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Know Your Place (this is a White Man’s Island)

Written By: - Date published: 8:41 am, January 12th, 2017 - 76 comments
Categories: Maori Issues, racism - Tags: , ,

This a WHITE man’s island.

Just remember that

Just remember that you used to be here, and now you’re not

Like all the forests

Like all the birds

Like all the words

of your ancestors tongue

scrubbed clean off this landscape that’s what we’ve done

You’re welcome.

This a white MAN’S island

So just remember that

You’re not just one,

but a few notches down

from us mighty whitey warriors

who scored and converted the land

You and your babies got kicked to the curb,

Southside’s more your kinda burb, now.

Just remember that

You a milk coffee coloured woman in a white man’s world

Just remember that

Brown folk can’t afford what we can, girl

Just remember that

time when your ancestors were brought to heel

Just remember that

feeling of being born wrong when you realised that you, the child of this land

were the odd one out

and didn’t belong

on this, your thousand year pito

severed by my butcher’s blade

And all the money that my ancestors made that helps me, to help you, to help me…

You owe me

Just remember that.


Poem by Tina Ngata (used with permission)

The Non-Plastic Māori

76 comments on “Know Your Place (this is a White Man’s Island)”

  1. Brutus Iscariot 1

    “I am tangata whenua, i can do what i like”

    • Wainwright 1.1

      See, if that were even remotely true you might have a point. But I don’t think you understand that racism is about power as well as ethnicity.

    • HDCAFriendlyTroll 1.2

      The poem’s ok but obviously not enough fucks, fuckens, and fuckers,

    • AB 1.3

      “I am tangata whenua, I can do what i like”.
      That’s just the angry, despairing cry of the weak confronted with overwhelming economic power. It’s not even remotely true and never will be.
      And that’s assuming she even said it – I wouldn’t back Sir Peter to get the full nuance of any comment right.

  2. “The woman who accused Sir Peter Leitch of racially abusing her has denied telling him that “she was Tangata Whenua and could do what she liked”.

    • Brutus Iscariot 2.1

      Yes, so the answer when two stories conflict is to just jump at the one at fits your pre-existing worldview.

      • weka 2.1.1

        Is that an admission BI?

        • Brutus Iscariot

          If my worldview is not to savage a man’s reputation based on no evidence, then colour me guilty.

          • Robert Guyton

            You’ve tried to sully a woman’s with your (unsubstantiated) quote, so it seems weka’s question is appropriate.

            • Brutus Iscariot

              That quote is from Leitch, attributed to Bridger, just as the “white man’s island” quote is from Bridger, attributed to Leitch.

              Not sure what is so difficult to grasp – neither quote has any proof.

              • weka

                Your initial comments in this thread were to cast aspersions on Māori and presumably on the poet, and to do so by doing the things you are accusing others of. No sympathy for you there.

                • Brutus Iscariot

                  No sympathy being asked for. But the poem is an attack (lament?) on Leitch and Pakeha.

                  I just popped that in as a juxtaposition of how a poem with her alleged words as the opening line might be received.

                  • weka

                    A pity you just came across as racist then.

                    The poem is about Māori experiences of racism and colonisation (IMO). If you want to make it all about Leitch you’re missing the point.

  3. mauī 3

    Love the poem 🙂

  4. Sabine 4

    this is cutting poetry

  5. fisiani 5

    Everyone in NZ is an immigrant or the descendant of an immigrant. Some, like me, came on a great silver bird in the last 30 years and some came earlier on a great waka. According to historians the first settlers came about 1200 AD in large canoes.
    We are a multicultural country in the South Pacific and a few ill chosen words or inappropriate comments should not detract from the fact that we are a wonderful country. We are blessed with abundance and with a great future when we work together to continue on the path to making this country the best little country in the world. Why keep harping on about a few unwise comments? We are better than that surely.

    • grumpystilskin 5.1

      “According to historians the first settlers came about 1200 AD in large canoes.”
      Bollocks, there’s plenty of evidence to show others were here at the time they arrived.
      I’ve spoken to several Kaumatua about the subject and yes, it’s true. I have friends both academics & tv cameramen who have seen the evidence as well. Lets not kid ourselves anymore. Yep, flame away. I expect it speaking an uncomfortable truth.
      I know youtube videos aren’t “proof” but have a look at some of these and then decide for yourself.

