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History (never) repeats: Pakeha identity, novels and the New Zealand wars.

It is now a relative commonplace in New Zealand literary studies to say that Pakeha culture has a fraught relationship with its colonial origins. This relationship has been foregrounded by the Settlement Studies project in particular, and is neatly summarised in Alex Calder and Stephen Turner's introduction to the recent issue of the Journal of New Zealand Literature devoted to the project: 'Our goal, in these essays and elsewhere, has been to investigate the ways in which foundational problems of settlement are enacted, repeated, modified and continued in literature, art, and other cultural forms'. (1) According to Calder and Turner, all Pakeha writing (white settlers are their primary interest, although Settlement Studies promises to incorporate 'colonisers and colonized [...] in the complexities of encounter and exchange') bears the structural traces of the original moment of (un)settlement: 'similar impasses are likely to inhabit and deform all the narratives, fictional and non-fictional, of settler societies'. (2) In one of the most intriguing formulations of this thesis, Stephen Turner has argued that contemporary Pakeha culture is constructed around a problematic of 'living in the present, or living without history'. (3) Yet while such formulations are both rhetorically powerful and rich in theoretical potential, they are themselves curiously without history. Based around a handful of exemplary foundational texts (notably F. E. Maning's Old New Zealand [1863], Samuel Butler's Erewhon [1872], and William Satchell's The Greenstone Door [1914]), Settlement Studies implies that Pakeha identity is an unchanging, stable and historically continuous entity: 'Maning's failure sets the pattern', Turner argues, 'for settler writings which continue to manifest the difficulties of narrativising settlement'. (4) In what follows I wish to unsettle the ahistoric structure of Pakeha identity assumed by Settlement Studies on the basis of its foundational texts by way of turning to the archive of novels depicting New Zealand's colonial wars. (5) The occasional surges in popularity enjoyed by this subgenre suggest that neither the contours of Pakeha identity nor Pakeha attitudes towards the history of settlement have been as monolithic as are currently implied.

This article takes its origin from Nelson Wattie's observation that well over thirty novels have been written on the subject of the New Zealand wars, and--a point neither Wattie nor any other critic has noted--that three distinct periods of a decade or so (1887-1899, 1959-1968 and 1982-1993) each saw between eight and eleven novels written on the subject. (6) I begin by arguing that the New Zealand wars provide a paradoxically vital yet fraught foundational narrative for Pakeha, and it was the combination of certain historical factors during the periods in question that rendered it particularly useful for engaging with that identity. Next, treating the texts and context of the 1960s as exemplary for patterns apparent in all three periods, I argue that this cluster of novels arose at a moment when Pakeha identity was under pressures--both domestic and international that necessitated the realignment of its boundaries. Writers turned to the subject of the New Zealand wars in order to assist that realignment: through a thematic analysis, I demonstrate how the novels of the 1960s collaborate in an attempt to re-establish Pakeha identity upon a new relationship with Maori and in greater distinction to Britain. I then more briefly address the two other upsurges in fiction written about the wars and the concurrent realignments of Pakeha identity that they engaged with, before concluding with some further thoughts on how the perspective offered by historical novels of the New Zealand wars modify current notions about the relationship between settler identity and history.


The New Zealand wars have a peculiarly privileged yet vexed status within New Zealand society in general, and for Pakeha in particular. Comprising a series of conflicts between 1845 and 1872, fought in various parts of the North Island between iwi and British and colonial soldiers, they enabled the forcible attainment of what settlers felt they had gained under the Treaty of Waitangi, namely, sovereignty. (7) Thus the crushing of Maori resistance not only allowed settlers to inhabit New Zealand on their own terms, but in a real sense also called into being their collective political identity. Nevertheless, Pakeha have tended to shy away from this foundational history, preferring the less tendentious image of rational liberal political behaviour encapsulated in the signing of the Treaty, or even displacing those sentiments onto Anzac Day. (8) It cannot be simply concluded from this, however, that Pakeha society is so constituted to enable 'living without history', because New Zealand's literary history reveals several concerted attempts to remember the wars.

If literature is something of a cultural barometer, then historical fiction provides an indicator of a culture's attempts to mobilise the past. Yet the political difficulties raised by the subject matter in question are compounded by its sheer unsuitability for fictional narration. David Gunby spells out the peculiar narrative challenges that G. A. Henty, the iconic British imperialist boy's author, faced in writing Maori and Settler: A Story of the New Zealand War (1891):
 That they don't get [to New Zealand] until page 159 is
 due to the nature of the material Henty was working
 with. Writing about the Boer War or the Indian Mutiny,
 he could find himself with a superabundance of
 incidents. But a campaign such as that waged by Te
 Kooti against the East Coast settlers, a hit-and-run affair
 with few encounters worthy of the tide of 'battle', forced
 him to pad out his narrative. (9)

Thus, there is a curious literary historical paradox in play. On the one hand, the events of the New Zealand wars resist narration; on the other hand, they have apparently been irresistible to New Zealand's novelists. This paradox suggests that it may have been easier--or more necessary--to write about the subject at some times than at others.

