Category Archives: New Zealand

Alien Encounter at Mercury Bay, 1769

From: Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before, by Tony Horwitz (Picador, 2002), pp. 104-105:

Most scholars believe that sailing canoes set off from the Society Isles, or the nearby Cook Islands, between A.D. 800 and 1200, carrying pioneers as well as plants and animals. They landed on the unpopulated North Island and gradually spread out, making New Zealand the last major landmass on earth to be settled. Then, nothing—until Cook arrived, the first intruder on the North Island since roughly the time of the Crusades.

To me, this was the most extraordinary and enviable facet of Cook’s travels: the moment of first contact between the “discoverer” and the “discovered.” No matter how far a man traveled today, he couldn’t hope to reach a land and society as untouched by the West as the North Island was in 1769. Cook, at least, anticipated first contact; finding new lands and peoples was part of his job description. For those he encountered, the moment of European arrival must have been so strange as to defy modern comprehension. The only experience that might resemble it today would be to find an alien spacecraft touching down in your backyard—except that Hollywood has prepared us even for that. Pacific islanders had no basis for so much as imagining a tall-masted ship, much less one from the other end of the globe carrying white men speaking an unfamiliar tongue.

According to stories told long after Cook’s arrival in New Zealand, some natives thought the ship’s billowing sails were the wings of a giant bird. Others saw three trees sprouting from the vessel’s base and guessed it was a floating island. A much fuller account survives from Mercury Bay, up the coast from Cook’s first landfall, where the Endeavour visited a month later. A boy about the same age as Young Nick, named Te Horeta, stood watching the ship’s approach from shore and lived long enough to share his memory with colonists, several of whom recorded his words. Te Horeta’s vivid and poetic detail, corroborated by the journals of Cook and his men, makes his story one of the most remarkable accounts in the annals of exploration.

“In the days long past,” Te Horeta recalled, he went with his clan to gather oysters and cockles beside a calm bay known by the name Gentle as a Young Girl. One day, an apparition appeared on the water, a vessel much larger than any canoe Te Horeta had ever seen. Watching from the beach, the clan’s elders wondered if the ship had come from the spirit world. Then pale creatures climbed from the vessel and paddled small craft toward shore, with their backs to the land. At this, the clan’s aged men nodded and said, “Yes, it is so: these people are goblins; their eyes are at the back of their heads.” Te Horeta fled into the forest with the other children, leaving the clan’s warriors on the beach.

At first, the goblins did no harm. They gathered oysters and other food. One collected shells, flowers, and tree blossoms, and knocked on stones, putting them in bags. Curious, the children crept out of the woods. “We stroked their garments,” Te Horeta recalled, “and we were pleased by the whiteness of their skin, and the blue eyes of some of them.” The goblins offered food from their ship: hard, dry lumps that looked like pumice stones, and fatty meat so salty that even the warriors winced. Was it whale’s flesh? A man’s? One goblin pointed his walking stick in the air. “Thunder was heard to crash and a flash of lightning was seen,” Te Horeta said. Then a bird fell to the ground. “But what had killed it?” Later, a warrior offered to trade with the newcomers, then snatched a goblin’s cloth and paddled away without surrendering his own dogskin cloak. A walking stick flashed and the warrior fell with a hole in his back. The clan buried him in the goblin’s garment; because the warrior had caused his own death, there was no utu, no revenge. The site of his killing became known by the name A Warm Bad Day.

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Pacific Annexations, 1840-1906

From Sailors and Traders: A Maritime History of the Pacific Peoples, by Alastair Couper (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2009), pp. 140-141:

The managers of the major merchant companies based at the main entrepôts in the [Pacific] islands were often ex-sailors. Several acted as consuls for their governments and supported the companies in many ways, including evoking gunboat diplomacy. A prime example is John Bates Thurston. He served at sea in the island trades, was wrecked at Rotuma in 1865, became British consul in Fiji in 1867, was highly influential in the negotiations for the ceding of Fiji to Britain in 1874, and became governor of Fiji in 1887. The companies, the new settlers, and their sympathetic consuls pressed for annexations. The French were the first to act [but Waitangi was 1840—J.] and took Tahiti, the Marquesas, and the Tuamotus as French protectorates in 1842 and New Caledonia in 1853. These were declared colonies in 1880, and the Australs and Wallis and Futuna in 1887.

