As millions of dollars are spent on World War I and the Anzacs, the 150th anniversary of the wars at home are getting short shrift
by Alison McCulloch
Ōrākau and Chris Finlayson images by John Cowpland. Other site pics by Alison McCulloch
The site near Tauranga where more than 150 fighters, most of them Māori, were killed and wounded in one of the bloodiest battles of the New Zealand Wars is marked by a squat concrete cairn that sits in an unkempt patch of land next to a cow paddock. A small sign directs passers-by to the site – or would do if it wasn’t almost entirely obscured by an overgrown thorn hedge. And even if you do find it, there’s nowhere to park.
Local iwi have plans to spruce up the Te Ranga site as part of the 150th commemorations this year of key battles in the “New Zealand Wars”, but not a lot of money to do it with. Information gathered from numerous government agencies shows that while more than $25 million is being spent on monuments and commemorations relating to foreign wars, primarily World War I and its centenary, only around $250,000 has been set aside for those fought on our own soil. And none of that is on its way to Te Ranga. In Tauranga, the sesquicentenary of the Gate Pa (29 April) and neighbouring Te Ranga (21 June) battles is made even more auspicious by the concurrent settlement of Treaty of Waitangi claims that have their roots in those selfsame conflicts. It’s a striking convergence of past and present, as if things were somehow coming full circle, and in ways so much more germane to our national identity and future than Messines, Cassino or even Gallipoli.
Depending on how you look at it, the battle at Te Ranga was either redemption or revenge for the British who, seven weeks earlier and just a few kilometres to the north, had suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Māori in the much better known Battle of Gate Pa. That site, or part of it, is now a small reserve in a Tauranga suburb of the same name and, unlike Te Ranga, is in good order with markers and an interpretive trail. Fresh construction began there earlier this month in preparation for the 150th anniversary of the battle, which takes place four days after Anzac Day. As well as a 500-strong haka party, concerts, re-enactments and sundry other events, organisers plan a march along Cameron Road, which slices through the original pa site and is named for Duncan Cameron the British general who ordered the 1864 attack.
It was a remarkable battle that the historian James Belich describes as the most important of the New Zealand Wars for its political and military impact. Māori warriors endured a day-long bombardment by British firepower that Belich compares to that loosed during the battle of the Somme for its intensity. In the afternoon of that day, believing their unrelenting assault to have bombed the intricately designed defensive pa into submission, around 300 British officers and troops stormed the site. At first, the charge looked successful, but after a brief lull “the supposedly victorious assault party came streaming back in a rout”. Ngāi Te Rangi war chief, Rawiri Puhirake, with 230 warriors had repulsed a 1,700-strong British Army. Overnight the Māori gathered wounded comrades and discarded weapons, and slipped away through the British lines.
The defeat was humiliating for the British, who hit back to bloody effect at Te Ranga, attacking the partly built pa, killing at least 70 warriors (some accounts put the toll as high as 123), including Rawiri, and capturing and wounding another 27. It was in the wake of those crucial battles that Bay of Plenty iwi were punished under the New Zealand Settlements Act (1863): rather than patriots defending themselves against invasion, they were judged under that law to have been in rebellion against the Queen’s authority, and as punishment had their lands confiscated by the Crown – more than 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) in the Bay of Plenty. (In the Waikato wars, the confiscations were more than 20 times that.) Later this year, one and a half centuries on, the Government will introduce legislation giving effect to Treaty settlements whose roots date back to those very events, and which are intended to right some of those wrongs.
Considering the impact on 21st-century New Zealand of these 19th-century struggles – an impact made clear in Treaty of Waitangi inquiries, Crown apologies and settlements like those being struck in the Bay of Plenty – it’s hard to understand why relatively few resources are put into remembering them. Or perhaps it’s not so hard. Pākehā can hardly take pride in these home-soil battles – or at least not the kind of pride we seem eager to take over battles that took place somewhere else. And Treaty issues remain politically fraught, often toxic, turning that virtuous circle into a vicious one, in which it’s politically safer to promote a history that directs our gaze offshore. That outward gaze bequeaths us a poorer understanding of what happened here, including what lies at the root of Māori grievances, which in turn sows yet more mistrust.
