Did whites treat the Maori better than the Aborigines?

Did white settlers in New Zealand treat the natives better than their counterparts in Australia, all in all? Do both countries have what you would consider enlightened policies today? And how would you compare them to current U.S. policy towards Indians?

Did they? Yes. Partially because the New Zealanders showed a willingness to kill interlopers, and had a tribal structure that Europeans could work with.

But why would a willingness to kill make you want to treat someone BETTER?

Because the settlers are then less likely to just push the natives off the land. Because the settlers might talk to the natives instead of treating them like in inconvienient local pest species. Because the settlers had some respect for a people who are willing to fight back.

The Maori would kill you and eat you. It really doesn’t get more badass than that.

I wonder how much timing had to do with it. NZ was settled later than Australia, so one might expect those settlers to be more enlightened.

Not so much a willingness to kill as a capacity for self-defense/resistance.

The Maori also adopted firearms very quickly (which they also used against other Maori). And the Maori were organized enough to be able to negotiate agreements such as the Treaty of Waitangi (1840), which gave them some formal rights (although often not honored by the British).

People are less willing to kill bees than they are to kill flies. They know that, if they kill a bee, other bees might attack them. Same idea. If you kill or mistreat a Maori, other Maoris might kill you. If you kill or mistreat someone with less ability or willingness to kill, it’s more likely you’ll get away with it.

I heard a story about the Taino in Puerto Rico telling white settlers about the Caribe, their wealth and how much they’d like to meet them. The Caribe were much more numerous and more warlike.

Heh, I am not worried about being attacked by more bees. That really is only a serious problem as it regards killer bees who smell the death phermones of the dead bee and attack. The reason I don’t kill bees is because of a sense of respect for their function. They are an important part of the life-cycle of flora in the area, whereas flies tend to feed off of offal, and I am unlikely to kill a fly if it’s not in my home.

Thing is, humans aren’t bees. See Tit for tat strategy and it’s implications.

The aborigines were Stone Age hunter-gatherers whereas the Maori were agriculturalists with higher population density and more complex social organization. The aborigines certainly fought Europeans when they could, but there weren’t enough Aborigines, and they weren’t organized enough to put up significant resistance.

The difference was analogous to the difference in South Africa between the Khoisan peoples and the Nguni (Zulu, Xhosa) peoples. Europeans made short work of the hunter gatherer Khoisan peoples, but encountered centuries long resistance from the much larger, much better organized Xhosa and Zulu.

Some notes:

  1. Colonisation in NZ occurred later than in Australia. By the nineteenth century (around the 1840 signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, the foundational colonial document) the head of the Colonial Office was sympathetic to humanitarian and utilitarian arguments. These were also supported by NZ’s missionary settlers of the time, who had significant lobbying power in London. The overall effect was official Colonial Office policy that sought to treat Maori significantly better than native Australians and Americans had been.

  2. Maori were numerous, relatively centralised in the upper half of the North Island, and had rapidly assimilated firearms since the early nineteenth century. In fact the 1810-1820 period saw significant inter-tribal conflict between Maori, with extensive use of firearms. This meant early settlers could not act with impunity, and without military support from London, were forced to accommodate Maori who could at any time drive them into the sea. Contrast with Australia where small farmers militias were able to decimate isolated and disorganised groups of aboriginals.

  3. Maori were also able to adapt rapidly to the settler presence: they traded happily and were accommodating of settlers. Having settlers near your community was widely seen as a way of adding to ones mana (importance) because of the manufactured goods they brought, and the protection from other warring tribes they could provide by their presence. This meant London had no reason to intervene, and when combined with (2) meant there was relatively positive relationship for the early years.

  4. The above all changed as settler numbers and aspirations increased and Maori numbers decreased due to the effects of disease and low-level warfare. By the 1860s Governor Grey was able to convince London of the need for intervention against Maori, and the New Zealand Wars occurred, During these campaigns, particularly in the Waikato, Maori were able to rapidly adopt sophisticated tactics, historians like James Belich even credit them with the invention of trench warfare. Heavy casualties were inflicted on the Colonial forces, and it should be noted that at one point 1/4 of the standing Imperial Army (25000, including many Sepoys from India) were in NZ fighting. Although Maori did well tactically, their logistical abilities were never going to beat the empire, and eventually they lost strategically. This marked the permanent shift in power in NZ away from Maori to settlers.

