Your history, my history, our history

The Penguin History of New ZealandWhen you emigrate, it takes time to get your histories all in a row.

First up all you are aware of is loss, the huge gaping and unfillable loss of who you were. It takes all your energy just to keep your head above water. At least that was how it was for me.

But then I rallied and joined the library where one of the first books ever issued to me was Michael King’s The Penguin History of New Zealand. Feeling very virtuous I carried it back on the bus to Brooklands. There I took it on little jaunts from room to room and finally bussed it back (unread) a month later. It was too much too soon. I pulled in my horns.

Time passed and I started to look out for books that related to my interests: art, architecture and the stories of women. Beautiful books drew me in and fed my soul. Books like: Māori Architecture by Dierdre Brown; books about New Zealand Art, and A History of New Zealand Women by Barbara Brookes. I am unapologetic about the fact that sometimes I just looked at the pictures. I had a lot of catching up to do.

Cover of Maori Architecture Cover of a A history of New Zealand women Cover of Mauri Ora

Then, just recently, I came upon my best New Zealand book thus far – Mauri Ora: Wisdom From the Māori World by Peter Alsop. This is a lovely book to look at, a satisfying book to hold and a profound book to read.

Fiona and chalkboard at Central Library ManchesterAt much the same time as I was reading this book, I arrived at Central Library Manchester one day to work. On the sandwich board outside the library (see the photo at right with Fiona – its creator) was a te reo quotation with its English translation. I could almost understand the reo and I was enchanted by its translation – so appropriate for the library in question.

A small group of us stood outside the library looking at the quotes on the board. We had an engaging conversation about language and place and thought. Like planets, I felt all my histories line up and I was finally (albeit briefly) at peace. A quote from the Mauri Ora book says it all:

Ko te pae tawhiti, whāia kia tata;

ko te pae tata, whakamaua kia tīna

(Seek out distant horizons and cherish those you attain.)

Striking Gold: Sporting achievement amidst political turmoil

Cover of Striking GoldIt’s 1976 and the Olympic games are being held in Montreal, Canada. In protest at New Zealand’s attendance at the games and ongoing sporting association with Apartheid South Africa (specifically the All Blacks continuing to tour there), many African nations refuse to take part in the games.

This was not our finest hour as a nation. So you can imagine that telling the story of a plucky band of Kiwi hockey players who achieve Olympic gold against the odds (in the final they faced an Australian team who had a 13 game winning-streak against them) – is somewhat problematic given the setting.

Fortunately in Striking gold: New Zealand hockey’s remarkable victory at the 1976 Olympics author and journalist Suzanne McFadden has done a great job of sitting the stories of these individual players in amongst both the history of hockey in New Zealand, but more importantly the political and social context of that time. In reading the book I’ve learned at least as much about the politics of the era as I have about the sport.

I asked author Suzanne McFadden a few questions about the book, and what she was hoping to achieve in writing it.

Your background is in sports journalism and you’re a self-professed fan of hockey. Was writing this book your “dream gig”?

Suzanne McFaddenIt was definitely a dream first book for me to write, in so many ways. Hockey was my sporting passion as a kid, and growing up, I was aware New Zealand had won an Olympic gold medal in hockey, but I didn’t know a lot more about the story behind it. Very few Kiwis did. As a journalist (now in my 30th year), my passion has always been people – and telling rich human interest stories. And Striking Gold is really a collection of great yarns about a bunch of great Kiwi blokes, who may have come from very different walks of life, but all shared the same passion – to win Olympic gold.

How important was it to you that you cover the social history and context in which all this was happening?

It was hugely important. I didn’t want Striking Gold to be branded as “a hockey book”, or “an Olympics book”.  I wanted it to portray an era in New Zealand where sport was still played on a purely amateur basis; where the men in the New Zealand hockey team also held down full-time jobs and helped raise young families. They had balance in their lives.

