University Continues to Benefit From Colonial Land Confiscations

I was shocked today to read that Victoria University is set to sell the Karori Campus for $20million. What is shocking is not only the sale, but the fact that the government sold the land to the University in 2014 for $10.

Numerous media outlets have covered this story, with Radio NZ stating “The Karori campus was acquired from the government for $10 in 2014. It covers 3.7ha and includes 20 buildings.” (http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/312117/victoria-university-to-sell-$10-karori-campus). Some are advocating that the council should buy the land (http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/AK1608/S00856/city-should-buy-victoria-universitys-karori-campus.htm). Concern has been expressed about the loss of an educational facility to the community (http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/83697513/victoria-university-decides-former-teachers-college-in-karori-is-surplus-to-requirements). Not one of those reports has raised the history of the land, the issue that if the land is ‘surplus to requirements’ that it be returned to the Iwi or the broader issues related to Treaty processes which demand that in similar situations Iwi are forced to pay $millions for the return of stolen lands.

The sale by the Government to Victoria university for $10 in a context where Iwi are fighting to have stolen lands returned is atrocious. It highlights that successive governments assertions that Iwi must buy back lands at inflated prices reeks of systemic racism. It also reinforces a system that maintains and reproduces its own privilege. What this act points to is a contemporary repeat of the confiscation of Iwi lands in the 1800s to benefit the establishment of Pākehā driven and defined Universities on Māori land. In 1996 Linda Tuhiwai Smith highlighted this in her Phd Thesis ‘Ngā Aho o Te Kākahu Mātauranga: The Multiple Layers of Struggle by Māori in Education’ and yet we see that there remains little consciousness about this issue in the current land dealings being done between the government and Universities.

Universities within Aotearoa are, as with other Pākehā dominated institutions, founded upon a history of colonial oppression. We are often denied real knowledge about such a history. Maori are made invisible in the historical discussion of the development of colonial university systems on our land.

Andrea Morrison (1999) informs us that the ‘official’ history of The University of Auckland written by Keith Sinclair for the 1983 centenary only gives scant discussion of Māori involvement with the university. She finds that from the outset the university was a place for Pākehā settlers not for Māori. The University of Auckland Calendar tells us nothing about the involvement of colonial imperialism in the establishment of the university, rather the history given in the Calendar bemoans its financial difficulties stating:
“The College was poor: its statutory grant was for many years only £4,000 a year, while land reserves, set aside by government to provide an income, brought in very little.” (https://www.calendar.auckland.ac.nz/en/info/about/history.html)

We are not only made invisible as the Indigenous People of the land, but the process of land confiscations upon which the University system in our country is founded is also well hidden in historical discussions.

The University of Auckland Calendar does not inform us of the Auckland University College Reserves Act of 1885 where confiscated land from the Waikato area and in Whakatane was utilised to fund the development of The University of Auckland (Mead 1996). Linda Tuhiwai Smith notes that in concrete ways The University of Auckland has benefited directly from the losses suffered by one of her iwi, Ngāti Awa. The apparent insignificance of these events to Pākehā historians is evident in the documentation. As Linda Smith notes;
“The first paragraph of the history of Auckland University written by a prominent New Zealand historian Sir Keith Sinclair, for example, immediately connects the history of Auckland’s university to the establishment of other universities in the ‘English-speaking countries’. The official history acknowledges that land was indeed vested in the university but focuses more on the inability of the rent to provide a decent income for the new university because the land was ‘poor and heavily forested’. There was scant official knowledge, even in hindsight that these lands belonged to Maori people”. (Mead 1996, p.98)

The Auckland University College Act 1882 established the University of Auckland, and the Auckland University College Reserves Act 1885 saw lands stolen from three tribal groups in the upper North Island, Ngāti Awa, Tainui and Ngā Puhi, vested in the Council of the Auckland University College (New Zealand Statutes 1885).

The University of Auckland was not the only university founded from colonial imperialism. Other universities were developed as part of attempts to increase settlements in those areas (Morrison 1999). Legislation was also passed, by the colonial settler government, for the confiscation of lands from ‘rebel Natives’ (Beaglehole 1949) for the benefit of other universities and therefore for the benefit of generations of Pākehā academics. Both Otago and Canterbury universities were developed as part of attempts to increase settlements in those areas. The first university was established in 1870 in Otago and it was deemed in Section 30 on the New Zealand University Act 1874 that lands in the Province of Otago reserved under the University Endowment Act 1868 would be granted to the University of Otago.

