Museum exhibit on New Zealand settlement

Last updated 08:04 10/02/2013

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The current activities of Marlborough Museum have an interesting context when I reflect on Waitangi Day activities in Marlborough.

I hope the day inspires us to learn more.

Marlborough Museum currently has two major exhibitions referring to the Treaty of Waitangi: Treaty 2 U, and an exhibition about the settlement on Wairau Bar c.1250 AD.

When you come to the Marlborough Museum, you will not find much about cannibalism in the Treaty exhibition, or Moriori in the Wairau Bar exhibition.

A recent museum visitor was disappointed on both counts.

Readers will be able to access the latest research on these topics through simple internet searches.

Paul Moon has written important work on the former topic, and Michael King has written on the latter.

The Treaty and Marlborough History

The Wairau Bar: The settlement with Rangitane acknowledges the occupation by Rangitane from the 17th century, the location of their burial sites, and modification of natural waterways for hunting and fishing. The return of human remains to the Bar from the Canterbury Museum, and agreement by Rangitane for further research into New Zealand's first settlers (around 1250 AD), have led to major recent advances in understanding the Polynesian settlement of our country.

Captain James Cook in Marlborough: The Earl of Morton, president of the Royal Society, told Cook that natives were to be looked on as "the natural, and . . . legal possessors of the several regions they inhabit".

He pointed out that they would have to agree to occupations by Cook and his men. This is an important acknowledgement in the light of later Treaty developments.

After losing men in the Sounds, Cook approached the situation with careful consideration and realised he did not have all the facts to make a judgment, let alone the immediate retribution that his crew desired. He found out more on his next visit, many months later.

The Wairau Affray: The Treaty authorised only the Government to buy land from Maori, private companies were creating problems for the Government. The words of William Swainson - 2nd Attorney General of the Crown Colony of New Zealand - are interesting: "The whole proceeding, so far as the magistrate and the constables were concerned, though irregular and illegal in itself, was conducted under the colour of the law."

He realised that settlers would not come if they were not safe, or needed to be protected by military force.

His conclusion was, "The peace of the colony, and the good feeling between the two people, will be in constant danger of being disturbed by the rashness and carelessness of straggling settlers, in the interior and remote districts."

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The life we enjoy today is an achievement.

Thankfully, today we don't have to rely on old editions of the School Journal to understand our story!

- The Marlborough Express

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