The British annexed Fiji in 1874 and established protectorates over southeast New Guinea in 1884, Gilbert and Ellice in 1892, most of the Solomons soon after, and Ocean Island in 1900. They agreed that New Zealand would exercise authority over the Kermadecs in 1887, the Tokelaus in 1889, and the Cooks and Niue in 1901. The Dutch took western New Guinea in 1848. Germany annexed northeast New Guinea in 1885, along with the Bismarck Archipelago and the northwest Solomons; took possession of most of the Carolines in 1885; and ultimately purchased Yap and other islands in the Carolines and Marianas from Spain in 1899. The Germans also acquired the Marshall Islands in 1884 and took over Nauru in 1888. Chile obtained Easter Island in 1888.

America, after its disastrous Civil War, had not recovered a significant merchant fleet and showed little inclination for acquiring Pacific territory. American guano companies had already secured legislation in 1856–1860 that allowed claims over some small Pacific islands, and the US government went on to secure others, including Baker, Jarvis, Johnson, Midway, Palmyra, and Wake. In 1893 the influential American maritime geostrategist Alfred Mahan wrote that it was “imperative to take possession, when it can be righteously done, of such maritime positions as can contribute to secure command.” In 1898, Hawai‘i was annexed (US citizenships were granted in 1900), as was eastern Samoa with Pago Pago as a main naval coaling station, while Guam was captured from Spain by the US Navy in 1898.

The Pacific was now effectively divided between several colonial powers mainly by agreements. In the final carve-up, it was confirmed that Western Samoa was a German colony separated from American Samoa in the east. In turn Germany agreed to relinquish claims for Tonga. As a result, in the closing days Tonga appeared to survive as the only independent Polynesian kingdom, although not quite. It was declared a British protectorate in 1900, and in 1905 it was decreed mandatory for the king of Tonga to take advice from the British consul on all matters of importance. Finally, in 1906 New Hebrides was divided as a condominium between Britain and France.

I’m not sure why Couper omits the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, which made British subjects of the Maori. Maybe he considered both New Zealand and Australia to be colonial powers by the 1840s, even though both were earlier annexed by another colonial power. (Like the Americas, of course.)

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Tokelauan Diaspora Language Revival

The Far Outliers recently had the chance to attend a Polynesian music and dance performance by Te Lumanaki o Tokelau i Amelika ‘The Future of Tokelau in America’, and I’ve added a few photos of it to my Flickr account. They recently won the Po Fatele competition at the Tokelau Festival in New Zealand. One thing that appealed to me about the performance was the combination of vigorous dance and wonderful Polynesian choral harmonies at the same time. You don’t get that combination so much these days in Hawai‘i, although you can hardly beat the vocal harmonies at the Kamehameha Song Contest or the hula at the Merrie Monarch Festival each year. Two other nice features of the Tokelauan troupe were the youth of the performers, the youngest of whom were learning by doing, just as they would in a less formal village setting; and the atoll-authentic percussion instruments: a slit-gong (pate), a biscuit tin (apa), and a wooden box (pokihi).