      • David Small 5.1.1

        Lol. Just the small matter of there being no remains of any of these pre-Maori European people ever discovered anywhere.

    • weka 5.2

      The poem is about a lot more than what the mad butcher said. You’ve missed the point fisiani. Also, why should Māori not talk about the things that affect them even if you don’t understand them or see them?

    • simbit 5.3

      The ‘few unwise comments’ reflect deeply entrenched attitudes to Maori. We keeping’harping’ on about it because those attitudes cost Maori (individually and collectively) and cost the country.

    • michelle 5.4

      Historians is that pakeha historians Fisiana as they seem to be telling our stories but we have our own stories and know we have always been here and others came later on many canoes (we are the people of this land the tangata whenua. I get sick of all that bullshert everyone is an immigrant really what a load of bull and another way to justify land wars and the greed of our pakeha ancestors

  6. Heather Grimwood 6

    Well said on both your points Weka (5.2)

  7. The lost sheep 7

    I don’t have any issue with Tina’s general opinion, but do have a small quibble with some of her facts.
    If I read lines 2-6 correctly, it could be taken to imply Europeans were entirely responsible for the ‘scrubbing’ of Aotearoa’s original Forests and Birds?

    In reality, before the arrival of Europeans a relatively small number of Maori had destroyed 6.7 million hectares of forest, and between 1840 and 2000 a further 8 million hectares was removed

    38 species of bird were lost between the arrival of Maori and 1650, and 15 since then.

    The conviction last year of Ngapuhi Chairman Sonny Tau for the possession of endangered Kereru further emphasises that when it comes to conservation, the story is not as simplistic as ‘Pakeha bad, Maori good’.

    • weka 7.1

      It’s a poem, sheep. I don’t think you can extrapolate such things from it (it’s pretty obvious from the other lines that she isn’t being literal), and I’d suggest that you might want to consider why you personally took it that way.

      I don’t see anything in the poem suggesting ‘Pakeha bad, Maori good’. Again, I think this is about your own internal ideas, perhaps when Māori speak strongly about injustice at the hands of Pākehā it’s easier to try and deny that by misrepresenting the argument than it is to honestly look at the injustices done.

      • The lost sheep 7.1.1

        As I said Weka, it was a quibble.
        As a conservationist, a pet hate of mine over the years have been people who harboured a rose=tinted and completely unfounded view that indigenous peoples are by default highly attuned to a conservationist and sustainable relationship with the environment.
        Unfortunately, history shows us that far more often than not, given the opportunity ALL peoples will exploit the environment negatively for short term gain.

        So no need for me to look inside myself for any deeper motivations Weka. Just something that rubbed an old itch.

        • weka

          No-one apart from you has brought this meme into the conversation. It’s not in the poem or the thread. I think what you are suggesting is inappropriate and serves to feed into anti-Māori views, ‘see, Māori are just as bad as Pākehā’, and look, we’re not longer talking about the Māori perspective any more.

          • Brutus Iscariot

            He’s entitled to challenge false narratives so they don’t become established fact.

            The progressive answer to historical injustices has often been to put Maori onto some kind of mystic pedestal where no practice, statement or indeed “perspective” can be questioned. This is equally as wrong as the opposite.

            • weka

              He put up his own false narrative that wasn’t in either the post or the thread. Looks off topic to me, as well as a diversionary tactic.

              The progressive answer to historical injustices has often been to put Maori onto some kind of mystic pedestal where no practice, statement or indeed “perspective” can be questioned. This is equally as wrong as the opposite.

              Got a couple of examples of progressives doing that often? Is that happening in this thread?

              • Brutus Iscariot

                Arguably you’ve done it in this thread by declaring that only the Maori perspective is desired in this conversation.

                Probably the better example though would be the marae speaking rights thing from the other thread. But enough has been said on that so happy to leave it there.

                • weka

                  Where have I declared that only the Māori perspective is desired here? I think you misunderstand me.

          • The lost sheep

            ‘I think what you are suggesting is inappropriate and serves to feed into anti-Māori views,’
            With respect Weka, that is nonsense, and you come across to me as someone who is predetermined and preloaded to find offense on the slightest pretext.

