Maoris pay debts with land
By S.W. GRANT
This article is the second in a three-part series which attempts to examine in detail the evidence given before the Hawke’s Bay Native Lands Alienation Commission in 1873, to comment on it, to trace the background of the four commissioners and to assess the commissioners’ findings.
In the first of the series last Saturday the writer told of the period after the land wars of the 1850s and early 1860s when the Native Land Court was set up “for the investigation of titles of persons to native land for the determination of the succession of natives to native lands.”
It can be said from the outset, without contradiction, that Mr. Thomas Tanner was both the initiator and executor of the purchase of Heretaunga – ‘the chiefest of the apostles’ Mr Richmond called him in a private letter.
The rest of the Apostles were content that it should be so as they had confidence in Mr Tanner’s business ability and know of his influence with the Maori whose language he spoke and understood.
Mr Tanner did not conduct personally all the negotiations to buy, but used the storekeepers and publicans , Mr Frederick Sutton and Mr R.D. Maney, and more than one solicitor but particularly Mr Joshua Cuff, Mr J.N. Wilson, and Mr A.R. Lascelles, all of whom were in practice in Napier.
Finally, he employed the interpreters Messrs H.R. and F.E. Hamlin, both sons of the missionary, the Reverend James Hamlin, who for many years was stationed at Wairoa.
Other licensed interpreters who gave evidence were Mr J. Grindell whom Mr Tanner paid for refraining from interpreting for other pakeha buyers, and Mr G.B. Worgan whose license was revoked by Mr Donald McLean not long after the commission concluded its task.
Mr Frederick Sutton and R.D. Maney played an integral and dubious part in the transactions.
Both these early Hawke’s Bay settlers allowed and encouraged their Maori customers to make extravagant purchases of goods on credit over considerable periods with the result that they incurred large debts which they could not pay.
For example, Te Waka Kawatini, one of the ten grantees, owed Mr R.D. Maney a total of £948 of which £370 or 39 per cent of the bill was for wines and spirits.
Paoro Torotoro (accused of being drunk most of the time) had an account with the same publican amounting to £626 of which £213 was for grog or 34 per cent. Other items included in these two accounts included clothing, tea, flour, tobacco, building materials, and saddlery.
Mr Richmond in his finding commented that these examples were some of the worst of a number of others. Nevertheless, a substantial number of Maori included in this harmful and reckless spending which was eventually to be paid for by the loss of their heritage.
Far from sober
If it is considered that some of them were often far from sober when they were presented with legal documents of management to sell or mortgage (forms which even when explained by interpreters were difficult for them to understand) the iniquity of the proceedings is evident.
In such cases the Maori of Heretaunga were in no condition to exercise any kind of judgment.
When Mr Maney and Mr Sutton estimated that the time was ripe to press for payment they threatened to take legal action which in default of payment would have their Maori debtors imprisoned.
It was easy then for the creditors to say: “Well, you have a share in Heretaunga. Sell that, your debt will be paid, you will not have to go to prison.” Simple terms, easily understood.
Two deplorable examples of this kind of pressure were cited in evidence: In 1869 Henare Tomoana offered the services of a body of 160 local Maori to join the Government forces against Te Kooti and his men near Taupo.
Henare Tomoana owed Mr Frederick Sutton a considerable amount and on the eve of his departure upon the war expedition he was served with a writ tor his arrest.
The ‘loyalist’ about to assist the pakeha in a war against the Maori would have been imprisoned had it not been for the invention of Mr Thomas Tanner or Mr J.D. Ormond or both, who apparently assured Mr Sutton that he would receive his money at a more opportune time.
In a second example of pressure tactics the lawyer Mr Joshua Cuff was sent by Mr Tanner to follow Karaitiana to Pakowhai to insist on payment of his debts.
In one pocket Mr Guff had a writ for Karaitiana’s arrest and in the other a knotted handkerchief containing £1000 with which to buy Karaitiana’s land.
