A primer on the Treatygate conspiracy theory

As a fair number of people are finding this blog and series of posts whilst looking for information on John Ansell’s “Colourblind New Zealand” and “Treatygate” campaigns, I thought it would be useful to have a series of primers on the central tenets of his claims, showing why we should not support his campaigns. In the previous post I provided a series of reasons as to why Ansell’s “equality for all under the law” thesis rests upon a fundamental misunderstanding of the process of restitution that are the Treaty Settlements and how he and his allies mistake the renaissance of Māori culture for Māori somehow having more privileges than other New Zealanders. In this post, I will show that Ansell’s “Treatygate” thesis is a vapid conspiracy theory.

What is “Treatygate?”

“Treatygate” is the thesis that the series of treaty settlements both show that Māori are more privileged than Pākehā in Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu1 and that New Zealand history is being perverted and changed by both Māori and Pākehā cultural elites to justify these settlements. As such, “Treatygate” is a conspiracy theory. It is a thesis that rests upon a claim of conspiracy which says:

    1. These exists a set of plotters (the Māori and Pākehā cultural elites, including members of both major political parties) who
    2. Seek to advance an agenda to give the country back to Māori and deny New Zealanders their true history
    3. Work towards this goal in secret (in that the true history of this place is being kept hidden from the populace and the real reasons for treaty settlements is not being admitted to).

The Treatygate thesis, as espoused by the arguments of John Ansell, is an argument claims there is a conspiracy about Māori which, despite the alleged statistical data, are highly privileged in New Zealand society and that the true history of this place is being kept from ordinary New Zealanders.

Why is the thesis behind “Treatygate” a bad argument?

With respect to the first claim, that Māori are highly privileged, the statistics say otherwise. Ansell and company avoid this, in part, by claiming the problem with Māori is a Māori concern which should be solved by Māori and thus Ansell and company place the blame on iwi leaders.

Note two things about this move.

    1. This kind of argument makes out that Māori are, in some sense, not proper New Zealanders. Ansell’s argument assumes the very thing he is trying to persuade and prove to his audience: Māori do not believe themselves to be like the rest of the New Zealand population. That may be Ansell’s view, but he has no good argument to back it up. Rather, he just asserts it and moves on.

    2. By placing the blame on Māori, Ansell ignores the role of colonisation in the socio-economic environment that is New Zealand. Ansell’s argument is entirely economic when it comes to solving the problems of Māoridom and yet seems to be almost entirely social when it comes to pointing out how Pākehā are, somehow, disadvantaged by the process of Treaty settlements.

It is hard to show that Pākehā are economically disadvantaged by such settlements, so Ansell and company have to talk about Māori having more of some set of amorphous rights than other New Zealanders (such as access to the Waitangi Tribunal). It’s. tricksy argument because it trades on a feeling of being disadvantaged rather than actual disadvantage and it is subject to a lot of goal post shifting; even if you can conclusively show that Pākehā and Tau Iwi are better off than Māori with respect to health statistics, arrest rates and the like, there are a lot of other areas in which such people feel worse off even if they actually aren’t.

With respect to the Treatygate claims about the true history of Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu being kept from ordinary New Zealanders, Ansell and his allies have two tactics which they use to try to show up conventional New Zealand history as being wrong.

The first is to claim that modern histories are pro-Māori and anti-Pākehā, and thus such histories overlook the benefits the Europeans brought to this place.

The second is to claim that Māori are not, properly understood, indigenous to Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu either by claiming that when the Māori first arrived there was another people living here or by claiming that as Māori only arrived some six to eight hundred years prior to the Europeans, that Māori are also recent settlers like other New Zealanders.

Biased Histories

The first claim, about the nature of contemporary historical interpretations of early Colonial/Māori interactions, rests upon a misunderstanding of how History and historical interpretation works. Ansell and his allies will point towards histories written in the late Nineteenth Century and early Twentieth Century and say “These histories show both a Māori society that was in decline (socially and economically) and a willingness (indeed, eagerness) to embrace British rules and values.” They will then point to modern histories and argue that such modern histories either ignore these early histories or dispute them. They then conclude by saying “These earlier writers witnessed what they wrote about first hand; if modern historians are ignoring them, then what is there reason?” or “If modern historians dispute these earlier accounts, are they doing so because its PC,” with the assumption the real reason is that modern historians have or are part of an agenda to hide or obscure the truth of what happened in the early days of Māori/Pākehā interactions.

The issue with this suggested conspiracy is this: these early writers Ansell and company rely upon were often not historians and, even when they were historians, they were writing their histories in a way that is now thought to be problematic.

Historians work from a corpus of archival materials and modern historians are particularly sensitive to the possible political nature of their work. Whilst it seems obvious in retrospect, it is really quite a modern notion to recognise that when people write about events, such accounts can (and often do) reflect the political leanings of both their day and the writer’s own beliefs about the kind if world they think they live in. When it comes to Colonial history, many writers sought to show the benefits European civilisation had brought to New Zealand whilst others wanted to play up the devastation the Pākehā wrought. Modern historians have to sort through these varying accounts and try to discern the facts of history from the political polemics that such histories are wrapped in2. Ansell, and his Treatygate researchers, work solely from pro-Colonial accounts and ignore the other historical data. This is the same kind of sin they charge the holders of the orthodox history as committing.

