Volume 96 1987 > Volume 96, No. 4 > Interpreting Maori history: a case for a historical sociology, by Kwen Lee Fan, p 445-472
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With few exceptions, 19th century New Zealand historiography has overlooked some fundamental issues concerning the interpretation of indigenous history. 1 There are two reasons for this. Firstly, there is a tendency for historians to shy away from immersing themselves in the intricate web of tribal political relations. There is a failure, on their part, to acknowledge the dominance of kinship affiliations in understanding Maori society. Secondly, such historians have been unwilling to question the assumptions they make about Maori society. In particular, these relate to problems which arise from their conceptualisation of “tribe” and “political authority” in Maori society. Consequently, there is a need to confront the methodological and conceptual problems attendant on the interpretation of 19th century Maori history. In doing this, I am arguing for a historical sociology in the interpretation of Maori society in the 19th century. But what does a historical sociology entail?

Skocpol (1984:362), in her summation of emerging strategies in historical sociology, makes the point that sociologists always do historically oriented research with some sort of explicit theoretical or conceptual interests in mind. Within this broad agenda, three groups of historical sociologists may be identified (ibid.). Firstly, there are those who apply a single theoretical model to explain one or more historical cases. Secondly, there are those who use concepts to develop what might best be called meaningful historical interpretations. Thirdly, other historical sociologists are interested in analysing causal regularities in history. This present paper is an attempt to look at Maori history in terms of the second strategy outlined. In doing this we are concerned, as in most historical sociology, only with secondary sources.

Firstly, the premises within which writers of 19th century Maori society work will be critically examined. A reconceptualisation of the nature of tribal society and its implications for indigenous political relations will be attempted. Finally, an issue in New Zealand historiography, - 446 Maori interest in Christianity, will be used to demonstrate how interpretations can be improved by taking cognisance of some lessons in historical sociology.


As early as 1953, Davidson (1953:359) warned that for most commentators on New Zealand history in the period 1820-70, “the Maori people and their leaders remain cardboard figures, conventional savages (noble or ignoble), part of the stage scenery rather than actors in the drama”. More recently, Howe (1977a:37) drew attention to two broad categories of Pacific historians, the “Fatal Impact” writers and the “Modern School” (p.147) who reject portrayal of indigenes as helpless and inferior, easily ravaged by European contact.

As an example of the “Fatal Impact” position, Bedggood (1980:25), in commenting on the “destruction of Maori society in the 19th century”, had this to say:

The drive to dispossess the Maori people of the land therefore followed inevitably from the establishment of a settler colony. It involved a total frontal assault at all levels of society—economic, political and ideological—in order to remake Maori society in its own image.

Further, Bedggood (ibid.), espousing a Marxist position, argues:

Land was the key resource in production and the whole organisation of Maori society was concerned with its protection and conservation. Even the power of the chiefs was limited by their duty to act as trustees of the people in controlling the land and its products. In this the chiefs acted not as a ruling class, but as representatives of the community ... to reproduce non-exploitative social relations. As such, the chiefs proved highly resistant to the ‘simple corruption’ of the capitalist market and the Christian faith. There was no way the colonising power could drive a wedge between the interests of the chiefs and the Maori people as a social unity.

Anyone familiar with tribal history would be aware that Bedggood's argument contains assumptions that are false. The first assumption, that Maori chiefs and their people acted as a simple unity, is untenable. Chiefs acted as persons having authority and influence over their followers and as persons having to work very hard and skilfully at maintaining and sustaining this authority in the face of increasing changes in tribal social organisation, brought about through European contact. - 447 The view that there was no way in which the colonising power could drive a wedge between the interests of the chiefs and the Maori people also contradicts the evidence available. Tribal society was potentially divisive and a discussion of the reasons requires a separate essay. A situation where chiefs strove to maintain their positions of influence provided ample opportunity for the colonial and subseqently settler administration to co-opt chiefs or those whose authority the administration decided to acknowledge as long as they were willing to sell land and placed no obstacles against European settlement.

And finally, though no less fundamental, what of Bedggood's assumption that the whole organisation of Maori society was concerned with the protection and conservation of land? Hence the assertion that land, chiefs and followers were a social unity seemingly impregnable. The romantic notion of noble savages willing to do anything to preserve their land continues to haunt us. Firth (1973:380-2) argues that to describe Maori land tenure as “communal” is grievously inadequate. Within the territory of the tribe each hapū ‘sub-tribe’ held its lands in exclusive possession and within this in turn were various species of ownership, closely defined and pertaining to the various groups of relatives, to families and to individuals. Often, individuals and families could more or less exclusively appropriate the land and its associated resources which they owned; and only under unusual circumstances were the hapū, whānau or individuals to give way if it was considered that a proposed alienation of its land was prejudicial to the interests of the tribe as a whole (ibid.:378). It is unfortunate that so many writers have stressed that land in tribal agricultural societies is communally owned to the exclusion of the fact that land is ultimately used by individuals and their families, and not by the community as a whole. This is not to suggest that individuals and whānau could dispose of their land just as they pleased. The most significant political and operative unit in Maori society was the hapū, hence the importance of the position of its rangatira.

Bedggood (1980:50) also refers to Maori society in the 19th century as constituting a “Maori mode of production” which, as a conceptual tool, is of little use because of his reluctance to elucidate on it. Naturally, an argument that emphasises communal ownership of land (Bedggood 1980; Winiata 1967; Sinclair 1975) lends itself to the amplification of the romantic/mystical relationship of the Maoris to their land 2—an assumption which, if accepted without question, is no less likely to lead to some distortions in the interpretation of Maori-Pakeha relations in - 448 the 19th century. For example, if we argue that the Maoris had strong sentiments about land and that their relationship to land is ideological rather than economic or political, then, despite the loss of the influence and authority of the chiefs since the 1840s, there should not have been such widespread readiness to sell land.

In contrast, Howe (1977b), acknowledging Maori self-determination, has argued that, given the nature of their social organisation and Anglo-Saxon attitudes towards indigenes in New Zealand, Maoris were able to exercise a considerable degree of autonomy in their relations with Pakehas. Howe's emphasis is on indigenous social organisation and its capacity for adaptation and innovation in a period of rapid social change. Associated with this general argument are several specific assumptions about Maori society. Maoris lived in relatively permanent settlements (op.cit.:4). Further, because their social organisation was hierarchical and rigidly stratified, Maori tribes could act as coherent political units taking collective initiatives (op.cit.:5). Maori leadership embodied characteristics admired by Europeans, such as status, accumulation of material possessions and an ability to lead followers in times of peace and war (op.cit.:6). Maoris were acquisitive and materialistic and had considerable military prowess (op.cit.:7). And, finally, Maori religion was more utilitarian than that of the Aborigines in Australia (op.cit.:8). All in all, Maoris were better placed to absorb the effects of “civilisation” than their Australian counterparts.