The background story about how this group got started is chronicled by two linguists, Yuko Otsuka and Andrew Wong, in an article in Language Documentation & Conservation 1, no. 2 (December 2007), from which I’ll excerpt a few of the highlights:

Tokelauan is a Polynesian language closely related to Samoan. Together with English, it is an official language of Tokelau, an island territory of New Zealand, with approximately 1,400 speakers (Gordon 2005). The total number of speakers of Tokelauan is estimated to be approximately 4,000, including those living in American Sāmoa, New Zealand, and the United States. The first missionaries came to Tokelau from Sāmoa. Noting the resemblance of the language spoken on the islands to Samoan, they decided to use the Samoan Bible instead of translating it into Tokelauan. Thus, Tokelauans read the Samoan Bible till this day….

Like many other Polynesian peoples, more Tokelauans live outside their homeland than in it. The vast majority of Tokelauans reside in New Zealand. According to the 2001 census, 6,200 Tokelauan people live in New Zealand. That is four times larger than the population in the homeland. Sixty-six percent of them were born in New Zealand. In 2001, only 44 percent of those living in New Zealand were reported to be able to hold an everyday conversation in Tokelauan, down from 53 percent in 1996 (Statistics New Zealand 2005). These figures suggest that language maintenance outside Tokelau is crucial to ensuring the future of the Tokelauan language….

Tokelauans in Hawai‘i come from Olohega (also known as Swains Island), the southernmost atoll of the Tokelau island group, which lie three hundred miles north of Sāmoa. Geographically, the Tokelau group consists of four atolls: Atafu, Fakaofo, Nukunonu, and Olohega. Politically, however, only the first three belong to Tokelau, an island territory of New Zealand. These islands became a British protectorate in 1889 and were transferred to New Zealand administration in 1925. Olohega followed a separate course of history. In 1856, an American, Eli Jennings, came to Olohega with his Samoan wife and turned it into his private copra plantation. In 1925, Olohega was annexed to the United States and was placed under the jurisdiction of American Sāmoa.

Jennings’s son imposed forced labor on all residents of Olohega. In 1953, the residents of Olohega went on strike in protest to the violations of civil and labor rights. They drew up a petition and submitted to the American Sāmoa attorney general. In response, the acting Governor ordered a state-sponsored eviction of over half the population of Olohega. Many families ended up as refugees in Pagopago, American Sāmoa. Living there was not easy for Tokelauans. Even though they were American nationals by virtue of the annexation, Samoan law precluded them from owning land or businesses. The hardship of life in Sāmoa turned their eyes to the United States (Ickes 1999, 2002). In the 1950s, a student from Olohega, who was on scholarship at the Lā‘ie Community College (today’s Brigham Young University Hawai‘i), saw the opportunities in the pineapple plantations in Central O‘ahu, Hawai‘i. He sent for his brothers and they brought their families to live in the plantation labor camps provided by Del Monte (Ickes 1999, 2002)….

Since 2004, the Tokelauan community in Wahiawā, Central O‘ahu, has been making active efforts to revitalize the Tokelauan language as well as culture within the community. Two organizations play a key role in initiating and promoting the community’s efforts for language maintenance: Te Lumanaki o Tokelau i Amelika (The Future of Tokelau in America) and Te Taki (The Guide) Tokelau Community Inc.

In July, 2004, a youth group from Tokelau visited Honolulu on their way to the Palau Pacific Arts Festival. They performed for the Tokelauans who hosted them in Wahiawā. This encounter sparked a keen interest among the Tokelauan youth (teenagers and young adults) of the community in their Tokelauan heritage. They were deeply impressed by the richness of their cultural heritage and at the same time were shocked to realize that they knew very little of it. The children asked their parents why they had never taught them their own language and culture. It was a rude awakening not only for the children, but also for the parents, who had not seen any value in teaching their children Tokelauan, thinking that they would be better off with English.

This incident led to a sudden awareness among young members of the community that the language was gradually disappearing within the community. Deeply moved by the children’s yearning to learn their heritage, two young parents started a Saturday school to teach the Tokelauan language as well as songs and dances. This is how Te Lumanaki o Tokelau i Amelika came into being. The elders of the community welcomed the opportunity to share their knowledge of the language and culture. As it turned out, they had long been concerned about language loss, but had never voiced their concerns until then. Te Lumanaki’s Saturday morning gatherings thus brought together an intergenerational group of Tokelauans who were eager to share the language, songs, and dances.