The following of Tareha Moananui to Wellington was another example of dubious tactics. The advantage of isolating one grantee from the others were obvious.
Away from his fellow grantees and his own hapu a Maori owner felt less secure, more confused, and was more likely to agree to sell.
In 1869 the Duke of Edinburgh visited New Zealand. Both pakeha and Maori were eager to see the second son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Parliament was in session and Tareha was member for Eastern Maori.
Also in Wellington were Mr Donald McLean and Mr J.D. Ormond, the former Minister of the Crown, the latter a Member of the House of Representatives.
There, too, were the Reverend Samuel Williams, attending a sitting of the Native Land Court, Mr J.N. Williams, Mr Thomas Tanner, Mr R. D. Maney, and the interpreter Mr H.M. Hamlin.
It is probable that all were in the capital city to show their loyalty to the Royal visitor, but if so, some of them combined business with pleasure, pursuing Tareha to a hotel and to Te Aro to urge him to sell his land for £1500 to Mr Thomas Tanner so that he (Tareha) could pay his debts to Mr R. D. Maney and a trader named Mr Peacock.
Tareha ran away to a house in Te Aro, was pursued and brought back to the hotel where he agreed eventually to sign a transfer of his land, the generous creditors buying him a gig, as well as giving him and his wife some cash.
Photo caption – From the railway line looking toward Havelock North in the early 1880s. Mr Frederick Sutton built the Railway Hotel, left the forerunner to the Grand, opening it in 1875, The price of the land was £97.10.
Perjury common at commission hearing
Mr Donald McLean was superintendent of the province of Hawke’s Bay from 1863 to 1869; Mr J.D. Ormond was deputy superintendant from 1865 to 1868 and superintendent from 1869 to 1876.
It is commonly said that the two men ran Hawke’s Bay. There is no direct evidence that either of these two, both substantial landowners themselves, tried to influence the Heretaunga Maori to sell their land.
The imputation that both had used their official positions and political influence to obtain the sale of Heretaunga had been so widely bandied about in Hawke’s Bay and Wellington that both saw fit to write to the Hawke’s Bay Herald before the commission hearing was ended to state categorically that they had in no way used their influence to help gain the Heretaunga land.
The evidence heard by the commission contains some prime, even ludicrous, examples of the tactics used by the would-be buyers and the evasions of the Maori owners.
All the witnesses were sworn in and nearly all denied what was said about them and the bargainings, both Maori and pakeha. That a great deal of perjury was committed is certain.
Henare Tomoana told the commission of a meeting with Mr Joshua Cuff, Mr Thomas Tanner, and Mr Hamlin at Waitangi, a mile or two out of Napier.
According to Henare he was virtually imprisoned there by the pakeha in an effort to get him to sell his share of Heretaunga. Both Mr Tanner and Mr Cuff denied that this was so.
Mr Manaera Tini, who was said to weigh as good 20 stone, told of being relentlessly pursued until he was forced to climb a willow tree to hide from the purchasers.
In the course of evidence Mr Tanner asked Manaema “What did you go up the tree for? Manaena replied “ I was tired of your coming and I ran away I was tired of being hunted; they were like bush dogs hunting bush pigs.”
Mr Waka Kawatini replying to a question by the lawyer Mr Sheehan asking whether he was aware how much money he was to get answered ‘No: I was the only person and I was supplied with rum. How could I see?”
Mr J.N. Wilson, another Napier lawyer admitted that Mr Waka was generally not fit to transact business as he was often in liquor. “Two gallons of rum was usually the consideration he wanted for any of his land.”
Mr Apera Oahoro claimed that he was under the influence of alcohol when negotiations over Heretaunga were in progress.
He said the interpreter, Mr James Grindell, met him near Pakipaki and took him to to a public house. Mr Tanner cross-examined Mr Pahoro asking: “ Did you get some drink?” To which Mr Pahoro replied: “Yes, there were twenty persons intoxicated.