From this derives our preoccupation with Maori autonomy in the 19th century, because, unless this issue is examined thoroughly, we place ourselves in danger of distorting Maori-Pakeha relations. The issue is not so much “Fatal Impact” versus “Modern School”, assimilationist versus self-determination, or the involuntaristic versus voluntaristic nature of Maori response, but rather the question of whether our assumptions do justice to the societies we are examining. For example, those who are sympathetic to the “Fatal Impact” position argue that European contact resulted in the destruction of indigenous society. In contrast, those of an assimilationist persuasion assume that European society was somehow superior and that indigenes accepted Western institutions by virtue of this fact. Whichever side one may be on with regard to these opposing positions, it must not naturally imply a common set of assumptions. It does, however, raise the question of whether indigenes were powerless or exerted considerable autonomy in their relations with Europeans. Such a polarity is important in so far as it helps to focus attention on the assumptions we all make when examining the nature of settler-indigene contact and conflict.

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Land was the fulcrum on which Maori-Pakeha relations were delicately poised in the middle of the 19th century, and against which the sale of land and the purchase of land exerted their respective influences. In no other issue is there a better illustration of the “Fatal Impact” versus “Modern School” debate and of the assumptions made about tribal society. In recent years, the debate has intensified, albeit in a modified form (see particularly Parsonson 1980 and 1981, and Ballara 1982).

As Ballara (1982:523) rightly points out, Parsonson is the first of the modern historians to consider seriously Maori motives for selling land. Those motives are seen as a continuing process of Maoris pursuing traditional goals, thereby acknowledging a degree of Maori autonomy not previously recognised. With reference to the 1840s, Parsonson (1981:141) argues that the basis of interhapū and intertribal relations was competition:

Each hapu was pitted against its neighbour, always poised on the brink of hostility. An insult, trespass, or killing would open an immediate breach.... Aggressive, shrewd, suspicious, preoccupied with the acquisition and display of wealth, ever-mindful of their own interests and ever-watchful for an opportunity to damage those of their relatives and opponents....

The basis of this competition was twofold: commodity production and the sale of land. Parsonson continues (p.153):

Though many tribes had been successful in exporting potatoes, wheat and pigs to settler markets throughout Australasia, there had been no corresponding rise in the general standard of living. In a competitive society, people's main concern was still to acquire the current symbols of wealth. All their wheat and pigs were spent on horses, sheep, schooners, flour mills; they did not eat bread and pork themselves. And the flour mill fever which began in the late 1840s seemed vivid evidence of the deliberate dissipation of wealth.

Indeed, it was suggested that there were too many mills, and too large at that, for the amount of wheat to be ground (ibid.).

Parsonson strongly suggests that Maori adaptation to commodity production before to 1860 was due fundamentally to intertribal competition for mana and prestige rather than for any other reason. She uses the same argument to explain the enthusiasm of most Maoris to sell land to the Government for the 20 years after the Treaty of Waitangi. Chiefs in most places sought access to the skills and goods the Pakehas brought with them, the markets they offered, the employment they - 450 provided. The outbreak of a dispute (about land or any other matter) might prompt any hapū to make the first offer to a land purchasing officer and thus gain the first recognition as its owners (Parsonson, 1981:148-9). Indeed:

Public payment in a sale was insisted on, first because the ceremony was just the sort of colourful event that would make it easily memorable, and thus improve its chances of survival in the oral record, and secondly because it was a triumphant announcement to other chiefs in the area that the settlers' claim to be the owners had been vindicated (p.148).

It is also pertinent that Parsonson holds the view that chiefs who obstructed sales seem seldom to have done so on principle, to preserve the land for their people. Few were committed to a policy of either the sale of land or its retention.

But the nature of competition in tribal society was not confined to the 1840s. In 1800, competition over food resources was common (Parsonson, 1980:51):

For food was obtained only by sustained and arduous effort; and it was food which was in consequence the natural ‘currency’ of the competitive society ... (foodstuffs) were accumulated not for everyday use, but for the hapu and tribal food stores: for the provision of hospitality, for gifts to be made or returned to other communities, and for the feasts given on ceremonial occasions. In the exhibition and exchange of food the hapu advertised their competitive capacity, and defined their political and social relations with their neighbours.

By the early 19th century, the coming of the Pakeha brought new crops, new artefacts and new ideas, all of which provided an increasing number of outlets for competition (p.91). The essentially competitive basis of Maori society remained unchanged. If Parsonson was reliant on Land Court sources for her evidence in support of 19th century Maori social history, then her “overemphasis” on conflict and disharmony is perhaps understandable. But this could be a problem of periodisation: she could have been more specific about the periods she was referring to.

Nevertheless, Parsonson's contribution to the study of Maori society in the 19th century is valuable in calling attention to the importance of interpreting Maori history by re-examining our assumptions about “tribal” society and Maori society in particular. Her contribution is best appreciated by a recent critique of her work. Parsonson is taken to task for approaching Maori history in the period 1840-90 with a unitary - 451 tendency (Ballara, 1982:520) i.e. the “pursuit of mana” thesis is applicable throughout this period, particularly with regard to the role of Maori chiefs in land sales.

Ballara (op.cit.:521) is willing to concede that, in the early contact period, Maori ways of doing things and Maori reasons for doing them were still paramount in Maori society. The 1840s and 1850s, before the wars and land confiscations, were a period in which Maori autonomy was still dominant (op.cit.:530-1). The population balance favoured the Maoris, their traditional social organisation was relatively intact and there were surplus lands, hence, land alienation was largely voluntary on their part. In concentrating on the pursuit of mana as the major Maori motive for land alienation, Ballara comments (op.cit.:523), Parsonson does not give due consideration to such factors as the European push for land as reflected in the activities of the land purchase officers, and the effects of the market economy on Maoris. The last point needs to be examined because it directly relates to the assumptions we make about Maori society in the face of colonial intrusion.