Indigeneity, a lack thereof

Ansell’s second line of argument, about indigeneity, is a rather more curious beast. Ansell has expressed conditional support for the work of Martin Doutré, an amateur historian and archaeologist who has written both on Treaty issues and on the pre-history of Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounami. Doutré claims there was a pre-Māori, Celtic people who lived in New Zealand and were wiped out and/or absorbed into Māori. If this claim were true, it would speak against Māori being indigenous and a first people. He also provides evidence to back up his claims, but the evidence he provides does not clearly support his thesis. Like many amateur archaeologists, his site interpretations seem to be attempts to find evidence for his theory pre-Māori people rather than engaging in a process of discovery, where the evidence leads him to the development of a theory. His interpretations of the oral histories and mythology of the Māori are equally problematic, as I have outlined here in an earlier post.3

Ansell and company want Doutré’s work to be treated as some kind of plausible historical narrative but their standard of plausibility is not the usual standard we associate with good historical research. Plausible historical accounts are explanations of events based upon our best inferences. The standard of plausibility Doutré (and Ansell) want us to operate with is the “If it’s possible it might be true, we should investigate it” kind, which shows they are either confusing or deliberately conflating “possibility” with “probability.” If you counter this and say “But it’s so unlikely, so why should we bother?” they will response with some claim like “What is it you are trying to hide?” thus assuming the very academic conspiracy they are concerned with.

Doutré’s work is not taken seriously by historians or archaeologists and it belongs to a particular school of fringe archaeology practised worldwide which claims to find evidence of earlier, now forgotten, supercultures which once spanned the globe but, somehow, didn’t leave behind any robust records of their existence. Whilst Ansell has expressed support for Doutré generally,, Ansell refuses to accept that he has explicitly endorsed the pre-Māori thesis4. Thus, if pushed, Ansell will distance himself from this particular view, which means a second strand of argumentation is needed to bolster the claim that Māori are not indigenous.

The argument Ansell and his supporters seem to fall back on, then, is to say “Māori are immigrants/recent settlers too.” They claim that Māori are like the rest of the New Zealand population: people who got here recently by boat and thus are no more deserving of the claim of being indigenous than someone whose family has been here four generations or so. The fact that Māori have been here for a significantly longer time, had a unique and developed culture, their own language and the like is irrelevant, it seems, to the holders of this view.

However, none of this really matters; the Treaty makes no claim about Māori being a first people or having been here a long time. It simply recognises that they were here before Pākehā. This entire strand of argumentation is a distraction, a reason to get angry at “them uppity Maoris.” It has no bearing on whether the Treaty process is just and fair.

Concluding Thoughts

Ansell’s conspiracy theory about New Zealand history and the Treaty process is implausible and unwarranted: his claim that there is a conspiracy, by the Māori and cultural/political elites in New Zealand society is a claim that can be easily dismissed via an analysis of the kind of evidence he uses to buttress his arguments5.

Ansell’s argument for the existence of a conspiracy looks more complex than it really is. This is because, in part, he has collected a large amount of disparate evidence to support it, most of which relies on radical reinterpretations of New Zealand’s pre-contact and early post-contact history and some of which assumes the existence of the very conspiracy he is trying to prove the existence thereof. Like many conspiracy theorists (9/11 Truthers are a good example here), Ansell assumes that if an interlocuter cannot respond to his “evidence” with a counter-argument which accepts the proffered evidence as being true then they have no argument against his view at all. To argue with Ansell you have to accept much of his evidential base. A failure to respect to his sources (say, questioning them) just shows that you are in on the con (and likely to be the product of a Marxist institution which has blinded you to the reality and gravity of the supposed problem). As such, Ansell and his allies live in an echo chamber which, due to the way these things work, selects for the evidence that supports their views and discounts any argument which disputes that evidence as being evidence of the conspiracy against them. Ansell thinks this is the way the academic sector works with respect to our supposedly “PC” histories (gone mad) and either he thinks you fight like with like or he doesn’t appreciate that the academic sector has something above and beyond the echo chamber: we live in a combative peer review system where success is measured not just by your ability to develop and improve on existing theories but also in demolishing theories which are weak, unsubstantiated or based on poor arguments.

I’m mixed in my feelings about the likely success of the Colourblind New Zealand campaign. There is still a substantial section of our population which either views Māori as a base underclass or iwi as greedy and manipulative. It is possible that Ansell’s campaign might have legs. However, it is also possible that it will self-destruct either because Ansell’s “Either you are with me 100% or agin me” attitude, which has already turned away some potential fellow travellers, will alienate the very supporters he needs or he will end up saying something that exposes just how dark an underbelly his movement has6. Whatever the case, should his movement gain traction, I hope these two posts prove to be useful in talking through the issues Ansell is raising.

