Saturday, March 02, 2024
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When we become researchers we don't so much enter into our studies as stumble into them, rather like children starting primary school, ignorant, and intensely curious. 

Hopefully when we finish our work we have not become like those children the cynic says leave school still ignorant, but no longer curious!  What we do become, I think, are heretics, if we can just gather the courage to lay aside our preconceptions, our 'orthodox' views. There's an interesting set of verses in the heretical Gospel of Thomas which runs thus:

Jesus said, "Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds. When he finds he will become troubled. When he becomes troubled, he will be astonished, and he will rule over all things."

That script, of course, was referring to self-knowledge, but perhaps there is a parallel in the world of research. A researcher becomes an exegete, a commentator on the texts, and as soon as you do that, you are open to committing heresy, or at the very least rocking the orthodox boat, for exegesis is the mother of heresy. And heresies, as Basque philosopher Miguel da Unamuno pointed out, are necessary for the philosophical, and even more, for the theological health of a culture. That is why the histories which are pouring out of the Treaty settlement process are so important, because they bring the neglected Māori story into the light as a corrective to the orthodox settler histories which have dominated for so long. They speak to our soul, for how can we 'rule over all things' if we do not truly know who we are?

The persistent settler orthodoxy around here used to be of terra nullius, the old apartheid notion that the land was empty, that there was actually no-one here and therefore could be taken. 

Those with that mind-set could find evidence in the commentaries of early explorers finding an empty landscape, while failing to see them in the context of a Ngāpuhi invasion which swept the tribes of Hauraki down into the rohe of their old enemy Ngati Haua in the early 1820s.

 The reality was of course quite different. I became interested in the history of my district - the Aroha -in conjunction with other folk with like minds. All of us were teachers. Our starting point was the landscape. 'Look Barks,' my geographer colleague told me, 'the river doesn't move around, nor do mountains. The original namings should be able to be located!'  He produced a copy of an old cadastral survey someone at the county offices at Te Aroha had thrown into a bin, and there they were, the original land survey blocks marked out. We went to LINZ in Hamilton and spent many hours calling up and photographing the old original ML (Māori Land) survey maps. We could then walk the land and identify the places the names on the old surveys referred to. Most were relatively clear.

Suddenly the old landscape, the one that existed before the arrival of the colonists, began springing into view, the world of eel weirs, battle grounds, urupa, mountain peaks, papa kainga, hot springs. Then began a matching-up process when we transcribed the contested Native Land Court cases of the Aroha (there were three of them) together with related cases from surrounding areas. Out of the rich resource of those minute books emerged stories from the past which could be framed on a landscape we now understood. Some of the detail is interesting but minor; for example one witness talked of the groves of peach trees growing along the banks of the Waihou and Waitoa Rivers as being from Captain Herd - the captain of the ship which carried the original (and failed) New Zealand Company expedition of the 1820s which left behind some peach seedlings. Others are more important, poignant and tragic, Such was the story of the morehu, the survivors of Ngati Haua, making their away along the Kaimai range in the broken world that followed the defeats of the Waikato war, to find succour on the lands of their former enemy at Manawaru, Te Aroha and Hikutaia, digging fern root, hunting pigs and digging kauri gum, in an attempt to get food, money and clothing, to  recover and rebuild a shattered economy in the teeth of a suspicious colonial administration.

Out of that process arose the claim over the Aroha Ngati Haua took to the Native Land Court, which occupied two cases and was founded on the tribe's pyrrhic victory at Taumatawiwi in 1830. So notorious was the conduct the Aroha cases that shortly after the 1871 case the Haultain Commission was set up to examine the functioning of the Native Land Court. Te Wheoro, who was present at the second Aroha hearing, objected to the reckless way punitive and unnecessary costs were imposed on Ngati Haua, and laid out an alternative way in which the whole claim could have been dealt with, far more in keeping with Māori lore than Pakeha judicial process.

Questions. Always questions. To secure answers often it is necessary to go to the archives, museums and libraries for the information which integrates the puzzling fragments. The evidence given by the chiefs to the Haultain Commission, for example, is in the Appendices to the Journals of the Legislative Council. Sometimes even a single line in an NLC minute book relating to a case already settled before reaching the court may herald a backstory of some significance whose explanation lies elsewhere. That's how it was on 31 December, 1873, when Rihia of Ngati Haua stood in court at the hearing for Waihekau No 1 - dealing with a large block of land on the western Aroha -  declaring that he was not properly a claimant to the land but was there as a creditor. That story hung on a comment made by Te Raihi of Ngati Haua in the Aroha case of 1871 which could be brought into focus by consulting Auckland Archives. Alas! Its telling must wait for another time!

So in short, when some-one says to me, 'Were there really people living at Te Aroha in the 1870s?' I reply, 'Of course there were …'   you fool!




1. Nga Tuki Tuki Ahi Ka Wera - Warren Geraghty photo

Commonly called Wahine Rock, this site is of great significance to Ngati Rahiri-Tumutumu and the Hauraki iwi. It is a highly tapu place, and perhaps appropriately the track to it has now been permanently closed. The story told of this place is that a family was fleeing from the Aroha to Tauranga and had to cross the range before the rising of the sun. The man succeeded but the woman did not; she and her child are frozen there on the ridge-top forever, awaiting the return of her husband.

There are urupa here and at nearby Tangitu. Nga Tuki Tuki Ahi Ka Wera is thought to be the knoll behind the rock, the site of the conquering Ngati Raukawa general Te Ruinga's pa. Many local people claim descent from him. A great pahu was located here, perhaps hung from the rock. Its reverberations could be heard from as far as twelve or so miles away—This site forms part of the iwi’s settlement with the Crown.

2. ML 3503 (Ohineroa and Manawaru) - LINZ

Great meetings were held at Ohineroa, on the river flats of Wairakau opposite Manawaru in the 1860s, symbolically below the 'long woman'.  A major issue related to land. This was also the time of Pai Marire and the efforts also of the King to hold the land. An important meeting was held in January 1870. Pakeha were banned. H. T. Clarke, Civil Commissioner at Tauranga, sent a spy, but he was turned back. Te Kooti was there, freshly resupplied with powder and bullets from Te Hira of Ngati Tamatera. A year later Ngati Haua were back in court, defending their claim on the Aroha against the appeal of Marutuahu. They lost.

Manawaru (green block on ML3503) was later awarded as a reserve to Ngati Rahiri. It was a particularly tapu place. Trapped by a lightning raid by a Ngaiterangi taua around 1826, several high ranking Hauraki lost their lives including one connected to Taraia of Ngati Tamatera. His 1842 raid on Ongare was in part to fulfil an unrequited utu for the loss of his mother here. That battle at Ongare is still a living issue between Hauraki and Ngaiterangi who are both seeking settlement of it. There is much at stake for both iwi.

A recent settlement has seen the award of the site of Manawaru School to Ngati Hinerangi, whose rohe lies to the south at Waiharakeke.