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Filed under Hawai'i, language, migration, music, New Zealand, Polynesia, U.S.

Diaspora Month at the Head Heeb

The Head Heeb devoted special attention to diaspora during May. His last post on that topic concerned the Maori diaspora in Australia. Here’s a short extract.

The exact size of the Maori diaspora is difficult to determine, but it appears to be growing rapidly. The New Zealand statistical bureau estimates that, by the mid-1980s, some 27,000 Maori were living in Australia, representing “just over 6 percent of the New Zealand Māori descent population at that time.” By the time of the 2001 Australian census, this number had grown to 72,956. Given that the ancestry question in the Australian national census relies on self-identification and that respondents may select up to two ancestries, this figure may understate or (more likely) overstate the size of the Maori minority in Australia, but it indicates at minimum that 20 percent of New Zealand-born Australians self-identify as Maori. This, in turn, means that (1) Maori form a greater proportion of the New Zealand-born population in Australia than they do in New Zealand, and (2) between 1986 and 2001, Maori emigrated to Australia at a considerably faster rate than white New Zealanders.

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New Zealand’s Market Reforms

Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution asks Have New Zealand’s Market Reforms Failed?

New Zealand moved from being perhaps the most socialized OECD economy to the freest. The country now has free trade, 0-2 percent inflation, no agricultural subsidies, free labor markets, free capital markets, low marginal tax rates, a reasonable fiscal position, and it conducted substantial privatizations, mostly with success. The reforms started about twenty years ago, but the country is not sweeping the world …

What gives?

First, New Zealand without the reforms would have fallen apart and become insolvent; that is the relevant counterfactual. Second, the country is small. The population is just a bit over 4 million; for purposes of comparison the Philadelphia metropolitan area is over six million.

Michael Porter nailed it over ten years ago. New Zealanders have few if any industries [one being electric fencing] where they control market conditions or lead with innovations. For the most part they are at the mercy of world prices and broader conditions. The country’s earlier crisis was precipitated in the early 1970s, when the UK ended “imperial preference” for New Zealand agricultural exports. Another shock will come if Australia passes its free trade agreement with the U.S.; New Zealand exports will face a new and tough competitor.

Finally, the brain drain has not gone away …

UPDATE: Tyler Cowen posts a response from a Kiwi who maintains that NZ’s domestic economy is laden with a regulatory environment that heavily discourages private capital accumulation and investment, including foreign investment.

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Whaling ‘Cloudy Bay Fashion’

The Jasper [of Fairhaven, Massachusetts] headed for Cloudy Bay in New Zealand, where whalemen battled each other with fists and weapons for the best places to get at the whales–“coming Cloudy Bay fashion” was an eloquent slang phrase of the time. Once the anchor had been dropped in a chosen inlet of the sparsely inhabited, thickly forested bay, the ship was securely moored, and the sails and yards were taken down, turning the deck into a factory platform. Then, at four each morning, the boats were manned. Instead of the whaleship doing the hunting, as happened in the open ocean, whaleboats were sent out to find the quarry.

As a method of whaling, it was much closer to the shore whaling that the early settlers of Long Island had known than it was to the deep-sea whaling that Nantucketers had pioneered. The boats headed out to the entrance of the bay, where they jockeyed with the other boats for the best position to lie in wait for the “cows”–female right whales–that were migrating into the bay to give birth. Once a capture was made, the boat’s crew towed it back to the ship to be flensed. Not only did the gigantic size and weight–generally about eighty tons, but often more–of the carcass mean a long, hard haul, but the weather was usually shocking. It was the southern winter, and the climate of Cloudy Bay was notorious.