Notes

  1. In part, the Treatygate thesis is an extension of the Colourblind New Zealand campaign.
  2. Modern written histories and historians can also suffer from the same kinds of biases, which is why we have peer review systems. However, Ansell and company think that the academic world is involved in a conspiracy to hide the truth, so any peer review of a pro pre-Maori history which criticises that work is evidence of the conspiracy and not evidence, it seems, that historians are treating the work seriously but noting its short-comings.
  3. This post is also a good primer on Doutré’s work.
  4. His endorsement appears in this post when he wrote:

    Pretend that Maori are indigenous to New Zealand, when they sailed here just before the Europeans, and suppress the mounting evidence that other races got here first.

  5. What is not so easily dismissed is the way in which he trades upon a particular psychological attitude towards Māori, in that Ansell and his allies display and make use of the feeling that the policy of biculturalism in Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu has not settled well with a certain section of middle-aged, middle-class Pākehā. These are the people who believe things were better for them when Māori and Māoridom were treated as an historical part of our society rather than part of its contemporary vibrancy.
  6. I haven’t talked at all, in these two posts, about the wholesale racial denigration of Māori that has gone on in the comments thread over at Ansell’s blog, and Ansell’s facile and insulting claim that so-called “Muslim fanaticism” (i.e. the reason why we are involved in a War on Terror) is equivalent to Māori unease about the so-called “benefits” of colonisation.

About Matthew Dentith

Author of "The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories" (Palgrave Macmillan), Matthew Dentith wrote his PhD on epistemic issues surrounding belief in conspiracy theories. He is a frequent media commentator on the weird and the wonderful, both locally and internationally. On occasion he can be caught dreaming about wax lions but, mostly, it is rumoured he works for elements of the New World Order.

48 comments:

    1. Hi, Anakereiti, glad you could pop by. Love your work over at John Ansell’s blog (although I imagine it gets all a bit too much).

      I don’t think John and Colin are related: Colin’s last name is “King-Ansell,” so it’s likely only an accident that they both share a last name and have retrograde views about Māori.

  1. Thanks Matthew.im finding it a strain at the moment too many conspiracy theories. Just waiting on his post about the littlewood document being the one true treaty . Martin doutre said so….and any naysayers are agents of the evil waitangi tribunal…. I think im close to wearing out my welcome there which isnt a bad thing as they appear to be getting a bit rabid 🙂

  2. Hi Matthew. New poster on johns website advises that Maori slaves were dropped off here by the Chinese and killed all the white people who were here first. And that Maori should only be Maori in private and that we should fit more to being culturally white new zealanders. Sadly he is serious

  3. What ho, Anakereiti.

    That is, sadly, a theory which has been promulgated by Gavin Menzies (and believed by his legion of followers) in his book “1421: The Year China Discovered the World.” Apparently, when he was in Auckland for a book tour, he actually stated this “fact” to an audience which included some Māori, and when they denied it he just claimed they were ignorant of their own history.

    Which thread was that in? The recent one where “equal rights for whites” is engaging in his ugly white supremacism?

  4. Hi Anakereiti. Thanks for sticking up for me. Has gone a bit crazy over there. Hope he realsies that supremist are cleverly targeting his blog to undermine him.

    1. Hi, Paul.

      It is pretty ugly over there. I got rather annoyed by it all when I was being constantly attacked for being some kind of “Marxist scholar” and, because I had a post-doc proposal to work on, I bowed out so as to not suffer any more abuse. I may head back in, but I suspect anything I say will be treated with derision.

      The only positive I can see to all of this is that the threads really are beginning to show just how ideologically incoherent Ansell’s bunch are. I doubt that lot, even with impeccable PR, are going to be all that successful pushing their “Colourblind State” to the masses.

  5. Hi Matthew. Dont get me wrong, im in-part supportive of John Ansell. Unfortunately, it does come across as a dictatorship. His way or no way. With that attitude, I can not see Colourblind making it out of the starting gate. I got banned for being abusive (telling racist supremacist what I think of them) and the fact that I did make positive comments about the Maori language did rattle a few cages. My theory is that in the middle of all the mess, there is a happy ground. That didnt go down well either, its completely white, no ifs, no buts.

  6. Well, I think the central problem for Ansell is that his thesis of “equality under the law, regardless of race…” et cetera is too tied up with radical, revisionist history, weird far right political ideas and a complete misunderstanding of both “privilege” and what the Treaty process is all about. It doesn’t help that Ansell just assumes everyone is really on his side and that anyone who opposes him must be part of the con. So, whilst I can certainly see that people might agree in part with what Ansell proposes, it’s seems all rather too difficult to disentangle the bit you might agree with with the rubbish you also have to swallow.

  7. The way I see it Mathew, if it is so grand, such an awesome idea, he should form a party. Not a one man band, a dictatorship with a singular mindset, but rather a moderated argument assigned from its members. I think they call it a mandate? Couldnt bring myself to donate to a blogsite, however, a party rather than one man with a goal stipulated by membership could have had me. Damn, was waiting for someone to say a UFO dropped off whitemen in NZ 8 million years ago.