Although it was an amateur era, they were absolutely professional in their approach to the sport.  Players like Barry Maister, John Christensen and their captain, Tony Ineson, would head down to “Hospital Corner” at Hagley Park every week-day lunchtime to practise their penalty corner moves, hundreds of times over, and then return to work. It was critical, too, to describe the political backdrop, especially when New Zealand’s sporting contacts with South Africa cast such a shadow over the 1976 Olympics.

Do you think we New Zealanders have really “processed” the part our country played in the controversy of the Montreal Games? My feeling is that we seem to gloss over that period a bit.

I’ve been surprised that so many people had no idea that the All Blacks tour of South Africa in ’76 threatened to derail the Montreal Olympics.  We remember the Springbok tour protests of 1981, but the shame of 1976 is like a part of our history that we’ve conveniently extinguished.

The hockey gold medallists certainly remember it very vividly, recalling being too embarrassed to wear their New Zealand tracksuits around the athletes’ village. Some of them maintain it should have been the New Zealanders sent home from Montreal instead of the African nations who walked out.

There are some amazing things that happened to the players in this champion team.  What was your favourite story that you came across in doing research for this book?

There are so many! But one of the great finds was the Jack Lovelock letter, hidden in an old leather suitcase in Selwyn Maister’s home in Christchurch.

The letter of thanks was sent from Lovelock soon after he won his Olympic gold medal in the 1500m at the 1936 Berlin Games, addressed to Havilah Down – Maister’s grandfather who essentially ran hockey in New Zealand for 30 years. The lovely coincidence was that 40 years after that letter was sent, Maister would join Lovelock as the only two Rhode Scholars to have won an Olympic gold medal for New Zealand.

Sometimes Kiwis aren’t good about talking about their achievements as it’s considered “skiting” to some. In speaking with the players were they reticent to talk about their experiences or were they pretty forthcoming?

Initially, some of the players wondered why I would even want to write a book about a sporting tournament that happened four decades ago, and whether we would print just enough copies for them to hand out to their children and grandchildren… They are a truly humble bunch! But once they started talking, they opened up and shared some incredible memories.

They never bragged about being the best team in the world; instead they marvelled in how they came together as a perfect unit, and with a lot of hard work, skill and even a little luck, beat the world’s best.

Do you think there are other, equally extraordinary, “hidden” sports stories in New Zealand history that are waiting to be written?

Absolutely – especially from sports considered outside the mainstream. It’s just a matter of finding the time to tell them all!

If someone were interested in this period of sporting history, what books would you recommend they read?

Cover of Old heroesFor more about New Zealand’s performances at the 1976 Olympics, you can read Ivan Agnew’s book Aim High. There are some great New Zealand sports books on the 1950s and ‘60s – Arthur’s Boys by Joseph Romanos, detailing the astonishing achievements of Arthur Lydiard’s track athletes; and Old Heroes, Warwick Roger’s excellent recollection of the 1956 Springboks tour of New Zealand.

Even if your non-fiction reading doesn’t usually lean towards the sporting, I’d recommend giving Striking gold a go as it’s an engaging read that pulls you with its cast of hockey personalities, turbulent geo-politics, and unlikely twists and turns.

Win a copy of Striking Gold

We have one copy of this fascinating book to giveaway. Entry is open to Christchurch City Libraries cardholders. Simply leave a comment with your suggestion of a great sporting or history read by 5pm Friday 22 April to go in the draw. A winner will be announced on Tuesday 26 April.

More information

Library resources

Ranginui Walker: Teller of truths

Cover of Mata Toa: The life and times of Ranginui WalkerAt the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival in 2009, I was lucky enough to attend a session in which Ranginui Walker, academic, historian and biographer shared the stage with his own biographer and friend Paul Spoonley.

Over the course of the hour Walker came across as an intelligent, committed man with a great deal of personal integrity. Someone who never intended to be “the voice of Māoridom” for Pākehā New Zealand but somehow ended up there (and as you can imagine this was not often a comfortable position to be in). He spoke quietly and modestly of his accomplishments while there was no doubt that the courteous and stately manner was underlaid by a steely resolve. This is often the case with people who tell difficult truths.

