Part 1: Historical – 1810-1890
Early New Zealand
Today New Zealand is no stranger to multiculturalism, nor were our fore bearers of the 17th and 18th centuries. A Dutch sea captain, Abel Tasman passed these fair shores in 1642.
Captain James Cook arrived in 1769. Trade was essential for Cook and his crew, who needed fresh water and supplies, such as timber for repair work on his vessels. Māori saw this as an opportunity to trade for nails, axes and other iron material.
European and American whalers arrived in the 1790s. The European and American arrivals established 20 or so bases around the country. They continued to forge trips to the Bay of Islands for recreation and barter.
In Bible and the Treaty, Keith Newman said the Bay of Islands became a popular destination for traders wanting timber, pigs and potatoes, a legacy established by Cook’s previous travels.
From 1769 to 1799 immigration increased. Multiculturalism was taking shape in the newly established New Zealand. People from England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, France, and the Americas became the footprints for new arrivals leading into the 21st century.
The influx of these new people groups with their respective world views must have been a mind altering and a challenging experience for Māori.
Maori and other people groups
Prior to this influx, Māori lived a secluded lifestyle void of any manene, (immigrants/strangers).
The world view of the Māori was entrenched in whakapapa (genealogy), karakia (prayer), waiata (songs/psalms) and whakairo (carvings) to mention a few. This was passed down from a repository that belonged to a Māori societal construct of whanau (family), hapu (sub-tribe) and iwi (tribe).
The repository carried out things in Te Reo. This form of communication was a courier for the tikanga and kawa (protocol) to whanau, hapu and iwi.
A brief description of tikanga, without detracting or minimising its sacredness and full meaning, may be given as the set of beliefs associated with the practices and procedures to be followed in conducting the affairs of a group or individual. These procedures are established by precedents through time.
Maori and Christianity
Anthropologists hold a view that a native society must undergo social dislocation before it is ready for conversion to Christianity.
By the 1840s all three missions in New Zealand had the beginnings of a church made up almost entirely of Māori members. These missionary churches, sometimes referred to as Māori churches, were under the control of European missionaries.
This control was reflected in structural leadership, worship and architecture. There were, however, emerging distinctive indigenous features, perhaps more so in the architecture.
A number of early churches, despite being under the leadership of missionaries, were conducted in Te Reo, particularly praying, singing and Bible reading. Perhaps these were early signs of multiculturalism.
George Clarke held the government position as Chief Protector of the Aborigines in 1845 and part of his duties included the compilation of statistics on religious beliefs. Clarke estimated a total population of 110,000. Approximately 42,000 Māori attended regular services of the Church of England, 16,000 attended Methodist services and about 5000 were associated with the Catholics.
A number of criticisms could be advanced against these figures, particularly if we compare actual converts to Christianity versus those attending.
There has to be an understanding regarding the comparison of Māori interested in Christianity and actual conversion of Māori to Christianity. Records from 1841 reveal the following: CMS communicants 584, Methodist members 1585 and Roman Catholic neophytes 1000 (Extract from J.M.R. Owens’ article in NZJH 2/1 April 1968).
By early 1840 the Presbyterians began as a settler church. Early attempts by Presbyterians to work amongst the Māori had little impact. It wasn’t until the 1890s that Presbyterians began sustained missionary work amongst the Māori.
In 1835 there were a handful of Māori interested in Christianity. Many Māori traditional ceremonies abated with the white influence. (Extract from Harrison M. Wright, New Zealand 1769-1840 – Early Years of Western Contact).
It appears that churches established in early New Zealand were based on denomination, rather then culture. It further appears at that juncture Māori became acculturated into religious beliefs of non-Māori.
Multicultural churches and congregations in the early New Zealand display an environment based around denomination as opposed to ethnic variance. However, denominations often have their own ethnic inclusions.
The statistics tell us that some Māori immersed themselves in the newly established missions and churches.
Māori not only showed their presence by attendance but also by the use of Te Reo and the adaptation of architecture.
It would be remiss not to say that early missionaries must have placed a high priority on their learning of Te Reo in order to promote the gospel.
Perhaps we could build on some of the foundations that were developed by our early forebears, both Māori and non Māori, in terms of Te Reo and architecture.
• Matt Hakiaha is of Ngati Pukeko and Ngai Tuhoe descent. He is a former student of Laidlaw College (formerly the Bible College of New Zealand). He is Chairperson for Te Runanga – Te Whare Wananga o Amorangi (Māori Council for Laidlaw College). He is also a member of the New Zealand Parole Board. Matt attends Te Atatu Bible Chapel along with his wife and daughter.