Māori "Conversion" to the Rule of Law and Nineteenth-Century Imperial Loyalties
Missionaries were among the first Europeans to interact with the New Zealand Māori, bringing an evangelical message with a strict set of "laws" for Māori to follow. Māori, whose own religious beliefs required rigid observance to ritual, took time to convert to missionary Christianity but, like many Oceanic peoples, did so with fervour, regulating their daily lives according to the Laws of the missionaries’ God. With the advent of British rule in New Zealand in 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi gave Māori the same rights as British subjects, but also (in the Māori-language version) guaranteed tribal autonomy. As the British administration established itself, it slowly attempted to bring Māori under the authority of the Queen's Laws, using persuasion rather than force. This article, using Māori-language newspapers of the mid-nineteenth century, discusses how some Māori approached the question of Law in a similar way to how they had converted to Christianity. This was partly due to their own, now Christianised, worldview, but it was also due to how the colonial authorities presented the principles of Law to them.
Keywords: Maori; race-relations; newspapers; niupepa; law; civilisation; religion; Maori newspapers; Maori language newspapers
Research Type: Journal Article