Make no mistake, these were important wars. They were not, as Belich makes clear, “storms in a teacup or gentlemanly bouts of fisticuffs, but bitter and bloody struggles, as important to New Zealand as were the Civil Wars to England and the United States”. And in proportion to the country’s mid 19th-century population, they were large in scale – 18,000 British troops against a people who “did not number more than 60,000 men, women, and children”.
Charlie Tawhiao is Chairman of Tauranga-Moana’s Ngāi Te Rangi iwi, one of several tribes awaiting legislation that will give effect to a settlement signed in December. He can see why Pākehā might prefer to visit the shores of Turkey than Gate Pa or Te Ranga. “Our own colonial history is not something the majority of New Zealanders can look back on with fondness. We can romanticise some parts of it, but by and large it’s not a great story of nation building – it’s not the story you want to tell your children about why we’re such a great country.” While the anniversary is an opportunity to talk about that story, “there’s a part of me that says celebrating any war cannot be useful unless it’s to remind ourselves of the futility of it.” For Tawhiao, links between now and then, between Treaty negotiations and past battles, are pretty direct. “An ideal settlement would start with an acknowledgement of the economic price paid by iwi as a result of breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi – in other words, they were fundamentally property crimes.”
A key driver of the commemorations planned for Tauranga, Buddy Mikaere (Ngāti Pūkenga, Ngāti Ranginui), sees the increasing regard for Anzac Day as encouraging. But like others involved in remembering local conflicts, he’s somewhat perplexed that “these wars in New Zealand are not being given the same profile”. “All the activity is about commemoration of the First World War,” Mikaere says, “and our view is, ‘Now hang on, there’s something else that happened before that. Why don’t we do something about that?’” Mikaere, the project director for the Pukehinahina Trust, set up last year in part to raise the profile of the 2014 sesquicentenaries, doesn’t begrudge spending on remembering foreign wars. The involvement of Māori fighters in New Zealand’s overseas wars is source of pride among iwi, and their service is memorialised on marae across the country. (Afghanistan veteran and Victoria Cross recipient Willie Apiata is to be an honoured guest and speaker at the Gate Pa events.) But the lack of central government support is disappointing. Backing has come from the three Tauranga-area councils and private businesses, and Mikaere is generous in his gratitude. But organisers have had to lobby hard for support and “to get just basic funds for some of the things we’ve tried to do”. A telling post appeared earlier this year on the 2014 Gate Pa commemoration’s Facebook page: “The Royal Navy Gate Pa memorial at Greenwich in London. Trying to get our embassy to organise a ceremony there on 29th April but without success – having to leave it up to a small group of Kiwi ex-pats to try and do it. Apparently WW1 commemorations much more important.”
Compare that with the scores of local First World War projects being financed by the Department of Internal Affairs’ administered Lottery Grants Board. Even the Messines Town council, the site in Belgium of a First World War battle, was awarded a piece of the pie, winning $72,000 for a “website and downloadable mobile application, and constructing a monument commemorating a First World War soldier from New Zealand”. (The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has earmarked $886,000 for 2013-14 for First World War and Anzac Day commemorations, but said its budget for the centennial year had not yet been set.)
Over the Kaimai Ranges from Tauranga, in the Waikato, Tom Roa, a Ngāti Apakura elder and organiser of events marking the battles there, also believes not enough attention is being given to New Zealand’s wars. Werewolf spoke to Roa a few days after the 1 April commemoration of the battle at Ōrākau, which was attended by by Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae, Prime Minister John Key and the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Chris Finlayson.