From the 1840s onwards, Maoris had become incorporated into a market economy to the extent that the buying and selling of land had become a commercial transaction (Ballara 1982:524). The prosperity of Maoris in some areas, with capital invested in European vessels, and flour mills and their involvement in trade in foodstuffs with Europeans, bears testament to their effective adaptation to European society by the middle of the century. But what Ballara does not question, and this is fundamental to her argument as a counter to Parsonson, is Maori motives for participation in a market and money economy. Was Maori participation a reflection of conspicuous consumption as a means of expressing political rivalry between tribes or for the purpose of reinvestment as an expression of European capitalist enterprise? If it was the former, Ballara's argument would be entirely consistent with Parsonson. Conspicuous consumption was a significant means of expressing mana. If Maori participation in the European economy was for reinvestment, only then could Ballara argue that Maoris were really incorporated in a money economy. The concept of exchange then ceases to be political and Maori motives cease to be traditional.

This problem aside, there are other inconsistencies in Ballara's arguments. Ballara agrees with Parsonson that the 1840s and 1850s were a period when Maoris could still exercise choice in their relations with Pakehas, and says that Maoris at that time were participating in a market and money economy. If they were incorporated into a market economy, would it still be tenable to argue that Maoris were still autono- - 452 mous? It is not logically inconsistent to argue that incorporation into a market economy could preserve Maori autonomy if such participation was what Maoris wanted. This would depend on whether economic autonomy was also reflected in the autonomy of political activities in Maori society at that time. However, it is implausible to argue that at a time of transition, when settler colonisation was gradually spreading its roots throughout traditional Maori society, Maoris could readily have become homines economici. The fundamental premise about Maori autonomy is that they continue to operate on the basis of traditional motives. Ballara cannot have her cake and eat it too.

Further, Ballara argues (1982:531) that, after the confused period of wars and land confiscation in the early 1860s, the structural consolidation of the colony and the expansion of bureaucratic control over Maori resources made it impossible for both “defeated belligerents and deluded supporters of the Government” to exercise any degree of autonomy. Yet the introduction of the first Native Land Bill in 1862 provided many Maoris with an alternative route to the life-style they had enjoyed for 20 years (op.cit.:524). The implication here is that the passing of the bill made it easier for individual Maoris to sell land and “maintain” their standard of living. Ballara then refers to some scattered evidence (op.cit.525) that Maoris sold land during this period for the money and goods they could get in exchange. Were Maoris autonomous during this period or were they not? The issue is rather confusing.

One possible way out of this impasse is to examine the evidence with regard to various tribes and regions. It may be possible to argue that in those regions where the tribes suffered heavy defeats, like Taranaki and the Waikato, there was little choice in land alienation. But in those regions (e.g. Ngāti Porou territory) that had not been directly involved in the wars, some measure of autonomy could have been exercised by these tribes. This was the result of relative isolation together with the astute leadership of some chiefs rather than some act of magnanimity on the part of the Pakehas.

In summary, Ballara's work has made only small advances since Parsonson's. There are glaring inconsistencies and it raises more problems than it solves.

The most recent commentary on Maori society in the 19th century has been that made by Cleave (1983) and there are several issues that he has raised which must be considered seriously. In describing the pattern of tribal political development in 19th century Maori society, Cleave takes as his starting point Arlidge's suggestion (1980:331) that pre-European New Zealand was a stateless society where tribal authorities, in the - 453 absence of any unicentric power such as a king or supreme chief, exercised multicentric power. Subsequently, with colonial intrusion, political developments in Maori society were pantribal phenomena as in the King Movement, the Ringatū and Pai Marire, reflecting changes from multicentric to unicentric forms of power relations (Cleave 1983:57). What Cleave attempts to do is to give an account of tribal political developments in the interim between multicentric and unicentric power relations.

Cleave (1983:62) argues that three patterns of tribal development can be identified from the mid-18th until the end of the 19th century. The first pattern involves rapid growth and conflict in the century before contact and armed resistance later to Pakeha government, although Cleave does not define “growth”. Waikato-Maniapoto, Tūhoe and Te Āti Awa are cases in point. The second is that of an assertion of tribal authority and prestige immediately after contact, then armed resistance to Pakeha government culminating in neutrality during the New Zealand Wars. Here, Cleave refers to the Ngāpuhi. The third is that of a relative consistency and stability in the precontact period, often involving self-defence against those tribes becoming increasingly powerful, followed by a neutralist or loyalist stance in the contact period. Te Arawa, Ngāti Porou and some of the Wanganui tribes reflected such a development.

In short, Cleave distinguishes between three Maori responses to European colonisation—resistance, neutralist and loyalist vis-à-vis the Government. What is useful about this analysis is that Cleave draws attention to the state of tribal politics before the arrival of the Europeans, i.e., in the late 18th and early 19th century, in order to explain variations in tribal response to settlement. For example, between 1700 and 1840 the Ngāti Whātua were caught between two powerful tribes, the Ngāpuhi in the north and the Waikato in the south (op.cit.:65). It was politic for Ngāti Whātua to come to terms with the Governor, especially with the establishment of the capital in Auckland in 1841, because he could offer protection against the Ngāpuhi and Waikato. The Ngāpuhi had been consolidating their position in the north before European contact and in the 1820s waged their musket campaigns against many major tribes in the North Island (op.cit.:67-8). The chiefs who signed the Treaty of Waitangi were largely from the Ngāpuhi area and the refusal of chiefs from other tribes to sign was, in part, due to resentments against the Ngāpuhi as a result of the Musket Wars. In our view, this legacy of resentments partly explains the non-involvement of Ngāpuhi during the New Zealand Wars.

Te Arawa's refusal to join the King Movement could be explained in a - 454 similar manner (Cleave 1983:68-9). The last great intertribal battles between 1830 and 1835 had been between Ngāti Haua, led by Wiremu Tamihana's father, Te Waharoa, and the Te Arawa tribes. It is not surprising that Te Arawa refused to support the King Movement, the prime mover of which was Wiremu Tamihana. Further, with a long-standing tradition of rivalry with the Tūhoe, Te Arawa led the hunt for Te Kooti in the Urewera. And so the list continues, hence an appreciation of tribal politics just before contact is vital to an understanding of tribal political developments.