  5. From 1865 to the1960s represented the nadir of Maori in NZ. Significant land alienation occurred under the Native Land Court process, destroying traditional tribal structures and creating many of the lingering social problems that face Maori. Assimilation was followed as an official policy, but perhaps because of the different colonial experiences, extermination was never perused. Paternalism often dominated where in Australia or the US a diffidence to the decline might have occurred. This is also explained by NZ’s more compact geography: in Australia it was easy to forget about a people you had driven into the desert. In NZ the Maori were driven into towns, where you couldn’t easily destroy them with neglect.

  6. By the 1960s and 70s a cultural renaissance was under way with Maori to a degree not yet seen in Australia. Maori became proud of their heritage and the Treaty of Waitangi, long forgotten, became a central part of NZ’s constitutional framework and source of restitution from the state.

So in conclusion, the Maori colonial experience differed in significant way from the Australian one, due to the different time and circumstances in which it took place, as well as the different capacities of the Maori people in the early years.

The only thing I’d add to History, Myster and the Wolf’s excellent summary above is political representation. The initial franchise in 1853 extended to all men over 21 who satisfied a property qualification so Maori men were technically enfranchised but as land in collective ownership didn’t count very few would have been eligible. In 1867 four Maori electoral seats were established and the property qualification was abandoned for Maori voters. Although Maori were underepresented they had a voice in Parliament from 1867 onwards.

Compare this with the situation in Australia where aborigines in some states had to wait until the 1960s to get the vote.

“See? Now you respect me … because I’m a THREAT. That’s the way it works.”

– Syndrome, from The Incredibles

Thanks for History, Myster and the Wolf’s terrific summary. There were over 800 Aboriginal cultures in Australia, not a single group - and they were spread over a huge land mass. Being mobile hunter-gatherers, with a basically egalitarian social structure, there were no chiefs with whom to negotiate, so the Brits could move in with little physical resistance. Sharing is a critical part of hunter-gatherer cultures, but not much chop against invaders. Mobile cultures have a great deal more difficulty amassing resistance, and forcing their views to be heard, to those which already have a warlike structure and are settled.

Australia was also declared terra nullis - an empty land so all land could be acquired by British and assigned as they wished. There was no understanding of the way land was allocated in the traditional culture - something much easier to see in chiefdom structures. By studying the way knowledge systems work in mobile oral cultures, you will find that being moved from Land disrupts the culture very rapidly. Add in the rapid spread of new diseases and you have really ensured minimal resistance.

It’s a very unpretty part of our history, and of Britain’s.

Excellent. Ignorance fought - thanks, everyone!

No, it wasn’t. The idea that Terra Nullius meant the land was declared empty is a myth.

Terra Nullius a legal term meaning that the land has no existing claims upon it that are recognised by the Crown. The Crown only recognises land claims if the claimant can demonstrate continuous occupation, the placement of unambiguous border markers and land improvement amongst many other things. This concept goes back thousands of years and was established to prevent nobility claiming all the wild lands despite doing nothing to generate wealth from them. The Crown wanted the ability to award those lands to others in order to see them developed.

Australia was declared Terra Nullius because the Aborigines never placed border markers and never improved the land through agriculture or other means. The reason why the Mabo case was so important is because the Murray Islanders practiced agriculture and marked their garden plots with stone markers, thus rendering the continent wide declaration of Terra Nullius invalid.

There are similar stories in the southwest. Apparently when Cortez landed, local tribes were happy to tell him the way to Mexico City.

I don’t remember the real name, but it was a HUGE city, loaded with well armed Aztecs at the height of their power. Wealth, glory, gold, all awaited them, right down the road. I’m not entirely sure if they wanted the Spaniards to smash the Aztecs, or the Aztecs to smash the Spaniards :dubious:

But, as for the Maori, it was probably their willingness to fight (and eating you afterwards is pretty bad ass), and their better organization. I guess part of the settlers willingness to talk was out of self preservation.