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How the Maori imported Christianity

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  Quote Sander Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: How the Maori imported Christianity
    Posted: 02-Nov-2007 at 00:20
My first posting shows that Christianizing of other people can happen peacefully. In some cases,  like with the Maoris, the process was even controlled and to big extent led by the people themselve. With this I dont mean that the first missionaries were Maoris, but that Maoris chiefs were actively importing missionaries and stimulating Christianizing. Also after the import of missionaries, the local chiefs maintained control over them by providing shelter ; protection against rival tribes; deciding where they could go, what to say etc.
 
The above is not just some personal view. Its the most truthfull representation based on all the availbale data. The missonary documents leave little doubt about who were in charge, even in the cases where they try to conceal it with flowery missionary language. In fact, many missionaries complained how they felt owned by the maori chiefs.
 
In my second posting (next time) I will demonstrate an interesting  phenomenon. Even today , its often the case that a too euro-centric way of telling things is  delibarately arranging, twisting and omitting facts, so a picture can be created ( or maintained) in which We are always controlling and 'civilizing' the 'Other'.
 
Good, my first posting shows how christianity and the first missionaries entered New Zealand ( largely based on  James Belich, professor of History, Auckland University, New Zealand ) :
 
The legacy of the Maori chief Ruatara
 
Around 1800 there were yet no permanent european settlements on New zealand but the Maori people were conducting a lively trade with visiting whalers and sealers. Commodities ( foodstuffs , iron nails ) and services were exchanged. Occasionaly there were violent conflicts between Maori and shipcrews ( like the massacre of the Boyd crew in 1809 and some other events ) but inspite of that, trading contacts continued. It should be emphasized that there were no european settlements or missonary activities and the whole of New Zealand was run by dozens of Maori tribes /clans.
 
Around this time hundereds of Maoris took passage on ships to visit Europe and see the wide world. They paid for the trip or were paid for their labour. One of these people was the dynamic Maori Ruatara ( also known as Duaterra). in 1805 , only 19 years old, Ruatara took passage on a ship and had in its mind to visit the King of England. After he arrived he was refused to land and got into seriously trouble with the shipcrew. He eventually managed to get passage on a ship to Sydney. Among his fellow passengers was Samuel Marsden , a missioonary Chaplain, stationed in Australia. He stayed 8 months in Australia with Marsden and took a course in European agriculture. In 1814 Ruatara returned to New Zealand and introduced wheat, onions , turnips etc to his own tribe and to others. Not long after that he became the chief of of his tribe ( undoubtly the goods he brought stimulated this ). By this time Ruatara had fine fields of wheat, onions, cabbages grown from the seed. Ruatara ' s prestige suffered a blow when, lacking a mill , he could not grind the wheat in to flour. The 'fine stories ' of the 'great traveller' were now seriously doubted. Yet, a few months later the chiefs were literally forced to eat their words because Ruatara had managed to get a handmill, sent on his request by his friend Marsden in Australia. Apart from the wheat and other products, he also posessed rum, tea, sugar, european clothing etc.
 
In 1805 , when Ruatara was still in Sydney, he had helped shaped Marsden 's view that New Zealand was a promising field for missionary activity. Marsden had made plans to visit New Zealand but the massacre of the Boyd crew in 1809 had made the missionaries far from enthousiastic , so the plans were postponed. In 1810 , in Australia he discussed with Ruatara his plans of sending the first missionaries to New Zealand. Ruatara..[ quoting a document of Nicolas , one of the involved missionaries] :
 
".. not only readily acquisced in the proposal ..but expressed an anxious solicitude to have it commenced as soon as possible; and garantied to all persons engaged in it , hospitality and kindness of his own tribe and safe protections of the attacks of the other. Availing himself of this favourable circumstance, Mr. Marsden in the year 1810 , proposed to the Church Missionary Society..that they should sent out to New Zealand, certain proper persons to form a mission. To this they readily assented."
 