However, by regarding the tribe as the operative unit, as he does throughout his analysis, Cleave lays himself open to the criticism of reification of the tribe. Despite the fact that he acknowledges that the two fundamental principles of Maori political and social life are whanaungatanga and rangatiratanga 3 (op.cit.:55), he ignores this by adopting a unitary conception of “tribe”, e.g., Ngāti Porou, Waikato-Maniapoto. To regard the “tribe” as the fundamental political unit is misleading and masks important divisions and dissensions within the tribe. It blurs significant internal distinctions. Tribal society has a dynamic of its own and to understand this dynamic, it is essential to get into the intricate relations that exist within the tribe. It is our contention that the fundamental political unit is the hapū. Whether a tribe (iwi) is powerful depends on the strength of individual hapū, and particularly the strength of the dominant hapū and the ability of the rangatira to command support from other hapū. Hence the importance of whanaungatanga and rangatiratanga in Maori political life.

It may be argued that, in the period before European contact, the tribe was an effective political unity because there were fewer opportunities for internal dissension, and intertribal antagonisms often made it imperative for strong chiefs to lead the tribes. But after contact, potential divisions within the tribe were susceptible to exploitation by colonial officials and settlers as well as by aspiring chiefs. Under these circumstances, inter hapū politics took on a renewed significance.

Broadly speaking, Maori historiography is characterised by two views with fundamentally opposed premises—the deterministic and the voluntaristic conception of the Maori in a period of transition. The most damaging critique of the deterministic view is that it has been imposed on rather than discovered by an interpretation of social reality. This is not the case with much recent historical work. While the deterministic view has largely been discredited by “modern” historians, their gravitation to a more voluntaristic conception of the Maori makes it imperative that a re-examination and reconceptualisation of the assumptions - 455 about Maori tribal society be made. In particular, the conception of “tribe” and “chief” presents problems for the understanding of Maori politics and political leadership in the 19th century. The methodological implications are no less important. These issues will be discussed next.


The continued use of the concept of “tribe” as a premise for the analysis of sociopolitical activity in contemporary African societies has been called into question by Aidan Southall (c.f. Saul 1979:393). It is to commentators on African societies that I have had to turn to begin my discussion because until now there has been no critique of the use of “tribe” in New Zealand society. To continue, Southall (ibid.) argues that “tribe” is an entity predating capitalism and colonialism, and that an understanding of contemporary sociopolitical processes is better served by the concept of ethnicity. The view that “tribe” is an antiquated concept is shared by Mafeje (1971:258), who says that the tribe exists only as “a relatively undifferentiated society, practising a primitive subsistence economy and enjoying local autonomy”. Hence, Mafeje continues, “to impose the same concept on societies that have been effectively penetrated by European colonialism and that have been successfully drawn into a capitalist money economy and a world market is a serious transgression”.

With reference to Maori society in the 19th century in the early European phase and later in the context of settler colonialism, I take issue with the view shared by Southall and Mafeje that “tribe” predates colonialism and existed only at the time of the “noble savage”. In order that the concept of the tribe retain its utility as a methodological tool, I argue that it should be regarded as “processual” rather than as a “static” entity that exists in one point in time and disappears in the next.

In recent years there has been only one attempt to deal with the problem of “tribe” in Maori-Pakeha relations in the 19th century and in particular the question of tribal responses to colonisation. It is pertinent to return to Cleave's work on this issue. Cleave (1979:35) contends that Maori communities before contact appear to have demonstrated an upsurge in tribalism, particularly in the Urewera, Waikato-Maniapoto district and in the north. This would seem to illustrate the growth of political groupings from hapū to iwi (widely defined as ‘suprahapū’) and the hardening of boundaries at the level of iwi. The relevance of this, Cleave continues, is that it shows the kind of political momentum estab- - 456 lished by 1800 as these and other Maori tribes came into contact with Europeans.

I would not disagree with Cleave that there was an upsurge of tribalism at the iwi level but I would argue that this occurred at a later stage (after 1820) with the introduction of musket warfare and with the increasing number of missionaries, whalers and traders settling in the north round the Bay of Islands. The reasons for this are several. By the 1820s, agricultural production in the north had reached a stage where Maoris were able to produce food surpluses and engage in kauri and flax trade in exchange for muskets. At the same time, they were able to embark on long expeditions to the south.

The monopoly of muskets by the Ngāpuhi in the early 1820s made it possible for one tribe alone to have a military superiority over the rest and encouraged the Ngāpuhi to embark on such expeditions with confidence of success. These campaigns against tribes in the south polarised and helped unify hapū at the iwi level for their own defence. The fundamental political unit was the hapū and its incumbent chief and it was only under certain circumstances that hapū were drawn together, for example, at times of external attack or European encroachment on native land. In such a situation, a particular hapū and its chief, who usually but not necessarily exercised real dominance, took on a leading role in being the symbol of unity—illustrating changes from multicentric to unicentric forms of power relations (Cleave 1983:57). In this sense, the tribe at the iwi level took on a significance of its own. But tribal unity at the iwi level varied from region to region, some stronger and others weaker. I shall elaborate on this later.

In Maori society real authority lay in the hands of the chiefs, and the dominant hapū had symbolic if not real influence over other hapū within the tribe. As was customary, the dominant hapū was the one closest to the founding ancestor, but the chief of such a hapū had also to prove himself politically, otherwise those closely related to him could usurp his position.

It is timely to look at the position of the chief and its implications for political leadership and power in Maori society. In examining the concept of leadership, Bowden (1979:50) draws a distinction between tapu and mana. Ritual authority is defined in the concept tapu and political power in the concept mana. The ariki as the chief of the senior hapū in a tribe was endowed with certain magical and religious powers (ibid.:55). As such, it was he alone who could perform particular economic functions even though he could be lacking in practical ability. The ultimate authority to impose or lift tapu was the exclusive right of the ariki. - 457 Lower-ranked persons who had achieved political influence never acquired this right.

But ritual authority is not the same as political power. Political power could be acquired through achievement-oriented criteria such as oratorical skills, genealogical knowledge and leadership in war and economic enterprises. Because the distinction between “chiefs” and “commoners” was never clear-cut, anyone could, in theory, aspire to the leadership position. In practice, there were constraints, since possession of superior genealogy would place a person in striking distance of the position but this was not the sole criterion of succession to leadership. The chief's mana had to be constantly proved. Consequently, to reiterate, the chief's position was extremely precarious.

