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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Kohimarama 150

150 years ago today the Crown convened a meeting of Iwi leaders in an attempt by the Governor to organise an alliance against the tribes they were invading in Taranaki and the tribes they were about to invade all over the North Island in the next few years.

Even though there have been reconventions, they have been at the instigation of Maori - not the Crown.The current government regards the Kohimarama conference idea as too divisive to revisit it in a formal way. Which is a pity, albeit consistent with the hostility and occupation of a government whose claim of legitimacy relies on the repudiation of constitutional undertakings to Maori.

Coming to terms with the past and consideration of what the 1860 conference meant is something that ought to be discussed. Modern issues of the foreshore and seabed, Maori land title, Mana whenua/Maori jurisdiction, confiscation reparation etc. and the Crown's role as the government can all be addressed through a process like the conference. At the very least an explanation from the Crown about what happened in 1860 and how we have come to this point would have been a useful exercise.

The only kite flying going on at the site today is of the literal sort: Manu Aute Kite Day.

Proceedings of the Kohimarama Conference. It began on the 10th July 1860.

The flavour of the Crown's address to the hui.It's a genocide scenario he's sketching out for his Maori audience. It was a manifesto of the ethnic cleansing-cum-property speculation hatched by the Queen Street mob, but presented as if it were the concerned words of the Queen herself.

On the one hand the Governor is offering to obliterate the existence of Maori authority, culture, race and nation — and on the other hand the Governor (only 20 years since the signing of the Treaty) is saying if Maori resist these genocide plans:

Violating their allegiance to the Queen

Then Maori will become a "less-favoured" race and won't have any rights anymore... and thus... and he let's us read between the lines... Maori can be arbitrarily killed/enslaved... a la Australia. That was the set of options unilaterally offered by the Crown by way of dialogue with Iwi.

It's no wonder the current government doesn't want to revisit it. It was the declaration of war - before the war, the Waikato in 1863. And a hint at the confiscation legislation, the NZ Settlements Act of the same year, though the programme by the Crown seems relatively inchoate at this point.

Allocating just four temporary parliamentary seats to represent Maori - to satisfy London in 1865 - and the increase of mass European immigration that saw the Maori proportion of the country's population drop to 5% at the start of the 20th century it does seem arguable that a genocide scenario may have been attempted, especially given the Crown's threatening position at Kohimarama in 1860.

All these issues could be traversed at a reconvention. They are all live political issues. It's not as if the history can be divorced so easily from the contemporary situation: the land remains, the Crown remains, and the policies - like the Foreshore and Seabed Act at least for now - still remain.

The Imperialist's 'you are either with us or with the terrorists' ultimatum of total obedience to their aggression is as as real today as it was then too. The bully's logic echoes from George W Bush's swaggering arrogance in 2001 all the way back to 1860 Kohimarama and will keep reverberating with the Urewera show trial scheduled for next year.

The Iwi leaders took the opportunity to have a proper discussion of many issues rather than just focus on the Governor's warmongering agenda against the Kingite movement (the full consequence and speed of which it was advanced must have been difficult for Maori to comprehend or contemplate) and the reconventions show that Maori were prepared to make far more of the idea than any Governor ever intended.

From Paora Tuhaere's bio entry:


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