            ‘we’re not longer talking about the Māori perspective any more.’
            Is there a Maori perspective in these comments?
            Or is it all Pakeha perspectives on what Maori perspectives are or should / shouldn’t be?
            I picked up on your comment the other day Weka that if you wanted to know a Maori perspective, you should listen to Maori.
            I’m all for that.

            • weka

              Sheep, you brought in a massive assumption about the poem that I think is incorrect. At best you are using this thread to push a barrow on another topic and IMO you’ve misused the poem to do that. At worst you are pushing memes that are routinely used to undermine Māori perspectives and voices.

              ‘we’re not longer talking about the Māori perspective any more.’
              Is there a Maori perspective in these comments?

              IMO yes, but that’s not what I meant. I mean the poem and what it was trying to say. We’re not talking about that, we’re talking about something you brought into the thread that isn’t about the poem and is instead a Pākehā idea about conservation and where Māori supposedly fit into that.

              Or is it all Pakeha perspectives on what Maori perspectives are or should / shouldn’t be? I picked up on your comment the other day Weka that if you wanted to know a Maori perspective, you should listen to Maori.
              I’m all for that.

              Then I suggest you take another read of the poem.

              • The lost sheep

                I agree I brought in a theme that was off topic, as indicated by my opening line that it was ‘a small quibble’. I should have taken the point to open mike and I apologise for not doing so..

                So wrong place yes, but I utterly reject the implication I was ‘pushing a meme that is routinely used to undermine Māori perspectives and voices’.
                How does the truth undermine anything? Was there anything I said that was not truthful?

                On this thing you refer to as ‘The Maori Perspective’
                What exactly is that?
                We can be certain it is not a Pakeha interpretation of how ‘Maori’ see things, but does such a thing as ‘The’ Maori Perspective even exist within Maoridom?

                I know / have known 1000’s of Maori in my lifetime, from Whanau to Friends to Colleagues and acquaintances, and I do not see even the remotest possibility that all their diverse opinions, values, beliefs, and attitudes could be contained within one perspective!

                It seems to me the diversity of perspective among Maori I have had the pleasure of knowing is pretty much the same as among Pakeha I have known.

                So surely Weka, it is more correct to talk of Maori ‘Perspectives’, and take them on board as we hear them from individual Maori?
                As opposed to hear an individual Maori voice and extrapolate that to represent all Maori?
                Or with even less credibility (zero), listen to Pakeha who are presuming to present ‘the’ perspective on behalf of ‘Maori’?

                • weka

                  thanks for acknowledgement and apology.

                  Yes, perspectives, of course. I’m surprised I used the singular tbh, it’s not like me and I think it’s a given that it would be plural. I put up the post because I wanted this good piece of poetry from a Māori woman to have some space here and I thought there would be some who would appreciate it. I didn’t add any commentary. There’s no implication that anyone is trying to make out she is speaking for all Māori. Sorry, but again that seems like something you are making up.

                • “How does the truth undermine anything?”
                  Being truthful (You look ridiculous naked) at an inappropriate time can undermine a relationship. When there’s no need to say something, saying it anyway can undermine a thread/discussion.

                  • The lost sheep

                    True Robert. But it’s a fine line, and a wise person who never over or under steps it.

        • Robert Guyton

          “As a conservationist, a pet hate of mine is cats.”
          Just tidying up your sentence for you, lost sheep. Hope you don’t mind 🙂
          I wonder whether indigenous peoples here in pre-European times thought in terms of “conservation” and “sustainable relationship with the environment”. You’re assuming (I assume) that those things are universal and desirable.
          Mahi ka kai doesn’t sound like either of them to me.

          • The lost sheep

            You’re assuming (I assume)
            You are making a comment on something you are assuming I am assuming, as opposed to something I actually said?

            Mind if I do the same with your comments from now on? Very post-truth eh?

            And, No.
            I’m just an uneducated idiot, but I have managed to scrape myself up the evolutionary tree far enough to understand that only a fool mistakes their own personal values with universal truths.

            You got the cat bit right though!

            • Robert Guyton

              Conservation isn’t universally desirable, lost sheep? Nor a sustainable relationship with the environment?
              You’ve got me puzzled now. Seems I wrongly assumed you’d see those as more than just your personal values.

