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"Coming To Terms?" Conference

Confiscation, or raupatu, in New Zealand history has been an under-researched phenomenon, but Victoria University’s Stout Research Centre hopes to break new scholarly ground on the subject in a conference this month.

Conference presentations will focus on 19th century land confiscations—examining events and policies leading up raupatu, the raupatu itself, and both Crown and Māori policies and attitudes towards raupatu in later years.

The Coming to Terms? Raupatu/ Confiscation and New Zealand History conference from June 27 to 28 will feature three keynote speakers: Professor James Belich (Victoria University of Wellington), Professor Alan Ward (University of Newcastle, NSW) and Professor John Weaver (McMaster University in Canada).

“Raupatu has seldom been placed in international context, and our three keynote speakers are among the most qualified in the world to do so.  Several senior academics and practitioners in the field of Treaty of Waitangi scholarship felt that it was now timely to promote scholarly discussion on this issue,” says Professor Richard Hill, conference organiser and Victoria University’s Treaty of Waitangi Research Unit director.

“While the Crown has conceded raupatu as a Treaty breach in Treaty settlement processes, and the first major Treaty settlement was centred on the confiscation of huge tracts of Waikato land, there has been little research on the issue to date,” he says.

The conference will be launched by Associate Minister for Arts, Heritage and Culture, Hon Mahara Okeroa, at Rutherford House (Victoria University’s Pipitea campus) on 27 June 2008.

About the keynote speakers and their conference presentations:

Professor Alan Ward has been working on the history of Crown-Maori relations since well before his seminal book, A Show of Justice, appeared in 1974, and has assisted the Waitangi Tribunal for many years. His talk is entitled “A ‘savage war of peace’: motives for government policies towards the Kingitanga, 1860-63”. He will suggest that although the colonisers’ self-interest—the drive to acquire land and other resources—is undeniable, the impulse to assert control is itself a powerful motivation, where a nation-state assumes sovereignty over what is perceived as a stateless society.

Professor John Weaver is from Canada, and his book on The Great Land Rush and the Making of the Modern World (2003) has received international acclaim. His talk is entitled “From Acquisition and Confiscation to Restitution and Reconciliation: Eras and Issues in the History of Property Rights, First Peoples and Colonisation, 1763-present”, and proposes thematic continuities in various parts of the world.

Professor James Belich's  first book The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian Interpretation of Racial Conflict ( 1986)  received a prestigious international award, and he has been working on similar topics nationally and internationally ever since. His talk is entitled “Riders of the Whirlwind: Indigenous Peoples and Settlement Booms in the Nineteenth Century”. He sets out to put conquest and confiscation in their widest possible context, by looking at patterns in European settlement and indigenous resistance.

Professor Hill says the other conference speakers have combined academic research with hands-on work in the field of resolution of Treaty of Waitangi claims, which is unusual in an academic environment.

After the conference, the committee intends to publish the first book dedicated to this subject through Victoria University Press.  


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