Cover of Ka whawhai tonu matou: Struggle without endHis contribution to our understanding of ourselves as a country cannot be overstated. His 1990 history of New Zealand from a Māori perspective, Ka whawhai tonu matou: Struggle without end (along with Michael King’s The Penguin history of New Zealand) is a must read for anyone interested in how New Zealand came to be the place it is. It was a revelation to many and is a seminal work, which was later updated to address the Foreshore and Seabed debate. It is still a great and relevant read for all New Zealanders.

He wrote many other books that illuminated some aspect of the Māori experience of Aotearoa from a highly-acclaimed biography of Sir Apirana Ngata to a tribal history of his own beloved Whakatōhea iwi.

Ranginui Walker passed away yesterday at the age of 83. New Zealand has lost a great writer, thinker, and person.

Further Reading

Commemorating peaceful protest – Parihaka

Human beings. We can be a bit disappointing sometimes can’t we? We’re often very easily swayed by things that are bright and shiny rather than other more meaningful things.

FireworksTake for instance the event we usually commemorate on 5 November, Guy Fawkes Day. Four hundred years ago in England a group of people plotted to blow up the King and Parliament. The plot was foiled and Fawkes (among others) was caught , tried and executed.
And this would probably be no more than a barely remembered fact from high school history class if explosives weren’t involved. Because we love a bit of a fireworks display, we choose to remember, remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot.

Parihaka, a very different kind of protest, doesn’t get as much attention even though it’s far more recent and took place in our own country.

Parihaka by Josiah Martin, [ca 1880]
Parihaka by Josiah Martin, [ca 1880], Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Accession No. 1997/34/7
The Māori settlement of Parihaka, Taranaki was home to around 2000 people. In the wake of the Land Wars many Māori had become dispossessed as the Government of the time had undertaken “confiscations” of land. A movement to resist this acquisition and occupation of Māori land had grown, but rather than warfare, peaceful means were used to undermine Government “ownership” of disputed lands. Surveyor pegs were removed, fences were built, fields were ploughed.

By 1881 the Government determined that this peaceful but disruptive protest should come to an end, so on 5 November a militia and armed constabulary of 1500 men invaded the settlement of Parihaka. They were met without resistance. The settlement, and its surrounding crops were eventually destroyed. The leaders of the movement  Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi were sent south and jailed, as were a number of men, some of whom never returned.

So, in both cases the Government of the day is accused of injustice – one group chooses a violent protest, the other a peaceful one – but it’s the former that we commemorate. Hmmm. Interesting.

But should you want to pay tribute to the fearless, peaceful protestors of Parihaka you have the opportunity. Lyttelton Community House invite you to attend their Annual Parihaka Remembrance service. This will be held on Thursday, 5th November, 10am at the Lyttelton Rose Garden – (Former Gaol site). From there you are also invited to attend a second service that will be held at the memorial stone next to the church at Rapaki at 11am. Light refreshments will be served afterwards. Please phone Christine on 741-1427 if you require further information.

Or at the very least, you could spend Thursday humming this pop classic by Tim Finn.

Land is the very soul of a tribal people

Photograph Maori Land March demonstrators between Te Hapua and Mangamuka. Heinegg, Christian F, 1940- :Photographs of the Maori Land March. Ref: PA7-15-16. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22729894
Photograph Maori Land March demonstrators between Te Hapua and Mangamuka. Heinegg, Christian F, 1940- :Photographs of the Maori Land March. Ref: PA7-15-16. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22729894

Forty years ago a landmark event in New Zealand history began in a small Northland community called Te Hapua, the most northerly settlement in Aotearoa.

This was the beginning point of a protest march that, over the course of a month, would take in the length of the North Island. The greater distance however was yet to be travelled – that towards a bicultural New Zealand.

This was an important moment in New Zealand history. Since the signing of the The Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, Māori had been increasingly alienated from their land. Legislation often disadvantaged Māori in the way it applied to land that was collectively (or tribally) owned.

