Friday, April 18, 2014

Why the term ‘settler’ needs to stick

By and , The Martlet

This semester, I’ve heard at least one person express their love for this land and their discomfort with the term “settler.” This individual did not see how the term applied to their situation and found it divisive and hurtful. They chalked up conflicts within indigenous-settler solidarity efforts to simple differences in cultures and worldviews.

The latter statement is fundamentally connected to the speaker’s discomfort with the term “settler.”

Simplifying these conflicts ignores and hides the ongoing colonial power dynamics that shape indigenous-settler relationships. This logic frames colonialism as historic, rather than an ongoing structure.

This is why the term “settler” is used: to denaturalize our — that is, all non-indigenous peoples’ — status on this land, to force colonialism into the forefront of our consciousness, to cause discomfort and force a reckoning with our inherited colonial status, to create the understanding and desire to embrace, demand and effect change.

“Settler” is a political and relational term describing our contemporary relationship to colonialism. It is not a racial signifier. Rather, it is a non-homogenous, spatial term signifying the fact that colonial settlement has never ceased. Colonial settlement is ongoing and it will remain so as long as we continue our implicit consent by remaining willfully oblivious to, or worse, actively and consciously defending, colonial power relations.

Dispossession, disconnection and destruction is the story of Canada. But it doesn’t have to be our future.

If we don’t acknowledge and understand our settler status, how will we work together, in solidarity and in practice, for a better future?

Of course, being called a settler or self-identifying as a settler doesn’t mean we understand this relationship — perhaps we never will fully understand the extent of it. Nor is it an end in itself. Unsettling is a longer and larger-than-life process involving the emotional, psychological and mental, but more importantly, the material.

We have inherited “settler” status because the structures of colonial domination remain to benefit us, whether you are first or eleventh generation on these lands (though these benefits flow unequally amongst us). Understanding this is the first step in creating new relationships based on peace and mutual respect — the first move towards producing the conditions for solidarity.

But this is only the first step.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fellow workers are not to be sneezed at

Good advice from the Department of Health.

Title: Your Fellow Workers Are Not To Be Sneezed At
Artist: Gus
Printed in England
Medium/Support: Printed Poster
Dimensions: 152x506m
Archives New Zealand Reference: AAFB 24223 W2555 Box 41/ 41g.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Defending Ōrākau

Reposted from NatLib: Many New Zealanders will be aware of the approaching centenary of the beginning of the Great War, but it is also important to remember the New Zealand Wars fought on our own soil. Between March and June, the 150th anniversaries of the battles of Ōrākau, Pukehinahina (Gate Pā), and Te Ranga will be commemorated. Next week the Library is hosting public events featuring different perspectives on the Waikato War, and in particular, the battle of Ōrākau.

This is in association with the exhibition Borderland: The World of James Cowan , currently showing in the Turnbull Gallery. The writer James Cowan (1870-1943) grew up close to the site of the Ōrākau battle, and his family farm included part of the Ōrākau pā.

Sketch of the country about Orakau.
Sketch of the country about Orakau. Plate 16 from Journals of the Deputy Quartermaster General, 1864. Ref: MapColl 832.14hkm 1864 6659
The Waikato War (1863–64) was waged by the government against the Kīngitanga movement, which arose in resistance to land sales in Waikato.

Towards the end of that war, Rewi Maniapoto was persuaded by members of Ngāti Raukawa and Tūhoe to defend Ōrākau. The fortified pā was still being built on 31 March 1864 when more than 1,000 British troops arrived, led by Brigadier-General Carey. The pā withstood frontal attacks and shelling, before the British soldiers surrounded it and constructed a sap, digging their way in a zig-zag motion towards the 300 Māori defenders.

By the time General Cameron arrived on 2 April, the Māori were suffering from thirst and starvation. Cameron called for a ceasefire and offered them a chance to surrender.

There are several versions of what happened next. Most agree that one of the defenders replied with: ‘E hoa, ka whawhai tonu ki a koe, ake, ake’ – ‘Friend, we will fight you forever and ever’. The women were then offered a chance to leave, but Ahumai Te Paerata replied: ‘Ki te mate ngā tāne, me mate anō ngā wāhine me ngā tamariki’ – ‘If the men die, then the women and children must also die’.

