Modern Maori: The Young Maori Party


The Maori have a cyclical view of history, expressed by the phrase nga wa o mua, the old times which are in front of us. They walk backwards into the future with their gaze fixed firmly on the past. This is a useful metaphor to begin a discussion of the Maori in the 21st century. for their attitudes in this century have been much influenced by past experiences, above all by the transformation of their lives by more than a hundred years of contact with Pakeha colonists. Having initially welcomed traders and missionaries, whom they could control, Maori found it increasingly difficult to deal with the Pakeha colonists who streamed into the country after annexation in 1840. By 1858 they were a minority in their own land. Many of the chiefs had signed the Treaty of Waitangi in the expectation that it would protect their rangatiratanga, their lands and other valuable things. They expected the colonial governor to be a protector but found that he and the colonist politicians who took over many of his powers, enforced the law to the advantage of the settlers. The troops did not keep the peace between Maori tribes but were used to wage war against them.

Over the years Maori groups adopted various strategies to deal with the Pakeha, usually involving resistance or co-operation. those who resisted by force of arms won numerous battles but lost the wars. Under the New Zealand Settlements Act (1863), 'rebel' tribes in Taranaki, Waikato and Bayt of Plenty suffered raupatu (confiscation) of much of their land, which lfet an enduring legacy of bitterness. but the kupapa who co-operated, even to the extent of fighting on the Pakeha side, did little better in the long run. Under the Native Land Acts they got the opportunity of fighting in a new land to pay the cost of proving that they owned it. From 1840 the Maori were steadily relived of their land by Crown and private purchase. by 1890 the Crown and Pakeha colonists had acquired some 22 million of the 26 million hectares of New Zealand. Most of the land still in Maori possession lay in the North Island. The economic condition of the Maori was closely related to their land. some iwi or hapu wee already nearly landless and gained a precarious subsistence from cropping, food gathering and intermittent labouring for the Pakeha. Others used the proceeds from sale or lease of land to supplement - and all too often as a substitute - for such activities. But others again, especially where there was strong local leadership, were embarking on a variety of commercial enterprises, including pastoral farming, dairying, kauri gum digging, and fishing.  

There was a similar variation in the Maori social condition. Some of the offspring of mixed marriages had been assimilated into the Pakeha population, although a slightly larger number, according to census returns, were assimilated into the Maori population. A few of the more prosperous lived in the Pakeha style in weather-board houses with all the trappings, but most Maori lived in makeshift quarters, and were frequently on the move. Maori health was poor and, as each census from 1874 to 1896 revealed, their numbers were slowly declining, due to high infant mortality, insanitary living conditions, and the ravages of European epidemic diseases. Maori remedies were unavailing, indeed frequently fatal: European medicine was usually unavailable.

Nevertheless Maori society was far more resilient than many people assumed. Despite the pressures of Pakeha settlers, officials, missionaries and schoolmasters, Maori had largely resisted assimilation. Their kinship system, revolving around whanau, hapu, and iwi, remained in place. the whanau had not yet given way to the Pakeha nuclear family. Though some hapu and iwi had been decimated by warfare or depupulation, others had prospered. some had been strengthened by Native Land Court decisions to award land to those in occupation at 1840. Maori owed loyalty to these kinship associations in ascending order, but they could also, when appropriate, trace links through intermarriage with other tribes. such associations within and between tribes were not greatly to diminish in the twentieth century. Likewise Maori leadership, whether exercised by hereditary or ascribed chiefs, and in some tribes by women, was not to change substantially. Young people who had acquired the skills of the Pakeha, were used to deal with that world, but traditional leaders remained in command back on the marae.