“It’s becoming more and more clear how little New Zealanders as a whole – that includes Māori and other than Māori – know about these things that happened at our doorstep,” Roa says. Te Puni Kōkiri, the Ministry for Heritage and Culture and the New Zealand Defence Force have been supportive, but the response from the Department of Internal Affairs and Lottery Grants Board has been disappointing, he says, with the financial burden falling primarily on iwi themselves. Roa sees evidence of the “politics of denial” in the reluctance to give these conflicts their due. “Colonists write the history … and the history according to the colonised is very often swept under the carpet.” In the Waikato, the wars led to confiscations of around half a million hectares (more than a million acres), and Roa points out that Māori have very little to celebrate. Yet there’s still a strong desire to commemorate. In the wake of the Ōrākau events, Roa said he believed the Crown genuinely wanted “to recognise and give proper attention to the issue of colonisation and the wars of 150 years ago”. For that particular battle, a key step would be getting the site out of private ownership, something Finlayson agrees the government does need to look at.
When the Australian government apologised to the Aboriginal people in 2008, it made news across the globe and roused heated debate at home. In his four-minute statement, then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd “respectfully” requested that the apology, which included references to stolen generations and the “profound grief, suffering and loss” inflicted by successive laws and policies, be part of “the healing of the nation”. In New Zealand, the Crown acknowledgements and apologies that accompany Treaty settlements tend to pass virtually unnoticed by anyone other than those directly involved. News media coverage and public discussion focus almost entirely on dollar figures, land transfers and other property rights. Compensation is crucial, but the apologies are remarkable in themselves, not just for the admissions, but for how they tell (or retell) history. The Treaty deal signed last December by Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngā Pōtiki included just such a statement. Charlie Tawhiao of Ngāi Te Rangi says it was at the core of the settlement and hasn’t been given the recognition it deserves. “I think that that’s something that collectively we as a nation should be proud of that we can do that,” he says. “Instead, we’re all going to get caught up in ‘how much?’ ‘is that all?’” Wading through the various Waitangi Tribunal reports on the Tauranga grievances is a big ask – the report on the confiscations alone is 526 pages long. But the deeds of settlement, with their briefer historical accounts and statements of regret, are another matter. The Deed for Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngā Pōtiki includes a concise 20-page historical account followed by a 5-page “acknowledgement and apology”. In it, the Crown admits it was “ultimately responsible for the outbreak of war in Tauranga in 1864, and the resulting loss of life, and that its actions were a breach of the Treaty of Waitangi and its principles”. It goes on to state that the subsequent land confiscations were “indiscriminate and unjust”, “had a devastating effect on the welfare and economy” of the Tauranga tribes, leaving Ngāi Te Rangi “virtually landless”. The acknowledgements are followed by a six-paragraph apology.
Mikaere, whose ancestors fought at Gate Pa, is writing his own history of the Tauranga battles, one that will offer a more personal account of this kind of impact. “I’m writing it from a Māori perspective,” he says. “Why did we end up living on the outskirts of the city? Why was my grandfather, and others, such hard workers? It’s because they had their lands confiscated so they were forced onto the outskirts. Having your land confiscated means that you have lost the means to support yourself economically, you have to turn your hand to doing other things just to survive. It’s quite a different perspective to most normal histories.”
With many millions of dollars spent on investigating and settling Treaty claims, it’s dispiriting that the stories they tell remain so little known. On the plus side, though, they are now well documented and available to those who wish to look. Mark Derby, a Wellington-based historian who has worked for the Waitangi Tribunal says the research itself is immensely significant – often “treasures for local people”. “Sometimes people just want to know what happened. Sometimes they just want it to be acknowledged that what they claim, or what they understood – that there was historical validity to that.” The Treaty claims process, he says, means New Zealand has probably the best researched history of relations between indigenous people and colonisers of any country in the world.
“The sad thing is that the research does not tend very much to feed into the wider educational-political arena. It tends to be known to a select few of professional experts and to the specific tribes concerned. Sometimes, I have to say, not even them, because the reports are big, dense, difficult on the whole, they’re not very accessible.”