              • The lost sheep

                My Dad had a saying that ‘Assumption is the easiest way to be wrong’. I’ve found it very valuable, so feel free to use it yourself!

                I hold my Conservation beliefs very strongly, and they are based (hopefully) on a well thought out reasoning process of many years, but it has never occurred to me that they could be universal truths that apply to all people and all contexts.
                There are just about as many truths as there are people surely?

                The crux of the matter is which of those truths happens to be in a position to gain ascendancy through one means or another.

                • Nicely put, lost sheep. On this we very much agree. Do you, incidentally, hold any truths ideals/ideas/concepts to be universal? If so, what are they, if I may ask?

                  • The lost sheep

                    As much as every cell in my body implores me to say that ‘doing unto others etc’ is a universal truth, I have to say experience teaches me the answer is no, apart from those laws of Physics and Science that turn out to be immutable. (And it looks more and more like none of those will be either!)

    • mauī 7.2

      before the arrival of Europeans a relatively small number of Maori had destroyed 6.7 million hectares of forest

      Interesting you label it “destroyed”, I think it was more to do with changing the landscape to provide better hunting grounds and access to plant foods – for instance harvesting bracken root. I think it’s also safe to say much of the forest burnt would become scrub, which is a type of forest with lots of different plants, although one without much of a canopy and probably fewer overall species I admit.

      38 species of bird were lost between the arrival of Maori and 1650, and 15 since then.

      Ok, from what I can find on the net, there isn’t much detail on the 38 extinctions number. Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_extinct_animals_of_New_Zealand is showing 25 bird extinctions due to Māori and 4 of those crossover with European settlement. I don’t think that sounds too bad considering Māori were eating birds/game for survival. Pākehā didn’t have to do that.

      The conviction last year of Ngapuhi Chairman Sonny Tau for the possession of endangered Kereru further emphasises that when it comes to conservation, the story is not as simplistic as ‘Pakeha bad, Maori good’.

      As far as I can gather eating kererū is a cultural custom that has probably gone on for much longer than your ancestral roots have been in Aotearoa. To infer that this custom displays no idea about “conservation” is probably right according to your narrow view, but laughable in the bigger picture.

      • The lost sheep 7.2.1

        ‘Interesting you label it “destroyed”,
        I could have quoted the ‘scrubbed clean’ of the Poem above, and I’ve got no problem with your ‘changed land use’ angle.
        Any way you say it, it was full mature Forest that was there, and Humans removed it.

        ’25 bird extinctions due to Māori and 4 of those crossover with European settlement. I don’t think that sounds too bad considering Māori were eating birds/game for survival. Pākehā didn’t have to do that.
        You have some evidence then that Maori ‘needed’ to wipe out Bird species just to survive?
        You don’t think the extremely small number of Maori in the South Island for instance could have subsisted quite adequately off the enormous resources of kai moana at their disposal, while sustainably harvesting Moa?

        As far as I can gather eating kererū is a cultural custom that has probably gone on for much longer than your ancestral roots have been in Aotearoa. To infer that this custom displays no idea about “conservation” is probably right according to your narrow view, but laughable in the bigger picture.
        The fact that someone from Ngāi Tahu felt so differently about that traditional view in the modern context, that they informed D.O.C. of the situation so that Sonny could be made an example of probably is all I need to say about that.
        As above, there are many Maori perspectives.

        • mauī

          You’re the one talking about Māori destroying something as if they’re on a par with Pākehā actions. But changing one longer lived native forest type into a different native forest type, albeit with smaller trees and shrubs I wouldn’t call “destroying”. As a conservationist you would know that if you left the smaller forest for long enough you get back the old forest in time anyway. The european introduction of pasture “ecosystems” with basically 100% imported, introduced species fits more with the “destroy” theme of native forest.

          I don’t know what it would take to survive in a pre-European New Zealand, I doubt if anyone in New Zealand currently does without actually doing it. There were Māori living away from the coast as well. Do I know why they weren’t living by the sea where you say there was “enormous resources of kai moana”? No. If I was trying to live in a land where there were big birds around and no other big game, seems natural to make use of them.

          • Robert Guyton

            The Future Eaters.

