A village in New Zealand has banned a replica of Captain Cook’s ship from docking there to mark 250 years since the explorer’s arrival after an outcry from the local Maori community.
The vessel is part of a flotilla circumnavigating New Zealand next month for the Tuia 250 — a NZ$13.5 million (US$8.5 million) series of events that “acknowledges the first onshore encounters between Maori and Pakeha in 1769-70.”
It was due to visit Mangonui, on the North Island, but the stop was canceled by the New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage after complaints from indigenous figures.
“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,” Anahera Herbert-Graves, head of Northland’s Ngati Kahu iwi (tribe), told Radio New Zealand.
“He didn’t discover anything down here, and we object to Tuia 250 using euphemisms like ‘encounters’ and ‘meetings’ to disguise what were actually invasions,” she said.
In Gisborne, nearly 800km from Mangonui down the east coast and the starting point for the flotilla’s months-long voyage, iwi said they would refuse to hold powhiri (welcoming ceremonies) for those ships linked to colonization.
Amohaere Houkamau, at the Rongowhakaata Trust, said a service would be held for the “nine tipuna [ancestors] who were shot or injured during the events of October 1769” and suggested “descendants of the colonialists” were better placed to welcome the ships.
Ministry Deputy Chief Executive Tamsin Evans said the government had heeded iwi concerns, and the flotilla would stop only at communities “where a welcome is clear.”
“We know there are groups of people that have strong feelings. Tuia 250 is a commemoration in which we can have honest conversations about our history,” she said.
Tensions have been rising for more than a year before the planned celebrations.
Cook and the crew of the Endeavour landed in Gisborne’s Poverty Bay in 1769 and the first significant meetings of Europeans and Maori took place nearby.
The name Poverty Bay has in itself caused controversy — its original name was Turanganui-a-Kiwa before being renamed by Cook.
“[Cook] was a murderer, he was an invader [and] he was a vanguard for British imperial expansion,” indigenous campaigner Tina Ngata said. “If you read through his own journals and the journals of the crew members, it was not uncommon for him to shoot at us, to steal from us, for abductions to happen, and in fact whole communities were wiped out through sexually transmitted diseases.”
Herbert-Graves said the ministry had not consulted the iwi before placing Mangonui on the Tuia 250 itinerary.
Evans said talks had been with a single iwi representative at the Doubtless Bay Promotions Trust and the ministry hoped most people still wanted to take part.
“We always knew that Tuia would cause some mixed responses. We fully appreciate the mamae [hurt] that exists very strongly still in some communities. Our job is to open the books, let’s look at all the history, and let’s start to talk about this,” she said.
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