Bowden also argues that political power in Maori society did not entail coercive authority (1979:56). Chiefs had little power to command, except over slaves, and they did not have the means to enforce the obedience of their free people. This is a contentious issue and carried somewhat to the extreme. Chiefs certainly had authority but this was dependent on the support of their followers. There was a certain degree of autonomy in the social groups which the various leaders headed (Winiata 1967:38). Leadership in Maori society was arranged in a fairly distinct hierarchy and each position checked the other. Pare Hopa (Bowden 1979:56) observes that junior chiefs (rangatira) had little regard for the authority (in nonritual contexts) of paramount chiefs (ariki) and that political relationships between local groups (hapū) and therefore their chiefs within the same tribe, were characterised by attitudes of actual and potential hostility, expressed in the institutions of warfare, blood vengeance and plunder. This contradicts somewhat Winiata's contention (1967:32) that the ariki was an effective arbitrator of disputes between subtribes and that he frequently brought order and peace.

Ritual authority, Bowden concluded (1979:60-1), was not a necessary concomitant of political power, nor was political power a necessary concomitant of ritual authority. The position of the ariki was primarily a priestly one. I would argue that he had limited power over iwi or hapū. That power was shared by rangatira who in turn depended on their kaumātua and followers for their continued existence.

One final comment must be made about the position of the rangatira in Maori society. Rangatira were those who could trace their descent back to the founding ancestor of their hapū through senior lines (Metge 1967:7). Chiefs were almost invariably derived from rangatira but not all rangatira could be recognised as chiefs. As I have said earlier, this would also depend on their political achievements. What this amounts to is that - 458 certain hapū may have one leading chief each but others may have several chiefs competing for dominance. Hence, like Ballara (1973:49), I shall attempt to use the term “rangatira” in the sense that Metge refers to it, i.e., “high-born”. The term “chief” will be applied to the single political leader of each village and/or hapū recognised as such by his people (ibid.). But because of the incompleteness of data on Maori history, it is not always possible to distinguish clearly between rangatira and chief.

The system of political leadership in Maori society was competitive and interhapū relations were always potentially hostile. This constant jockeying for position within and between hapū was the dynamic which propelled Maori tribal society. It was intensely competitive and prone to instability. Under European rule, colonial authorities deliberately embarked on a policy of playing off one chief against another. The political state of Maori society at this time made this relatively easy.

What makes for the “competitive” nature of Maori society? To find an answer to this question I refer to Sahlins' (1957) work on the social organisation and in particular descent units of Polynesian societies. Sahlins (1957:291) describes Maori society as a ramage—“a common descent group internally ranked by a principle of genealogical seniority”. Its descent group is hierarchical in that a senior line of first sons is distinguished from a number of junior lines. Every individual in a ramage holds a different rank. Under these circumstances there were senior hapū as opposed to junior hapū—highly regarded hapū in opposition to lowly regarded hapū within the tribe, depending on the genealogical linkages that each hapū could trace and establish. For example, somewhere along the line if a hapū could trace an illustrious ancestor who was a rangatira and a successful warrior then it had mana, but if one of the ancestors had been enslaved by another tribe, then the hapū had suffered loss of mana. Genealogical distance was an important principle but the political career of one's ancestors was equally important in claiming superiority. Hence, within a tribe, some hapū had more mana than others.

While military prowess was an important criterion for claiming mana, it was not the only one. The control of rich economic resources, especially food, was another. Land that was fertile or rich in game and coastal sites close to sources of seafood were highly valued. These were resources that tribes went in search of and fought for in the precontact era. Affiliations through marriages to persons closely related to chiefs was another means of accumulating mana.

But “status rivalry” did not end at the hapū level. Individuals within a - 459 hapū had their own ranking and there was constant rivalry between relatives to outdo each other in order to establish one's mana within the hapū. The whole of tribal society, from the iwi to the hapū and the whānau, was geared towards rivalry and competition for mana. Such a society was volatile in nature.

Hence, to ascribe the degree of tribal unity to Maori society at the time of the New Zealand Wars that Cleave does (1983) is misleading. Certainly, explanations such as Cleave's as to why certain tribes chose to be supportive of, resistant or neutral to European settlement on the basis that one tribe had a long-standing quarrel with another or had fought against another before 1840, are simplistic. It would be difficult to cite a situation where all the hapū of one tribe unanimously supported or fought against the Government. Hapū within the same tribe were ranged against each other, as illustrated by the political vicissitudes within so-called loyalist tribes like Ngāti Porou and the Arawa and the anti-Government Waikato-Maniapoto alliance. If we accept Cleave's argument, it would certainly not explain why, in the aftermath of the New Zealand Wars, Ngāti Porou and Arawa fought so fiercely against other tribes who had opposed the Government. The intensity of the reaction of Ngāti Porou and Arawa against “rebel” tribes far exceeded “normal” expressions of political rivalry in tribal society.

This is a timely point to make some comments on the concept and nature of tribe as it has been used in Maori historiography. The term “tribe” as it is normally used—for example, Ngāti Porou, Ngāpuhi, Arawa, Tūhoe or Āti Awa—has a tendency to ascribe to each tribe a single encompassing unity that does not always exist in reality. Given the complexity of tribal history and inter hapū relations, it is perhaps understandable that missionaries, settler politicians, colonial officials and even land court judges, have used “tribe” in this distorted sense for the sake of convenience and certainly not without political expedience when it came to the thorny question of land confiscation and compensation. The readiness with which Pakeha politicians labelled tribes as being either loyalist or anti-Government was of little help in identifying the finer distinctions and divisions that existed within the tribal polity and, in particular, interhapū politics.

I am not suggesting that the concept of tribe in the sense referred to is totally invalid. For example, “Ngāpuhi” military expeditions against the southern tribes in the 1820s were a loose and tenuous alliance of hapū from the North Auckland peninsula. The Waikato-Maniapoto confederation was an attempt to forge some form of tribal cohesion against - 460 European settlement. Indeed, even Ngāti Porou and Arawa chiefs, in their attempts to make up for earlier “rebellions” from some of their hapū in their campaigns against the Hauhau in the 1860s, would probably have found it expedient to be regarded as an encompassing tribal unit. In a situation where Pakehas had the power to define the tribal political situation for administrative purposes, there was not much Maoris could do than to accept it.

But reference to “tribe” in this sense, without carefully specifying the political context in which it is used, makes it vulnerable to the problem of reification of “tribe”. Sadly, with few exceptions, historians have been guilty of this. Perhaps they could be partly excused because this is an inherent problem in Maori historiography. The incompleteness of tribal historical records, although not unique to New Zealand, nevertheless poses a formidable obstacle to accuracy and authentication of Maori history. The existence of vast Land Court records is very helpful in this respect.

