Art. X.—The Maoris To-day and To-morrow.
[Read before the Hawke's Bay Philosophical Institute, 14th September, 1896.]
There has lately been presented to the Houses of the General Assembly a State paper dealing with the census of the Maori population.
This census was taken in February of the present year, in anticipation of the census of the colonists which was taken in April. The circular that was addressed to the enumerators by the Under-Secretary of the Department of Justice asks that the returns may be accompanied “with a report on the increase or decrease of the natives within each district since the last census was taken; the general State of health of the natives; any disease or epidemic which may have visited them; and any further information bearing on the statistics of Maori population which the enumerators might consider of interest.”
There were fourteen enumerators in all, and their reports are attached to the return under notice. The total population,
including the Maoris and Morioris of the Chathams, was 39,805 persons—viz., 22,861 males and 19,132 females. The return of the Maori census in 1891 gave the population at 41,993. There is thus shown a decrease of the native population during the past five years of 2,188 persons, or 5.2 per cent. In other words, for every hundred Maoris living in the country in the year 1891 there were only 94.8 in April, 1896. It has been known for many years that the native population was decreasing, and, without the help of a census such as the Government has issued, those who have occasion to travel through native settlements can testify to the fact. When Sir George Grey addressed his despatch, No. 121, Legislative, to the Right Honourable Earl Grey, in August, 1851, with, reference to the Provincial Councils Ordinance, he referred in the twelfth paragraph to the native race, and estimated them at “one hundred and twenty thousand souls,” a very large proportion of whom were males capable of bearing arms. As Governor of the colony at that time, Sir George Grey had excellent opportunities of estimating the Maori population, and I have reason to think that the estimate he made was not an extravagant one. It would thus appear that in the short space of forty-five years, or in a single generation, the natives of New Zealand have decreased by no less than eighty thousand, or twice the present native population. In paragraph 11 of the despatch the total European population of New Zealand was estimated at twenty-six thousand, or little more than one-fifth of the native population, whilst the census in April last showed the European population to be 703,360, or about twenty-seven times what it was forty-five years ago, and seventeen and a third times that of the present native population. It is not necessary to point out here the marvellous physical and social changes that have taken place in both Islands during the same period, but it is a fact nevertheless that just as settlement has spread and free European intercourse has been allowed in what may be termed native districts there has been a decrease in the Maori population, whether the times have been warlike or peaceful. What has not been accomplished by means of the sword of the settler has been equally well accomplished by the Government of the country in its efforts to dress in European garb and make live in European ways the native aborigines, without one single thought as to adaptiveness to environment, especially upon a free, roaming, and warlike race.
It is to be regretted that the census return omits to set forth the number of children of the native race compared with the adult population, as this would have been of great value in enabling a comparison to be drawn between the two races—one dominant, aggressive, and adaptive; the other imitative,
subjective, and living under conditions that are unnatural, and such as no civilised Government would approve were the true aim of government to regulate and safeguard the well-being of the subjective race equally with the dominant one. The means of obtaining information on a matter of such importance are not difficult, such as they were a few years ago. In all the native centres schools have been established, and the teachers in them exercise a wide influence among the native population. The services of these teachers should be employed to obtain special information relating to the younger generation of the native race, just as is done in the case of teachers in the public schools, who are usually employed in the smaller centres of population as registrars of births, marriages, and deaths, and from whom the best information is always available.