In their struggle against the Pakeha in the nineteenth century, Maori had developed a number of supra-tribal organizations which were to persist into the twentieth century, each in its own way expressions which were to persist into the twentieth century, each in its own way expressing a form of mana motuhake or separate authority. the King movement had survived the Waikato war and the rift between the Waikato and Ngati Maniapoto tribes which had led to the opening of the King Country in 1885. It was to continue in the twentieth century, despite occasional friction within and a gradual loss of support from outside the Tainui confederation. Even more broadly based was the Kotahitanga movement. This traced descent from Waitangi in 1840, or who attended numerous subsequent hui culminating in one at Waitangi which formed a Maori parliament in 1892. Though never formally recognized by the New Zealand Parliament, it was to continue sitting until 1907. Finally, there were the Maori prophet movements founded by Te Ua Haumene. Te Kooti Turuki, Te Whiti o Rongomai and, in the twentieth century, by Rua Kenana and T.W. Ratana, each of which had some political significance since Maori did not rigidly distinguish between politics and religion. the prophets were not usually men of traditional rangatira status but they appealed to a class of Maori who were becoming increasingly numerous, the morehu, the ordinary folk who were often landless and adrift from their tribes. 

By the end of the nineteenth century, the Maori position in a country that was once theirs, was precarious. Their own future as a people, with their population still declining, was in doubt. Their grip on the remnants of their land was insecure. Their social structure was under threat. Their strategies, though each offering short-term satisfactions, seemed always in the end to be failing. the Pakeha juggernaut rolled on. But there was no clear-cut remedy that was acceptable to all. Many of the older leaders had their gave fixed firmly on the past, were obsessed with old remedies for old grievances. but, as always in Maori society, a new generation was ready to break with their elders and their past.

Maori often use the expression ka pu te ruha, ka hao te rangatahi (when the old net is worn out, a new one is put into use) to signify the coming of a new generation. It was applied to the Young Maori Party, the group of zealous reformers, mostly from Te Aute college and New Zealand universities, who were gradually to remould Maori society in the first half of the twentieth century. They provided a new initiative to an old Maori problem, how to improve the social and economic conditions of the Maori people while also resisting the encroachments of the Pakeha. Though they were a Western-educated elite who knew how to operate the Pakeha system, their success also depended on the support of tribal kaumatua and that was not easily won.

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Their first efforts failed. In 1889 three of the Te Aute boys spent their summer holiday touring the kainga of Hawke's Bay, preaching a message of sobriety, godliness and cleanliness to the unresponding elders. In 1891 the senior pupils formed an Associaton for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Mairi People, which achieved little. Then in 1807 they created a Te Aute college Students' Association which held the first of what was to become an annual conference of pupils and old boys. they presented papers dealing with Maori social, economic, cultural, moral, and political affairs. At the first conference the star performer was Apirana Ngata, the first Maori to graduate in arts and law, who presented four papers. Another who presented a paper was a pupil, Peter Buck, who wa hoping to go on to Otago Medical School. Later Ngata wrote to him expressing his hopes for the young men of Te Aute:

I am eagerly awaiting the results of the matric, & medical
prelim. It is my wish that both you and Tutere (Wi Repa) will
pass, it should not then be difficult to make satisfactory
arrangements to see you through a five years course at
Dunedin. Our circle will then be fairly complete ... Hector,
Kohere & Bennett, parsons, Hei & myself lawyers, you &
Tutere doctors ... We the parsons & lawyers will do the
talking and some practical work ... for you that come after
... it is ours to remove prejudice, to argue out of existence
fallacious doctrines, to lay the foundations for a healthier,
more compact, more powerful social opinion among our
people, that your future work may be easy. I only wish you
had your M.B. or M.D. now and you could come with me ...
to begin the field-work of the association, to devote
ourselves body and soul to it.

