Summary of Sophia Affair at Otakou & Whareakeake

In document Between people and things: understanding violence and theft in early New Zealand transactions (Page 195-199)

Analysis of the transactional sequence at Whareakeake has shown that the context was at least as important to the way it played out, as were the actors and their actions. Because this was a more formal visit by Captain Kelly and his crew, than at the Open Bay encounter, their actions would have been more predictable to Māori, especially in view of the fact that chief Matehaere was dealing with one person he already knew. This is perhaps a parallel with Kāhaki at Open Bay who was dealing with Perkins, a man likely to have been known to him via extended family connections, though probably lesser known than Tucker was to

Matehaere. However, Matehaere was an elderly chief and warrior and this makes it likely that he was, like Tamaiharanui, more culturally conservative in his thinking and impatient with the constant incursions into their territory of improperly provisioned foreign sealers who interfered with their way of life by placing stress on their physical and social resources and had their own ethical rules quite distinct from the Māori way of operating. By focusing on the progress of the interactions and the decision-making transition points it has been possible to clarify some of the ethical issues that were involved in choosing a course of action at any point. This also illuminates the involvement of personality and discourse or korero in the decision-making choices, because of these culturally derived ethical constraints, which are relative, and personally interpreted.

Summary Chart

Transitional Turning Points Justification for Action/Reaction Initiating circumstance (Sealers)

Kelly decides to go ashore @ Otākou with 6 men in ship’s boat.

a. To tradepotatoes for iron.

b. Strategy to form trading relationships with locals. 1. Action (Sealers)

All decide on Tuckers advice- no weapons but

Kelly decides to take a billhook. a. Tucker already knows them-b. Maintain good relationship with crew. relationship c. Uncertainty & fear.

d. Signal that he is prepared – warning.

2. Action (Sealers) i. Kelly decides to go to Whareakeake against Kōrako’s wishes. ii. Kelly decides to go alone into Matehaere’s house & leave crew outside with locals.

a. Tucker’s influence-wants to visit friends.

b. Trading might be favourable-expectation.

a. Respecting chief’s status (chief to chief). b. Crew can warn & defend.

3. Action (Sealers) i. Kelly decides to ask Te Anū

aboutMatildacasualties & Tucker enters house to view ‘things’

a. Curiosity.


Reaction (Māori)

i. Matehaere decides to attack Kelly, yelling ‘kill’ & Viole & Dutton thrown down & killed.

Reaction (Sealers)

i. Kelly hits Matehaere with billhook & runs for boat.

Action (Māori)

Riri kills Tucker & boat gets away.

a. Anger re billhook brought in – fear.

b. Association with Tucker – utu.

c. Association with previous sealers – utu.

a. Fear-self defence. b. Matehaere’s order – utu.

a. Bodies of 3 sealers eaten – loss of their mana &

removal of tapu of battle for warriors. 4. Action (Sealers

i. Kirk informs Kelly that Māori intend to take the boat.

Reaction (Sealers)

i. Kelly decides to fight with sealing knives & then lock up Kōrako.

a.Rumour or warning or perception. b. Negative interpretation of Maori actions. c. Fear of loss of life & property.

a. Reduce loss by isolating leader – strategy.

b. Displaying own power Action (Māori) i. Tukarekare decides to save

Kōrako by canoe & he jumps overboard. Reaction (Sealers)

i. Decide to burn canoes & houses as revenge.

a. Respect for his mana.

b. Fear of loss of leadership & protection. c. Courage & fear.

a. Anger.

b. Revenge.