The reports of the enumerators are suggestive and full of interest to those who desire to study the native race. From them it appears that vice and crime are diminishing in most of the native districts. Agricultural work is extending, and a good many natives appear to be devoting more attention to the raising of stock, whilst the opening of Native Land Courts is urged as detrimental to the spread of this work among the natives. At the time of taking the census the general health of the natives was good, although measles, influenza, fever, and other epidemic forms of sickness have raged among them in various places since 1891. Three of the enumerators make reference to the drinking habits of the people, and there is evidence to show that the moral influences which have been brought to bear upon the native race of late years are operating beneficially in many ways. Colonel Roberts, of Tauranga, one of the enumerators, says, “The Alcoholic Liquors Sale Control Act Amendment Act, passed last session, prohibiting the sale of liquor to female natives, is being carried out in a satisfactory manner, and the result is very marked as regards their general conduct and behaviour when contrasted with the past.” Mr. Hutchison, S.M., of Masterton, another enumerator, reports “that drunkenness is not a vice of the Wairarapa native”; whilst Mr. Kenny, sub-enumerator for Marlborough and the Sounds, says, “There appears to be a strong feeling among many Maoris in favour of the strict enforcement of the law prohibiting the sale of intoxicants to Maori women.” “I am told,” continues the enumerator, “that in Picton the Maori women can obtain drink without difficulty, but not; I understand, from the hotels.” It is hard to say whether the natives as a race are a debt-laden people, but those who know them best are aware that little or no foresight is shown by them whenever they have money at their command. To satisfy the wants of to-day appears to be with them, as with
all half-civilised communities, the sole end of their existence; and yet the summary on pages 13 and 14 of the return shows that there are individuals among the Maori race who cultivate the soil with a view to profit and exchange: 9,000 acres of potatoes, 2,200 acres of wheat, 9,200 acres of maize, and 7,000 acres of other root-crops is no bad record of native industry for a single year. In. addition, the natives had 66,000 acres of grain-sown lands, and they held in common more than 11,000 acres of cultivated lands for produce such as melons, marrows, and gourds of different kinds. Their flocks of sheep numbered 314,000, their cattle nearly 30,000, and their pigs over 50,000. With such possessions it can hardly be urged that a population of under forty thousand souls is badly off; and I doubt whether it would not be difficult to find such a satisfactory record among a half-civilised community in any other country that has been settled and governed in the same way as New Zealand.
The effect of confinement in prison on natives is specially referred to by Mr. G. H. Davies, another of the enumerators, and his remarks on this subject are interesting and valuable, as showing the effect such treatment has upon a people whose notions of duty and obedience are unlike those of the colonists, who have been brought up under a different environment. He says, “Confinement such as the native prisoners are subject to, while they have every possible care, kindness, and attention, causes them to grieve for freedom and droop. Imprisonment to them means more than it does to their white brethren—the product of modern civilisation—and should be taken into consideration when sentence is passed on them. It is not punishment in such a case, but the infliction of great cruelty. In dealing with problems affecting a race such as the Maori the influence of heredity should be considered. Knowing as we do what the ancestry of the Maori must have been—warlike, fearless, generous, hospitable, lovers of freedom, and living an untrammelled life—we should make allowance for those whose fathers, little more than fifty years ago, led a free life, and are now compelled to obey the laws which to them are so restrictive in their operation.”
Sir George Grey, in the despatch already referred to, said of the Maoris, “They are fond of agriculture, take great pleasure in cattle and horses, like the sea and form good sailors; have now many coasting-vessels of their own manned by Maori crews; are attached to Europeans and admire their customs and manners; are extremely ambitious of rising in civilisation and of becoming skilled in European arts; they are apt at learning, in many respects extremely conscientious and observant of their word, are ambitious of honours, and are probably the most covetous race in the world. They are also agreeable in
manners, and attachments of a lasting character readily and frequently spring up between them and the Europeans. A great many of them have now from their property a large stake in the welfare of the country; one chief has, besides valuable property of various kinds, upwards of £500 invested in Government securities; several others also have sums of from £200 to £400 invested in the same securities.”
