Maori: achievers and grievers?

TAHU POTIKI
Last updated 10:11 17/08/2012

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Tahu Potiki

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OPINION: A few months ago the nation learnt about the gentleman from Southland who had been making significant contributions to the ACT party because he had faith that they would deal with the Maori problem.

There was a brief outburst from media commentators and leadership figures but Louis Crimp stood behind his comments that most New Zealanders don't like Maori and then simply disappeared back into his cave.

This week he has re-emerged as a potential benefactor of John Ansell, the former ACT public relations man who has been trying to launch a personal campaign against Griever Maori. He has separated Maori into two main categories - achievers and grievers.

He is appealing to the public to support his Colour Blind campaign which treats all New Zealanders the same and eliminates the race-based separatism that is clearly invading, and threatening to topple, Godzone.

He has even urged Achiever Maori (those who just want to be treated as equal New Zealanders) to tell their Griever Maori cousins, 'You do not speak for me.'

The iwi elite are also lined up for a bollocking which, I assume, places me squarely in the Griever Maori category. Fine by me, actually. I have been called much worse by my own relations.

The tone of Ansell's website is generally disturbing and more than a little obsessive. I don't really understand what so incenses him but, in his supposed pursuit of the truth, he merely appears to be ranting about the imminent dangers of separatism as if it was a modern conspiracy among Maori leaders, the judiciary, state, media and professional historians to distort the lens that is used to view the history of New Zealand.

I think the truth, something Ansell claims to be the champion of, requires a little more consideration than his apparently unbalanced hyperbole.

If ideas of separateness between Maori and Pakeha do exist in New Zealand, it clearly stems from the early days of colonial government when different laws were introduced for the different races.

Examples are not hard to find.

The Native Schools Act 1867 was introduced specifically for children in Maori communities. The purpose of the schools, the funding available and the curriculum taught were different from mainstream schools.

The early church schools educated children in Maori and many children were literate albeit not in English.

The Native Schools had a mission, generally supported by Maori leadership to instruct in English and assimilate the children into European ways. This separate school system remained in place until 1969.

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One of the reasons that several of the Achiever Maori whom Ansell refers to were able to achieve was because they snuck through a brief window when the Maori boarding schools established by the churches taught a curriculum that allowed their graduates to attend university.

In the early 20th century, the Education Department threatened to withdraw funding from the schools unless they refocused on a manual and technical curriculum and abandoned the more academic approach. This meant their graduates were not able to attend university.

At that time, most young Maori with the greatest potential were shepherded towards the Maori boarding schools so they never made it to university at all. It was nearly 50 years later when national exams were introduced to all schools that Maori started to enter the university system in greater numbers.

In the political realm, most Maori were excluded from voting for the first decade or so of colonial rule, simply because they did not have individual ownership of land. The bulk of Maori land was held in common with others, so Maori did not fit the voting criteria.

At one level this, quite possibly, suited both parties but during the land wars period some thought it wise to find a means by which Maori could meaningfully participate as voters.

A system was designed that allowed all Maori men aged over 21 to vote in special Maori electorates. The MPs elected were able to fully participate in the House and vote alongside other MPs on all matters.

There have been some difficulties over the years but today the system remains in place although, since 1975, Maori can choose which electorate - Maori or general - they wish to vote in.

Even the welfare systems were separate until the 1940s, with Maori generally receiving a benefit 20 per cent less than Pakeha counterparts. I am not saying that all of these things were negative but they were certainly separate.

If we judge them, looking back from the 21st century, we can analyse where the power lay and who was benefiting the most from such policies but we can also see that a precedent was set.

Maori lived separately, were educated separately, voted separately and were treated separately by the state.

No-one should be surprised that dealing with the aftermath continues to be done separately.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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