Daily Archives: December 2, 2012

Thinking about the Maori wars

Now that we’re back in Kaaawa, I have to admit my ignorance about New Zealand’s history.

On Friday (Thursday in Hawaii), we walked to Auckland’s War Memorial Museum, which stands in the middle of a large park on a hill near the University of Auckland. We missed the proper paved walkway leading up through the park, and instead ended up on a network of small trails. Using maps on my iPhone, we managed to keep going in the right direction until finally meeting up with the main part of the park and the final walk to the museum.

And what a fine museum it is, featuring exhibits on all aspects of New Zealand and the Pacific. We wandered around for several hours, and would need several more days to do it right.

This is where I have to admit that I entered New Zealand knowing little about its history, which in important respects parallels Hawaii’s experience. Both were “discovered” during voyages of Captain James Cook, both destinations for missionaries, both with native populations decimated by measles and other introduced diseases.

But it was the decades of inter-tribal warfare, and armed resistance to the influx of settlers, that caught my attention.

In Hawaii, for good or ill, Kamehameha was able to crush internal resistance and establish a central government relatively early in the process. In New Zealand, it looks like local groups retained much more autonomy, and fought each other as well as the westerners.

What I’m wondering is how New Zealand’s history of the long Maori wars has shaped its modern society and politics, and in what respects modern Hawaii differs because we went through a different kind of evolution without that extended period of warfare.

Any suggestions for appropriate readings would be much appreciated.