I have made these quotations to show that even to-day the Maoris retain in great measure the character which was given them nearly half a century ago, although the interval has been passed in many sanguinary contests for supremacy between themselves and the colonists. Again and again have the natives suffered defeat and heavy loss, but the results have only shown the truth of Sir George Grey's estimate of them both in peace and in war. But, although the natives have usually shown themselves willing to listen to the advice of the Government of the colony, it is surprising that so little has been done on their behalf and with a view to their improvement and development. The whole history of the native race since the governorship of Sir George Grey to the present is one long period of mistakes, dissatisfaction, and misunderstanding. The natives have been compelled to recognise the authority of the white man at the point of the bayonet, not that the white man intended to force himself into the country in the way he has, but simply because the Maori desired to go his own way and pursue his own methods in his transactions with the white man. Throughout the long period of intercourse no attempt has been made to influence Maori life through Maori authority. The Queen's law was and is for settler and native alike, but nothing could have been more unnatural and unjust to the latter. The Queen's law was understood and realised by the colonists. We had come to know the meaning of obedience, authority, and protection, and the law, whilst it enacted obedience to authority, gave protection in a way that no native could possibly understand. “Warlike, fearless, hospitable, generous, lovers of freedom,” such were the attributes of the Maori. When the arm of savage and civilised met in conflict the skill of the former was their only protection against a foe, and to expect the native to become amenable to a settled form of government such as that established by the colonists was both irrational and unjust from a native point of view. To those who study the causes that led to the war in the Waikato, or the growth of the Hauhau fanaticism, followed immediately by the Te Kooti raids, there is no difficulty in assigning all the troubles to the refusal to recognise what may be appropriately termed a form of local government among the natives themselves. As a people the natives, from the time when they were first brought into
contact with Europeans, have always had a high ideal of the capacity and power of the latter. Whatever was done by the colonists in the shape of government was attempted or imitated by the native chiefs with a view to the benefit of their own people. They were not the initiators of change, but they strove to imitate the acts of those whose sword they feared, and whom they recognised as superior to themselves. When the colonists, in 1835, formed among themselves, at Russell, in the Bay of Islands, a judicial and legislative Executive Council for the punishment of evil-doers, the principal natives of the North in the same year met and declared the independence of “The United Tribes of New Zealand.” They decided to meet year by year for the making of laws and the due administration of justice among their own people, just as the colonists had decided a few months before. When the first meeting of the General Assembly took place in Auckland, in May, 1854, a ferment among the natives began, which culminated in the meeting of representative chiefs on Lake Taupo in 1856, when Te Wherowhero, from Waikato, was unanimously chosen by the assembled chiefs as native king, under the title of Potatau I. The aim of the representative chiefs was the control and government of the native race according to native law and custom. They fully recognised Her Majesty as their queen, and on a pole in the centre of the area where the meeting took place, and within a few yards of the lake, the English flag floated gaily, and below this were two others, one representing the Governor and the colonists and one representing King Potatau I. and the natives, both flags floating at the same elevation and of equal dignity and authority. From the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, in 1840, no doubt appears to have been raised by the natives as to the fact of New Zealand being immediately subject to the British Crown, but they have always kept in view their right to local government and control. It is curious how time alters the notions of the colonists in relation to such matters. During the past few years the native claims to local government have been allowed, and representative meetings of rare interest and importance have been held in places like Gisborne, Hastings, and Taupo. These meetings are now held annually in various centres, and questions are discussed and dealt with in a way that would do credit to assemblies of larger pretensions.
During the past eighteen years I have had exceptional opportunities for studying the habits of the natives, and it seems to me the time has come when something should be done to stay, if possible, the disappearance of this fine and noble race of people. It has been explained what their characteristics were in 1851, and again at the beginning of the present year.