Seventeen ships lay in Cloudy Bay that season [1836], each one sending out four boats. Shore parties sent out many more, so that the slaughter was immense. The skies were stained with sooty smoke from the tryworks furnaces, and the stench of burning fat and rotting flesh was appalling. Once flensed, the huge carcasses were set adrift, to be pulled apart by dogs, wild pigs, and scavenger birds as they bobbed about in the ebbing and rising tides. On the beaches, huge bones piled up in ghastly cairns.

SOURCE: In the Wake of Madness: The Murderous Voyage of the Whaleship Sharon, by Joan Druett (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2004), pp. 43-44

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The German Pacific "Gutpela Taim Bipo"

Germany acquired its colonial empire in the Pacific beginning in the 1880s and lost it abruptly in 1914. Conventional wisdom usually assumes that one colonial administration was as bad as another and that colonial transitions usually made little difference to the indigenous population. However, the new military administrators who took over from the Germans in Micronesia, Samoa, and New Guinea ran so roughshod over their new territories that the inhabitants of all three regions soon began to look back on German times as the good old days–at least according to a meticulously researched revisionist history of that transition entitled The Neglected War: The German South Pacific and the Influence of World War I, by Hermann Joseph Hiery (U. Hawai‘i Press, 1995).

While Germany’s African colonies were governed by aristocrats, often with the aid of sizable contingents of Schutztruppe (colonial troops), the farflung Pacific colonies were governed by administrators drawn from the middle class, with the aid of tiny police forces.

In New Guinea they replaced the “Perpetuum Bellum Melanesicum” with a Pax Germanica, which attracted more and more unpacified Melanesians. But they also generally let Melanesian villagers settle their own disputes in traditional ways, often by compensation for damages rather than by the trial and conviction of offenders before German courts. This was in marked contrast to the later Australian administration, under whom flogging, the pillory (“Field Punishment No. 1”), and public executions became not only far more common, but far more arbitrarily applied. The Australians also began to dispossess indigenous plantation owners and to impose new restrictions on native dress and education. (For instance, New Guineans were prohibited from speaking proper English and from wearing nonnative garments on the upper half of their bodies.)

In Micronesia, the laissez-faire attitude of the German administration gave way to the much more hands-on approach of the Japanese, who modernized the island economies with unprecedented force and speed. By 1921, the value of exports from Micronesia had already exceeded the value of imports. (And by 1940, the population of Micronesia was over 50% of foreign origin.) The islanders were forced to assimilate to Japanese norms in every respect.

Perhaps the most incompetent new administrator, however, was Col. Robert Logan, New Zealand’s military governor of German Samoa. Whereas Wilhelmine Germany and oligarchical Samoa had shared basic values about social hierarchies and ritual forms of behavior, “the Samoans perceived the ‘democratically’ undifferentiated behavior of New Zealanders as an insult and expression of open disregard for Samoan mores” (p. 250). During the war years, New Zealand bled dry the Samoan treasury, and the fiercely anti-Chinese and anti-American Logan also issued discriminatory edicts against their representatives in Samoa. Worst of all, Logan allowed an influenza-infected ship from New Zealand, the Talune, to dock in 1918, then stubbornly refused either to implement strict quarantines, as the American administrator had done in eastern Samoa, or to accept American medical aid. “Rarely would anti-American prejudice have more disastrous consequences than in Samoa under New Zealand occupation” (p. 174). As a result, about 20% of the population of western Samoa died, while eastern (American) Samoa escaped virtually unscathed. (New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark issued an apology to Samoa in 2002.)

Among the many other gems Hiery’s archival research unearths is a dispirited quote from Woodrow Wilson recorded in the minutes of a meeting at Versailles on 28 January 1919: “the question of deciding the disposal of the German colonies was not vital to the world in any respect.” He seems to have anticipated by exactly half a century Henry Kissinger’s alleged comment about Micronesia in 1969: “There are only 90,000 people out there. Who gives a damn?”

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