds herself surprised that she isn't angry about Ansell's comments so much as she is resigned. And thinks that maybe that's a worse thing to be.

I don't profess to speak for all Maori. Ever. I feel like I should make that clear even though, really, it should be common sense. After all, John Key doesn't speak for all Pakeha, right? Nor does Don Brash and neither, I imagine, does John Ansell. Or does he? I've been relatively quiet on the issue of Ansell's balls to the wall statements (if you've missed it then Google it because there's certainly no shortage of links) for a couple of reasons: I hate election year because suddenly the Maori culture - that is a wonder to behold every other couple of years in between election year - suddenly becomes the great brown elephant in the room so why should this year be any different?; if I got up in arms about every negative comment about Maori I'd have lost my mind years ago. Any time I read comments made by Pakeha who are in a position of authority and prestige that are disparaging about Maori I have to sit back and take a deep breath before reacting. I'm not going to address everything he listed because I'm not sure it's worth my time. Instead I'm going to choose one point that really got up my left nostril, and that's it. Why only one? Any more and it's just waffle:

"These guys (Maori) have gone from the stone age to the space age in 150 years and haven't said thanks. That's the nature of the thing. In Maori world, if one tribe conquers another you eat the guys eyeballs. The Brits were pretty civilised by that standard."

Essentially, Ansell's right on two counts: the Brits were extremely civilised and legislated the hell out of us, and Maori haven't thanked the Crown. I'm only one lone voice but I'll give it a try. So here you go:

  • Thank you for the Christian missionaries who brought the bible and used it to wipe out belief in Maori atua and practices, ensuring that our karakia were lost
  • Thank you for those same missionaries whose delicate sensibilities deemed our carvings rude and saw to their removal from various wharenui, many of which my mother's tribe buried for safety and were never seen again, ensuring that our taonga were lost
  • Thank you for undertaking to protect and preserve Maori taonga - which includes te reo Maori - to the point that Maori had to fight to retain it and, even now, puts up with people saying that our language is dying out
  • Thank you for the early land tenure system that took land from Maori
  • Thank you for the Tohunga Suppression Act 1907 that denied tohunga the right to be what they had always been - spiritual and medicinal leaders
  • Thank you for the Native Schools Act 1867 which stated that only English could be used in schools, thereby denying Maori the right to learn in our native language
  • Thank you for the native schools which weren't really about schooling children so much as they were about being 'civilising agencies and centres for spreading European ideas and habits among the Maoris' - I gotta tell you, I feel extra special knowing that one
  • Thank you for the Land Claims Ordinance which stated that any land not actually occupied or used by Maori belonged to the Crown - judgement value much?
  • Thank you for abolishing the Protectorate Department, which was meant to protect Maori rights - oh god, the irony *insert sarcasm*
  • Thank you for the Native Lands Act 1862 which meant that land titles had to be held by individuals instead of communities - this has to be one of the biggest blows in my mind
  • Thank you for the Suppression of Rebellion Act 1863 which meant that Maori were denied the right to a trial before being imprisoned
  • Thank you for the New Zealand Settlement Act 1863 which saw millions of acres of land misappropriated to fund what was, essentially, a land war
  • Thank you for ensuring that I had to go to tertiary to learn about my history and language because it wasn't on offer anywhere else - and thank you for charging me to do so, by the way...

  • It breaks my heart to list these, it really does and I have to stop, it's just too depressing to carry on. I'd recommend reading Paul Moon's work. I was lucky enough to be one of Paul's many students and, if not for his lectures and debates (seriously, the kick I used to get out of debating points of view with him - the man is scarily clever and I wish I could have had one tenth of his mind) I wouldn't have been able to intellectualise it all. I suspect I'd have ended up angry, frustrated and polarised.

    Ansell's right. I have so much to be thankful for. So much so that I could spend ages making the list longer and longer but, in the end, to what end? I know my history. I live it, I breathe it. Not just when I'm on a marae or around extended whanau. Everyday. Yes, everyday, when I hear people say that the Maori Development Corporation was a contradiction in terms, when I read online comments about how taniwha are a joke (just because your non-Maori world view is the unacknowledged dominant opinion does not mean that mine doesn't count), when people tell me that the Treaty has no place in modern times, when I hear others say that my language is dying, when I was called a dirty brownie by Conifer Grove kids, when some of the people I work with still don't see the value of their Maori collections and how precious these are to our local communities whose iwi histories are not recorded anywhere else, when Conifer Grove shopkeepers either refused to serve me or did so rudely and called me 'one of those brown kids.' So yeah, I'm thankful and, as I'm sure you can tell, just enjoying those special 'apartheid' measures that some people like to think we have. But we don't. We really don't.

    What I find darkly funny is that Ansell is, I guess, opposed to what he sees as assimilation. It's insidious. And dangerous. I agree, Mr. Ansell and I am living proof that it is. I don't want to ensure the relentless Maorification of every bloody thing in New Zealand, Mr. Ansell. I just want, one day, to see the relentless Maorification of Maori.

    This is a gloomy post. I'm not sorry for it. I will, however, point you to an hilarious Maorification response: Moata Tamaira's 'Maorify this' post. It's well worth the read.

    Leave your comment

    Kia ora! Have a comment or suggestion to make? Then speak now or forever hold your peace.