I have already referred to the hapū as the fundamental political and economic unit in Maori society and leading rangatira as being more or less independent chiefs. But there were circumstances which drew such hapū into alliance with each other and this was usually done on the basis of kinship loyalty and marriage connections. But genealogical and marriage ties are so closely intertwined in Maori tribal history that divisions and alliances cannot be interpreted solely on this basis. Much depended on political and economic interests as well as territorial circumstances. Hence, kinship is a source of cohesion as much as a source of antagonism.

To comprehend accurately tribal politics as reflected in the dynamic and often volatile nature of kinship and marriage ties presents considerable methodological difficulties to the researcher in Maori tribal history, for several reasons. The data from secondary sources are based on missionary journals, records of colonial officials, settler politicians and travellers and oral tribal history. With the exception of the last one mentioned, these sources tend to simplify and sometimes even reify tribal history at the level of the iwi. Oral sources, however, have to be treated cautiously because they are the views of a particular tribe and often difficult to authenticate.

To bring this discussion on the conceptual and methodological difficulties associated with the use of the word “tribe” to a head, I suggest that “tribe” or “tribal” is used in the widest sense to refer to three analytical levels—intrahapū, interhapū ‘subtribe’ and interiwi ‘tribe’ relations. Where relevant, these should be specified. The hapū is usually the - 461 operative political and economic unit and has considerable independence. But it does not exist in a vacuum. The pervasiveness of kinship and affinal ties in tribal society provides political ramifications that extend within and beyond the hapū. Further, the dominance of such ties may act to unite or divide hapū or hapū alliances; thus any form of political alliance is temporary at best. Hence the concept of “tribe” in Maori society should be viewed as a dynamic process operating politically at several levels all at the same time. In short, I would not discard the concept of “tribe”, however imprecisely it has been used in the past. It does refer to real situations, but we must be careful not to impute to it an importance that may not exist and distort the interpretation of Maori history.


Distortions in Maori history may be minimised if we pay careful attention to what are often unconscious assumptions about a culture far removed from ours. A re-examinaiton of these assumptions can be achieved through a rigorous conceptualisation of the relevant issues as I have done. But the task does not stop here. Meaningful historical interpretations are limited if such interpretations are done in a piecemeal fashion. As Kernot (1975:228) comments:

Historians and anthropologists have made substantial contributions to our understanding of particular periods, events and personalities, the nature of Maori leadership and local level politics, but neither has as yet offered the student an historical model for the interpretation of Maori politics at all levels of activity and all periods of history.

As an illustration of the limitations of such interpretations, a critique is attempted of such works of an important issue in 19th century Maori historiography, the “interest” shown by Maoris in Christianity between the 1830s and 1850s. This has been the subject of several published works by historians (Wright 1967, Owens 1968, Binney 1969, Fisher 1975, Howe 1973). For my purposes, only Owens (1968), Binney (1969), Wright (1967) and Howe (1973) will be examined because their work may broadly be described as “interpretive”. By “interpretive” I mean making the attempt, following Weber, to understand the actions of historical actors and events in a social and political context meaningful not only to the actors concerned but also to the researcher from his or her vantage point.

I turn first to an examination of the “social depression” thesis of - 462 Wright in which he explains why Maoris were converted in the 1830s. Wright (1967:143-4) contends that:

For the Maoris to turn to Christianity there had to be things happening which they could not explain in terms of their own culture and could not control by traditional means.

He suggests that three sources of this “cultural confusion” may be identified (op.cit.:144-7). Firstly, there was the inability to cure Western diseases by traditional means. In a society where the unknown was often attributed to the powers of the atua, this was most upsetting to the Maori world-view. Missionary interest in medicine and some successes in curing the sicknesses that afflicted the Maoris no doubt put the missionaries in a most favourable light (op.cit.:153). Secondly, there was the inability to control the consequences of the introduction of European technology, particularly iron tools and muskets. Finally, the increased warfare and the deaths resulting from it were incompatible with the traditional attitudes Maoris had in regulating intertribal conflict.

According to this thesis, the Maoris were looking for an alternative world-view to make sense of the changed circumstances in which they found themselves. The question is whether this was wholly the motivation for Maoris turning to Christianity.

Further, the thesis implies that Maoris had lost so much of their earlier self-confidence and autonomy during this period that they were forced to turn to an alien culture. Wright argues that, before 1830, the Maoris were the dominant party in race relations to the extent that they became increasingly aggressive in the pursuit of traditional Maori goals (op.cit.:117). For example, Maoris used Western weapons and Western agricultural produce to redress the incredibly complex balance of intertribal/hapū relations. I take issue with Wright's contention that the Maoris lost their sense of self-confidence and autonomy after 1830. As I examine the evidence that has become available since Wright's work was first published in 1959, there is little to suggest that there was an erosion of Maori autonomy in this period. It was not until after 1860 that there were signs of some loss of autonomy, and even then this was confined only to areas of greatest resistance to the Europeans. Wright's thesis is considerably undermined by his insensitivity to regional and tribal variation.

Owen's work (1968) is devoted to a critique of Wright's thesis on two grounds. He rejects the view that there was a “Maori conversion” in the 1830s and that “social disintegration” was an essential precondition for - 463 such a conversion if it had occurred (op.cit.:39-40). Owens argues that a distinction has to be made between a general diffusion of Christian influence and conversion. If John Wesley's view of conversion as undergoing a personal experience in which the individual is “made over in mind and spirit” unto God (op.cit.:21) is accepted, then there must be serious doubts about the “Maori conversion”. In any case, citing figures from Church Missionary Society (CMS), Methodist and Roman Catholic missions, Owens notes that the number of converts in 1841 constituted no more than 3 percent of a population of about 100,000 (op.cit.:22). What is most damaging about Owens' criticism is his point that (op.cit.:23):

it is very easy to apply the word ‘conversion’ to evidence of superficial conformity, and then to assume that the other meaning of complete transformation is applicable, and so move easily to the assumption that this (erroneous) complete religious transformation implies an associated complete, or at least major, social breakdown.

