Tag Archives: NZ

Blackbirding: New Zealand’s shameful shameful role in the Pacific Islands slave trade

From noted.co.nz

This country’s shameful and long-forgotten role in the Pacific Islands slave trade has been revealed in the new book The Stolen Island: Searching for ‘Ata.

June, 1863. The Grecian, a 27m whaling ship painted a martial black and white, anchors off the western coast of ‘Ata, a small, rocky island in the far south of the Tonga archipelago. The captain, Tasmanian whaler Thomas McGrath, yells an invitation to the assembled islanders to come on board to trade.

Nothing unusual here. The ‘Atan population of about 300 are used to trading with passing vessels – pigs, chickens, sugar cane, yams and potatoes for rum, tobacco, pipes, knives, hooks and hoes. Almost 150 men, women and children paddle out to the ship. Some swim. On board they are invited to share a feast (or, some say, view the wares) below deck. But as soon as they descend the stairs, the trapdoors slam shut and the ship sails away with about half the population of ‘Ata locked in its hold.

Jump forward 150 years. New Zealand poet and historian Scott Hamilton was teaching at Tonga’s ‘Atenisi Institute in Nuku‘alofa. He took a group of students to ‘Eua Island, where the remaining ‘Atans had been evacuated to more than a century earlier, establishing their own settlement, named Kolomaile after the village they’d left behind.



In Aotearoa (New Zealand) Māori children were forbidden by the colonial education system to speak their mother tongue at school

“This recently-written song, He Kakano Ahau uses an old proverb to remind us of the rich ancestry of the Maori language. (You can read the whole article at the link below).”

In New Zealand (Aotearoa) as in most places colonized around the planet, the Māori language was banned at school. The goal for the colonizer was assimilation. Genocide achieved by blending the race into non existence.  Children were severely punished for speaking their mother tongue at school. You can read interviews with traumatized survivors of this regime in Rachel Selby’s book, Still Being Punished. Little ones were forced to empty latrines (buckets of human waste), or had their heads slammed under the opening desk lids among other punishments. One survivor says he didn’t speak for many months … at all.  English or Māori. When he did eventually speak he never spoke his mother tongue again.  They were not successful fortunately in wiping out Te Reo, it is still alive and well today.  This song reflects on that. In the words of the song writer Hohepa Tamehana: “In the renaissance of the language in the time of our fathers, anger was the drive to revive the language; it is now the language and culture that gives strength and identity to our children.”


From the article: Hohepa Tamehana (Tūhoe) who wrote this song said “his personal philosophy is ‘Culture is the essence of our being, it is the voice of our ancestors, the cries of our grandfathers, the anger of our fathers and the strength of our children.’

“In the time of our ancestors, culture was the daily voice used,” he explained. “In the time of our grandfathers, when culture and the language was banned by the colonial education system, it became the cries of our grandfathers.”

“In the renaissance of the language in the time of our fathers, anger was the drive to revive the language; it is now the language and culture that gives strength and identity to our children.” ”




Check out the ‘Wanganui Savage Club’ formed when colonial racism was unashamedly brazen

“The Savage Club was founded in 1857 in London “to provide rational entertainment and good fellowship”. The name is a joke, named after a poet of poor reputation, Richard Savage… The Wanganui Savage Club is in a hall that is done as a crudely presented marae. Visiting another club is called a raid. And the members are, almost to a person, Pākehā.

The Wanganui Savage Club is our very own Tikitiki Bar, an Orientalist fantasy that provided a testosterone filled chance for men (and latterly women) to dress up as savages, to play act with their projection of the freedom of Māori society. In one sense it feels like a harmless chance to play. On the other hand, it is a crude appropriation of an entire people.

I was overwhelmed, amused and offended. And I really believe it is something that we shouldn’t let fade into nothingness. It is another strand in the development of our relationships as Māori and Pākehā.”

First We Take Manhattan

For my wife’s birthday, we were gifted tickets to Trinity Roots, who were playing at the Wanganui Savage Club in Whanganui. Suffice to say, they were outstanding, and the atmosphere was suitably eclectic and friendly, alcohol flowed freely and clouds of marijuana smoke wafted outside, across the front of the hall.

But it was the venue that really caught my attention. Essentially a large tin shed, it is a remarkable record of New Zealand Pākehā history that is calling out to be shared with a wider audience. If a picture paints a thousand words, then here’s five thousand to start us off:

A faux representation of Māori carvings bordering the stage A faux representation of Māori carvings bordering the stage

The opening ode sung by members

Club presidents, all Pākehā, are called rangatiras

Visiting clubs were subjected to a welcome from the local club’s haka party

Poorly done kowhaiwhai & murals borders the walls of the hall

The Savage Club was…

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