  8. Hi guys. yes Matthew he starts off as equal right then changes to fair go for whites. I dont think I have ever read such a load of rubbish in my life. Paul and I have had sometimes dissenting views but wow did he wear it when he stuck up for Maori language and then called equal rigjts a scrotum and several other very true names. Paul if your ever bored email me at anakereiti.gaelic@gmail.com thanks Matthew yes I would imagine if people see the garbage being spouted people will lose the taste for it

  9. Matiu, you argue like a young girl.

    Your style of argument is exactly what you accuse Ansell of.

    Your incredible pro-Maori bias is simply outrageous. Your bias is indicated first by your placing accents on the ordinary plain English words, maori and pakeha. Maori and pakeha are not maori enough for you, so you have to make them even more maorified than maori themselves ever do. To you, you being so maorified and ashamed of being white, that you need to show maori themselves as not being maori enough compared to you.

    You not only “do” maori in the extreme; you need to be seen to be “doing” maori to extreme (no doubt you are more pro-feminist as well than women actually are, such being your need to show just how modern you are in your lexical fashion stakes).

    Your entire piece is despoiled by this not just “excentric” approach, but extreme margins approach. (BTW, “excentric” is not a spelling error, I mean excentric, not eccentric).

    This is amplified by your constant switching from the terms New Zealand, and some name for this country that you need to be seen as so maorified as to be the only person among 4½ million of us who uses it – “Aotearoa me ..” something or other meaning excluding the South or Stewart Islands.
    FGS, not even the most radical or maori extremists use this sort of extremism. Remember, the term Aotearoa – with or without the South Island – wasn’t even around when te tiriti was signed, nor for another several decades. 500 maori chiefs signed a document which included the words “Nu Tirani”. Were all those chiefs wrong according to your revised version of history, Matiu?

    Matiu, I suggest that your personal “maorification of everything” including maorification of your own use of the English language plays right into Ansell’s cause. Speak English man, not Manglish. All you are doing is proving too a tee, that we live in a “maorification of everything” Nu Tirani.

    Or is English too embarrassing to you? Are you so ashamed of being white, that you cannot even face using your own mother tongue? By all means sell yourself out to the maori cause, but to sell out your own mother tongue, does no credit whatsoever to your claims of objectivity.

    Your writing exactly and precisely typifies what Ansell has been decrying. Even white elite academics are so damned ashamed of the fact that their ancestors tried to bring some order to the chaos that was 1800s New Zealand. Your ancestors did not get it exactly right all the time, Matiu, but you shame me, by your shame and disrespect for yours and my ancestors seems unlimited.

    Our ancestors tried their best to answer the maori chiefs’ requests for help.

    But you want to vilify your own as invaders and terrorists. Your ancestors; my ancestors; were neither. Just like today’s public servants do – as TV3’s John Campbell reminds us daily – public servants of the 1800s got some things wrong. They were not tyrannical. They were not murderers or thieves. They were typical public servants trying to do their best in very difficult circumstances.

    There were few roads even. No phones. Rudimentary mail service. No Office of the Ombudsmen. No public hospitals. No taxis. No Ministry of the Environment. No dentists. No philosophy professors. No blogs. Not one Phd in philosophy, speaking 2010s Manglish.

    1. Once again, Johnny, you are not actually engaging with my argument but making some bizarre claim that because I choose to use the name “Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu” for this place (if you google it, you’ll find quite a few organisations and people also use it) that this means my argument can be dismissed out of hand and that I am ashamed of my ancestry.

      None of that has any bearing on my argument.

  10. That is your style.

    You criticise my post in exactly the same way as deal with my post.

    You select parts of it to reply to. My post was in two parts. The first was to show that you discredit yourself by being more maorified that 99 percent of maori themselves are.

    The second part of my post – the part you choose to pretend is not there – does address what you say I didn’t address.

    It is a favourite complaint of mine in the “maori debate” that participants constantly talk past each other.

    You have just done this to a tee. Have you dealt with the Nazi post from your 2nd in the series thread yet?

    1. Johnny, the reason why I didn’t deal with your “Thy did the best they could” claim you made in the last quarter of your comment is because I’m not going to take you seriously whilst you continue to make irrelevant claims about my choosing to call this place “Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu” (claims which come quite close to you calling me some kind of “race traitor”).

  11. To answer my own question above, thank you, yes I see that you have removed the Nazi pictures from the second of your threads in this series. Good move, thanks.

  12. Just to clarify some of my own position.

    Clearly I am an Ansell supporter. However, lest there be any doubt, I totally agree with you Dr Matiu, that the pre-Maori history nonsense is out of order.

    That said, the proven history is that Maori were present here about 700 years ago, not 1,000 years ago – and Dr Matiu, just because maori like to make it sound more dramatic by “innocently” creeping (without challenge) from 700 to 800 then from 800 to 1,000 years, does not give you the academic, Dr Dentith, licence to go with the maori unscientific creep.

    First though, I absolutely don’t support such flimsy unverified historical nonsense as pre-maori celts or other Europeans. Second I agree that whatever the case, it has nothing, but nothing to do with te tiriti. Te tiriti was signed between the people of New Zealand and the Crown of Britain/England. For the purposes of te tiriti, just how the people of New Zealand became the people of New Zealand is absolutely immaterial.