Rewi defying the British troops at Orakau. Wilson & Horton lith. Auckland, Wilson & Horton, 1893.
Rewi defying the British troops at Orakau. Wilson & Horton lith. Auckland, 1893. Ref: C-033-004.
 Later that day, the Māori defenders broke out of the pā in a group, taking the British by surprise. They headed towards the nearby swampland and scattered. One of the survivors, Hitiri Te Paerata, later reported: ‘A storm of bullets … seemed to encircle us like hail’. Of the 300 in the pā, 160 were killed.

One survivor of the Waikato War – after being invited to attend the 50th ‘jubilee’ event commemorating the battle in 1914 – said to James Cowan ‘The Pākehā, is willing to let bygones to be bygones, but does he offer to give me back my potato ground?’

At a recent symposium hosted by the Alexander Turnbull Library, in conjunction with the Centre for Colonial Studies of the University of Otago, various themes were explored into Cowan’s legacy, including relating to his recording of the battle of Ōrākau. Paul Meredith, of Ngāti Maniapoto, who grew up in Kihikihi area, spoke about Cowan’s methods of writing down oral histories, and collaborating with tribal scholars such as Raureti Te Huia when he gathered information about the wars. Meredith suggested that Cowan’s methods have parellels with kaupapa Māori methodology of today.

There is a letter in Borderland from Raureti Te Huia to Cowan, in which Te Huia gives feedback on the validity of two maps that Cowan had sent him, relating to the layout of Ōrākau pa. This letter was a part of the collection of Cowan papers that the library acquired at the end of 2012 which inspired the Borderland exhibition.

Photograph of six Ngāti Maniapoto survivors of the Ōrākau battle, taken by James Cowan in 1914
Photograph of six Ngāti Maniapoto survivors of the Ōrākau battle, taken by James Cowan in 1914. Ref: 1/1-017975-G
 Commemorations for the 150th anniversary of Ōrākau include three days of activities in Waikato (31 March-2 April).

The National Library is hosting a season of lunchtime talks next week, focusing on Ōrākau.

On 24 March we have the kuia, Rovina Maniapoto, a mokopuna of some of those who fought at the battle, who will be talking about the Ngāti Maniapoto perspective on the events of the battle and what has happened since.

On 25 March Te Kenehi Teira will be talking about The New Zealand Historic Places Trust's recent registration of Ōrākau as a wāhi tapu area. Teira, who spoke at the recent Cowan symposium, will also talk about the driving tour ‘apps’ they have developed which allow people to learn a lot about the history of Waikato War sites, while at the relevant sites.

On 26 March, the historian Vincent O’Malley will talk about how Ōrākau has been remembered (or forgotten) focussing on the 50th and 100th year commemorations in 1914 and 1964.

And there are more events coming up soon. Have a look!
For more information about the James Cowan symposium held at the National Library, see this post from Lachlan Paterson on the Centre for Research on Colonial Culture's blog.

And if you'd like to learn more about the the Battle of Ōrākau you could start with this page from

The Ōrākau battlefield as it appears today. Photo: Paul Diamond
The Ōrākau battlefield as it appears today. Photo: Paul Diamond

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Treaty and the Word: The Colonization of Maori Philosophy (an extract)

Sheet 1: The Waitangi Sheet. [IA 9 9 Sheet 1]
The nature of my work means I engage with Te Tiriti o Waitangi on a regular basis. This has led me to learn a lot more about Te Tiriti, the colonial history of Aotearoa, and tikanga (Maori law). There are a number of resources available available on these topics, but two writers that have challenged my  understandings of both Te Tiriti and tikanga are Moana Jackson and Ani Mikaere.

The following extract is from a chapter written by Moana Jackson in Justice, Ethics, and New Zealand Society (Oxford University Press Australia & New Zealand, 1992). There are one or two other chapters worth reading, but 'The Treaty and the Word: The Colonization of Maori Philosophy' stands out for its radical re-framing of the Treaty debate, its clear description of tikanga (Maori law), and its sweeping critique of colonization. 

To take an extract out of its context is always problematic, especially when the text has been constructed in a concerted way. However, the part I've highlighted here really is worth highlighting.

