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When Toawaka met Cook

In a new book released today, the claim is made that not all Māori saw the arrival of Captain James Cook in Aotearoa New Zealand as ‘an invasion by a murderous pirate’.

Such charges have been voiced loudly in recent months leading up to the Government’s Tuia 250 commemoration of Cook’s landings in October this year.

In their book When Toawaka Met Cook, authors and Mercury Bay historians John Steele and Richard Gates quote Ngāti Hei’s Joe Davis as saying that his people, led by their chief Toawaka (or Toiava in most earlier published historical texts) saw the Endeavour’s arrival in Te Whanganui o Hei – Mercury Bay as an omen of change, after years of brutal warfare and invasion by other Māori tribes.

According to Ngāti Hei’s oral history, Toawaka believed that these ‘pale-faced strangers with all their new powers’ might be the answer to helping him and his people develop a better way of life, and halting the fear and bloodshed of their previous 300 years.

For Ngāti Hei therefore, Joe Davis says Cook’s visit over 12 days in November 1769, was seen as an amicable encounter – acknowledged in their Wharetāewa pa a few days before the Endeavour sailed by the very first pōwhiri accorded a European. “The visit was always seen by Toawaka and our ancestors,” says Davis, “as a ‘decisive first step toward new beginnings’, both for Ngāti Hei and many of our other Hauraki tribal allies of those days’.

When Toawaka Met Cook, described as an ‘insightful and engaging read’ is being released throughout New Zealand on June 22 and will cost $24.99.


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