    In defence of Ansell, I don’t think he was basing his case on this side issue, but his opponents sure as eggs made a point to as often as possible strategically ridicule him for having as much as a loose (open) opinion on this rubbish. That said, if you want to prattle on with what was and wasn’t said on this, I’ll bail from this part of the discussion. Like I say, we are incredibly good at talking past each other on these issues. We Kiwis have this argument style down pat.

    If I personally have any overriding purpose in my contributions to the debate it is this. It is incredibly elusive. It is to identify the things that people actually agree on.

    There is a lexical war going on, a war in which everyone is talking past each other, and more than anything not wanting to be seen to agree on anything. The sole objective seems to be to agree on nothing. If one side says something that the other side agrees with, the other side ignores it as a matter of strategy, and immediately changes the point of attack.

    It can be infuriating and very counterproductive. The debate is rarely civilised or purposive. The debate is never designed to resolve anything, but is always designed only to escalate differences. Points of similarity for example are not a feature of Dr Matiu’s series of threads on this issue.

    Assuredly there are points of similarity, but they are not part of this strategic war. I challenge the host (and Ansell) to identify some of the many things they can agree on.

    Then by all means go for the jugular on the things genuinely in dispute.

  13. So you are criticising me for the words that you put in my mouth. I didn’t call you a race traitor. Those words are yours, but I get criticised for them. And you challenge my argument style? Really not good form. Once again, for a Doctor (which I have massive respect for) you argue like a little girl.

    1. Note that my words were ‘claims which come quite close to you call­ing me some kind of “race traitor.”’ You are the one going on and on about me obviously being ashamed of my whiteness as if that has anything to do with my argument. If you don’t want to own the tenor of your comments, stop making those kinds of comments.

  14. Dr Matiu,

    You have all the excuses in the world for not engaging in the actual issue, while contrarily your tactic is to accuse your opponent of not engaging. This is astonishing. Why not engage in the topic? I really am a boring little fart, and not worth the time it takes to discuss me.

    So how about engaging in whether or not, for example, Nu Tirani (as it is called in te tiriti) was a paradise of peace, tranquility and maori harmony – let’s say for arguments sake, for the 50 years up to 1840.

    feel free to offer a different topic, so long as it is not me.

    1. Johnny, I have little interest in hosting a debate on my blog with someone who a) thinks it is okay to continually attack someone by saying they must be ashamed of their whiteness and b) gets upset when challenged on using that tactic.

  15. Okay, peace out. Okay, you are not hte topic and I’m not the topic. And from my side at least, I agree that my lexical skills are abominable.

    So that aside, and admitted. I am a nightmare. I promise to try to not be a nightmare again. I promise to stick to a topic under debate in your thread above, not the author of the topic. Promise.

    Now. I’ve proposed a topic which is neither you nor me.

    Are you interested in commenting on the topic of the human condition in New Zealand in the period 1790 to 1840? If not, why not?

  16. The title of the essay above is “A primer on the treatygate conspiracy theory”.

    As a (limited) Ansell supporter, there are some aspects of the essay that I believe are not correct, and subject of course as with any blog, to the permission of the host, Dr Dentith, I offer a brief personal response to his essay.

    This comment addresses just one of my concerns about the accuracy of Dr Dentith’s essay. It is that, contrary to what people read in the essay, my understanding is that what is being called treatygate does not attempt to scuttle legitimate righting of wrongs done to maori in the past.

    As a means of settling differences though, my interpretation of treatygate is that the Waitangi Tribunal has shown itself to be concerned only with hearing points of view that portray white people as villains. The Tribunal is not interested in any point of view that contradicts this predetermined perspective. Indicators of this include (reported) Tribunal requests for only maori-friendly and whites-unfriendly submissions over the decades of the Tribunal’s existence. Reportedly, and in my opinion the reports are believable, the Tribunal has refused for example to pay submitters for submissions which don’t conform to a maori-friendly predetermination.

    As a Court of Law therefore, the Tribunal has acted consistently outside the Rule of Law, a process that prohibits Courts acting with predetermination. As such the Tribunal has caused more harm than good to the greater good of New Zealand, and should be scuttled for the betterment of New Zealand as a whole, and replaced with a legitimate Court acting without prejudice, and without legislation which imposes a requirement for prejudice, and to which people of all races may contribute submissions, without predetermined race-based requirements.

    1. Two things:

      One: You said:

      As a means of set­tling dif­fer­ences though, my inter­pret­a­tion of treaty­g­ate is that the Wait­angi Tribunal has shown itself to be con­cerned only with hear­ing points of view that por­tray white people as vil­lains. The Tribunal is not inter­ested in any point of view that con­tra­dicts this pre­de­ter­mined per­spect­ive.

      That would be all well and good if the stats backed you up, but if you look at the list of claims that go to the tribunal, you’ll find that the Tribunal often sides with the Crown. There’s no predetermined outcome (indeed, as a commentator said in another post, the process is wonderfully transparent).

