Captain Stokes: On Maori Language
November 6, 2018
Today in history: Captain John Lort Stokes came again to New Zealand, arriving 7 November 1848. This time he was aboard the impressive HMS Acheron which along with sail had a lovely paddle-wheel making it a fitting craft to update the surveys of Captain Cook.
Previous post: Admiral John Stokes
Previous Post: Stokes Point
Stokes had already published a book about his visit to Australia and New Zealand as acting captain of the Beagle but it contains little about our country.
This is a good bit though reminding us of something we’ve forgotten. That Maoridom is not a monolithic homogenised culture or people or even language…
New Zealanders, some of whom have risen to be mates; and to acquire the information and experience of which they stand so much in need. Whereas, were their knowledge confined to their own imperfect dialect, not only would they be unable to extend their acquaintance with other parts of the world, and with the arts of civilization, but they would remain, as many of them now are, actually incapable of communicating with many inhabitants of their own districts. For it must be borne in mind, that very frequently, a tribe inhabiting one valley is ignorant of the language spoken in the next. So that to instruct them only in their own forms of speech, is not only difficult, since, on the death of each master someone else has to learn the grammar and vocabulary to supply his place, but absolutely tends to perpetuate the isolation in which the natives now live; and which is the main cause of the little development of their minds, and the inferior position they occupy in the scale of civilization.
– Discoveries in Australia, Volume 2, by John Lort Stokes
A learned man, like Tupaia, could bridge the gap between tribal dialects inside and outside New Zealand. But we leave his ability in the lurch when we pretend there was just one Maori people.
When Statists discuss today the ideal of forcing all children to learn the Maori language which one do they mean? Did they ever know they had a choice or are they only Virtue Signalling?
Image ref. HMS Acheron, McLintock (1966)
Image ref. Queequeg incarnation from Futurama episode; The literary version of the transitional Maoris discussed here by Stokes