Their numbers have diminished, and are diminishing at a rapid rate, but in many respects their fine qualities remain. Their desire for war has gone, and the force and energy so characteristic of the older natives are only met with at rare intervals among the young generation of men. The arts so common among them, such as weaving, making nets, mats, &c., in the case of the women, polishing greenstone and carving among the men, will soon become things of the past. The younger folk know as little of Maori art such as it was a quarter of a century back as do the majority of the colonists; and even the raupo whare is giving way to the wooden house, although the latter is less comfortable, and certainly less warm, than the former. The native schools have greatly modified Maori ideas, but unless they are made more adaptive than now to the social and industrial needs of the race the work that is being done in them so well can only end in making the extinction of the native easier and more rapid than it is. Let the present condition—moral, social, mental, and industrial—of the Maori race be fully understood in comparison with our own. Their dwellings are not separated into rooms like those of the Europeans; the same room is occupied by all for sleeping purposes at night and for conversation during the day. Their habits are not regulated by sanitary laws, and there is no authority regulating the arrangement of a pa, the location of a whare, the disposal of offal, and the hundred other minute but essential matters in connection with the sanitation and general welfare of the people. Formerly the chief of a pa occupied a position of authority, but such a position is now merely nominal, especially in all that concerns dwellings, food, and social intercourse. The fighting chief has either disappeared or will soon do so, whilst the chief by descent has no executive authority, and exercises but little moral influence among those who come into daily contact with some of the lowest forms of colonial life such as one sees so often in the vicinity of native settlements.
It cannot be denied that a good deal of information is being obtained by the younger natives as to the way people should live who aim to adopt European ways. In schools like the native college at Te Aute the young people are trained and educated in a manner which shows the capacity of the native race to gather information on subjects like history, geography, and grammar, and even in classics and mathematics many of the youths and young men display considerable capacity. But when they have conformed to European ways for four or five years, and have acquired a fair English education, they go back to their own homes, where the conditions of life are so different from the life and associations of the school. What can such youths and young men do?
They are already at their meridian in social and intellectual development, and their setting when they return home is rapid and effective. I have no doubt whatever that every young person when quitting a native school would infinitely prefer to live the life such as he has lived during his school career; but where is the outlet, and what can such young people do to modify the conditions of the moral, social, and industrial life in the native settlements to which they severally belong? From personal experience I am aware that many young natives return to their homes from the boarding-schools imbued with the desire strong upon them to live good lives, and to modify in some way the unsatisfactory conditions which they know exist either in their own home or in the pa; but a few days' residence suffices to convince them of the hopelessness of their efforts. They cannot change the habits of their elders, and they perforce must conform to the ways of the whare; and the ways of the whare are certainly not the ways of native boarding-schools like those of Te Aute, Hukarere, and the Convent. Nor should it be forgotten that native settlements differ entirely from what colonists find existing in the smaller villages among their own people. The village is usually in touch with the nearest market town, and every colonial child, as he or she ages into youth and manhood or womanhood, holds the power within himself to win his way into the larger centres of population, where mind, skill, and industry are always in demand. The natives—young men and young women alike—return home from school at the close of their school career, and they are isolated entities among their fellow-natives in scholarship and general knowledge; but what is the value of all their scholarship at a time so important? For their knowledge there is not the slightest demand among the native people, and, just at a time when emulation should be fostered by expectations of advancement, there is nothing in the Maori life by which such emulation can be encouraged, for they are unable to advance a single step in a society which is without government or organization, and the result is indifference and disappointment. It is at this stage in the career of the young natives where the study of this great social question as it affects the native race should begin. The young colonist, when he quits the school to work in the wider school of the world, has a thousand places of honour within his grasp should he possess capacity and ambition; but the Maori, on leaving school, however capable he may be, passes into a community where organization is dead, and. in which there is not a single place of trust open to him. Is it any wonder that intelligent natives, fresh from school, soon grow indifferent, and inquire one of another as to the use of the training they have undergone? They observe colonists
acting as teachers for the instruction of native children; colonists as ministers of religion preaching the gospel to natives; colonists as doctors attending to the necessities of the sick natives; colonists as lawyers pleading in Native Courts; and yet the prospects of the brightest among the natives are blighted and hopeless, for the reason that the State has made no provision whatever for the utilisation of their services. But we have reached a point in the history of the Maori race when their rights and their duties must be brought up for reconsideration. A national spirit must be aroused amongst them. The decadence of ambition, purpose, and influence is bringing about the destruction of the race, and something is wanted to counteract these influences at the present time if we wish them to continue as a people among us.