In contrast to the concentration of Settlement Studies scholarship on certain 'New Zealand classics', virtually all the novels that I will be discussing failed to attain any critical esteem. I wish to suggest that genre has contributed to their obscurity: the fact that the vast majority fall into the category of popular fiction has thus far placed them outside the pale of New Zealand literary criticism. (10) Terry Sturm's article on popular fiction in the Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English (1998) not only constitutes the most significant discussion of the subject to date, but virtually called that discussion into being. In support of that task, he argues that popular fiction provides a unique window into a national culture:
 Because popular fiction so closely addresses what its
 authors perceive to be the fundamental values and
 behaviour (and often the wishes or needs) of their large
 readerships, it also provides rich insights (directly or
 indirectly) into New Zealand society and history, into its
 sustaining myths about the past, about race relations,
 about gender relations, and about the institutions and
 norms that support those relations. (11)

Granted this general claim--that New Zealand's popular fiction is a worthy object of literary criticism--there remains some basic questions of methodology. In the light of the number of novels in question, how does one select and discuss certain texts? Sturm's strategy is to focus upon 'those writers who, in terms of the number of books they published and the number of copies they sold, have successfully reached the broad popular markets they wrote for'. (12) Yet focusing so closely on 'successful' individuals (or 'classic' texts) elides the question of how popular a particular subject might once have been, and the possibility that its popularity arose from its suitability for engaging with wider literary and cultural movements.

Rather than focusing on particular authors or privileged texts, therefore, the springboard for my argument comes from the recognition that the novels written about the New Zealand wars have not been evenly or randomly distributed over time but have largely occurred in three distinct clusters during the 1890s, 1960s and 1980s. This periodic focus deliberately disrupts the privileging of what are seen to be the 'best' examples of the genre: Satchell's Greenstone Door and Maurice Shadbolt's trilogy, Season of the Jew (1986), Monday's Warriors (1990) and The House of Strife (1993). (13) Satchell's novel falls outside the three periods of intense interest in the New Zealand wars outlined above, and in this light is more of an anomalous than an exemplary text. Shadbolt's trilogy, by contrast, coincides with the more general popularity of wars novels during the 1980s and 1990s and (as will be argued below) its portrayal of Pakeha identity is commensurate with the depictions found in contemporary texts. Indeed, as will be seen, the literature of each period is internally unified by a series of commonalities in the novelistic representation of Pakeha identity. In keeping with this pattern, I posit Pakeha identity as an essentially static formation--reflecting its cultural hegemony--that is nevertheless able to undergo significant change when necessary to retain its coherence and thus its hegemony. Fiction depicting the New Zealand wars emerges at such times to normalise that new formation and render it comprehensible by renarrating its origins. This periodic resurgence in New Zealand of historical novels indicates that Pakeha have in fact been (for brief periods, at least) unable to live without history.


The following discussion of the fiction of the 1960s will be the most detailed analysis of the three periods I have mentioned, able to function as an analytic template for the others because the fiction of this period is in several crucial senses the most homogeneous. On the one hand, analysis of the 1890s is complicated by the complex national affiliations of many of their authors--Henty never visited New Zealand, whereas Robert H. Scott claims the events of his novel derive 'directly from my diary, written at the second Maori War, through which I served in the colonial forces'--complexities arising primarily out of the imperial context of publication. (14) On the other hand, analysis of the 1980s is complicated by the first fictional engagement with the subject by Maori novelists and by the fuzzy generic boundaries between narratives that centre upon the wars without focusing on them exclusively, blurring into historical sagas that depict the wars without foregrounding them. (15) By contrast, although the novels of the 1960s vary widely in intended audience--encompassing a children's novel, ripping yarns, and romances--they are all set exclusively in the nineteenth century, have an overwhelming focus on the wars, and are all written by Pakeha.

The war novels of the 1960s were published at a time when the contours of Pakeha identity were being challenged with an unprecedented intensity and comprehensiveness. Two vectors of historical pressure coincided at this time to put such stress on that identity. (16) Internally, a series of national social and demographic trends challenged the Pakeha understanding of their place in New Zealand society during the 1960s. Rapid postwar Maori urbanisation forced Pakeha to reassess their assumptions about ethnicity and national identity, as exemplified by the advocacy of racial amalgamation in J. K. Hunn's watershed Report on Department of Maori Affairs (1960). At the same time, minority Pakeha groups were also attaining political and social prominence for the first time. (17) The emergence by the end of the decade of various pan-ethnic protest movements, in particular women's liberation, fostered a 'heightened sense of self-consciousness [...] a sense of grievance, anger, and oppression that challenged the dominant values of Pakeha masculine culture'. (18) Contemporaneous with these internal pressures, political events on the international stage exerted significant external pressure on Pakeha identity by necessitating a reappraisal of New Zealand's national identity. Britain's announcement in 1961 that it wished to enter the European Economic Community not only marked the beginning of the end of Britain's preferential treatment of New Zealand's agricultural exports, but it also marked a rupture in the close political and cultural dependency that had hitherto marked the Pakeha relationship to the mother country. This was the social and political context for a remarkable upsurge in fictional treatments of the New Zealand wars between 1959 and 1968.