            • Clump_AKA Sam

              I fought a good fight against the bush called Broome in national park, it came back 5 years latter. Im not saying it’s impossible to get rid of pests but you really need to be talking about a coordinated national campaign

              • mauī

                I’ve fought the good fight too, its a lot of hard work and theres always disappointment and weariness in the end. Better to embrace it and let whatever it is fill its niche and work with it.

                • Clump_AKA Sam

                  That’s my conclusion too. Nature provided the perfect recipe. We can only hope to do half as good

              • Fighting wild plants we call pests is going to result in disappointment all round. “Getting rid of” is not a successful aim nor action, when it comes to wild things, imo.

                • Clump_AKA Sam

                  You’re right the effort isn’t enough. There are programmes that start from the city out, rather than the regions in, with excellent results

          • The lost sheep

            Do I know why they weren’t living by the sea where you say there was “enormous resources of kai moana”? No. If I was trying to live in a land where there were big birds around and no other big game, seems natural to make use of them.’
            You don’t know the answer or the facts Maui?.

            You don’t sound like someone who necessarily wants to hear the facts if they don’t suit your preconceived ideas, but there are plenty of facts available if you do. The topic has been extensively studied, just type ‘extinction of Moa’ into google and start reading.

            The reality is that an extremely small number of the very earliest arrivals of Maori ‘changed the land use’ (burnt) much of the Moa’s habitat, and targeted Moa at all stages of their life cycle, as they were the easiest and best available food source.
            As opposed to the only food source. At the most famous site, The Wairua Bar Moa Hunters site, there is clear evidence that there was abundant food available from many sources such as other Birds, Seals, Fish, Shellfish, Kura, Kiore.
            This pattern is repeated at sites right throughout the South Island.

            The reality is that the extinction of Moa was not ‘necessary’ to Maori survival. With minimal management it would have been possible to retain Moa as the major ongoing primary food source. Would have been a more ‘sustainable’ strategy eh?
            “there is no way of interpreting this record other than that it had to happen virtually overnight … this is easily the best instance of overkill, of blitzkreig on record”.

            The message here is that early Maori were perfectly normal humans beings in respect of their environmental behavior. They were just as capable of acting destructively and unsustainably in the short term as most other cultures that have existed.
            Is that an offensive concept?

            Moa were gone within about 150 years of Maori arriving. Over the subsequent generations, I wonder how many times whanau were gathered around the fire and someone would sigh and say ‘Boy, I couldn’t half go a hangi baked giant Moa!’

            [leaving aside other factors that may have contributed to both the moa extinctions and other bird extinctions, I’m going to note this again – you initially projected your own bias onto the post and then have used that to run your Pākehā-values conservation hobby horse lines with a distinct framing of ‘Māori are just as bad as us’ (Labour did it too!).
            Personally I find that prejudicial in that it doesn’t take into account differences in culture and responses to the environment and probably demonstrates a large ignorance around those things, as well as being yet another example of Pākehā dominating such conversation with their values. In terms of moderating the post I’m interested in the fact that you haven’t referred a single time to Māori conservation values. You also haven’t commented on the post itself and instead have driven an off topic conversation that as mentioned earlier detracts from listening to what Māori have to say even after this was pointed out to you. Very disappointing – weka]

            • Robert Guyton

              I wonder, lost sheep, if the moa hunters did in fact have a conservation strategy for the moa, but that they miscalculated and the population collapsed in an unexpected cascade. Do you think that’s possible? I do.

  8. Homo Sapiens – ridding the planet of non-human lifeforms since forever.

  9. No, lost, I’ve not heard coo.

  10. Ad 10

    If you enjoyed that, you’re just going to love Amiri Baraka:


    • weka 10.1

      I’m curious Ad how you reconcile reading radical poetry with your somewhat conservative left wing views.

      • Ad 10.1.1

        I’ve perplexed some with positional range over the last while.

        Too many useless degrees, too many deployed frameworks!

        • weka

          Are you being intentionally obscure? I have not idea what you just said.

          • Ad

            “Deployed frameworks” might have caught you.
            Go back to that little post I did just after Christmas on ideologies to get you through the season. That gives you an idea of where some of the radical sources come from.

            “Too many useless degrees” obviously refers to literature degrees.
            So I do more than read theory. I like to push out to the rough margins and enjoy them.

            I did a fair bit of study on the liberative movements of the 1960s and 1970s and all the weird arty shit that went on in them.

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