Time after time, Māori land was transferred to Crown ownership via one piece of legislation or the other. Māori land ownership had dwindled from 67,000,000 acres to just 2,000,000 acres. The petition that accompanied the march, or hīkoi, identified the Town and Country Planning Act, the Public Works Act, the Rating Act, and the Counties Amendment Act as contributing to this problem.

Organised by Te Rōpū o Te Matakite, a pan-tribal group, and led by Dame Whina Cooper the march culminated in a 5000-strong crowd arriving at Parliament with a petition signed by 60,000 people and presented to Prime Minister Bill Rowling. The petition called for “the abolition of monocultural laws pertaining to Maori land” and pressed those in power “to establish communal ownership of land within the tribe as a legitimate title equal in status to the individual title”.

In a booklet issued by Te Rōpu o Te Matakite, they go into more detail as to why the march is needed emphasising the importance to Maori of the land –

Land is the very soul of a tribal people.

IF THERE IS NO LAND, WE HAVE NO TURANGAWAEWAE, NO SOUL, NO MANA, NO IDENTITY. WE BECOME A NON-PEOPLE IN OUR OWN COUNTRY.

 

Māori Land March (1975) - Route of March
Māori Land March (1975) – Route of March.  Archives New Zealand, AAMK 869 W3074 684/d 19/1/774 Part 1 (R11838413) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Though it took place in the North Island, as this map of the march route shows, the intention was that Māori from all over the country would be involved, making it a national movement. It was expected that South Island protesters would meet with their northern counterparts in Wellington.

For those wanting to know more about this watershed moment in New Zealand’s bicultural journey, National Library in Wellington has an exhibition of photographs taken by Christian Heinegg during the Māori Land March called ‘Not one more acre’. Some images from Heinegg’s photo essay are available online.

Archives New Zealand has digitised a selection of documents and images that tell the story of the march. View them in their 1975 Māori Land March set on Flickr.

You can also watch, via NZ On Screen the full length television documentary Te Matakite O Aotearoa – The Māori Land March, made during the protest.

Further reading

No gold bar from Gaddafi: In the Ring with Don McKinnon

In the Ring at Christchurch City LibrariesBefore I went to Don McKinnon’s session this morning, I knew little about the Commonwealth or the man who was Secretary-General of the organisation from 2000 to 2008. Now I feel I have an insight into the complexity of dealing with the leaders of the 54 member countries and the tenacity it takes to affect positive political change.

Sir Donald McKinnon, ONZ, GCVO, or Don as he likes to be called, was in conversation with journalist Jane Clifton, discussing his memoir In the Ring and entertaining an appreciative audience with insights from his time with one of the world’s most revered diplomatic organisations.

The Commonwealth is the longest established organisation in the world. Times have changed since the days of the British Commonwealth. Today there are only 16 realms in the group, most of the member states are republics.

Don McKinSir Donald McKinnon at AWRF 2013non spoke about the challenges of dealing with leaders from different cultures and the importance of forming strong personal relationships. He said we believe in transactional relationships in the west whereas in Asia, Africa and the Pacific, building relationships is key.

None of the countries in the Commonwealth are simplistic in their nature. They are complex and not always easy to deal with. Add to this the fact that ‘all leaders are in a permanent state of stress’ and you have a situation which would challenge even the most experienced politician.

Don recalled attending an African Leaders’ meeting and Colonel Gaddafi entered the room, kissed every person there three times, then gave them each a gold bar. To his disappointment, Gaddafi’s minders decided that Don didn’t qualify for a gold bar because he wasn’t actually an African leader.

Don McKinnon is a politician through and through and knows that success in politics centres around trust and making, and keeping, friends in all the right places. Don’t expect any gossip. The author is a career politician who knows his stuff. He is a captivating speaker and not afraid to state his opinion.

And as to the future of the Commonwealth? He says, as long as it sticks to its values, promotes itself strongly and makes sure people know what it’s doing, it will remain an important player in the world of international politics. “There are 180 million kids in the world who will never see a school in there life. There is no shortage of work to be done.”