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ANZAC Myth and Maori


On the eve of ANZAC day 2006, the following article was published in the NZ Herald. It summarises the level to which NZer's, have been hoodwinked into associating their identity with the crimes of Imperialists.
For Maori, it is even worse. Not too long after the end of the Land Wars, their military prowess was usurpped and perverted by their Imperialist enemy and their Kupapa collaborators, to make them a party to every reactionary war and police action against indigenous and woking class people the world over.
The Solomons is only the latest.

Danny Keenan: We came of age on battlefields of New Zealand


The decision of the Maori TV channel to devote extensive coverage to Anzac Day celebrations is really bizarre. When the decision was made public, Maori TV officials couldn't contain themselves - their enthusiasm was palpable.

Anzac Day, after all, is a national icon. This is the day when, in 1915, our boys spilled their blood on the beaches of Gallipoli, when New Zealand "came of age" as a nation, or so the rhetoric goes.

New Zealanders have been sold this idea for generations; that it was some military event, on the far side of the world, that caused us to realise ourselves as one people; that there was a new awareness of New Zealand, forged in the heat of a war in which we had little interest, though it did cost us 160,000 lives.

What direct interest Maori have ever had in this event is never made clear; perhaps Maori TV will spell this out.

As a flagship of sorts for Maori, I wonder how carefully Maori TV thought the issue through before jumping on board the Anzac celebrations.

There is a larger issue here; and it's about Maori fighting alongside or against the Crown, and where this should sit within our national consciousness. For or against the Crown - you can't have it both ways.

The belief that Maori show prowess in battle has always earned Maori a certain grudging respect from Pakeha. It has been even better when that prowess - that energy for killing - has been harnessed by the Crown to do the nation's bidding.

In 1899, James Carroll wanted to take a Maori contingent to Samoa to subdue a Samoan uprising. In 1900, Carroll asked that a native contingent be sent to the Boer War - it was wrong he said that "brown sons of Briton" should be denied their chance to transport their energy to Africa, thereby demonstrating their loyalty to Queen and Empire.

The impediment, as Carroll knew, lay partly in London - Britain was reluctant to allow non-white citizens of the Empire to fight whites.

In New Zealand there was no such reluctance. Maori were permitted to do the Crown's bidding by fighting other Maori, and many did.

In 1914, Maori were initially recruited for garrison duties. But after the losses at Gallipoli, when New Zealand "came of age", Maori were recruited for combat.

At last, said Carroll, Ngata and others, Maori could show themselves to be the equal of the Pakeha, in recruitment, fighting skills, and casualties.

The result was the Pioneer Battalion, all volunteers, which sailed for Egypt and France - Maori prowess harnessed in defence of nation and Empire.

And so Maori unwittingly contributed to the myth of nationhood and Gallipoli; they became a race of subaltern participants in the creation of a national story which, at least as subtext, was also a story of their own demise as a nation.

What the Maori TV channel doesn't seem to understand is that commemorating Anzac Day is, in part, a recognition of the destruction of Maori nationhood. The battle fought at Gallipoli was fought for nation and Empire; it was not fought for Maori.

There were battles, of course where Maori fought for Maori, on our own soil, across a 30-year period after 1840, as the Crown struggled to secure its grip upon the mana whenua of Maori.

The Crown, initially through the use of the British Army, was prepared to seek and destroy Maori who stood against the colonial ideal of establishing a new nation called New Zealand.

The Armed Constabulary was later established to carry the fight to Maori still in the bush, with other Maori recruited in large numbers to do the Crown's destructive bidding.

Those tribes which fought with the Crown in the 1860s later rushed to enlist in the Pioneer Battalion (and the later Maori Battalion). Those tribes which rebelled against the Crown, in defence of what they regarded as a Treaty right, did not.

In 1915, Waikato Maori refused to enlist in the Pioneer Battalion, and were conscripted by way of punishment.

Few Waikato Maori were at Gallipoli in 1915 when blood was tragically spilt. But they were present in numbers at Rangiriri in 1863 when they carried a terrible burden for all Maori by engaging the British Army, in the hope that the planned invasion of the Waikato might be prevented.

But the British Army shelled and shot its way through the Tainui citadel, marching into the Waikato. From this point on, there would be no stopping the Crown from forging a new nation out of the battlefields of New Zealand.

As George Grey had stated years earlier, a New Zealand nation could not exist alongside autonomous Maori. It was one or the other.

New Zealand did not come of age on the beaches of Gallipoli; it came of age on our own battlefields, like Rangiriri. The war that mattered - that forged the nation we are today - was fought on our own soil.

* Dr Danny Keenan is Associate Professor of Maori Studies at Victoria University in Wellington.


Re: ANZAC Myth and Maori

Agreed, though you have to admit, getting beaten by Turkey in a mutual slaughter contest on the wrong beach, in a war New Zealand had no interest in, using forces under the control of another government, and with a complete lack of any useful result, does provide a nice metaphor for the New Zealand state's later progress.
Perhaps we did "come of age" at Gallipoli, and we've been stuck at that age ever since.