The Maori philosophy of law, te māramatanga o ngā tikanga, was sourced in the beginning. From the kete of Tāne it was handed down through the precedent and practice of ancestors. Like an intricate tāniko pattern, it was interwoven with the reality of kinship relations and the ideal balance for those within such relationships. It provided sanctions against the commission of hara or wrongs which upset that balance, and it established rules for negotiation and agreement between whānau, hapū, and iwi. It formulated a clear set of rights which individuals could exercise in the context of their responsibility to the collective. It also laid down clear procedures for the mediation of disputes and for adaption to new and different circumstances.

This philosophy was a body of thought which acknowledged the potential for conflict in human relations, a conflict sourced in the beginning disputes of creation. Its wisdom lay in the ideas it developed to maintain balance in accordance with the notion of whakawhitiwhiti kōrero, or consensual mediation. Its efficacy was ensured through the exercise of political authority, mana, or rangatiratanga, which compelled compliance through ultimate sanctions such as muru or utu.

The effectiveness of sanctions was due to the fact that rangatiratanga was a total political authority. It was defined by Sir James Henare in 1987 as authority over the Māori way of life, and by Te Ataria a century earlier as the power to determine life and death. It was also, as the 1835 Declaration attests, a statement or philosophy of independence

This philosophy and the institutions which arose from it were, of course, quite different from those of the Pākehā law. they were also quite unacceptable in the context of the power structures which colonization sought to implement. They were, in fact, a source of independent sovereign authority incompatible with the givens of the colonial way. If colonization was to proceed, therefore, they needed to be dismissed, redefined, or subsumed within the alien institutions of the colonist. They were a part of the Māori soul, and the needed to be attacked by the Leviathan of Crown sovereignty.

The institutions of Māori law were to be replaced by a mythology of Pākehā law which sought to deny the reality of its cultural bias and its political servitude through a dishonest rhetoric of impartiality and equality. And they were to be supplanted by a Pākehā political authority which sought to justify its power through a rhetoric sourced in the mythology of that law.

In the realm of mythology, however, the ultimate reality is human interest, and the mask of mythology rarely hides the truth. In imposing their own myths, the fabric of their own word, Pākehā law and politics removed Māori rights and authority from their philosophical base. Colonization demanded, and still requires, that Māori no longer source their right to do anything in the rules of their own law. Rather they have to have their rights defined by Pākehā; they have to seek permission from an alien word to do those things which their philosophy had permitted for centuries.

Their rights as tangata whenua defined by Māori law have been replaced by a Pākehā concept of aboriginal rights exercised within, and limited by, the Pākehā law. Their political status, as determined by a shared whakapapa which underlay the exercise of rangatiratanga, has been replaced by a common subordination to a foreign sovereignty. The mythological right to impose that sovereignty is claimed by teh Crown on several grounds. The imperial order of annexation issued by the Colonial Office in January 1840, the unilateral alleged conquest of Maāori in battle, and of course, the Treaty - these are all advanced as proof of the Crown's right to rule over Māori.

Yet such claims flow from an acceptance of the givens of the Pākehā word and a rejection of the Māori. At its most simplistic level they articulate what is almost a petulant position: that because the Crown has proclaimed sovereignty it has it. Like deLoria's bully, the Crown pouts and claims, "I have asserted my sovereignty, so of course I am sovereign."

Alternatively, in a slightly more refined petulance, it claims that because it now exercises de facto sovereignty, the Pākehā rule of law requires the rejection of any other sovereign claim. The validity of Māori rule of law is, of course, lost in the petulance. However, the mere assertion of authority or the passage of time can neither justify an imposed power, nor render meaningless the rights of those who have been subjected.

Yet the assurance and arrogance of the Pākehā word are such that it can make these claims: within its law they are valid. But according to the word of the people over whom the claims are made, they are not at all valid. They are merely symbols of oppression which no amount of legalistic righteousness can deny.

Under Māori law, it was impossible for any iwi to declare its authority over another except through absolute military conquest. It was equally impossible for any iwi to give away its sovereignty to another. The sovereign mana or rangatiratanga of an iwi was handed down from the ancestors to be nurtured by the living for the generations yet to be. It could not be granted to the descendants of a different ancestor, nor subordinated to the will of another.