The novels in question are Leo Fowler's Brown Conflict: A Tale of White Man and Maori 1861-62 (1959), Frank Bruno's Black Noon at Ngutu (1960), Dorothy Eden's Sleep in the Woods (1960), Olga Stringfellow's Mary Bravender (1960), Errol Brathwaite's trilogy The Flying Fish (1964), The Needle's Eye (1965) and The Evil Day (1967), Catherine Hay's A Falcon Rasing (1966), and Elsie Locke's The End of the Harbour: An Historical Novel for Children (1968). (19) While there are distinct differences between each of these novels, they nevertheless share enough features to comprise a unified discursive field. Most texts feature a single male or female Pakeha protagonist, committed to the new country, who is thrust into the emotional and political maelstrom of racial conflict. In this environment, Pakeha are strongly differentiated from British characters and are shown to be morally and physically superior to them, especially by way of contrast between colonial and imperial soldiers. This difference is made visible through the rigours of the New Zealand landscape, and the forest in particular, which provides an arena for testing (and proving) the Pakeha individual's right to belong in the nation. The majority of Maori combatants are depicted as happy-go-lucky characters innately at home in the landscape, who are easily misled by their megalomaniac chiefs, thus displacing the question of unjustified dispossession onto the terrain of individual criminality. By contrast, the protagonist will often have a 'friendly' Maori confidant whose reassuring presence can legitimate the Pakeha presence at the end of the narrative.

In response to the questioning of Pakeha identity in wider society, therefore, these common narrative features structure the wars as a romance of racial reconciliation and cultural realignment that founds identity upon a new basis. Romance is particularly suited to this purpose for, as Northrop Frye argues, it approaches a wish-fulfillment dream through a plot based upon adventure: 'In every age the ruling social or intellectual class tends to project its ideals in some form of romance, where the virtuous heroes and beautiful heroines represent the ideals and the villains the threats to their ascendancy'. (20) By reading the present onto the past, in other words, these texts narrate the emergence of a nation defined by excellent race relations, where the mutual respect of Maori and Pakeha learned through conflict can flower under the benevolent dominance of the latter. This logic of assimilation is supported by the stereotypical happy-go-lucky Maori combatant, whose opposition to the Pakeha presence is rewritten as the result of being easily misled. At the same time, the depiction of colonial and imperial soldiers allows Pakeha (as a masculine cultural formation) to be strongly and positively contrasted with British characters. The superior masculinity and ability to cope with the landscape ascribed to the colonials not only lead to victory and thus signify their right to belong, but also indicate their superiority to the British.

In these novels, writers consistently distinguish Pakeha over and above British characters, specifically in the military arena. Black Noon at Ngutu is typical in citing British tactical inflexibility as a prime reason for the failure to suppress Maori resistance:
 Hidebound in rigid tradition, and outworn customs of
 the old British Army, the High Command--thousands
 of miles away from the scene of operations--was quite
 unwilling to adapt itself to a new style of warfare in
 novel circumstances. To the immense chagrin of the
 Colonials [...] enemy pahs [sic] would be besieged as if
 they were so many stockaded Sebastopols. (21)

These novelists also criticise British characters for their overt racism and lack of egalitarianism, contrasting this to the unflinching pragmatism of the settler soldier who acknowledges Maori fighting ability and recognises the value of Pakeha mateship. Emblematic of the settler soldier is the historical figure of Major Gustavus Von Tempsky, the archetype in many of the novels of colonial improvisatory flair and fighting ability. These qualities are intimated by the narrator of Brown Conflict, David Mallison, when he first meets Von Tempsky and another colonial leader over a game of cards:
 [Von Tempsky] would, I judged, be a bold but skilful
 player, and I would not be sorry if the cut of the cards
 made him my partner. Of the other two, Mr Jackson was
 a typical pioneer-farmer, quiet, resourceful, self-confident.
 He would play a cautious game, I thought, but
 his play would be not without imagination and
 courage. (22)

The military hero of Errol Brathwaite's trilogy, Hugh Williams, is also modelled on Von Tempsky, and the beginning of the first novel makes it clear that he respects his Maori enemies more than he does the British military leadership: 'Listen, do you want a prediction? [...] The Maori will not meet the soldiers on Colonel Gold's terms. They will choose their own ground. They aren't stupid [...] and they've fought us before'. (23) Inherent in this stance is the implication that Maori and Pakeha might eventually find common cause against the British.

The settings of these novels are generally focused on the landscape, dwelling at length on scenes of battle in forests and swamps. These semi-Gothic settings, while unglamorous, nevertheless serve to make apparent the success or failure of the white soldiers' attempts to adapt to the country. The nonadaptive British soldiers come to fear the landscape as much as their Maori enemy, as demonstrated by Captain Messenger's demoralising experiences in The Flying Fish:
 The men surged after him, some still trying to find firm
 footing, others squelching heavily through the bog. [...]
 It was a nightmare progression, with the ooze sucking at
 his feet and preventing him from making any sort of
 speed at all. He looked around for the third time, and
 saw the price his men were paying. [...] He hesitated, a
 kind of sob of frustration rising in his throat, and he
 emptied his revolver at the rifle pits above him, futile,
 angry shots. Then he turned. (24)

The terrain is a waking nightmare for the British, and even Pakeha cannot take it lightly, but the corollary to this problematic is that those who successfully adapt to the terrain have unquestionably affirmed their right to be here. This paradigm underpins the Gothic Sleep in the Woods, where even the title evokes such a possibility of belonging. The female settler protagonist, Briar, is initially unnerved by an environment that brings to mind her lack of belonging: 'From sheer weariness she drifted into sleep to the calling of the little brown owls, the more porks. The fragile forlorn sound followed her into her dreams. It seemed the symbol of the strangeness not only of her life, but of this new country'. (25) By the end of the narrative, however, this 'strangeness' is so transmuted that she will seek refuge from belligerent Maori in the bush: "With one panic-stricken look at the suddenly advancing savages who were gesticulating and waving their tomahawks, Briar turned and fled [...] into the cool wet tangle of the forest'. (26) Her survival is both due to, and proof of, her true adaptation to New Zealand; that she can find sanctuary in the domain of the 'advancing savages' is consequently also a sign of Maori displacement by the settlers. Defeating both the Maori enemy and the landscape on their own terms represents the ultimate possibility of Pakeha indigenisation.

The logic of this racialised landscape--that Pakeha have learnt to respect Maori, but nevertheless ultimately remain superior to them--is entirely in keeping with the dominant contemporary Pakeha myth of New Zealand's excellent race relations. This might appear an odd conclusion to draw from narratives of racial conflict, but is nevertheless achieved by these novels through a consistent narrative manipulation of racial stereotypes. The majority of Maori characters conform to David Ausubel's contemporary description of 'the almost universal stereotype [...] of a lazy, shiftless, unreliable, improvident and happy-go-lucky human being'. (27) Phipps, the protagonist of The Flying Fish, is accordingly able to assert that, after having lived among Maori for several years, 'familiarity had taught him to look beyond their wild aspect, and now he knew them for what they were--simple, direct, fun-loving, somewhat lazy people with an unmatched happy charm'. (28) Such a winsome people can still prove troublingly volatile at times, as the eponymous narrator of Mary Bravender finds: 'They were like children, I thought, in their swift changes of mood and plans'. (29) This volatility renders Maori vulnerable to the persuasions of their rebellious leaders, and it is upon these figures that the opprobrium of racial disharmony is heaped along with the ascription of savage characteristics that hearken back to the Gothic representations of Maori prevalent in the nineteenth century. Thus when a settler describes the historical figure of Te Kooti, the arch-fiend of Sleep in the Woods, his emphasis falls equally upon Te Kooti's savagery and upon the dangerous effects of his leadership:

'He's bad, but he's a devastatingly clever war leader, and he uses these horrible pseudo-religious initiation ceremonies to get recruits. [...] He's another Bonaparte, perhaps. At least, he has the same megalomania. [...] One never knows where he'll strike. The bad thing is, one can't trust one's own natives any more. They disappear overnight or steal one's horses'. (30)

The distinction between the vast majority of Maori, gullible and easily misled, and their horse-stealing leaders enables these narratives to align the historical conflict between Maori and Pakeha with the contemporary Pakeha view of exemplary race relations. By attributing the conflict to the malicious actions of unreconstructed savages, the novels deny a rational basis to Maori opposition to colonisation without at the same time needing to surrender the efficacy of Maori culture as a guarantor of Pakeha belonging.

In keeping with this strategy for asserting belonging, many texts place particular emphasis upon close friendships between the Pakeha protagonist and 'friendly' Maori characters. Such relationships serve to assuage settler guilt over the failures of 'Pakeha justice' and the doubts thus cast upon the value of their presence. This is a fundamental concern of The End of the Harbour, where the settler presence appears increasingly less justifiable to the young Pakeha protagonist, David Learwood. His Maori friend, Honatana, reassures him that, despite the injustices suffered by Maori, he need not feel like this: 'There is hardly a Maori who would wish you to go! We are ready to share our Islands, as we have already shared in the good gifts that the Pakeha has brought'. (31) Similarly, in The Evil Day, Major Hugh Williams's doubts about whether or not the peace he has won is actually beneficial to Maori are assuaged by Major Kepa, leader of the pro-government Maori forces:

'Friend, you were fighting against corruption; the corruption of wounds left by the battles your people and mine had fought earlier. If I have a wound, and it is corrupt, what will you do? Will you, to save me brief agony, let the corruption grow until it kills me? Or will you stand my friend, and cut it out with your knife, and burn it with your irons? [...] Kaua e whakaarohia te mahinga otira te otinga. Consider not the way it is done, but the result achieved'. (32)

Thus absolved by the assurance that the ends justify the means, Williams is able to face the future once more. The future anticipated in these novels is the 1960s Pakeha myth of racial harmony, a 'willing[ness] [...] to accept the Maori as long as but only as long as he conforms completely to European values and standards'. (33) The sentiment is most crudely expressed in the conclusion of Black Noon at Ngutu: 'Ned Wynter [...] found peace fighting for something intangibly tangible: the future amity and tranquillity of the fair green colony he loved, and of the brave happy brownskins he came to love, too'. (34) This future involves assimilation in the guise of racial harmony and the (at least temporarily) successful suppression of doubt about the legitimacy of the Pakeha presence.


It might be objected that the coincidence in the 1960s of some pressures upon Pakeha collective identity and an outpouring of novels on the New Zealand Wars is little more than an historical curiosity. My intention, however, is not to offer a definitive account of Pakeha identity but to argue that discussions regarding the fictional representation of Pakeha identity can and ought to be historicised and broadened in scope to a far greater degree than is apparent in the Settlement Studies project. To further this claim, I will now turn to the 1890s and 1980s, two other periods where the coincidence of historical pressures and literary production resembles that of the 1960s sketched above, in order to demonstrate the different versions of Pakeha identity produced at these times. The 1890s were crucial for in the formation and coalescence of Pakeha identity, while in the 1980s it underwent a period of crisis, and I will briefly frame these periods and sketch the characteristics of their fiction in accordance with the methodology of the preceding discussion of the 1960s, before concluding with some further thoughts on the relationship between Pakeha identity, history and fiction.

The first period of concentration, 1887 through 1899, when eight novels were published, was a crucial time in the formation of Pakeha identity. (35) Internally, the census of 1886 revealed that for the first time a majority of the settler population had been born in New Zealand, initiating debate about whether or not that population constituted a nation and what its defining characteristics might be. (36) Moreover, the ability for Pakeha to conceive of themselves as a unified settler culture had been assisted by the abolition of the provincial structure of government in 1876, and by the 1890s the nation was virtually self-governing. (37) Externally, the assertion of colonial nationalism at this time led New Zealand to reject the possibility of federation with Australia at the same time as strengthening the imperial relationship with Britain. (38)

Pakeha are not consistently differentiated from British characters in the novels of the 1890s, but the emphasis is instead placed upon celebrating the uniqueness of the colony and endorsing the settlers' right to possess it. Maori culture is represented as integral to the colony's distinctiveness and Pakeha take pride in mastering, possessing or at least having experienced it. At the same time, the Darwinistic assertion of settler moral and cultural superiority requires Maori to assimilate into settler culture or become extinct. The forest recurs as a Maori realm of impenetrability that threatens Pakeha confidence. When, in Web of the Spider: A Tale of Adventure (1891), the skilled settler bushman Palliser becomes lost in the forest of Te Tauru, his rationality breaks down in the face of an existential dread inspired by his surroundings: 'the horror of the place had gnawed into his soul, and lurked there, mordant. He now saw how it had come to be regarded as the home of the Taniwha, the place of death'. (39) Yet while this moment of crisis suggests the alienation of the settler from the place of settlement, Palliser's survival and eventual triumph overwrites this uncertainty with the relegation of Maori to the past. This is demonstrated most dramatically in The Rebel Chief: A Romance of New Zealand (1896), when the defeated Kawite destroys himself after a prophetic vision of his own racial extinction:
 'Where pas and whares stood, houses spring up like
 mushrooms on the dewy mountain brow. [...] We are
 dying while they are spreading as the locusts and the
 crickets spread in summer months over mountains and
 valleys....' He was yelling and laughing like the madman
 he now was, and the echoes gave back the bloodcurdling
 sounds. On he rushed until he came to the edge
 of the abyss, and then without pausing an instant he
 dived over and disappeared. (40)

The gloomy fate Kawite foresees for his people, and his subsequent Gadarene rush to destruction, only serve to emphasise by contrast the bright future awaiting the purposeful settlers.