When comparing the two cases where sealers were interacting with Māori in situations that became violent, there are some obvious similarities amongst the Europeans regarding the kinds of people they were, their occupation and the physical environment that they were operating in. Most of the men were poverty-stricken sailors from Hobart and Port Jackson, willing to take risks to make a living in an occupation that was dehumanizing and cruel. They were paid by ‘lay’, that is, they were given a share of the profits from the trip, but often had to live off the land which actually meant taking resources that belonged to Māori. They had few possessions: their clothes, guns and clubs and the use of a whaleboat to travel between colonies of seals. Such people would not only have become hardened to adversity, but also, after hearing from their workmates of their experiences became both audience to, and

perpetrators of stories about Māori savagery, cannibalism, theft and unpredictability. Both the cases described in this chapter, provide evidence that fear of being captured and eaten was a real influence on the behaviour of some captains and crew when they interacted with Māori. It focused them on being pro-active, ‘just in case’. Hence at Open Bay Boultbee fired into the crowd, thereby hastening the arrival of Toko, which resulted in the death of Perkins, for example. Similarly, at Otākou Kelly took a billhook to the chief’s house when there had been an agreement that they would go unarmed. The precise outcome is uncertain but the decision was likely to have made a difference to the direction in which the violence proceeded. There is not anything here that is very different to the exercise of choice at particular points in the violent sequence that took place at Kaiapoi as described in Chapter four. Affinal connections


with Māori women made a negative difference for Tucker, because he hadn’t honoured his commitments, but could have been the reason why Honoré survived at Open Bay for example. While the dominant feature of all the violent sequences discussed thus far is the Māori

requirement for utu when any kind of theft – of material things, or of reputation, status, or life – occurred, there is also evidence of its counterpart as Europeans saw it. Revenge was always excessive and unbalanced because it appears always to have been entwined with anger, resentment, grief, and a deficiency in understanding of the ‘other’s’world. Revenge by Europeans did not imply any sense of obligation to the gods for the taking of mana. It was more likely to have been about anger and grief for the loss of relationships with loyal friends and workmates. However, it is clear that though both Māori and Europeans could rationalize their decision to act with violence in terms of the normal practice of their own cultural schemas, they also made personal choices that were emotionally based and led to violence, when this was unnecessary for solving the problem and often perpetuated it. Different actors may have made different choices when, although structurally constrained, they could have chosen otherwise.

In his statement regarding the unintentional consequences of deliberate actions, Blok has said (2001:3) that:

There are no direct connections between intentionality and the outcome of pragmatic choice, decision- making, active calculating and strategizing of individual actors…plans and intentions, efforts and implementations are mediated, refracted, thwarted, distorted, transformed by powerful cultural forces, human inter-dependencies, contingencies…and chance.

However, he has also stated that violence “says things” and that these things have “some connection with honour, status, identity and reputation” (2001: 111-113). Individual

expression of these issues is found in personality, emotional behaviour and decision-making. The first Kaiapoi battle and the Open Bay and Sophia incidents all reveal that actors behave in personal and individual ways which often may not lead to the outcomes they intend, simply because their decision-making takes the course of action in a particular direction. At the next decision-making point reached, another actor might change the course of the action. Such actors operate within the cultural framework with which they are familiar but make their decisions at particular points that could cause the potential for violence not to be realised. Since life experience is one component of the decision-making process, it seems that assessment of situations at decision-making points is influenced by the ability to predict the behaviour of ‘others’, and if those others do not operate under the same cultural schemas, then


this is difficult. The one inter-iwi and two inter-cultural incidents described thus far do have, however, a commonality between all of the actors. That is in their concern with honour, status, identity and reputation, all of which figure highly in moral judgements made about ‘others’. They are present within the Māori expressions of mana, tapu and whanaungatanga, and all are visible in the discourse and kōrero surrounding the transactional sequences described here. They were used by Māori and by Europeans in their relevant cultural forms, to ‘other’ their enemies and to retain the moral high ground as justification for decisions that ultimately had violent outcomes. Coming from a background where there were less cultural constraints, sealers were often unpredictable even amongst their own people. Chief Tūhawaiki was later to describe them as “ the scum of Port Jackson”, a comment upon their unprincipled behaviour. As a further comparison with the two small skirmishes between sealers and Māori just described, the succeeding chapter will examine Māori interactions with European naval personnel whose background could be expected to have been more disciplined, and perhaps less individualistic.


In document Between people and things: understanding violence and theft in early New Zealand transactions (Page 195-199)