This firm reality, however, was dismissed by the alien word - if in fact it was ever understood. It was merely part of a primitive political construct which needed to be civilized; and if, as the Black American writer LeRoi Jones has stated, 'in order to civilize you must first oppress', then so be it. And if that Māori construct was ever to be actually given written expression, as it was in the Treaty, then it needed to be redefined and made acceptable to the oppressor's word.

 The story of this redefinition, and indeed the whole Pākehā analysis of the Treaty, is one of legal and political gymnastics performed behind a veil of apparently reasoned justification. As such it is a story that has more to do with a continuing but covert colonization than it does with acknowledging the truth; with creating ever-changing myths about the reality of power, rather than establishing honest relations between Māori and Pākehā.

The opening chapter of this story is always a debate about whether the Treaty is, in fact, a valid agreement under Pākehā law. The fact that it is valid in Māori law does not even merit a footnote.

The question of whether or not it is legal under Pākehā law does not prevent the second chapter beginning with the claim that the cession of Māori sovereignty in Article One of the English text is a clear and valid transfer of authority to the Crown. Because of this claim. the Pākehā word and its writ can run according to its law for the rest of the story. The attacks on Māori soul can hereafter be carried out in the name of Pākehā law.

Māori law and the Māori text of the Treaty, of course, allowed no such thing. Because it was impossible to give away the mana of the iwi under Māori law, no transfer of sovereignty could occur, hence no attack on the rights or soul of the Māori was permitted or even contemplated.

Thus, in Article One of the Māori text, the rangatira grant to the Crown a notion of kawangatanga - of authority to govern the settlers, the people our ancestors called 'ngā tangata whai muri' - 'those who came after'. For the Māori text to have done more would have been contrary to Māori law, and the rangatira would have been unable to sign.

The Māori version of the Treaty is a reflection of the ancestral precedents and rights which were defined by Māori law. If fulfilled the form of Māori law since it was discussed by the representatives of iwi, and it both recognised and preserved the authority which they had as rangatira to sign on behalf of their people. It was the text around which all the discussion at Waitangi was based, and to which most rangatira attached their moko. It did not, therefore, give the Crown the right to rule of Māori simly because within the philosophy of Māori life and law that was impossible. It did not even suggest such an option because the political realities of 1840 precluded it.

Article Two of the Māori text acknowledged both the political reality and Māori philosophy when it reaffirmed the rangatiratanga of iwi. In spite of that acknowledgment, however, the truths of Māori law and political control remained unacceptable to the colonizer's view of the new world they sought to create and the new word they sought to impose. The Māori text was therefore eventually dismissed, and teh word of teh English was elevated into an unchallengeable given.

- Moana Jackson

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ready for Revolution

AK Press snapped these neat pics of my cover design for Ready for Revolution: The CNT Defense Committees in Barcelona, 1933–1938 by Agustín Guillamón. I think it came out well, but even better is the book. From what I've read of the text (and Barry Pateman's excellent introduction), it's well worth getting. As Stuart Christie blurb notes:

Agustín Guillamón’s latest work, Ready for Revolution, is one of the most illuminating and stimulating books on the CNT to appear since José Peirats’s The CNT in the Spanish Revolution. The structure and role of the union’s defense and action groups is of crucial importance not only in understanding the anarchist core of the CNT unions during that pivotal period in Spain’s history, but it provides today’s industrial, commercial, environmental, and social activists with useful organizational insights—a must have.

 Barry makes a similar point in the introduction:

Chapter 11, “The Barcelona FAI Radicalized by the Defense Committees,” is a wonderful opportunity for the reader to see the various groups discussing the situation they find themselves in. It’s rare to find this type of material in English that is not written from memory and in reflection long after the events described. The discussion leaps off the page and is full of contradiction, confusion, affirmation, and certainty, all served with a high level of sophisticated perception. There is an immediacy to it, not least because these are not the voices of the more sophisticated speakers and writers who we are used to reading, but those of the ordinary militant... This is radical history at its finest as the anarchists attempt to deal with the actions of the Stalinists, their other supposed allies, and the behavior of the CNT’s “higher committees.”

The book is not scared to take a critical look at the events of the Spanish Revolution, and as a result, brings fresh insights to this inspiring period of working class struggle.

You can get your very own copy or e-book here: