In the early nineteenth century when most of the Europeans arrived in New Zealand, the Maoris were the indigenous people. They had been there since the thirteenth century when they had arrived in canoes from the Eastern Polynesian islands
War and unrest followed as the British authorities persuaded the Maori chiefs to sell their lands to the British Crown for some financial compensation as well as peace and prosperity. But when it became evident that this financial compensation wasn’t materialising as promised, the Maori tribes become restless. War broke out in various parts of New Zealand with the Maoris blaming the cheating Pakehas (foreigners). Eventually in 1840 an agreement known as the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the British forces and over 500 Maori chiefs. But although this did largely quell the unrest, there were still minor skirmishes and wars across New Zealand as many of the Maori chiefs hadn’t signed the Treaty and those that had hadn’t always had the full implications of the Treaty explained to them in detail.
Fortunately the Wairarapa area where my forebears and my fictional characters settled was largely peaceful, although there was some unrest in the summer of 1862 in this area which Governor Grant managed to successfully quell. Many supported him in his stance on this including farmer Alister but local minister, Robert has a different and perhaps more modern view of what has taken place.
“I felt such a sympathy with the Hau-Haus and the Muapoko tribe,” he said. “I’m so glad we didn’t have to fight them. The Governor had cheated them and his message about loyalty to the Queen didn’t quite stick with me. No, I’m convinced that it wasn’t his presence or his message that caused them to withdraw but rather the sight of the soldiers’ colourful uniforms, badges and bayonets that cowed them into submission rather than anything else.”
A new Treaty was finally signed at Waitangi in 1975 to address some of the grieviances of the Maori community but over the years much damage has been done to the relations between them and the European settlers.