The second period, 1982 through 1993, which saw nine novels published, was a time of crisis in Pakeha identity. (41) Internally, the cultural renaissance and increasing political presence of Maori challenged Pakeha assumptions about their own identity, while historical grievances against the Crown were given a new prominence when the Waitangi Tribunal was permitted to hear claims from as far back as 1840. At the same time, New Zealand's social and economic structure was radically transformed by the reforms of the Labour government of 1984. (42) Externally, New Zealand's strategic relations were also drastically revised, with historian James Belich going so far as to term its suspension from the ANZUS defence alliance as, 'in a strange mutated way', New Zealand's war of independence. (43)

In contrast to both the 1890s and 1960s, the representation of Pakeha identity in the 1980s revolves around a sense of its illegitimacy. While this anxiety over what Linda Hardy has termed 'natural occupancy' does not drive all the fiction of the period Maori authors Witi Ihimaera and Heretaunga Pat Baker, for example, are untroubled by it--the question of this lack is nevertheless central to all representations of Pakeha identity:
 In such fictions the politics of racial and cultural
 domination and resistance are displaced and refigured in
 terms of an erotic and aesthetic deficiency in European
 culture. [...] To surrender the furnishings of a culture
 both European and bourgeois is to come into the
 sensuality of a 'natural occupancy' of the new land. (44)

Pakeha characters are positioned as inherently compromised by their sheer presence in New Zealand and the contrast between Maori and Pakeha identity, previously used to rationalise the assimilation or extinction of the former, is now primarily deployed to convey the alienation and insensitivity of the latter. As a Christian convert from the Whakatohea iwi tries to explain to their missionary, Carl Volkner, in The Strongest God (1990): 'We're leading a communal life as a long-established tribe, but you lead life as an individual, like all Pakehas. Your love is not our love, your goals are not our goals, your thoughts are not our thoughts, your hopes are not our hopes'. (45) This racial logic is written onto the landscape, which is consistently divided into two zones reflecting the nature of its occupancy: the modified rural environment of settlement, which is productive and part of a capitalist economy, and the forest and mountain, a pure Maori domain that is indifferent or even hostile to Pakeha. Thus when the protagonist of Season of the Jew (1986) visits the Tuhoe tribe in order to paint waterfalls, he finds the tribal land both physically and aesthetically overwhelming: 'It was land impatient with the puny. [...] There were few elegant rhythms for Fairweather to consider; it was all uncouth compilation. Poverty Bay's tame pastures and rivers seemed petty irrelevance; this was the land's brutish torso'. (46) Ultimately, these novels concur that only those Pakeha who can approach the land in a non-materialistic manner will be able to live at peace with it and themselves. John Niccol, the narrator of Cork of War (1982), concludes his tale by observing that the Pakeha need to learn from Maori: 'A "savage" lives in peace with nature and not at war with her. He works hard, but no harder than he needs to keep himself this side of the grave. The savage chief does not loll in idleness but tills his garden like everybody else'. (47) To 'live in peace with nature' is another formulation of natural occupancy, yet Niccol's final comment--'Waikanae land is too good to stay brown for long'--intimates the difficulty at this point in history for Pakeha to be imagined as anything other than unnatural occupants.


Thus the historical novels of the New Zealand wars enable--indeed, require--a reconsideration of the relationship asserted in literary studies between Pakeha identity and history. Whereas my argument may appear to fall into the category of 'more empirically minded studies which presuppose the nation as a natural and obvious unit of discourse' rejected by Settlement Studies, (48) my intention has not been to propose a rigid formulation of Pakeha identity but instead to offer one possible narrative about that subject that can be told by means of New Zealand's literary archive. In this way, I wish to make the broader claims that the literary formulation of Pakeha identity has been historically variable, keenly engaged with contemporaneous political and social shifts, and pursued through a wider range of texts than is generally acknowledged. In this light, indeed, aspects of Settlement Studies itself bear a strong family resemblance to the conception of Pakeha identity set in motion in the 1980s, but I am not disagreeing with the aim of the project so much as its methodological tendency to unhesitatingly map the concerns of the present onto a handful of 'classic' texts isolated from their own literary and social contexts. By contrast, I have argued that the turn to the New Zealand wars, at those points when the ground has shifted most dramatically under the foundations of Pakeha identity, has indeed comprised an attempt to provide a usable past in order to relegitimate the present, yet this history has taken a different shape and served a different purpose at each moment. New Zealand settler culture might well seek to live without history, but the neglected literary history of that culture reveals how inconsistently that stance has been maintained. (49)


(1) Alex Calder and Stephen Turner, 'Introduction: Settlement Studies', Journal of New Zealand Literature, 20 (2002), 7-17 (p. 7).

(2) Calder and Turner, p. 8; p. 12.

(3) Stephen Turner, 'Settlement as Forgetting', in Quicksands: Foundational Histories in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, ed. by Klaus Neumann, Nicholas Thomas and Hilary Ericksen (Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 1999), pp. 20-38 (p. 21, original italics).

(4) Calder and Turner, p. 11.

(5) I have adopted James Belich's terminology and will subsequently refer to this series of conflicts as the New Zealand wars.

(6) Nelson Wattie, 'The New Zealand Land Wars in Novels by Shadbolt and Ihimaera', in Crisis and Creativity in the New Literatures in English, ed. by Geoffrey V. Dutton and Hena Maes-Jelinek (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1990), pp. 433-48 (p. 434). The bibliographic information underpinning my argument is particularly indebted to the scholarship of Nelson Wattie, especially his 'War Literature: New Zealand Wars', in The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature, ed. by Roger Robinson and Nelson Wattie (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 566-69.

