Radio New Zealand journalist Meriana Johnsen – without any hint of a blush, we imagine – reported that “Gisborne iwi are setting the record straight on Captain James Cook…”
In other words, we have been told this is what really happened when Cook and his crew first arrived in New Zealand.
These Gisborne iwi – and Johnsen perhaps – will now be awaiting their invitations to contribute to the history books to be introduced to our schools.
Johnsen’s report is headlined “Gisborne iwi on British ‘collisions’: ‘They started swimming away but Cook started shooting’.”
Cook started shooting?
Not his crewmen?
The iwi seems anxious to do draw attention to the people who were killed by the Endeavour crew – nine of them according to this report – and to how Polynesian navigators arrived in New Zealand in 1350.
“That side of New Zealand history was revealed at the Tūranga Hou Kōrero hosted by local iwi – Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Oneone, Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki and Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, yesterday.
“Ngāti Oneone rangatira Te Maro was the first person shot by Cook’s crew on 9 October, but little is known about the four unarmed fishermen killed the same day.
“Rongowhakaata kaikōrero Dean Hawkins said Cook was trying to kidnap them.
” “They started throwing their hoe at Cook, they started throwing their anchors at Cook just to get away, they even stripped down, and took their clothes to get away – they started swimming away but unfortunately Cook started shooting at them.
“Three young boys who had tried to swim away were captured. Captain Cook and his crew, including Tahitian navigator Tupaia, brought them on board and gave them food and alcohol, but they were returned to their village in Waikanae the next day.”
It is instructive that Johnsen says this “was just one of the stories that the 50 people at the wānanga heard…”
Another Radio NZ report provided fodder for a headline in The Guardian which further vilified the English explorer and navigator: ” ‘He’s a barbarian’: Māori tribe bans replica of Captain Cook’s ship from port”
Anahera Herbert-Graves, the head of Northland’s Ngāti Kahu iwi, or tribe, told RNZ: “He [Cook] was a barbarian. Wherever he went, like most people of the time of imperial expansion, there were murders, there were abductions, there were rapes, and just a lot of bad outcomes for the indigenous people.”
This puts Cook in league with the likes of Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan.
The source of Herbert-Graves’ information is not stated. The same goes for the information from Gisborne iwi.
On the other hand, let’s check out this Pakeha accoount. It references Cook’s journal.
On 8th October the Endeavour sailed into a bay, and laid anchor at the entrance of a small river in Tuuranga-nui (today’s Poverty Bay, near modern Gisborne). Cook named a peninsula in this bay “Young Nick’s Head” after Nicholas Young.
Noticing smoke along the coast, an indication that the country was inhabited, Cook and a group of sailors headed for shore in two small boats, hoping to establish friendly relations with the natives, and to take on refreshments. Four sailors were left to guard one of the boats, but were surprised by the sudden appearance of four Māori brandishing weapons. When one Māori lifted a lance to hurl at the boat, he was shot by the coxswain.
Oh dear. A bit extreme, shooting an assailant in self-defence.
Perhaps we should ask the iwi how they would have handled a threatening situation which called for an immediate kill-or-be-killed response.
Oh – and let it be noted that Cook did not do the shooting.
Cook’s party returned to the Endeavour, and the next day came ashore once again, accompanied by Tupaia. Some Māori were gathered on the river shore, and communication was made possible as Tupaia’s language was similar to that of the Māori. Gifts were presented, but the killing of the day before had left the Māori hostile. When one Māori seized a small cutlass from one of the Europeans, he was shot.
Who attacked whom?
Three other Māori who had jumped overboard were picked up by the Europeans, and taken on board the Endeavour. They were offered gifts, food and drink, and soon overcame their fear.
Bloody barbarians! They gave gifts, food and drink to the three Maori rather than slay them and eat them.
Communication was possible via Tupaia, and the next day the three Māori were taken back to shore, where their armed kinsmen were waiting. There was no violence on this occasion.
Cook however, upset by the killings which had already taken place, decided to leave this area…
A barbarian upset by some killing?
And how can we reconcile this with the RNZ headline about Cook shooting at four “unarmed” fishermen.
On the other hand, kidnapping clearly was not confined to the Cook side of this early encounters between local people and British explorers.
On 15th October, as the Endeavour was off the coast, a large canoe came alongside. With the help of Tupaia, Cook communicated with the Māori, who numbered about 20, and trade for fresh fish commenced. However, as Tupaia’s young servant Tayeto, was making his way to the canoe to accept the fish, he was grabbed by the Māori, who paddled off with their prisoner at great speed. Cook’s men fired on the canoe, killing one Māori. This gave Tayeto the opportunity to leap overboard, where he was picked up by the Endeavour.
Another account can be found in Investigate Daily.
It is an extract from Ian Wishart’s The Great Divide and says acclaimed historians like Michael King have misled the public about Cook’s first encounter and its significance in a land where the law of “utu” meant massacres were common:
It acknowledges that Captain Cook’s first week in New Zealand was a bloody one, as he and the Maori tested each other’s mettle.
“The usual routine in the more politically-correct New Zealand history books is to imply that Cook shot innocent Maori because he and his crew were unfamiliar with Maori haka and challenges. Cook may have been new to NZ waters, but he and his officers were not entirely stupid. They had, after all, spent a lot of time in the Pacific islands, and had on board the Tahitian chief Tupaea as their cultural advisor and translator.
Michael King reckons the first tragic meeting happened like this:
“Poverty Bay Maori paid a price for confronting the unknown visitors. When a Maori party approached the Endeavour’s pinnace ashore on the bank of the Turanganui River and ceremonially challenged the crew, a sailor judged their intention to be hostile and shot one man dead.”52
Readers can make their own minds up as to whether that’s an overly simplistic paraphrasing of what follows, taken directly from Endeavour’s diaries….
What follows in Investigate Daily comes from those diaries. Readers can quickly check it out HERE.
There should be no surprise that the October 2019 Gisborne iwi version of what happened is not readily reconciled with the more immediate October 1769 version from Cook and his crew.
Among the glaring discrepancies, the three or four deaths in the Pakeha account has been lifted to nine in the modern-day iwi version.
Here’s hoping the record is really set straight before it is served up to school children as our history.