Looking for the Wednesday Wandering? Page back one for more about how conflict can drive – or fail to drive – a story. Then join me and Alan as we look at a very complex form of conflict – the interactions of cultures known as colonization.
ALAN: Last week, we were talking about the arrival of the Spanish in New Mexico and how they took advantage of what they found there. So don’t leave me hanging in suspense. What happened next?
JANE: Well, by this stage of Spanish exploration, most of the would-be colonizers were not interested in founding colonies. They were interested in finding heaps of treasure, stealing it from its owners, shipping it back to Europe (to contribute to the crash of the European economies that was already on-going because of too much New World gold), and settling down to a life of dissipation.
One example is the area where the associated villages the Spanish would called San Gabriel and San Juan were located. The Spanish, under command of Juan de Oñate, came up and took over San Gabriel. The locals, with great good sense, moved to San Juan. According to their mandate from the Spanish crown, the colonists were supposed to build a church, start farming, and otherwise behave in a responsible fashion.
What they actually did was subside into near banditry, because it was more fun to scatter all over the landscape searching for gold and robbing the locals when food was short. Later, some of the locals were legally enslaved by Oñate and his men – the Spanish often used “rebellion” or suchlike as an excuse to “arrest” and enslave locals – and transported to Mexico to mine silver.
ALAN: That seems a highly dubious practice to me. It sounds as if Oñate was taking the law into his own hands and thoroughly abusing it. Did the Spanish crown do anything about it?
JANE: To the credit of the Spanish government, yes, they did. A major investigation was undertaken. Oñate was tried and convicted. Part of his sentence was having his governorship stripped from him and his being forbidden to ever return to New Mexico. This was a huge slam to his ego.
To this day, Oñate is not popular with many New Mexicans. His undoubted place in history as the leader of what is termed the second “entrada” is tarnished by the actions of himself and his men.
Would you like to hear one of the uglier tales associated with Oñate?
ALAN: Yes, please – this stuff is fascinating.
JANE: There are various versions as to how the conflict began, but suffice to say that some Spaniards came to the pueblo of Acoma (see my WW for 10-27-10, for a bit more about Acoma), behaved in a manner that caused the locals to take affront, and a fight broke out. Several of the Spanish were killed.
Oñate decided that this constituted rebellion, brought in a force, and attacked. Acoma is a natural fortress, but the Spanish were very determined. They also had guns. In the end, the Spanish won and took these “rebels” as slaves.
Please remember, the residents of Acoma had never agreed to Spanish governance nor had they been conquered. One historical account reports that when the Spanish first came to Acoma, they brought with them a local “translator” who did not speak the language spoken in Acoma. (There were at least five distinct languages spoken in the region.) Through this “translator,” the Spanish asserted their authority according to Spanish law and so they felt the village belonged to them.
The locals felt otherwise.
ALAN: It’s interesting that the region had so many different languages. The Maori language was (largely) the same throughout New Zealand which made contact between the newcomers and the indigenes reasonably straightforward. In Australia, by contrast, every tribe spoke a different language and even closely neighbouring tribes were unable to understand each other. That fragmentation proved to be their undoing when the conquerors arrived.
JANE: Different languages didn’t make things easier, certainly. Neither did the fact that many of the pueblos (as the groups came to be called) didn’t get along with each other, much less with the nomadic raiders. But moving back to Oñate…
Not content with enslaving these “rebels,” Oñate ordered that each man have one foot cut off. The men were then shipped to Mexico to mine silver.
There are those who protest that this could not have happened – otherwise the historical record would have been full of accounts of Indians with one foot. Others protest that Oñate would not have reduced the value of his new slaves by mutilation. The truth hardly matters any longer, because the tale has entered local legend lore. A few years ago, it had an interesting sequel.
Remember, whatever you may think of Oñate, he was an important historical figure. A statue of him was commissioned and put up – I forget in what town. In the dead of night, some people, indignant that a man who his own government had censured for his cruelty should be honored in this fashion, snuck in and…
You guessed it. They chopped off the statue’s foot. I’m not certain if it was ever repaired.
ALAN: What a lovely end to a nasty story!
JANE: I’ve always liked it…
But, before I went off on a tangent, we began by talking about the colonization of New Zealand. As I recall, we had just left the dissipated, hell-hole whaling village of Kororāreka. It sounds as if the Maori and the whalers were getting along quite well. What happened next? Did the good relationship continue?
ALAN: Well, it did and it didn’t. The Maori had always been a warlike people and inter-tribal fights were common. They also had a lot of squabbles with the intruding settlers who were taking away their land.
Once they began trading, and got their hands on modern weapons, these conflicts escalated. Many thousands of Maori were killed in the so-called Musket Wars of the early years of the nineteenth century. One important side-effect of this was that the Maori quickly developed offensive and defensive strategies that stood them in very good stead when they fought against the well-trained and well-armed British army in later years.
JANE: So, how did matters get resolved?
ALAN: Towards the end of the eighteenth century, Australia got in on the act when the Governor of New South Wales claimed New Zealand. He appointed a British Resident in 1832 to try and mediate between the Maori and the increasingly unruly settlers. The Resident attempted to build a formal confederation with the Northern Maori tribes. However the French (always Britain’s traditional enemy) also began making treaty noises. To forestall any French claim, the tribes were persuaded to send a declaration of independence to the then British King, William IV. This was only dubiously legal at best and ongoing unrest prompted the Colonial Office to send Sir James Hobson to claim full sovereignty for the British crown – which by then had passed from William to Queen Victoria, or Wikitoria, as the Maori referred to her.
When wikis in general (and wikipedia in particular) appeared on the internet I started claiming that the Maori had invented the whole thing 150 years ago…
JANE: Ouch! Alan, you really should be careful. One day someone is going to take you seriously and you’ll get into a lot of trouble!
ALAN: But to be serious for a moment, the Maori did adopt many English names for themselves and sometimes they adapted the pronunciation to slide more easily over their tongues. We’ve already seen Wikitoria, but another favourite is Wiremu, which is the Maori pronunciation of the English name “William.” It’s a very common Maori name these days – Robin has a Maori nephew called Wiremu.
JANE: I like it. Names do become adapted to different languages. If I were Spanish, I would be Juana (“Wah-na”). It’s nice that the Maori contributed to the variations on William – which, in Spanish, is “Guillermo.” The double “l” is pronounced more like a “y” so a rough pronunciation is “Gee-er-mo.” “Wiremu” is at least as recognizable.
But back to history.
ALAN: Anyway, Sir James Hobson negotiated a binding and comprehensive treaty with the various Maori tribes. It is known as the Treaty of Waitangi after the place where the tribes gathered to sign it, just outside Kororāreka, on 6th February 1840. With this, New Zealand became the latest and the last British Colony. The old hell-hole of Kororāreka (now renamed Russell) became the capital of the new nation, and Great Britain had one more country with whom to play cricket.
JANE: I remember you telling me about the Treaty of Waitangi back when we were discussing holidays. The signing was a really important event, wasn’t it?
ALAN: Very important. We regard the Treaty of Waitangi in the same way that you regard the Declaration of Independence, and for much the same reason. It marks the formal beginning of the country of New Zealand.
JANE: So we’ve traveled across time from an isolated land discovered by a Dutchman who thought he’d found South America to the foundation of the last British Colony. However, if the Maori were anything like the American Indians (or Native Americans) the story is far from over. I’d like to pick up with it next time.