“And again later Mr Tanner asked Mr Pahoro: “ Did he (Mr Grindell) take you to Havelock?
“Had you not some spirits when you got there?”
“Grindell got intoxicated. And I and Paranema returned.”
The evidence given by the Maori owners having concluded, the pakeha buyers and others involved in the transactions then appeared before the commissioners.
Mr Maney and Mr Sutton, the principal intermediaries between the owners and the buyers, made no attempt to deny that they had allowed the Maori to run up large debts over a considerable period.
Strangely, the commissioners did not ask them why they had permitted such leniency. Mr Maney said that when the land was made over to him in payment for the debts he then transferred it to Mr Tanner because ‘I have always held as a settler of Hawke’s Bay it would be a betrayal to purchase land from a native that I have not given to the occupiers of the land at the same prices as I bought it.”
In the course of his evidence Mr Sutton admitted and commented upon one or two discreditable occurrences, with animadversions on both Maori and pakeha.
He had retained some £700 of Pahoro’s money and when asked why by Mr Sheehan he replied: “He never asked me for it to this day he often came to me for £5 or£10 which I have always given him when he was sober one does not see him sober once in six months.
On being asked by Mr Tanner about the percentage of wines and spirits in a debt of £1000 expended by natives and Europeans Mr Sutton replied: “I have no hesitation in saying that as fas as my spirits in a debt of £1000 expended by natives and Europeans Mr Sutton replied: “I have no hesitation in saying that are far as my experience goes there is a larger percentage of spirits with Europeans than with natives?”
Mr Thomas Tanner gave very full evidence and was in the witness box for longer than anyone else.
In his reported evidence there is an excellent description of the Heretaunga Plains as they were when the first pakeha arrived.
It is from Mr Tanner that the more precise details of the transactions are learnt. For him it was obviously fair dealing conducted in the manner used by Europeans over many centuries.
It is Mr Tanner who describes the terms of the final settlement in January 1870, in the office of Mr Joshua Cuff, barrister and solicitor, of Napier, where six of the grantees met Mr Tanner and Mr J.N. Williams and had the Deed of Settlement read to them by the interpreter Mr Martin Hamlin.
Mr J.N. Williams explained the Maori owners that after all their debts had been paid the balance owing to them was £2387.
Karaitiana Takamoana was the first to sign the dead[deed] and was followed by the other grantees.
The Reverend Samuel Williams gave evidence that he was a relative of one of the purchasers of the Heretaunga block, stating “I have an interest in it myself along with Mr James Williams. It is a considerable interest.”
On the next day he appeared again to correct any impression that he was a party to the original lease and stated that he had taken no part in the negotiations of the purchase.
John Davis Ormond, still at this time the superintendent of the province of Hawke’s Bay, gave his evidence in forthright style, stating that he had one share in the Heretaunga block, originally of same 1200 acres, and that he had come in under the lease before the land came under the Native Land Court.
“I have had nothing to do with the negotiations. I have never spoken to a Maori one syllable on the subject from the time the negotiations commenced until they terminated.”
Mr Ormond came under particularly rigorous cross-examination from Mr Sheehan, being asked whether he did not think it part of his public duty as Government agent as well as superintendent to protect the natives from being unfairly dealt with by Europeans.
Mr Ormond’s reply was: “Certainly not. I should not have consented to act had I understood it to be my duty to interfere with their transactions with Europeans.”
After the conclusion of the hearing of the evidence in the Heretaunga case and of the complaints concerning certain other blocks of Maori land in Hawke’s Bay, the Commissioners left to prepare their reports.
The next and final instalment of this article will investigate the backgrounds of the four Commissioners, Maori and pakeha, give a summary of their findings, and comment upon them.
Photo captions –
From the railway line looking toward Havelock North in the early 1880s. Mr Frederick Sutton built the Railway Hotel, left the forerunner to the Grand, opening it in 1875. The price of land was £97.10.
Tareha Te Moananui