      Two: You said:

      Are you inter­ested in com­ment­ing on the topic of the human con­di­tion in New Zea­l­and in the period 1790 to 1840? If not, why not?

      I am not interested in having a debate with you on that particular topic, for two reasons.

      1. I am not an historian (although I do have some expertise in the Philosophy of History) so, really, such a debate would end up being a war of references and I don’t really have the time at the moment to crack open history books and do the kind of research that is required to engage with you on that topic. You’d be better off talking with a subject expert on this matter, rather than me.

      2. Your original phrasing of this request was:

      So how about enga­ging in whether or not, for example, Nu Tir­ani (as it is called in te tir­iti) was a para­dise of peace, tran­quil­ity and maori har­mony — let’s say for argu­ments sake, for the 50 years up to 1840.

      which somewhat suggests you are characterise my view of the early 19th Century as being some kind of Garden of Eden here in Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu. My argument doesn’t actually require me to have a view about whether things were good or bad here in the early 19th Century. My argument is solely about the kinds of claims John Ansell has made in support of his Treatygate conspiracy theory. I’m not interested in an argument about whether the arrival of the Pākehā was good or bad for Māori, or what kind of society Māori had pre-contact with the Pākehā. I’m interested in the claim of conspiracy John runs, what that claim entails and whether it is backed up by a good argument. Whilst that claim of conspiracy touches on John’s use of… well, let’s say interesting interpretations of historical data and a reliance on particular kinds of historic sources, that is simply one of the lines of arguments being run here.

  17. Okay then Dr Dentith,
    This is the beginning of your essay in the first of your two primers. You said:
    a) New Zealand is a country that was settled by Maori some eight hundred to a thousand years ago.
    b) Europeans arrived some two hundred years ago and began a process known as “colonisation,”
    c) whereby, despite the existence of an indigenous or first people, the newcomers decided to settle in – what was to them – a newly discovered land.
    d) A treaty was signed between Maori iwi and the British Crown
    e) to provide for governance of the new settlers
    f) and, for a time, things seemed peaceful.
    g) However, soon many more settlers began to arrive and the fledgling Colonial government began seizing land from Maori (in contravention of the treaty), leading to the Land Wars. Many Maori were dispossessed from their ancestral land holdings and marginalised in their own country.
    As regards each, I would like to comment very briefly.
    a) The recognised science in NZ puts the first indications so far of maori presence as at 1280 to 1300 AD. The only claims of 800 to 1,000 years are claims that have crept up as maori have progressively incremented their fairy tales, as each has gone unchallenged, thereby giving maori “licence” to invent a few years more. The latest I have heard, and I have heard it many more times than once, is “over a thousand years”. Still this goes unchallenged, so no doubt, to maori, this will quickly become the new “science”.
    b) In the sequence you have presented it, you suggest that colonisation occurred between the years 1812 and 1840. Was this the impression you intended to create? If so it is not correct.
    c) Agree as regards first people, but not as regards indigenous – they are not the same thing. But that’s okay, maori were first, so I’m splitting hairs.
    d) Not so. A treaty was signed between the people of New Zealand (that includes pakeha) and the British Crown.
    e) Are you serious? Te tiriti was designed to provide for “governance for the new settlers”? Which clause of te tiriti is this revised from?
    f) Nothing to report.
    g) This is a very selective review of one-sided history. There are a thousand stories here, that cannot possibly be summed up with the history-revising summary of the government seizing land from Maori. Yes, some was, but so too did Maori take up arms against the government, and after being warned not to, and they did go to war against the government, as they were told beforehand, their lands were seized as a penalty, with due warning. This was commonplace history when I went to school. But now the circumstances have been written out of the collective knowledge. Book burning has happened throughout the world and throughout history. In my humble opinion, sadly, too much maori “book-burning” has been tolerated here, in our national obsession with finding white fault for everything regardless of truth.
    So as between what you say, and what I say on g) there are a thousand stories, not your one-sided 17-word summary of them. Sadly, my ancestors have been branded for trying to help a sadly long-since troubled nation. I’m sick of my skin colour being blamed for things that simply don’t accord with the recorded history, just because it is fashionable to revise history.

  18. 10. Dear Dr Dentith
    In my 8th comment above I posited that just one of my concerns was in the accuracy of your essay.
    It was that, contrary to what people can read in your essay, my understanding is that treatygate does not suggest a scuttling of legitimate righting of wrongs done to maori in the past.
    Do you stand by what you have written in the essay that differs with my view?

  19. Thank you for asking. I might take a time out and see if I can do better job of the question in the morning (and no I’m not pissed – I don’t drink).

    I have to express my gratitude for your indulging my posts at all today on what I never forget is after all, your site.

    And no matter whatever else I say, your Phd is something I have utmost respect for.

    That said, you have gravely insulted my ancestors, and gravely insulted my race and my British/Viking heritage (by way of Scotland). Things you would not dream of saying about Maori today, you have said in your posts and comments, with assumed impugnity – repeatedly insulting my ancestry for no reason that it’s okay to say it to white people. But we whites are supposed to not mention that we are white. We are supposed to be able to take the insults in our stride.