I have briefly touched on some points as affecting the well-being and continuance of the native race which call for attention and amendment. We must look upon the natives as something more than aborigines. They are fellow-citizens, powerful in mind and body, and capable of playing well their parts in the duties of life under conditions suited to their modified surroundings. No native can live without ambition, and ambition can only be aroused by increasing responsibilities and arousing worthy ideals possible of attainment. The scheme such as is suggested below may be incomplete, and by some it may be looked upon as Utopian, but it is one which the present condition of the native race requires to be adopted without delay. As the dominant race it is our duty to strive for the good of those from whom as colonists we have obtained so much. When the Maoris were untouched by European influence they were endowed with qualities which suggested great power and capacity to improve. Their lives were then fully adapted to their environment; but new conditions have arisen, and everything should be done by the ruling authority to assist the natives in that adaptation to modified environment without which they will disappear as a people and a race. There is no alternative. Little or nothing has been done to assist them in bringing about the needful change. The first step cannot come from the natives, because the end to be reached is government and organization such as the race do not possess. With the disappearance of more than 1 per cent. every year in the native population, such as the last native returns show to have taken place during the past five years, the end cannot be far off unless stayed by the adoption of rational and scientific means. If it is desired that the native race, with their past romantic history and associations, shall disappear from among us, there is no need to take warning, for the end is already assured and it will not be long in coming. But the time
can be indefinitely postponed. Adaptation to the modified environment is the remedy, and this is possible under a proper organization that admits of internal growth and expansion. The Maoris possess all the qualities that go to make a great people, but their contact with new conditions of living have modified their own ways and thoughts, and the two conditions are antagonistic. The savage and the civilised cannot dwell together. There will be a disappearance of the one or a merging in the direction of the stronger force, and this is what must take place in New Zealand. The trials through which the natives have passed since they have been in contact with a newer and a higher civilisation have in some measure prepared them for modification in their own mode of living. Organization is to them a necessity, and that organization must embrace what will bring about new aspirations and new hopes among the leaders as among the separate members of the native race. The martial spirit of the Maori is dead. It has been destroyed by the spread of the white people among them; and something is wanted in its place, so as to arouse the people to new activities and new aspirations. The suggestions which are given below are the result of long observation among the Maoris and a full consideration as to the best means of creating among them a national spirit different from that of old, but adapted to the new environment. The decadence of ambition, purpose, and influence is bringing about the destruction of the race. With a view to counteract this tendency, it is necessary to institute something which will arouse emulation by the presentation of ideals—moral, social, and mental—such as it is possible and desirable for the native race to strive to obtain. Let the natives be taught to realise that there is a prospect of social advancement in competition with their own people under a form of government suited to their present condition, and emulation will soon be aroused and progress assured. The natives need not vanish before the progressive ways of the white man if the latter chooses to assist the former in the work of preservation and development, and the following scheme suggests a way in which the thing can be done. The proposals may be thus summarised: First, the establishment of a system of government; second, the opening of cottage hospitals for nursing the sick in various centres, where native girls could be trained in the art of nursing and healing; third, the scheme of native education amended, and so arranged that pupil-teachers and assistants may be selected from among the native race; and fourth, a system of scholarships established to enable the young men and women to proceed to the technical schools or the university for the specialisation of their studies with a view to work among their own people.