There were, Owens continues (op.cit.:30), no dramatic transitions from “dominance” to “uncertainty” and no specific period when Maori conversion took place. Instead, he suggests the problem be “seen in terms of constant social and cultural adjustment, accompanied by a diffusion of Christian concepts, sometimes spreading slowly, sometimes more rapidly (as in the early 1830s), and reaching different stages in different regions”. Perhaps we could call this the “cultural diffusion thesis”. Owens suggests, too, that the diffusion of literacy and the missionaries' knowledge of the Maori language at this time was significant in the spread of Christianity. This is consistent with his thesis. However, Owens' “diffusion thesis” is a descriptive device and avoids altogether the issue of Maori motivation which is fundamental in any attempt to explain Maori interest in Christianity in the 1830s.

Binney's thesis (1969) does attempt to address itself to the question of Maori motivation. She argues that the change of Maori attitudestowards the Anglican missionaries at the Bay of Islands in the middle orlate 1820s was not due solely to the cumulative effect of missionary preaching and improvement of their techniques (op.cit.:144). The total dependence of the missionaries on the local Maoris at this time, she suggests, was reduced for two reasons. Firstly, the decline of the demand for muskets at the Bay from about 1823 (op.cit.:146) meant the Maoris were more willing to trade with missionaries for other goods. Secondly, Henry Williams' policy of building and running missionary schooners permitted trade with Maoris outside the Bay of Islands and broke the economic monopoly - 464 of the local Maoris (op.cit.:147). In this context, the missionaries were able to exert a degree of influence hitherto impossible.

This brings us to the vital part of her thesis (op.cit.:152):

Christianity was not presented to the Maori divorced from a European framework; it was specifically taught in connection with the stressed inferiority of Maori culture and the superiority of European culture.

In my view, this was achieved on two levels. Marsden's policy of civilising the natives first to prepare them for Christianisation was separate only in theory; in reality the Maoris saw no distinction between the two. The inability of the missionaries to convey abstract concepts such as the nature of God, the creation, fall and redemption of man, the resurrection, the judgment and the future world forced them to resort to more secular methods. Trade and the teaching of new skills, particularly in agricultural production, were offered to the Maoris via the mission stations. It was ironical that, as Henry Williams sought to distance the missionaries from ships and seamen, presumably to convey to the Maoris the idea that missionaries were a distinct group of Europeans who could bring only good, the Maoris, at least in the early stage of contact, perceived them as part and parcel of all that was European.

Secondly, diseases such as cholera, influenza, smallpox and venereal disease introduced by the presence of Europeans afflicted Maoris. The missionaries invariably took an interest in medicine and Maori health and were effective in curing some Maoris of such diseases. Europeans, on the other hand, did not appear susceptible to them. Hence the Maoris saw the missionaries possessing powers which they did not have (Binney 1969:153). It was inevitable that in such a vital area of human life, sickness and health, the Maoris sought explanations in the superiority of the European atua. At the same time, Maori religious beliefs were deliberately attacked in order to establish the supremacy of Christianity (ibid.). In particular, tapu which was regarded as the main obstacle to civilisation, was challenged (Binney 1968:73). Tapu was regarded by the missionaries as the sustaining religious force which bound together the whole fabric of social organisation and until this was removed no changes in Maori society were possible. In summary, Christianity was presented to the Maoris in the context of their relative deprivation in material culture (Binney 1976:77).

Hence, Binney's “relative deprivation thesis” postulates the idea that Maoris compared themselves with Europeans and felt wanting, and so were motivated to accept Christianity. The problem with this thesis is the - 465 assumption that the Maoris measured themselves in terms of the values of Europeans. Although Maori motivation is taken into account, it is not understood in Maori terms. Moreover, implicit in Binney's thesis is the view that, as a consequence of missionary policy, Maori self-confidence would have been considerably undermined. In fact, Binney suggests (1969:151) that missionaries deliberately set out to disrupt tribal society as a precondition for the adoption of the new God. Binney goes on to argue (op.cit.:148) that by the late 1820s war weariness in the Bay of Islands created for missionaries a distinct role in Maori society, that of peacemakers. Other commentators on missionary-Maori relations have tended to overlook the importance of missionaries as peacemakers. It was in their role as peacemakers, I suggest, that missionaries made their significant contribution to Maori-Pakeha relations. What is useful about the thesis, however, is the implication that Maori interest in Christianity must also be viewed in broader terms, namely as Maori adoption of selected aspects of European culture.

But we must be careful about using the term “acceptance” when describing the Maori response to Christianity. “Acceptance” implies that the Maoris allowed Christianity to take over and run their lives. On the contrary, Maoris used Christianity for their own specific purposes and reflected a degree of autonomy that Wright, Owens, and Binney were unwilling to concede. More accurately, we should speak of Maori “interest” in Christianity. In short, we need to acknowledge and pay greater attention to Maori autonomy than these writers have done.

To summarise all three theses: social depression, cultural diffusion and relative deprivation have two limitations. Firstly, Maori interest in Christianity is seen as an isolated response to the European presence. It is essential to look at this particular issue in the overall context of Maori response to colonisation in the 19th century. Indigenous enthusiasm for Christianity should be seen as part of a continuing interest in European trade, muskets, agriculture, literacy and legal institutions. Secondly, if a meaningful interpretation of Maori politics at all levels of activity is to be attempted then some kind of “model” is needed. In a sense Wright, Owens and Binney have developed models, which imply their vantage positions, for their interpretations. But these models lack sophistication. The social depression thesis denies Maori agency, the cultural diffusion thesis has only descriptive capacity and the relative deprivation thesis suffers from ethnocentrism. What is required is a model which explains Maori interest in selected European activities and incorporates the important element of indigenous motivation and interest.

The selective adoption of European influence by Maoris indicates - 466 that certain items are more readily transferable than others. Linton (1963:485) has provided a useful scheme through which culture transfer may be viewed among some American Indian tribes. 4 Linton argues that tangible objects such as tools or ornaments are usually the first things transferred in contact situations even in the absence of face-to-face contact between the groups involved. The transfer of patterns of behaviour is more difficult, requiring face-to-face contact over a lengthy period. But the most difficult of all are abstract elements such as ideas, philosophical concepts and religion where some means of communication is essential for conveying the abstractions. In general, Linton argues (op.cit.:488):

New things are borrowed on the basis of their utility, compatibility with pre-existing culture patterns and prestige associations.