For Finlayson, that’s a major issue, and he says he’s working on it. “I’m looking at the Te Ara site; I’m looking at books; I’m looking at people having a good understanding of the post-settlement commitments unit that I’ve established; I’m looking at a central registry for commitments; there are a whole range of ways that we could address the point.”
So what about spending a bit more on memorialising and commemorating our domestic wars? Or, as Tom Roa suggested, a national day of commemoration? Finlayson says he doesn’t believe a national day is “really necessary”. “We could spend all of our lives commemorating things, so we have to focus on what’s very important,” he says. But who decides what’s important? Finlayson has also been working on a national commemoration policy, which he says he’ll be signing off on soon. There’s no date for that sign-off yet, and so far no drafts have been made public. But, early in 2010, the steering committee formed to work on it put together its own list of “important events and anniversaries over the next five years which they considered worthy of recognition”, and which was approved by Cabinet later that year. The start of the Waikato Wars made the cut for “major events” in 2013, but not so Ōrākau, Gate Pa or Te Ranga for 2014 (or any domestic events). What did were the 75th anniversary of the Battle of River Plate and the 70th of the battles for Cassino, Italy.
This relative neglect of our own war history in favour of those fought overseas is also reflected in the state of monuments and memorials – of which Te Ranga is a prime example. While the Rugby Museum in Palmerston North won $56,000 in round two of the Lotteries’ Board’s First World War fund to research and develop an exhibition called “Balls, Bullets and Boots” that explores “WWI issues through a rugby theme”, the Pukehinahina Trust has received $0 to rebuild Te Ranga, though they’re still hopeful. (Local government has, again, pitched in.)
In their book “The Sorrow & the Pride: New Zealand War Memorials”, Chris Maclean and Jock Phillips point out that apart from wooden grave markers and tombstones “only four war memorials appear to have been erected at the time of the New Zealand Wars themselves” and they hazard a few guesses as to why, including that those close to the conflict preferred to forget and repress. “The wars had not been, for the Pakeha, confirming experiences of triumph and heroism”, but drawn out and of dubious legitimacy. When the memorials did start to go up, starting around 50 years after the battles, a fair amount of mythology was erected with them. It’s certainly true that a Christian-inspired code of conduct for the Tauranga battles was drawn up and adhered to by Māori – and that water was given to a wounded British soldier, by either a Māori woman (Heni Te Kiri Karamu) or a warrior. But keeping in mind what took place after the war, it’s surely a stretch to suggest – as some monuments did – that these battles ushered in racial harmony. In Tauranga’s Mission Cemetery, where some of the fallen from Gate Pa and Te Ranga lie buried, a monument erected in 1914 by Māori and Pākehā to the Ngāi Te Rangi leader Rawiri Puhirake includes this rather optimistic passage: “The seeds of better feelings between the two races thus sown on the battlefield have since borne ample fruit: disaffection has given place to loyalty, and hostility to friendship. British and Maori now living together as one united people.”
Derby says the water-giving at Gate Pa was factual, and a chivalrous thing to do that is well worth honouring. “But I don’t think it should be used to disguise or elide the reality of what took place. … particularly in light of the Treaty claim, the subsequent settlement, the apology, and the fact that the immensely fertile plains of the Bay of Plenty are covered in highly valuable kiwifruit orchards because the land was seized as a punishment.” Though some of the land was later returned, Derby says, “a hell of a lot of it wasn’t and several generations of people have made their fortunes on that, and that’s a much much harder historical reality to come to terms with.”
It will be interesting to see how the New Zealand Wars are represented in the new $120 million National War Memorial Park (Pukeahu) now under construction in Wellington. When plans for the park were announced in 2012, the focus was almost entirely on getting it done in time for Anzac Day in 2015 – also the reason its enabling legislation was fast-tracked through Parliament. Still, Finlayson has made clear the New Zealand Wars will have a presence. In speech notes prepared for the Ōrākau commemoration, he pointed out that until now, the National War Memorial had represented only “those New Zealanders who lost their lives in international conflicts. It is time to recognise those who fought and lost their lives in conflicts within New Zealand”.