In 1814, when the ship with Marsden, Ruatara and 3 missionaries was on it way to New zealand, Marsden suddenly got the message that Ruatara was depressed. Marsden enquiered about the reasons for this mood . Ruatara explained that some had said that the standard goal of missionaries was to enslave and exterminate people.  Marsden offered to abort the voyage and never to hold any intrecourse with the country , if Ruatara wished this. Ruatara relaxed and gave christianity permission to go on but under one condition ; only its own tribal fellows would be the one that would welcome Marsden and he wanted full assurance that there would be no other place for the mission post than his own plade Rangihoa , not forgetting to stress that only he and his tribe could protect them.  Marsden complied ( as if he had much choice) and Ruatara resumed a good mood. To quote Belich on this :
 
" He might as well , because he had just secured a monopoly over the first European setllement on New Zealand, a goose that would reliably lay eggs of iron, if not gold. He had also introduced Christianity as a side effect ' ( Belich : 143 )
 
The neigbouring Maori tribes were left in no doubt who ran the mission station. Ruatara had not forgotton to buy 8 muskets when he was still in Sydney. In 1815 he was the best armed maori chief and the whealthiest in terms of european plants, tools and settlers. He controlled the mission stores and once prevented acces to the whole stock of iron tools, to remind anyone who was the boss. He prevented  attempts to move to station to a better site and he planned a European style town at his place Rangihoa. He arranged meetings for Marsden sermons and translated them as he choose . Ruatara enjoyed showing his power . When the chiefs of other tribes visited the mission ship, Ruatara and his Maori musketeers hide , spring out when the visitors climbed on board, firing their guns in the air and dancing the ferocious Haka, nearly causing several heart attacks among others.
 
Ruatara himself did not enjoy of everything long though. Not long afterwards he died from one of the western introduced diseases, beeing just 28 years old.
 
Some final remarks
Normally, Marsden gets all the attention but we can rightly say that Ruatara introduced Christianity. He actively imported European goods and knowledge and distributed it more effectively than any european could have done at that time. He adapted what he distributed and made it fit for Maori purpose. Even regarding the Gospel , it were his words , not Marsden's that the Maoris understood at the first sermons. He was the first of many sponsors of european settlement. Marsden's own and many other accounts make it quite clear that there would have been no mission in 1814 if Ruatara had not wanted it and it was Ruatara who determined it's location and function.
 
"Behind the admirably convertible Maori of the missionary and humanitarian literature, lies the ghost of Ruatara". (Belich :148 )
 
 
Samuel Marsden with on its right Ruatara
 
 
References
James Belich, Making Peoples, The history of the New Zealanders,1996
 
An online link, just for some first  reading (inspite the religious end, still better than many other sites) :
 


Edited by Sander - 02-Nov-2007 at 03:28
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Nov-2007 at 22:21
Interesting.
 
In the case of Easter Island, another Polynesian island but a lot smaller than New Zealand, a single priest was enough to christianize all the people. Easters are some of the most devote believers I have met. The church is decorated by Easter motifs.
 
 
 
 
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  Quote Sander Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Nov-2007 at 14:34
A  french priest from Tahiti  or somebody else?
 
Anyway, the difference between Easter island and the Maoris , is that the Easter islanders were not  dominating the missionaries, like the  Maoris did.
 
In 1835 Fitzroy wrote : " the  missionaries looked up to the Chiefs as their Protectors, and in fact, their Masters" ( quoted in Belich ).
 
When that Ruatara  died, the mission post  got in trouble and they were about to leave for Australia but another chief took them under his protection ( Hongi Heke ) .  So long before conflicts started between the British  troops and the Maoris ( 1840s ) Christianity was already introduced  under protection and supervision of  various Maori chiefs. 
 


Edited by Sander - 04-Nov-2007 at 14:50
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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Apr-2012 at 20:00
According to this book, the Maori created a new religion known as Hauhauism that included both Christian and pagan rituals:
http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=T8MNAAAAQAAJ&dq=maori%20christianity&pg=PA43#v=onepage&q&f=false
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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Apr-2012 at 21:59
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