Remarkably, all of the young men listed (with the possible exception of Hector), achieved the professional goals Ngata had set out. Ngata became Travelling Secretary for the Association and in 1905 won the Eastern Maori seat. It was the beginning of an outstanding career in Parliament that was to last for 38 years. Another Te Aute old boy, Maui Pomare, who gained a medical qualification in the United States, was appointed as the first Director of Maori Hygien in 1901. Buck, on completing his medical degree at Otago, became Pomare's assistant director. But not all of the leaders of the Young Maori Party were from Te Aute. Fred Bennett, who was to become the first Maori bishop of Aotearoa, and Hone Heke, the able member for Northern Maori from 1893 to 1909, were from St Stephen's College. Akenehi Hei, sister of lawyer Hamiora Hei, and the first Maori woman to become a registered nurse, was from Hukarere Girls' School in Hawkes Bay. For a start they called themselves Te Kotahitanga o Nga Tamariko o Te Aure, in deference to the Kotahitanga movement, but when its parliament was dissolved in 1907, they called themselves Te Ropu o te Rangatahi, the Young Maori Party. Ngata always acknowledged his debt to his maternal uncle, ropata Wahawaha, and his father, Paratene, who initiated the land reforms which he extended with conspicuous success. Pomare and Buck built on the work of recently appointed Native Sanitary inspectors like Takarangi Metekingi of Putiki and Tamahau Mahupuku of Papawai. but such co-operation was not forthcoming everywhere. The tribes still hurt by the raupatu, rgarded the reforms as tainted by Pakeha methods, and preferred to place their faith in the old Kingite or Te Whiti leadership. King Tawhiao died in 1894 and Te Whiti in 1907, but Waikato and Taranaki remained intransigent, and it was not until well after World War I that Pomare and Ngata were able to bring them into the mainstream health and land reform measures.

At the turn of the century, when the young Maori leaders were taking the initiative, Pakeha New Zealand was more receptive to measures to improve Maori conditions. The Liberal government elected in 1890 had introduced some welfare legislation, including an Old Age Pensions Act of 1898 which provided pensions for Maori, although on lower scale than for Pakeha. James Carroll, who was of Ngati Kahungunu descent, was in the Liberal cabinet and became Native Minister in 1899. Although he now represented a European set, he remained a pivotal figure in government, retain the remnants of their estate. He also nurtured the Young Maori Party, his 'young colts' as he called them, using them to devise and administer important legislation, before facilitating their entry into Parliament.

On becoming Native Minister, Carroll used Ngata to assist him in drafting two important acts in 1900, the Maori Land Administration Act and the Maori councils Act, which attempted to deal with the sickness over the land and the body. The Maori Lands Administration Act provided an alternative to the systems of private and Crown purchase of Maori land which had already caused great distress and endless litigation. It allowed Maori to sell or lease land through land boards. but, since these were to be controlled by Pakeha, Maori landowners were reluctant to co-operate. In five years no land was sold through the boards and only 68,298 hectares were leased. Carroll was condemned for taihoa, for a by-and-by policy, and in 1905 the government amended the Act, allowing Maori land to be compulsorily vested in the boards, though also requiring them to ensure that the Maori owners retained a minimum area of ten hectares per head. the boards now acted vigorously and in 1914 had approved the sale of 408,778 hectares and the lease of 1,095,246 hectares of Maori land.

In 1907 Ngata was appointed with the chief Justice, Sir robert Stout, to a commission to make recommendations on the reservation or further alienation of remaining Maori land. they were critical of the Crown's use of pre-emption to purchase Maori land 'below value', but conceded that it should be allowed to complete some purchases, especially in the central North Island. On the other hand they were adamant that tribes in other districts, who had retained very little land, should have that land permanently reserved. A notable example was the Ngati Whatua reserve at Orakei in Auckland, but in this instance the Crown passed special legislation to allow it a pre-emptive right of purchase. Altogether, the Crown purchased 1,416,430 hectares of Maori land in the years 1891 to 1911, leaving less than 3 million hectares still in Maori ownership. Moreover, as the Stout-Ngata commission pointed out, the state over the years had done nothing to encourage Maori to develop their own land; it had always stopped short at measures to acquire Maori land. As a consequence the Maori race was in 'a most difficult and critical position. ... There are many of the tribes and hapus in ... a decadent state .... the spectacle is presented to us of a people starving in the midst of plenty.' It was left to Maori to help themselves.

In fact Ngata and his Ngati Porou tribe were already demonstrating how this could be done. Under the shrewd guidance of Ropata Wahawaha and Paratene Ngata, Ngati Porou had retained the best of their tribal land and had begun to develop pastoral farming. by 1900 they were running more than 50,000 sheep, and had invested heavily in the improvement of pastures, buildings, and equipment. Management was controlled by informal committees of owners. After Ngata returned to the East coast in 1897 he gradually took over the leadership of land development. the informal committees of owners were legally recognized as incorporations by the Maori Lands Administration Amendment Act in 1903. Incorporations were one way to avoid the fragmentation of Maori land titles that had resulted from the operations by the Maori Lands Administration Amendment Act in 1903. Incorporations were one way to avoid the fragmentation of Maori land titles that had resulted from the operations of the Native Land Court over the previous forty years. Instead of having their shares allocated and partitioned on the ground, the owners elected a committee of management, appointed a manger, and farmed the land as a single enterprise, providing employment and dividend.