The Victoria College Act 1897 brought the establishment of Victoria University in Wellington, which Ostler (cited in Beaglehole 1949) notes was to provide higher education for Wellington, Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay, Nelson and Marlborough. In regards to the establishment of Victoria University, Beaglehole (1949) includes in the appendices to the publication ‘Victoria University College: An Essay Towards a History’, a memorandum on the Opaku Reserve from Herbert Ostler the chair of the College in 1914. The memorandum outlines issues regarding the Opaku Reserve and Waitotara lands in South Taranaki. The Opaku Reserve was essentially 10,000 acres of confiscated lands that is located near the town of Pātea. Ostler (cited in Beaglehole 1949) notes that the land was confiscated from ‘rebel Natives’ and was through section 6 of the University Endowment Act 1868 set aside as a reserve for the endowment of a colonial university. Section 38 of The Victoria College Act 1897 set the Waitotara Reserve of 4,000 acres aside as an endowment with those lands being included in the schedule of lands via the New Zealand University Reserves Act 1875. The Opaku Reserve was not included, instead the Opaku Reserve was in 1905 diverted to the Taranaki Scholarships Trust to provide scholarships for Taranaki scholars to any of the universities in the country.

The denial of history and the invisibility of the ways in which universities have benefited from colonisation through the confiscations of our lands continues to be reproduced in 2016. These acts of colonial oppression are seen as marginal to the wider discussion of the history of the academy and as such are reduced to the appendices of University histories. This is often the way in which Indigenous issues, and Indigenous Peoples traditions and epistemologies are treated within the academy.

The government sale of the Karori campus to Victoria University highlights that while our Iwi continue to struggle to have our lands returned, these dominant Pākehā institutions continue to benefit nearly 120 years later from the confiscation of our Iwi lands. There should only be one true discussion on the table in regards to the Karori campus, and it should be to return the lands to Iwi.
Me riro whenua atu, me hoki whenua mai.

Auckland University College Reserves [1885:1], New Zealand Statutes 1885,Government Printer, Wellington: 411
Beaglehole, J.C. 1949 Victoria University College: An Essay Towards a History, New Zealand University Press, Wellington
Mead, LTR, ‘Nga Aho o Te Kakahu Matauranga: The Multiple Layers of Struggle by Maori in Education’ Unpublished Doctor of Philosophy Thesis, Education Department University of Auckland, 1996
Morrison, A. 1999 Space for Māori in Tertiary Institutions: Exploring Two Sites at The University of Auckland, Unpublished Master of Education book, University of Auckland, Auckland:22

Just Another Excuse to Bash Maori: A Reply to Alan Duff

At the bare minimum the NZ Herald seems committed to ensuring that uninformed opinion continues to be presented as some form of factual reporting, at the very worst they actually believe the conservative unfounded diatribe that is presented weekly by Alan Duff in his column. Either way, the Herald has been consistent in showing a lack of commitment to providing informed discussion that would contribute to making Aotearoa a better place.

Each column written by Alan Duff is yet another repetitive Once Were Warriors theme. We continually get themes of: Once Were Losers, Once Were Whingers, Once Were Drop Outs… the list goes on and within it the themes continue to reflect what is in fact Alan Duff’s inability to grasp the fundamental underpinning issues of the impact of colonisation, and how that has specific and particular consequences for Indigenous Nations. This is somewhat ironic, given that the position Duff takes in virtually every column is a reflection of those impacts, and are reflected constantly as the justification for Māori people being bashed by him on regular basis.  Perhaps it is because Mr Duff has never taken to the time to seek out pathways for understanding his own self hatred and the hegemony of that. Hegemony, being the internalisation of self hatred, and the internalisation of the belief that to be successful in this society is to act, write, speak and live as the reflection of your coloniser (The definition is provided here as the column indicates that Mr Duff has difficulty with such terms as hegemony, colonisation and imperialist arrogance – all of which are states of being that are reflected in Mr Duffs column).

Alan Duff tells us that we are ‘whingers’ and that colonisation is ‘just an excuse’.  He contends that many countries have undergone significant violence and have recovered. So lets look at the list he provides to substantiate his claim that colonisation does not have an historical trauma impact.
The British took over India and ruled them with an iron fist. China’s last invasion by Japan was in 1938 and one example of hideous Japanese acts was sons forced to rape mothers, fathers to rape daughters. According to some, the hands of the 23,000 people who worked building the Taj Mahal had their hands cut off so the palace could never be recreated. Virtually every country in Europe has known invasion and suffered violent oppression for decades, even centuries. Hungary has suffered countless invasions from foreign hordes. More recently, under communism, a brutal secret police ruled the country and in the 1950s one in 15 male adults was imprisoned for supposed crimes against the state. (Alan Duff NZHerald August 9 ).

