133 years a slave – Profiting from Maori political slavery an affront to our collective history



Leg irons removed from cave for auction
Hand-forged leg irons that might have been used to restrain Maori political prisoners in Dunedin will go under the hammer in Dunedin tomorrow. (Today now)

Really? We’re selling off potential slave chains now?

While there are some questions as to whether they are legitimate Parihaka prisoner shackles (see comment underneath, which raises some pertinent queries about their legitimacy), and while they are not protected AT THIS POINT by various acts which are meant to protect our taonga (and if real they are of historical value, even if not used on Maori slaves), this auction puts a bad taste in the mouths of many of us, both Maori and Pakeha, determined to protect our cultural history, and especially to memorialise and learn from the sins of our fathers.

It feels like every taonga we have is sold off and shipped to a rich person off-shore, with the return being mass produced plastic tiki from China. I know I am not the only one sick of the dollar value winning out over what is right, and what is decent. Items like this should be archived, not sold off to the highest bidder.

And while we’re talking making money out of misery, this very same auction house sold Nazi memorabilia a few months back. Developing a bit of a track record for heartless, thoughtless, soulless auctions no-one else will touch, is Hayward’s Auction House.

Taranaki iwi have every right to be furious about this auction, just as the NZ Jewish community had every right to be furious about fellow Kiwi’s making money off their capture, destruction and extermination.

What happened to Maori prisoners shipped from Parihaka in chains to Dunedin many years ago was real, and it had a huge effect on Maori that still resonates today. Women were raped. Men were killed. Their roots, their crops and their homeland were lost. It was one of the most shameful periods in our history.

We, Pakeha New Zealanders captured our Maori brothers for protecting their land, broke apart their families, shipped them in chains to the opposite end of the country to huddle in caves in shackles and behind locked doors, never to see their wives, children, parents ever again. And the government is still yet to make restitution for these wrongs. Yet an auction house is quite happy to take a chunk of cash for chains that may have held slaves who had done no wrong.

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We should never forget Parihaka. We should never trivialise Parihaka. And we should NEVER, EVER make money off of it.


  1. Any human being that wore those leg irons had one hell of a large leg !! Going on their diameter they appear more likely to have been made for hobbling a horse.

    • I like your skepticism! But I’ve never seen a pair of horse hobbles with a flat side, the cuffs are always curved, whether leather or iron. Those would lame a horse.

      Also, hobbles would have some form of relatively quick release built in, a clip in the middle or the chains attached to the cuffs by hooks.

  2. They are evil looking things. Even if not genuine, the abduction and forced labour without trial certainly was.

    The caption says that they “will go under the hammer in Dunedin tomorrow”. But the article was in yesterday’s ODT – which means they’ll be auctioned off today.

  3. Well said Rachael. Regardless of whether the shackles are genuine or not, I thought the caves would’ve had some sort protection?

  4. When I looked at your headline and the photo I immediately made the connection with tasteless Nazi memorabilia. It’s a worry that there are people who buy this spooky stuff.

    Everything is for sale, up north tons of swamp Kauri are shipped unprocessed to Asia, an other treasure gone soon leaving only one millionaire behind – and nobody blinks an eye.

    It’s a sorry state of affairs.

  5. Im not sure how many Pakeha NZers really know the full story here or the story of the local Maori assimilation in the South either.

    The Education System needs to do much better on this.

    Thanks for posting Rachael …:)

  6. “That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.”
    ― Aldous Huxley, Collected Essays

  7. What kind of person would buy something like that?

    My mind is struggling to get around that one.

    Why? Just…. why?

  8. I personally think its stupid to blame people today based on things that happened years ago about people who arent even here. I see that selling our lands and our Taonga to overseas bidders is wrong but you really didnt have to put in the Pakeha hate thing in there, its just flat out racism.

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