Land Acquisition

The taking possession of indigenous lands was done by increments. The sharp invasion of a territory is very up front and can be met with equal or superior force and the invaders can be expelled at the outset. However, and NZ  author Sidney Mead writes about this, the true agenda was masked (in NZ’s instance at least) by three distinct phases. Mead describes these as

  1. the friendly accommodating phase
  2. the wars of domination phase and finally
  3. the myth making phase

This is similar to the modus operandi used by pedophiles. The friendly colonization phase would be called ‘grooming’ in terms of how a potential victim is befriended by the pedophile … the real agenda emerging later when trust is gained. In the colonization scenario, friends until they were numerous enough to establish a Treaty and begin to display some military muscle to those who wouldn’t sell their lands. This was when the Land Wars were initiated, written up historically using a title that intimated the non sellers were the cause. Witness, ‘Maori Wars’ in the case of NZ. Had they revealed their true intent at the outset, they would of course have been quickly annihilated themselves, given the warrior status for instance, of NZ’s indigenous people. During the ‘friendly’ phase many times the indigenous peoples actually provided assistance to the new comers, enabling them to survive in the new terrain, and without which there would often have been certain death.


Unlike the newcomers, indigenous people generally had no concept of buying or selling or individual property ownership. Land was owned communally. It is dubious that the purchase prices of bed caps, beads and axes amongst other things,  would have been fully understood in terms of there being a transference of their lands into the sole ownership of their guests (fencing & no trespass signs included)  in exchange for the said trinkets and other sundry items of no great value, not in real estate terms anyway. And lest you think the newcomers didn’t know or understand the limited knowledge of indigenous peoples regarding real estate consider the following. When the Batavia merchants of the Dutch East India Company were  sending out Abel Tasman what they recorded spells out quite clearly their expectations: (see extended version here) ….

“…especially trying to find out what commodities their country yields, likewise inquiring after gold and silver, whether the latter are by them held in high esteem; making them believe that you are by no means eager for precious metals, so as to leave them ignorant of the value of the same; and if they should offer you gold or silver in exchange for your articles, you will pretend to hold the same in slight regard, showing them copper, pewter, or lead, and giving them an impression as if the minerals last mentioned were by us set greater value on.’ (

The following is a list of the items Reverend Henry Williams paid for his 3,000 acres of land at Pouerua in NZ’s Bay of Islands;

Ninety blankets, two hundred dollars, four cows, two casks of tobacco, seven hundred pipes, twenty-five iron pots, twenty-six axes, twenty-six hoes, eight adzes, six spades, four pairs of scissors, eleven knives, twelve books (Putting the Land on the Map, Govett Brewster Gallery, p 33).

Today, some 800 direct descendants of Williams own more land than any other family in New Zealand, large tracts on the East Coast, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay and the Wairarapa, worth at least $30 million (The Rich List, G. Hunt pp 22-25). (That figure cited is at least a decade ago so values will have changed of course).


The land of our ancestors is stolen away from us …