(7) James Belich, Making Peoples: A History of the New Zealanders: From Polynesian Settlement to the End of the Nineteenth Century (Auckland: Penguin, 1996), pp. 77-78.

(8) Claudia Bell, Inventing New Zealand: Everyday Myths of Pakeha Identity (Auckland: Penguin, 1996), pp. 9-10.

(9) David Gunby, 'Maori and Settler: Or a Boy's Eye-View of a Superior Colony', Islands, 1 (1972), 55-60 (p. 56).

(10) However, Lydia Wevers has recently framed some of the novels from the 1890s in terms of a trans-Tasman colonial imaginary. See her 'Becoming Native: Australian Novelists and the New Zealand Wars', Australian Literary Studies, 22.3 (2006), 319-328.

(11) Terry Sturm, 'Popular Fiction', in The Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English, ed. by Terry Sturm, 2nd edn, (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 575-630 (p. 579).

(12) Sturm, p. 580.

(13) Lawrence Jones describes Shadbolt's trilogy as 'the most significant body of work in New Zealand historical fiction'. See his 'The Novel', in The Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English, ed. by Terry Sturm 2nd edn, (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 119-244 (p. 216). For criticism on Satchell, see Alex Calder, 'Orakau: Geography and Genre in The Greenstone Door', Journal of New Zealand Literature, 20 (2002): 67-78; and Louise Katherine O'Brien, Hybridity and Indigeneity: Historical Narratives and Post-Colonial Myths of Identity (unpublished master's thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, 1996). For Shadbolt, see Ruth Brown, 'After Belich', Australian and New Zealand Studies in Canada, 7 (1992), pp. 106-18; W. H. Oliver, [Review of Monday's Warriors], Landfall, 45 (1991), pp. 107-110; Nelson Wattle, 'The New Zealand Land Wars in Novels by Shadbolt and Ihimaera'; and articles by Ralph J. Crane and Ken Arvidson in Ending the Silences: Critical Essays on the Works of Maurice Shadbolt, ed. by Ralph J. Crane (Auckland: Hodder Moa Beckett, 1995).

(14) Robert H. Scott, Ngamihi, or, The Maori Chief's Daughter. A Tale of the War in New Zealand (Brisbane: Howard, 1895), p. 7. Regarding an analogous Australian context of nineteenth century imperial publication, Robert Dixon observes, 'Adventure fiction was always an international form, and its writers occupied shifting and often conflictual positions in the field of imperial literary production. They range from English writers who wrote about Australia without ever leaving England; to English writers who travelled extensively [...] before returning home to publish; to writers resident in Australia who published either in the local periodical press or with British publishers, or both'. Writing the Colonial Adventure: Race, Gender and Nation in Anglo-Australian Popular Fiction, 1875-1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 5-6.

(15) C.K. Stead's The Singing Whakapapa (1994) usefully highlights both aspects. Although the novel's depiction of the wars is not significant enough to justify inclusion in my study, its overt engagement with the racial politics of Witi Ihimaera's The Matriarch (1986) is well known. See C.K. Stead, 'Witi Ihimaera: Old Wounds and Ancient Evils', in Kin of Place: Essays on 20 New Zealand Writers (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2002), pp. 330-7.

(16) For a more detailed discussion of the points I raise, see James Belich, Paradise Reforged: A History of the New Zealanders: From the 1880s to the Year 2000 (Auckland: Penguin, 2001); Graeme Dunstall, 'The Social Pattern', in The Oxford History of New Zealand, ed. by Geoffrey W. Rice, 2nd edn, (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 451-81; Michael King, The Penguin History of New Zealand (Auckland: Penguin, 2003); and Malcolm McKinnon, Independence and Foreign Policy: New Zealand in the World Since 1935 (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1993).

(17) Belich, Paradise Reforged, p. 425.

(18) Dunstall, 'The Social Pattern', p. 479.

(19) These novels were contemporaneous with a series of non-fictional works on the subject. Following Keith Sinclair's The Origins of the Maori Wars (1957), at least five further historical accounts appeared in the next decade: Ormond Wilson's War in the Tussock: Te Kooti and the Battle of Te Porere (1961); Harold Miller's The Invasion of Waikato (1964) and Race Conflict in New Zealand 1814-1865 (1966); Hugh Ross's Te Kooti Rikirangi: General and Prophet (1966) and Ian Wards's The Shadow of the Land." A Study of British Policy and Racial Conflict in New Zealand 1832-1852 (1968). In another area of cultural production, a drama about Titokowaru, 'The Killing of Kane', and a documentary about Hone Heke, 'War in the North', were broadcast on New Zealand television in 1971.

(20) Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1957), p. 186.