Nevertheless incorporation was of little use where Maori land was already fragmented into uneconomic holdings by the operations of the Native Land Court and European purchasers. Once again Ngata developed a solution; consolidation of titles, starting on the East Coast with the Waipiro block north of Tokomaru Bay in 1911. Here, through innumerable meetings of owners, he persuaded them to exchange and thus regroup their individual interests into contiguous holdings. But the task took him five years. to speed up consolidations Ngata abandoned the exchange of fragments for a valuation of the land and the apportionment of consolidated holdings according to the value of each individual's land rights. Nevertheless, the distraction of the war and the lack of government assistance meant that thee could be no progress with consolidation outside Ngati Porou country until the 1020s.

Although the Ngati Porou land developments wee the most spectacular in the period before 1914, other Maori were also trying to develop land or other economic enterprises, though these wee frequently at risk through lack of secure tenure, capital, and expertise. But when the continuing loss of Maori land is taken into account, it is doubtful if there was any overall improvement in the Maori economic condition. Most Maori continued to eke out a precarious subsistence from land and intermittent labour for the Pakeha. Yet thee was some relief for the sickness of the body. thee was a slow but steady recovery of the Maori population, which rose from 45,549 in 1901 to 52,997 in 1916. (The 1916 figure does not include Maori troops overseas.) The recovery was due in varying degrees to a growing immunity to hitherto fatal European infectious diseases and to improved medical care. Once again the initiatives came largely from Maori, although government played a part. In 1900 there was a plague scare and the government hastily established a Department of Health, adding a Maori Hygiene division the following year because of a fear that the disease could spread rapidly through unhygienic Maori kainga. It was headed by the recently returned Maui Pomare with Peter Buck later appointed as his deputy. they embarked on a sustained campaign to improve Maori health, carrying out innoculations and operations, destroying unhygienic buildings, resisting insanitary wells and above all, educating the Maori public in the necessities of modern Western medicine. But they wre heavily dependent on the support of local Maori communities, more especially the tribal councils created by Carroll's act of 1900 and the Native Sanitary Inspectors who were appointed by the councils. And, with the aid of a Tohunga Suppression Act of 1907, they tried to combat the activities of supposedly traditional healers who were often peddlars of quack remedies. Buck informed himself on traditional Maori medicine - in 1910 he completed an M.D. on it - and did not hesitate to use his knowledge to serve the purposes of modern hygiene. The health reforms may not have reached into every Maori community, but their efficacy was demonstrated when an outbreak of smallpox in 1913 was halted by vaccination. although the Maori councils had proved effective vehicles for carrying out the health reforms, some developed larger ambitions, setting off in the quest for tribal autonomy, or got into financial difficulties. Ngata was appointed as Organizing Secretary to sort out their problems but their funds were cut and Ngata entered Parliament in 1905. thereafter the councils retained a shadowy existence until they were revived by Buck after the First World War to administer Maori health.

Inevitably, the gifted leaders of the Young Maori Party moved from locally-based reform to national politics. Ngata successfully challenged Wi Pere for the Eastern Maori seat in 1905. buck, to his own great surprise, was named by Carroll to contest the Northern Maori by-election caused by the premature death of Heke in 1909. Well known for his medical work in the north, he won easily. Pomare won Western Maori in 1911. They initially supported the Liberal Government, with Ngata being appointed as Member Representing the Native Race in the Executive Council in 1909 and Buck replacing him in the short-lived Mackienzie ministry in 1912. but Pomare deserted them to take the same portfolio in Massey's Reform ministry later in 1912. Much to Ngata's and Buck's dismay and his own discomfort, the found himself having to defend the new government's quest for more Maori land. But in later years Ngata and Buck accepted Pomare's decision, realizing the importance for the Young Maori Party of having someone in government.

Modern Maori: The Young Maori Party - Part 2

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