Annual Report on Native Affairs, 1874
This extract from an annual report on Native Affairs reflects two realities of the 1870s: the on-going disruption of indigenous communities caused by settler and state demand for land acquisition; and the diversity of Maori experience, even within one tribal territory. The colonial commentator is clearly critical of "Natives" who, acting as representatives for their tribe, squandered the proceeds of land sales, rather than sharing them. Traditionally, land was communally owned. Government legislation to encourage individualization of land tenure caused deep divisions within tribes between those in favor and those opposed to alienating their land. Moreover, the initial legislation did not recognize the rights of more than 12 owners for any block of land. The operations of the Native Land Court exacerbated a complicated and difficult situation, with Maori owners generally disadvantaged in the process.
In the colonial context, progress was defined in terms of Maori adoption of European practices. Many observers believed that this was the only option facing the "dying race." Initiatives that promoted the "Europeanization" of Maori were therefore applauded by the colonial government, as is apparent here with the reference to the "industrious" group which has provided schooling for its children.
This source is a part of the New Zealand Childhoods (18th–20th c.) teaching module.
Mr. S. LOCKE to the Hon. the NATIVE MINISTER
Napier, 30th May, 1874
I have the honour to forward the following report, for the past year, of the general state of Natives in the East Coast and Taupo districts, including Hawke's Bay, Wairoa, Poverty Bay, Waiapu, East Cape, Taupo, Tuhoe or Uriwera, and Patea.
The Maoris of this part of the country are in that position where they find the balance of power turned in favour of the European. They feel that their old mana and customs and power of their chiefs are gone; at the same time they have only acquired that amount of knowledge that makes them jealous of the change going on around them, without having, for the altered position in which they are placed, learnt those habits of steady industry and application of general principles for their guidance, to allow of their participating freely in the general progress. The rapid exchange of property that that has taken place during the past few years put large sums of money into their hands, which, in many cases, they squandered in a most reckless manner, living at the same time an idle life without attempting to provide for the future, so that when the time came that this source of revenue ceased, and it became necessary to turn again to labour, a feeling of discontent arose, and in some instances with an appearance of reason for it, one of the causes being through the grantees getting all the proceeds of the sales or leases, and spending it on themselves, without dividing it amongst their relatives, whom they were presumed to represent. . . . There has sprung up. . . a league. . . whose ostensible object is to look into past land transactions, and also practically for the passive resistance to all land sales, etc, and the opening up of the country. Amongst other things, they oppose the education of children in English. . . . [T]his movement will probably gain followers – at all events for a time. With an excitable, untutored people, such movements will speedily fall from the want of organization, or end in a far different result, and more disastrous than that contemplated by its promoters. . . .
On the other hand there is a large party of industrious Natives in the district who cultivate extensively, paying all their attention to improving their properties and educating the rising generation. Over 2,000 bushels of wheat and 200 tons of potatoes, exclusive of maize, etc, were grown on the plains last year. There are two schools established in the district, under the provisions of the Native Schools Act, . . . both of which are conducted in a most satisfactory manner, and the children show great progress in their knowledge of the English language, considering the short time they have been learning; so much so, that it is time to consider some way of providing for some of them by apprenticing them to useful trades. . . .
New Zealand House of Representatives. Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1874, Vol. II, G-2, 18. Annotated by Jeanine Graham.