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Maranga Mai A 'Distortion Of History'

An academic review has found that a Human Rights Commission (HRC) report, Maranga Mai, manipulates and distorts the historical record.

Maranga Mai was released in November 2022 and looks at how Māori have been mistreated over the centuries. Its main recommendation is for the Government to commit to constitutional reform - including the rejection of the Doctrine of Discovery - and to establish co-governance.

The HRC report says the doctrine was “the initial basis for settling and claiming Aotearoa” – however this is simply not true, Professor Paul Moon says in his review Challenging History.

“There are many things that need to be looked at and answered for in our history, but this doctrine is not one of them,” Professor Moon says.

“It played no part whatsoever in any aspect of Britain’s colonisation of New Zealand. In fact, to the contrary, the admiralty specifically instructed Captain Cook to obtain consent from the Indigenous people for any claims to territory.”

Professor Moon says that extraordinary evidence would have to be provided for papal bulls conceived in the fifteenth century to continue to direct colonial policies in non-Catholic countries several centuries later.

“The Doctrine of Discovery was Catholic – and the British Government and Protestant ruling class of the time shunned anything that had even a semblance of papal influence,” he says.

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“In truth, Britain’s imperial expansion in the eighteenth century occurred not according to any specific doctrine, but more ‘in a fit of absence of mind’, as the historian John Seeley famously put it.”

The use of the Doctrine of Discovery is not the only concerning aspect of the Human Rights Commission report, from a historical point of view, Professor Moon says.

"The historical sources referred to are thin and selective, and treated non-critically. In fact, so blatant is the bias in the bibliography that it serves almost as a case study in deficient historical method when it comes to the quality, range and nature of source material used for a text. There also was no proper peer-review,” he says.

“The Human Rights Commission has produced a report which is historically deficient on just about every level, and consequently it is misrepresenting a crucial part of our history. It is a distortion of history."

Professor Moon says that as we find our way forward as a nation it is imperative that we are as true as we can be to our past.

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