Re: ANZAC Myth and Maori

Yes nice metaphor, except NZ did have an interest as a servile, better Brit, colony sending off troops to earn its cut of empire super-profits, again and again, and once more in the Solomons and Afghanistan where Peters and Goff are sucking up to Rumsfeld for the free trade reward. The recycling of (semi)-colonial troops in the service of imperialism from one century to the next proves that NZ nationalism was always a fiction to figleaf over the ongoing British, Aussie and especially US capital ownership and control of NZ.

Re: ANZAC Myth and Maori

Its left hand extends compensation to Maori for the fallout effects of its 19th century capitalist expansionism, imperialism...

...without uninterruption, its right hand continues the very same imperialism and expansionism in the Pacific region, live on TV.

Re: ANZAC Myth and Maori

Also an interesting piece in The Press yesterday by John Minto about conscientious objectors, both Maori and Pakeha.

Who knew the mainstream media had so much to offer...

Remembering our conscientious objectors
24 April 2006

We will remember them. They were true sons of New Zealand. They were men who acted with unsurpassed courage and determination in the face of war.

They thought deeply and weighed the morality of their actions carefully. They stood up for their beliefs and were prepared to take the consequences. They were men who stood steadfast against the prevailing mood of the day. They were true New Zealand heroes.

These were young men who took the tough road of pacifism when the path to war was easy. They refused to wear military uniforms or join the killing of their fellow human beings. They were our conscientious objectors.

Of those who registered as conscientious objectors at the time of World War 1, 60 were exempted from fighting and 273 were sent to prison. Fourteen more were imprisoned on a troopship and taken to the front line of the war in Europe where several were given "No.1 field punishment", which involved being tied to a stake in the open while the war was fought around them. Still their resolve never wavered.

According to New Zealand Prime Minister Massey, "the state comes first" (before conscience) and that "if they won't do their duty they must be driven".

Beside these brave Kiwis were others who opposed conscription and World War 1 for a variety of reasons.

Peter Scott Ramsey, the president of the Christchurch Anti- Conscription League, was given 11 months jail with hard labour when he addressed a public gathering with these words – "To hell with the consequences. I have the courage of my convictions. I have been a member of the peace movement since I was 141⁄2, and I am not going to give up the principles for which I have fought for so many years for the class to which I do not belong."

In an illuminating observation on the background to the war, a trade union conference in 1916 called for the conscription of wealth before the conscription of men, sought trade union pay rates for soldiers and a better deal for their dependants at home. The war was seen as having been generated by wealthy interests on both sides of the conflict which ordered young men to fight to the death.

Tuhoe leader Rua Kenana was the most celebrated Maori objector. He was arrested at his Tuhoe settlement at Maungapohatu and charged with sedition for arguing that Maori should not fight for a Pakeha king and country when Maori ancestral lands had been taken by a Pakeha government 50 years before in the confiscations in Taranaki, Waikato and Bay of Plenty which followed the New Zealand wars.

Waikato Maori were particularly resistant to conscription. In traditional fashion, they performed whakapohane (baring of the buttocks) to insult the government envoy Maui Pomare, who came to plead with them to join the war. Forty-four Maori were arrested but refused to wear the military uniforms they were given. Six were court-martialled and sentenced to two years hard labour at Mount Eden jail.

Of 552 Maori called up in conscription ballots, only 74 joined.

On Anzac Day, of all days, we should salute the actions and honour the memories of these great New Zealanders.

But instead we will have plenty of the cliches of war – "death with honour", "supreme sacrifice", "gave their lives for the freedom we enjoy", "served their country", "sacrificed their lives" etc.

It's easy to see why.

No less than 10 per cent of New Zealand's total population went overseas to fight in World War 1. We were the absolutely farthest country from the conflict and yet sent more troops per head to war than any other country. More than half of these men became casualties, with 18,116 killed.

Two of my great-uncles died in the fighting and most New Zealand families had similar experiences.

This is why Anzac Day resonates so strongly through New Zealand communities. Every town – large and small – has a memorial of some kind to honour those who were killed from their area. "Lost their lives" is how we quaintly describe it.

Most young men who went to war were caught up in the patriotic fervour of the times. This was the "war to end all wars" and our boys would be "home by Christmas". It was to be a "boy's own adventure" – a chance for excitement and travel. The war was to be short and victorious. How wrong they were.

I will remember my great-uncles on Anzac Day. But I will remember first those who opposed the war and tried to stop the killing. They took the hardest road in the face of bitter hostility, personal suffering and social isolation.

These are our true Anzac Day heroes. We will remember them.

Re: ANZAC Myth and Maori

I'd like to see similar commemorations for the tens of millions of civilians killed by the military in the last century or so.

Re: ANZAC Myth and Maori

aren't christians great? 500 million dead and counting at their hand

Re: ANZAC Myth and Maori

I didn't think the Maori Tv coverage was too bad from what I saw. There was an item on and about the conscientious objectors of WW1 and WW2. I would rate it higher than any ANZAC stuff I have seen on any of the other tv stations.

Re: ANZAC Myth and Maori

Bullshit white nation making myth making deny the reality that New Zealand is was made on the back of stealing Maori land and destroying Maori Independence and the right of Maori to have power over their own lives on the basis of their lands and culture.