Walking around the site earlier this month, the only promotional material on display had to do with the centenary of the First World War which, according to one of the several posters attached to the site’s construction fences, “touched every New Zealand family and community in some way”.
That war may well have touched us all, but so did our mid-19th century wars, which continue to do so in much more tangible ways. Even in non-centenary years, several million dollars is spent commemorating and memorialising foreign wars. Committing even a quarter of those resources, and the educational effort that goes with them, to remembering the wars at home would go a long way to connecting that past with this present, and might even help ease some of the discord that continues to mar our 21st century efforts at reconciliation.
Footnote One : What kind of war was this? A civil war, a purely colonial one? And how do our efforts at commemoration compare with the ways other countries mark their domestic conflicts? Here follows a Q&A with Ministry for Culture and Heritage historian David Green, the author of Battlefields of the New Zealand Wars: A Visitor’s Guide ( Penguin, 2010). The following Q & A was conducted in March 2014 by Alison McCulloch
McCulloch : How are NZ Wars memorialised and commemorated compared with wars fought on foreign soil? And why is that the case? (Related: How do you think NZers’ levels of awareness of each compares?)
Green : In the last century, New Zealand Wars battles have generally been commemorated publicly only on their major anniversaries – the 50th, 100th and now the 150th. This tends to happen to wars as they recede into the distant past – the point at which not only the veterans have died, but also those who knew them. The First World War is still remembered (in a sense) by baby boomers like myself whose grandfathers fought in it; hardly anyone now remembers the NZ Wars in that way.
In the late 20th century it seemed that the commemoration of foreign wars might also dwindle, but the renaissance of Anzac Day since the 1980s means there is now an annual reminder of (at least) the two World Wars. This too will evolve over time. I remember two surviving South African (‘Boer’) War veterans being lauded on Anzac Day in Palmerston, Otago in the 1960s. I don’t think the South African War gets much attention on Anzac Day in the 2010s. The memorialisation of the NZ Wars has also gone through several phases. This topic is well covered in Chris Maclean and Jock Phillips’ book, The Sorrow and the Pride.
To summarise: a few memorials were erected in the immediate aftermath of the fighting, mostly by Pākehā to Pākehā troops or ‘loyal’ Māori. (A notorious example of the latter is the memorial in Moutoa Gardens, Whanganui to the local Māori who defeated an attack on the town by Pai Mārire adherents from further up the river in 1864.) [See illustration here.] http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/photo/moutoa-gardens-nz-wars-memorial
A second period of memorial-building in the early 20th century was also Pākehā-initiated but sought to be more even-handed. There was a good example of this in Tauranga: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/photo/rawiri-puhirake-nz-wars-memorial
In this period, the rhetoric from politicians and in the press was in some ways reminiscent of what we now hear about the Great War: the New Zealand Wars had forged a unified nation in which we were now all one people.
I don’t know a lot about the centennial commemorations in the 1960s, but my sense is of more one-nation rhetoric but also an undercurrent of Māori dissent. In the mid-twentieth century memorialisation became more bicultural following the creation of organisations like the NZ Historic Places Trust.
In some ways 2014 is almost a mirror image of 1914: the major events have been organised by Māori, with Pākehā involved largely on Māori terms. Sites are now interpreted on a self-consciously bicultural basis. For example, the NZHPT has created a free app and education resource that incorporates a driving tour of the sites of the Waikato Wars: http://www.hamiltonwaikato.com/the-waikato-war
As to comparative awareness, I don’t know of any hard data on this. My understanding is that there was little about the NZ Wars in the school curriculum before the 1960s. Since the 1980s, Pākehā awareness has increased – thanks initially to James Belich (his book, and then the TV series). Iwi involved in the wars have certainly never forgotten them, and – again, since the 1980s – the Waitangi Tribunal/Treaty settlement process has reinforced their memories. The World Wars, of course, have been taught in schools and remained in public awareness throughout the last century.