These four proposals constitute the basis on which an organized society among the Maori race can be built up. They contain within them the foundation of government, the recognition of authority, and the reward of industry and right conduct. The aim of the first proposal is to arouse interest among the natives themselves in their own well-being. Attention to everything that goes to improve the conditions of family or social life is the first need among the Maoris at the present time, and should tend to the physical, social, and moral advancement of the people, such as—(1) The regulation of buildings; (2) sanitation; (3) power to act in case of epidemics or local forms of sickness; (4) regulation of stores; and (5) regulation of accommodation-houses and places of amusement. A Board or duly-constituted governing authority possessing powers for the enforcement of regulations embracing the above matters would at once create interest and arouse sympathy. The work of the Board would be directive in its tendency, and, whatever defects might appear, it is certain that an attempt at an organized scheme of internal government would be beneficial to the natives physically, mentally, morally, and pecuniarily. As to the second proposal, I am satisfied that no one who has ever seen and visited the sick in some of the native pas but must have pitied the race and wondered why so little is done to ameliorate their sufferings. Living in isolated settlements and away from Europeans, many natives succumb in time of sickness simply for the want of a few small comforts and attentive nursing. Lives are needlessly wasted; and were cottage hospitals built in the more-important centres of the native population a great Maori need would be supplied. A hospital such as is suggested could be built at a very small cost, and it should be placed in charge of a properly-trained hospital nurse. Each hospital should be in telephonic communication with one of the larger centres where doctors reside, so as to facilitate inquiry in case of need. These hospitals would provide an excellent training-ground for the senior native girls from the schools, where they might also receive instruction in the preparation of foods both for those who are sick and, under certain conditions, for the benefit of the native women. The establishment of local government and hospitals bears directly upon the adult population. Emulation in this direction is necessary, and the conferring of power upon those of influence would produce highly-beneficial results. The old power of the native chief has been slowly passing away, and it is very desirable to reinstate him in a new seat of dignity by conferring upon him powers and responsibilities which, though differing from those he formerly held, would enable him nevertheless to resume that position among
his tribe that he has nearly lost by the modified environment. The third proposal makes provision for an outlet to those who have received an education at schools like Te Aute, St. Stephen's, &c. The employment of young men and women in native schools is a desirable and proper course to adopt. On the completion of their school career they should be permitted to attend public schools like Napier and Gisborne along the East Coast district, and Wellington, Wanganui, and New Plymouth on the south and west, and their training should be regulated by the inspectors of schools in the several districts. A six months' course of training would suffice to prepare the young people for employment as pupil-teachers in native schools. The same effects may be expected from the adoption of this plan as are met with in the case of pupil-teachers in the public schools who are trained as masters and mistresses. All the native young men and women who are trained away from their own homes realise the advantages of a modified form of civilisation for their own people, and they would gladly see an improvement in the home conditions of families such as now exist. Were provision made for the maintenance of such pupil-teachers in places away from their own homes, a knowledge that their position and advancement depended upon their attention to duty would be a sufficient inducement to perform their work to the satisfaction of the governing authorities. Many of the young men who have been trained in that excellent institution at Te Aute, established for the benefit of natives by Archdeacon Samuel Williams, are imbued with a strong desire to work for the social and moral improvement of their race, and should the way be opened on the lines here suggested we may look for great things in the way of Maori improvement and progress. The fourth suggestion bears directly upon the anticipatory work of the younger natives. If the younger generation is to prosper, there must be channels opened to them in anticipation of their entrance into life. It is for this reason that the establishment of special scholarships is proposed. Mr. R. D. D. McLean, M.H.R., in honour of his father, the late Sir Donald McLean, has established what are known as “Te Makarini Scholarships,” by means of which younger natives can pursue their studies at Te Aute College, and from thence they can proceed to one of the university colleges to complete their education. Much good is being done in this way, and, were the number of scholarships increased by the Government, specialisation in the training could proceed in such manner that in a few years the native race would have their own supply of lawyers, ministers, teachers, and doctors. Local organization and government would soon be strengthened by the influence of such persons, whose habits
will have been modified by association and contact with the higher civilisation, and the continuity of race will be assured.
The suggestions which have been briefly outlined here may appear of little moment in face of the fact that the native race is slowly passing away; but the cure has been pointed out equally with the cause, and it remains for those who are intrusted with the oversight of the native race in this country to see whether the recommendations are worthy of consideration and adoption before it is too late.