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Howard's End: Maori And Pakeha History Parallels

If pakeha New Zealander's took the time to learn their own history and what happened to their ancestors, they might better understand where Maori are coming from and the Waitangi Day celebrations might not be the fiasco that it has become. John Howard writes.

Picture this. A rich island off the coast of Europe of which the wealth, accumulated over a thousand years, attracted first the Romans, then the Saxons, then the Norseman and Danes.

The Romans saw it as a source of minerals, slaves and corn and they allowed many settlers from all over Europe. The Saxons and Angels saw it as a place to settle, to plant with villages and farms - a land where a nation could be built. The Norseman, deserting their barren land, sought the same ends.

The Anglo-Saxons had created a rich and cultivated society, they had developed a literature, and a complicated system of local government and taxation. The Danes and Norsemen destroyed much, but they eventually contributed to society.

Then, in 1066, William Duke of Normandy invaded with 6,000 men on horseback who used lances', swords, bows and arrows against the existing inhabitants who only knew how to fight on foot and use battle-axes.

William The Conqueror, as he came to be called, defeated Harold near Hastings with mercenaries hired for the adventure and dismissed in 1070 when the north had been cowed into quiescence and Chester had submitted

The land? - England - the home of the ancestors of many New Zealanders.

William won the battle of Hastings because he and his men specialised in the art of warfare, whereas the English did not. Englishmen still fought on foot, depending on resistance rather than attack.

The Norman followers of Duke William came to a land of old-established traditions which were still a barrier to true political unity.

So William quickly consolidated his hold by building castle's for defence and then "granted" land all over the country to his followers and supporters. The land he "granted" could well have been in the possession of one of your ancestors.

Was it fair? No, it wasn't . Even today, our New Zealand land-title system relies on that ancient dictate - that we hold our land by grant and occupy it by right of the "paramount Lord" - the Crown. It is called the Crown's radical title. It's an absolute nonsense, but there it is.

The English were slow to accept defeat and by repeated rebellions they did prevent William from creating, as he first desired, an Anglo-Norman state.

But, inevitably, men of English blood ceased to control affairs and by the time the Doomsday Book was compiled in 1086, only two of the king's leading tenants were men of English descent. Some had gone to Scotland to serve Malcolm while other had fled to the service of the Eastern Emperor in Constantinople.

William was an autocrat who seized the opportunity of conquest to gain a power unprecedented among European kings.

The theory that by right all land was the king's and that land was held by others only at his gift and in return for specified service, was new to English thought.

William's invasion of England was an aristocratic conquest led by a man who won a kingdom for himself and distributed estates among his followers. This new aristocracy replaced the English nobility who had formed the Court of the old English kings. They soon became dominant in rural society and local government as well. In a feudal state all authority ultimately lay with the Crown.

The Crown stole the land of our ancestor's just as it stole the land of Maori ancestor's and, like Maori, our ancestors eventually had a peace treaty as well - called Magna Carta.

When will we start to recognise, honour, respect and celebrate the parallel circumstances in each others' history? Our circumstances are much closer than many might think. Waitangi Day is a time to celebrate that closeness.


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