Do you think there’s room for more resources to be put into commemorating NZ wars, and do you see signs of that happening?
As a historian of the New Zealand Wars, I’m committed to better public understanding of these events.
The NZ Wars are covered in Te Ara, the online encyclopedia: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/new-zealand-wars
and on the NZHistory website: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/new-zealands-19th-century-wars/introduction
NZHistory has also researched NZ Wars memorials: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/new-zealand-wars-memorials
Some of these memorials are maintained by the Ministry: http://www.mch.govt.nz/nz-identity-heritage/national-monuments-and-war-graves
And we’ve published a guidebook to NZ Wars battle sites that doubles as a short history of the wars: David Green, Battlefields of the New Zealand Wars: A Visitor’s Guide (Penguin, 2010) The Ministry developed a Wellington War walking/driving app and guide: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/map/war-wellington-map
The current round of sesquicentennial events are being supported by the Ministry, for instance through publicity on the MCH website: http://www.mch.govt.nz/150th%20anniversary%20of%20the%20Waikato%20War
and photography on the Ministry’s social media channels: http://www.flickr.com/photos/manatu_taonga/sets/72157641284593235/
and information for the media: http://www.mch.govt.nz/news-events/press-releases/150-years-attack-rangiaowhia-nz-wars
The Ministry is currently exploring how the New Zealand Wars can be most appropriately represented in the new National War Memorial Park in Wellington: http://www.mch.govt.nz/national-war-memorial-park
Are there comparable countries that do a better job of commemorating these kinds of internal struggles, as compared with their foreign wars, than NZ? Which ones and how/why do they do a better job?
New Zealand actually does this process relatively well, thanks in no small measure to Māori resilience and to the Treaty settlement and Waitangi Tribunal processes. Most countries are much more comfortable commemorating wars against foreign adversaries than internal conflicts. For example, Russia celebrates the Great Patriotic War against Nazism; the civil war following the 1917 revolutions, not so much. France does remember its revolution – but it is the comparatively anodyne events of 1789 (fall of the Bastille, etc.) that are recalled, rather than the post-1792 bloodbath.
There may be a distinction to be made between internal wars with an ethnic or religious dimension, and those without this. In Britain, for example, the Wars of the Roses and the English Civil War excite little controversy today (except at the level of the character of Richard III, for example). Yet the wars in Ireland remain contentious. The American Civil War is an interesting case. It is far from the case that Americans overlook the world wars. But they certainly make more of their 1860s war than we do of ours. My impression is that different sectors of US society remember ‘different’ Civil Wars. Northerners fought to defend the union; southerners for state’s rights; slaves for their freedom (something that many Anglo-Americans managed to overlook until quite recently). Almost forgotten in the process are the coincidental battles against Native Americans that have in some cases been misremembered (and even memorialised) as Civil War encounters.
Foreign wars are easy to brand as wars of national self-defence (the First World War, if the British Empire is seen as the ‘nation’) or even as wars to defend ‘civilisation’ (the Second World War, the ‘War on Terror’). Civil wars – and colonial wars – are much harder to justify, and subsequently tend to fall from memory.
How might we classify the NZ Wars? That is, are they “civil wars” or do they fall into some other category?
Historians have long debated this. In his pathbreaking work of oral history, The New Zealand Wars (1922/23, republished in the 1980s), James Cowan asserted that the campaigns of the 1860s were New Zealand’s equivalent of the American Civil War, which took place at the same time. To my mind, he doesn’t do this very convincingly: the American Civil War was arguably the first ‘modern’, industrial-scale war, with troops moved by rail and the battlefield dominated by the new rifled (and therefore accurate) artillery.
