The historical politics of the New Zealand half-caste

The historical politics of the New Zealand half-caste

MAI Review
Issue 3 (2008)
Article 7
ISSN 1177-5904
11 pages

Gina M. Colvin-McCluskey

The archives of settler journalism provides us with a rich resource for engaging with some of the ‘raced’ discourses in circulation at the commencement of Britain’s colonial project in Āotearoa/New Zealand. From these early literary resources we find chronicled in the settler press evidence of a complex, contradictory and largely imagined relationship with the ‘Natives’. As the colonist confronted the ‘Native’ and authored the encounter in the settler media, he was at the same time working through social hierarchies, resource entitlements, political institutions and the face of a burgeoning indigenous contest.

The Euronesians is a single newspaper article which appeared in 1843 in an Auckland newspaper, The Daily Southern Cross, established in the same year. This article has been analysed using a critical discourse methodology in order to understand the way in which seemingly munificent articles, that appear superficially, at least, to demonstrate a generous disposition toward the ‘Native’, are at the same time wedded to Britain’s colonising project, and work to justify, excuse, and accommodate a hegemonic white presence. At the core of critical discourse methodologies therefore is a desire to understand how language works to normalise social, economic and political domination. The discourse analyst’s methodological tool kit is therefore a set of key questions that are asked of the text. What is the background to the text? What does it say at its surface? What patterns of meaning do we find and what political work is the text doing? What is silenced? Are the patterns of meaning consistent over time? This paper addresses these questions.

An analysis of the text demonstrates that the apparent display of generosity toward those children of mixed racial parentage (Pākehā and Māori) is in fact demonstrative of a complex relationship between the seemingly contradictory discourses of cultural benevolence and appropriation. As will be demonstrated, the appearance of goodwill and concern for the ‘half-caste’, in this article, retreats into a rationale for demonstrating the untenable nature of certain obligations, protection and rights afforded to the Treaty of Waitangi signatories, which effectively precluded the colonist from the purchase of Native lands. The article ‘The Euronesians” is partially reproduced along with the punctuation and editing used in the original publication. The use of ‘native’ using the lower case was standard form of the day.

THE EURONESIANS, Or the Children of European and Native Parents.
Daily Southern Cross
Volume I, Issue 23, (23 September 1843)
Page 2

We have advocated the rights of the European and Native, frequently and fully. We have treated of the effects of British Government, as far as the present and prospective circumstances of both are concerned, but there is another, and a very important portion of our community whose interests we have always had in view, although we have not had an opportunity until now of bringing their case prominently before the public. A class of persons, who appear to have been entirely subjects of treaties and of laws; the privileges of the former have been attempted to be limited and prescribed, and the rights of the latter have been usurped and violated, but there is a class of persons who cannot be affected in their rights, either by the treaty of Waitangi, or the Land Claims Bill. We allude to the descendants of European fathers, and Maorie mothers, commonly called “half casts.” These persons are in many instances, the children of misfortune, and as such, are too often neglected and despised; but they are still our, fellow-creatures, and entitled, under the laws and dispensations of the God of nature, to an equal interest, and an equal participation in the soil on which he has planted them…

Read the entire article here.

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