The more concrete and tangible objects of European material culture were readily absorbed by Maoris, but not all the items introduced by Europeans appealed to Maoris (Binney 1969:160-1). In the early 1800s, they were willing only to cultivate those crops and raise livestock that did not put excessive strain on their social and economic organisation. For example, the first missionaries who arrived in 1814 introduced wheat and cattle (Simmons 1973), which met with Maori resistance because these were not compatible with Maori society. Too much effort was required for wheat growing, which yielded lesser returns than other crops, and cattle rearing required specialised knowledge. In contrast, the introduction of the potato in the South Island was quickly integrated into the existing economy of the Maoris (Leach 1969:78). Potatoes, being a hardy crop and easily stored, were particularly suited to Maori agriculture. Moreover, from the 1800s Maoris had been trading in pork and potatoes with Europeans (Owens 1981:35). Maori interest in Christianity and literacy was not evident until the 1830s (Binney 1968:80-1, Parr 1961:437).

Although Linton has developed a general chronological scheme for describing culture transfer useful for looking at the sequence of Maori adoption of European culture, their enthusiasm for aspects of European influence can be explained only in Maori terms. It is not so much the sequence that is the central issue, but enthusiastic Maori adoption of certain features of European influence. Hence, in our earlier reference to Parsonson, many tribes had been successful in exporting potatoes, wheat and pigs to settler markets throughout Australiasia in the 1840s, yet there was no evidence of a rise in their standard of living.

- 467

The question then becomes, as Clastres (1977:165) puts it in referring to “primitive” societies, “why would the men [sic] living in those societies want to work and produce more, given that three or four hours of peaceful activity suffice to meet the needs of the group ... what purpose would be served by the surplus thus accumulated?”. For Parsonson, Maori participation in commodity production before 1860 was due to intertribal competition for mana. But what explains the competitive nature of Maori society? I argued earlier that Sahlin's description of Maori society, as a ramage founded on the principle of genealogical seniority, lends itself to a political structure that is inherently competitive and dynamic.

In the same way that Maoris enthusiastically participated in food production and trade, their interest in Christianity could be understood only in tribal terms. Maoris who decided to profess Christianity were careful to ensure that the existing tribal balance of power was maintained. Elbert and Monberg reported (Hamilton 1970:305-6) that the people of a Maori village decided to adopt the three denominations then available to them so that their tribal divisions, so essential to maintaining authority, would remain. The needs of such a society, based on tribal prestige and the careful delineation of position, were also to be seen in the Maoris' choice of denomination when they decided to profess Christianity (Hamilton 1970:196). In the north, one party made its way from Hokianga to the Bay of Islands because it wished to receive the Gospel from the CMS rather than the Wesleyans. It was common to find Christian and non-Christian parties declaring their continued antagonism in that way (ibid.). With the arrival of Catholic missionaries in 1838, other Hokianga Maoris took an immediate interest in Catholicism and the new Catholic prayer. In doing so, they were expressing their growing fears of a Wesleyan, English hegemony on the Hokianga and their opposition to the English missionaries and their Maori followers in the region (Turner 1986:61-2).

In the south, Hadfield had to establish two stations, at Otaki and Waikanae, and spend about a week at each in turn, to cater for two tribes, Ngāti Raukawa-Ngāti Toa and Āti Awa (Hamilton 1970:200) Christianity provided new methods of symbolising tribal standing (ibid.:20). Rangiatea, the chapel Te Rauparaha built at Otaki, was intended to surpass in magnificence that of his Āti Awa rivals at Waikanae, which had itself been built to outshine the Turanga chapel. After the “Wairau massacre” in 1843, Te Rauparaha made a totally unexpected appearance in the chapel at Otaki, declaring that from that time he intended to embrace Christianity. It has been suggested that he - 468 wanted to secure the allegiance of the Christian Maoris who were a large and influential party in Otaki (op.cit.:227). Te Rauparaha recognised Christianity as a force no Maori chief could ignore, and one which could be used productively by a man who saw the need to adapt himself to changing circumstances (op.cit.:229).


It is inconceivable that writers of 19th century Maori history can allow the data to speak for themselves and disclaim any responsibility for interpretation. What they choose to present as data, let alone the “interpretation” (in the Weberian sense) they may make, implies a selective process, premised on the assumptions they hold about a particular culture, society and period. In this paper I have tried to uncover the assumptions, implicit or otherwise, contained in these works. Such assumptions, if left unquestioned and unexamined, inevitably become interwoven into the process of historical writing. The result is an “accepted truth” which is taken as the baseline of subsequent scholarship. Nowhere is this more evident than in the misconceptions of “tribe” and the political power of chiefs in 19th century Maori historiography.

If “meaningful” historical interpretations of Maori society are to be achieved, we must take heed of two points raised by Skocpol (1984:368-9). Firstly, interpretive historical sociologists should pay careful attention to matters of conceptual reorientation and conceptual clarification. In this paper, I have attempted a reorientation and clarification of analytical tools in historical research on Maori society. Secondly, careful attention should also be paid to the culturally embedded intentions of individual or group actors in the historical settings under investigation. I myself have tried to be sensitive to the interests and motivations of indigenous actors.

Further, I have argued against the piecemeal interpretation of Maori history. When events are viewed in isolation, their significance is obscured. “As a consequence, the individual ‘fact’ or event only achieves significance when it can be inserted into some more general sequence of comparable ‘facts’ or ‘events’” (Lucas in Le Goff & Nora 1985:5). Hence, Maori involvement in European agriculture and trade makes sense only if this is viewed as part of a continuing interest in muskets, Christianity, literacy and legal processes and government. Such activities are a reflection of a dynamic society struggling to come to terms with the overwhelming process of settler colonisation. It is in trying to understand the nature of such a dynamic society responding to - 469 change that we can develop some insights on Maori-Pakeha relations in the 19th century.


I am indebted to David Pearson, David Boardman and one anonymous referee for their responses to the arguments developed in this paper.

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1   I refer here to Belich (1986), Binney (1969), Dalton (1967), Howe (1977b), Sorrenson (1963, 1976, 1981), Owens (1973), Ward (1978), Wards (1968) and Wright (1967). The exceptions are Ballara (1973), Parsonson (1980, 1981) and Sinclair (1961).
2   The view that stresses the Maori form of ownership as communal is simplistic and in part a reaction to individualistic forms of ownership in capitalist societies rathar than a real attempt to describe the precise nature of Maori landownership.
3   These two principles embody the all important rights to land and to chieftainship which are usually, but not invariably, determined with tuakana lines of descent in mind. The tuakana-teina (older brother-younger brother) relationship underlies much of political life in Maori society (Cleave 1983:55).
4   The relevance of the scheme was raised by Clover (1973) in his study of the influence of Christianity on South Taranaki Maoris between 1840 and 1853.