  20. Yeah. And so fucking what about comments that quote someone else talking on a completely different topic, saying “so fucking what”? And to think I give you credit for your earning of a being a Phd. I’ll review the admiration I have for your qualification, in the light of this massively intelligent Stephen Fry citation.
    Do you know, this is quite possibly the first time I have ever heard someone with a Phd base his arguments on a citation of “so fucking what”.
    So that resolves that then. This Phd comment probably now means that race relations in New Zealand will be resolved in the next 550 years, rather than the 600 years it was tracking at till you cited Stephen Fry.

    1. Johnny, since it obviously passed you by, the point of citing Stephen Fry was that your argument seems to boil down to “I’m offended that people say terrible things about my ancestors.” My response: so what? If it turns out your (and my) ancestors acted questionably, then it’s perfectly justified to talk about those questionable activities and appropriate blame. The fact that this seems to offend your sensibilities is neither here nor there and not at all relevant to the conversation at hand.

  21. On your site here, Dr Dentith, citing your Phd as your credentials, you told your readers that Maori have been in New Zealand for 800 to 1,000 years. When I made ad hoc comments in your comments section – in what is after all a place normally used for casual conversation rather than scientific citation – you quickly dismissed me, and asked me for my citations.

    So my ad hoc comment now is to say that my understanding of the current science is that the oldest date currently accepted for Maori being in New Zealand is between 1280 and 1300 AD.

    My opinion is that the only reason Maori claim 800 – 1,000 years is that it is Maori self-aggrandisement (exaggeration), and because when Maori take an inch and get away with it, they then take a mile (as the expression goes). I add that it is now fashionable for Maori to claim “over a thousand years”, so I’m surprised you didn’t do the same. Probably you will next time, now that I have alerted you to this practice. Yes?

    Can you give scientific citations for your claim on this site, Doctor, of Maori being in New Zealand for 800 to 1,000 years?

    1. Johnny, I do not appreciate racially-charged comments like:

      My opin­ion is that the only reason Maori claim 800 — 1,000 years is that it is Maori self-aggrandisement (exag­ger­a­tion), and because when Maori take an inch and get away with it, they then take a mile (as the expres­sion goes).

      Consider this to be your only warning: any more comments of that general type and I will put your comments back into the moderation queue.

      As for your worry about the accepted date for the arrival of the Māori, I am assuming you are referring to the work of Wilmshurst et al in their article “High-precision radiocarbon dating shows recent and rapid initial human colonization of East Polynesia.”

      You should be aware that there is still quite a bit of debate about those numbers and what exactly they mean. For example, this letter to the editor of PNAS (the journal the original article was published in) not only shows that some of the data was skewed (not terribly so, but sufficiently that the numbers needed to be run again) but it also makes the good point that the dates Wilmshurst et al arrived at might be better thought of as dates of established settlement rather than arrival (since it’s usually very hard to find archaeological evidence of when a people arrived whilst it is relatively easy to find evidence of established settlement; you know when someone has established a settlement when they start producing midden pits. Recent arrivals tend to not leave much trace in the landscape). As such, the data does exclude the likelihood that Māori could have been here up to one thousand years ago (which certainly fits with the oral histories).

  22. “Johnny, I do not appre­ci­ate racially-charged com­ments like:

    My opin­ion is that the only reason Maori claim 800 — 1,000 years is that it is Maori self-aggrandisement”

    If you can’t talk about a problem – race relations – then you can’t fix a problem.

    If you consider my comment to be racially charged, then I consider you are not qualified to be posting posts on the topic, and inviting comments. Your site. Your rules. But the rules have to be objective, constructive, robust, compliable and interpretable.

    I say you have a racially-charged pro-Maori slant, you say I have a racially-charge slant. We are probably both right. But your site, you can, but I can’t. That’s fair?

    1. Johnny, I am not the one making sweeping generalisations about a people. You keep trying to cast this as an argument about ethnicity and colour when it really isn’t. I’m not trying to “put the white man down.” I am, it is true, standing up for Māori but my arguments don’t require me to, in your words, be ashamed of my whiteness.

  23. So again we agree on something. I like that. My objective at all times is to find points of agreement, rather than to fight over differences.

    So you agree that the best available scientific evidence is that the earliest Maori settlement known so far is estimated by carbon dating to have been at around AD 1280 to AD 1300

    1. I’ll agree that we can trace established settlements back about 800 years, but all that tells us is that Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu was colonised prior to that point and that I think the oral histories indicate that the people who would become the Māori may well have been here up to a thousand years ago.

  24. And I accept that you don’t claim to be a man of science.

    Equally of course I could say that for all we know Maori may have been here for 2,000 years. But if they were, they would have been nomads for an implausibly long time. Whereas you think Maori may have been nomads for up to 300 years it would seem. Okay, that’s your view. Who am I to sneer at a proposal which has new settlers wandering around for 300 years?

    Okay, we are close enough. You say settled for 800 years. I say settled for 700 years. I call that close enough to stop the quibbles.