The key fact that Mr Duff fails to highlight is that all of these countries have had their lands and sovereignty returned to them. All have been able to reconnect to their lands and to reconstitute their approaches to dealing with critical issues that arise from the trauma experienced. All have their language intact, all can live their cultural ways. These examples and the assertion that virtually every country in Europe has been invaded highlights the point that Alan Duff has no understanding  as to how invasion by colonising forces upon Indigenous Peoples impacts both in those historical moments and inter-generationally when our lands are stolen, when our rights to live as Indigenous Peoples is forcibly removed through physical, cultural, social and spiritual violence, where Indigenous Nations are murdered for defending their lands, waters and people, where forced closures and forced removals disconnect generations from their land, language and culture. The impacts is not only well known within Indigenous communities but they are well evidenced through generations.

The deficit and limited views of Alan Duff provide more fodder for an already overfeed racist machinery. His column is full of opinionated ignorant statements that do nothing to provide constructive ways of moving beyond the impact of historical trauma events, rather he chooses to demean those that do seek to find innovative and culturally grounded ways to deal with the issues that our people are facing, both for the benefit of Māori and for the benefit of Aotearoa more generally. Rather than taking an opportunity to discuss with our people how we can explore the issues Alan Duff supports the establishment to close down the debate around colonisation and its impacts. He wrote in this weeks column

“Our Maori political leaders tell us it’s all right to whinge about our poverty. But never do they urge us to go into business. A Maori university lecturer recently excused our appalling rate of murdering children as a result of cultural devastation. Excuse me?…” (Alan Duff NZHerald August 9 )

“What “cultural devastation” is this excuse-mongering Maori academic talking about?”
(Alan Duff NZHerald August 9 )

Yes I confess, the “excuse mongering Maori academic” he is referring to is me.  I have been called worse things.  And while I am not at all concerned about the insults, as Alan Duffs opinion means nothing to the majority of Maori who are involved in seeking ways to heal with our people, what I do find deeply disturbing is the attack by Alan Duff on Professor Ranginui Walker after his recent passing.

I find the attack on Professor Walker to be abysmal and disgusting behaviour, which emphasizes Alan Duff’s lack of fortitude. It seems paradoxical that in the column Duff appears to be completely ignorant to the exceptional and transformative work undertaken by Professor Walkers in his lifetime. Duff in his typical ignorant arrogance writes:
“The late Ranginui Walker was a master of the gripe. The language he used was Pakeha academic-speak, words like hegemony, colonisation, imperialist arrogance. He didn’t actually say or do anything to advance Maori people.”

Such a statement is an absurdity. It highlights even further that Alan Duff and his column have no substance and that such a view is absolutely incongruous to our experience of the incredible contribution made by Professor Walker.

Professor Ranginui Walker always dispensed of Alan Duff in debates. Duff was never able to hold his ground with him. Ranginui was a grounded, culturally knowledgeable, historian, connected to his whanau, hapu and iwi, who did exceptional research and worked endlessly for our people in multiple ways.  He could run intellectual circles around people like Alan Duff without effort. Such an attack by Duff now on Ranginui Walker is an act of cowardice.

Given such an appalling attack on Professor Ranginui Walker by Duff,  it is fitting that it is Professor Walkers words that positions these types of attacks in context.  Professor Walker wrote over 20 years ago that,
“[t]o the Māori, Duff is irrelevant. He does not rate in the Māori world because he is not part of the people’s struggle for emancipation and social advancement (Eat Your Heart Out Alan Duff, Metro 145, July 1993, p.137)”

It appears that in regards to Mr Duffs lack of contribution to the “emancipation and social advancement of Maori” nothing much has changed. There is no contribution.  The only people who validate the uneducated and unqualified views put by Mr Duff is the NZHerald and their more conservative audience.

I am, like Professor Walker regularly highlighted, concerned that our work, which is informed by many years of research and cultural based research and practice, can be represented as ‘whinging’. The impact of colonisation and historical trauma for Indigenous Peoples is well researched, deeply evidenced and daily experienced by our people. It is not ‘whinging’, it is not about hating white people, it is not about ‘having a gripe’, nor is it about excusing behaviours that are as equally unacceptable to our people as they are to others. It is about understanding that until we resolve historical injustices in ways that are about affirming our place as tangata whenua; until monocultural institutional racist practices and policies are removed; until our people gain a sense of reconnection with land, language, culture and a true sense of connectedness to who we are, these issues will remain. That, Mr Duff is a much more informed and active approach than your opinion that we should just ‘stop whinging’. As for the article, it would have been more appropriately titled, ‘Another excuse to Bash Maori’ by Alan Duff as it certainly did not foster aspiration.