(21) Frank Bruno, Black Noon at Ngutu (London: Hale, 1960), p. 73.

(22) Leo Fowler, Brown Conflict: A Tale of White Man and Maori 1861-62 (Wellington: Reed, 1959), p. 22.

(23) Errol Brathwaite, The Flying Fish (London: Collins, 1964), pp. 48-49.

(24) Brathwaite, Flying Fish, pp. 344-345.

(25) Dorothy Eden, Sleep in the Woods (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1960), p. 137.

(26) Eden, p. 275.

(27) David P. Ausubel, 'Race Relations in New Zealand: Maori & Pakeha: An American View', Landfall, 12 (1958), 233-46 (p. 236).

(28) Brathwaite, Flying Fish, p. 26.

(29) Olga Stringfellow, Map Bravender (London: Collins, 1960), p. 193.

(30) Eden, pp. 26-27.

(31) Elsie Locke, The End of the Harbour: An Historical Novel for Children (London: Cape, 1968), p. 203.

(32) Brathwaite, The Evil Day (London: Collins, 1967), p. 371.

(33) Ausubel, p. 258 (original italics).

(34) Bruno, p. 186.

(35) Robert P. Whitworth, Hine-Ra, or, The Maori Smut: A Romance of the New Zealand War (1887); O. A. Henty, Maori and Settler: A Story of the New Zealand War (1891); H. B. Marriott Watson, The Web of the Spider: A Tale of Adventure (1891); W. B. Churchward, Jem Peterkin's Daughter." An Antipodean Novel (1892); Joseph Spillmann, Love Your Enemies: A Tale of the Maori-Insurrections in New Zealand (1895); Robert H. Scott, Ngamihi, or, The Maon Chiefs Daughter." A Tale of the War in New Zealand (1895); Hume Nisbet, The Rebel Chief: A Romance of New Zealand (1896); Rolf Boldrewood, 'War to the Knife', or, Tangata Maori (1899).

(36) Keith Sinclair, 'The Beginnings of a Colonial Nationalism: Richard Jebb in New Zealand, 1899', in The Rise of Colonial Nalionalism: Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa First Assert Their Nationalilies, 1880-1914, ed. by John Eddy and Deryck Schreuder (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1988), pp. 111-30 (p. 118).

(37) W. David McIntyre, 'Imperialism and Nationalism', in The Oxford History of New Zealand, ed. by Geoffrey W. Rice, 2nd edn (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 337-47 (p. 338).

(38) P.J. Gibbons, 'The Climate of Opinion', in The Oxford History of New Zealand, ed. by Geoffrey W. Rice, 2nd edn, (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 308-36 (p. 314); McIntyre, p. 342.

(39) H.B. Marriott Watson, The Web of the Spider." A Tale of Adventure (London: Hutchinson, 1891), pp. 77-79.

(40) Hume Nisbet, The Rebel Chief." A Romance of New Zealand (London: White, 1896), pp. 292-94.

(41) Novels from this period include Ray Grover's Cork of War. Ngati Toa and the British Mission: An historical narrative (1982); Elsie Locke's Journey Under Warning (1983); Witi Ihimaera's The Matriarch (1986); Maurice Shadbolt's Season of the Jew (1986); Heretaunga Pat Baker's The Strongest God (1990); Margaret Blay's Victoria in Maoriland: A Novel (1990); Shirley Corlett's The Hanging Sky (1990); and Maurice Shadbolt's Monday's Warriors (1990) and The House of Strife (1993).

(42) Alan McRobie, 'The Politics of Volatility, 1972-1991', in The Oxford History of New Zealand, ed. by Geoffrey W. Rice, 2nd edn, (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 385-411 (pp. 402-3).

(43) Belich, Paradise Reforged, p. 439.

(44) Linda Hardy, 'Natural Occupancy', in Asian & Pacific Inscriptions: Identities, Ethnicities, Nationalities, ed. by Suvendrini Perera (Bundoora, Vic.: Meridian, 1995), pp. 213-27 (p. 214, original italics).

(45) Heretaunga Pat Baker, The Strongest God (Whatamongo Bay: Cape Catley, 1990), p. 57.

(46) Shadbolt, Season of the Jew, p. 75.

(47) Ray Grover, Cork of War: Ngati Toa and the British Mission: An Historical Narrative (Dunedin: McIndoe, 1982), p. 343.

(48) Calder and Turner, p. 7.

(49) Author's note: This article originated from an M.A. thesis, Disputed Ground: The Construction of Pakeha Identity in Novels of the New Zealand Wars (2004), supervised by Dr. Paul Millar at Victoria University. It benefited greatly from the constructive criticism offered by Prof. Mary Poovey's graduate seminar at Duke University in 2006, and from the feedback of the anonymous reviewers for the JNZL graduate essay competition. It was completed during a residency at the Stout Research Centre in 2007.
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Author:Steer, Philip
Publication:JNZL: Journal of New Zealand Literature
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Jun 1, 2007
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