    That said, I suspect pro-Maori people will continue to say “over a thousand years”, and I can’t stop it (especially at this web address). Moving on.

    Now then. In your essay no 7 you said that

    “Europeans arrived some two hundred years ago and began a process known as ‘colonisation’, following which you said that ..
    .. A treaty was signed between Maori iwi and the British Crown.

    The implication of this in your essay is that you think that Europeans began colonising New Zealand before the Treaty was signed.

    Is this the impression you were meaning to convey?

    1. Johnny, you can call it quibbling if you like. I’m not honour bond to accept your interpretations of these matters, so don’t make out that I should rest content now. Especially since you are either deliberately distorting my argument or don’t understand what I mean by “established settlement” when you say:

      Whereas you think Maori may have been nomads for up to 300 years it would seem.

      I said “established settlement.” That doesn’t mean that Māori were nomads before. For one thing, they might well have lived in temporary settlements. For another, it is most likely that the early settlements were coastal and thus may well have disappeared into the sea. Te Namu pa in the Taranaki is a good example of this: the pa site has almost completely slipped into the sea now and in a few decades all the evidence of that settlement will be gone. Given that Te Namu pa was a relatively late settlement, it’s reasonable to assume many early, similar coastal settlements are no longer extant due to erosion.

      As for European colonisation of this place pre the Treaty; yes, that was what I was saying. For example, Bluff was founded and settled by Europeans in the early 1820s.

  25. 5. Dr Dentith

    Wow! Sorry, I genuinely didn’t know about the first degree. Shames me in perspective. What would I know. Mine is BCom (Adelaide 1969) – just another boring accountant/computer programmer when computers occupied entire basements of buildings – but spent most of my career as an overseas diplomat – USA, Japan, Iraq, Australia – and being single, 29 locums spanning every continent. My specialty was always having a bag packed, and never refusing an assignment even with as little as 2 days notice. Lucky me, career to die for.

    So do you regard a few people turning up to reside and trade for example at Bluff in 1820, as ‘colonisation’?

    1. Had the New Zealand Company actions in 1838 not occurred, we probably wouldn’t call the small number of settlers in the early 19th Century “colonisers.” But, as their presence suitably enabled more Europeans to feel comfortable about coming to live and settle in a new land, it certainly marks the start of the colonisation process that got into full gear in 1838 (of course, the New Zealand Company started to send out colonists in the mid 1820s, but the bulk of the process really was the late 1830s and very early 1840s).

  26. ***that Māori are highly priv­ileged, the stat­ist­ics say oth­er­wise.***

    Misrepresenting his argument? My understanding was he was referring to legal rights, as opposed to outcomes. Note that groups can have disparate outcomes for a variety of reasons, including culture and human biodiversity.

    1. Not really. Ansell plays fast and loose with his talk of privilege, sometimes referring to legal rights, sometimes talking about the over all position of Māori in society.

  27. The 1825 New Zealand Company, and the 1838 New Zealand Company were different companies. Both failed in what they set out to do. They set out to buy land for settlers. They did not set out to steal it, though disputes arose on both sides.

    Yes blood became spilled at Wairau, and some maori lost their lives, though a lot less in number than Europeans, totalling something like 25 people or so in total lives lost. All thanks to a few incompetent businessmen. Boy am I paying through the nose for the couple of incompetent business people who caused this.

    Funny that I just mentioned today that my degree is from Adelaide, and that a couple of posts later you are mentioning the New Zealand Company. The Wakefields were involved in both places. They are still regarded as heroes in South Australia. Anyway, their model they started in Adelaide, they decided would work even better in the Wellington area. It finished up the other way round.

    Adelaide was a resounding success. Wellington over the decade became a disaster.

    Lots of bad business decisions were made. No-one, in my humble opinion, set out to create war. If it were today, the people involved wouldn’t have even finished up in court for what were after all, no more than bad business decisions. No-one set out to create war. Indeed it would have meant instant doom for the New Zealand Company for fighting to have broken out.

    Recognising all of this, the British monarchy *finally* decided that it needed to stop turning a blind eye to New Zealand, and decided to bring the “wild west” to order. Queen Victoria was recently crowned, and in mid 1840 she was about to marry and there was goodwill all round. There was equally good intent in the plans for negotiating with the New Zealand “aboriginals”.
    Most people, on all fronts I dare to suggest, prefer even today to call this process, a partnership. Partnership implies willingness and goodwill as regards all parties.

    Your two essays labelled your “Primer” – sections 8 and 9 here – do not paint a picture of te tiriti, at its signing, as being a process involving willingness and goodwill. I am curious as to why you, seemingly a lone or near-lone voice, paint te tiriti process as one of ill-will.

  28. Thanks for your hospitality.

    Not that I ever saw this as a competition, but I see it as aomething of a victory for justice, that you have seen the need to remove my neutral-language posts giving some detail about the New Zealand Company demise in New Zealand at around the time of the signing of te tiriti.

    The Tribunal does that too. It too turns away reports that are factual, but which contain facts that don’t fit what is preferred truth.

    Again, thank you.

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