In contrast, the New Zealand Wars were one of many colonial campaigns fought by European powers in the second half of the nineteenth century. Though there were modern features to the NZ Wars (such as the use of armoured paddle-steamers on the Waikato River to outflank the Kīngitanga defences; and techniques of pā design and construction that reduced the effectiveness of artillery bombardment), they essentially rank among a host of colonial wars in which superior imperial technology, logistics (and in this case, numbers) eventually prevailed over indigenous tactical skill, innovation and bravery.
For Māori, on the other hand, the NZ Wars were arguably ‘civil wars’ – with the caveat that Māori society had never been unified along the lines of a European state (or the USA). Between 1845 and 1872, at least as many Māori fought alongside the Crown troops as fought against them. And there was conflict within some iwi: Ngāpuhi hapū fought one another in the mid-1840s, as did Ngāti Porou hapū in the mid-1860s. Reasons for siding with the British included a desire to settle old scores – and ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ – and a belief that siding with the victors would pay off in the postwar world, for example in the retention of land.
While these motivations made good sense at the time, Māori have not tended to remember the Wars as civil wars. ‘Kūpapa’ (the Māori term for allies of the government) has become a term of abuse. Whereas most Pākehā historians follow Belich in using the title ‘New Zealand’ Wars, because they see them as fundamentally a struggle for sovereignty, many Māori historians still use the term ‘Land Wars’, because loss of land was the most significant long-term outcome for iwi. For both groups, the NZ Wars were essentially a colonial conflict.
What is our (i.e. historians’) level of knowledge of the details of the NZ Wars (details of battles, of casus belli, etc.) , and as compared with foreign wars? I assume much more is known about the British side than the Māori. Is that right – and if so why?
We know quite a lot about all the wars New Zealanders have been involved in since 1840. (Unfortunately we know much less about the earlier ‘civil wars’ – the Musket Wars among Māori of the 1810s to 1830s.) And while more is known of the British/colonist than the Māori view of things, I wouldn’t want to overstate this imbalance.
At the time of the NZ Wars, the level of Māori literacy was similar to that of the country’s European immigrants – thanks largely to the missionaries. Māori were inveterate letter-writers and bombarded officials with their views on all manner of subjects. Unfortunately for military historians, they didn’t write about strategy and tactics in the way that European officers had learned to do over the preceding centuries.
Historians of the New Zealand Wars owe a great debt to James Cowan, who interviewed both Māori and Pākehā veterans of the fighting in their own languages – and often, on the battlefields – before it was too late to do so. Most mid-nineteenth century Māori had grown up in a society in which information was transmitted orally, and so stories have been handed down that provide an intriguing counterpoint to written English accounts. I’m not a comparative historian, but my impression is that the NZ Wars are among the best-recorded of nineteenth-century colonial conflicts – certainly from the indigenous side.
All aspects of the world wars have, of course, received unparalleled written coverage, both at the time and since.
Footnote Three: NZ Funding for NZ and Overseas War Commemorations
Details of the latest round of Lottery Grants funding for World War One commemorations can be accessed here: Funding for World War One Centenary
Footnote Four: Bibliography: Te Raupatu O Tauranga Moana/Report on the Tauranga Confiscation Claims. Waitangi Tribunal Report Wai215. 2004. (Available for download at: www.waitangi-tribunal.govt.nz)
The Sorrow and the Pride: New Zealand War Memorials. By Chris MacLean and Jock Phillips. Dept. of Internal Affairs/GP Books, 1990.
New Zealand Wars and the Victorian Interpretation of Racial Conflict. By James Belich. Penguin, first published 1986.
Two Peoples, One Land: The New Zealand Wars. By Matthew Wright. Reed, 2006.
Battlefields of the New Zealand Wars: A Visitor’s Guide. By David Green. Penguin, 2010.
The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period. By James Cowan. 1922-3. (Available online at: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/photo/writing-about-new-zealands-internal-wars)