James Cook and the Tuia 250 blues


The problem with never healing past injustices between the indigenous and the coloniser is that when history knocks at the door of our collective national identity, instead of a celebration of nationhood, the past injustices erupt with the awkward emotional intensity of an abused child announcing past abuses at the family Christmas dinner table.

One of the traps with the culturally elite’s demand to pronounce Te Reo correctly within the Wellington Bureaucratic cultural bubble is that the ability to speak Te Reo makes the institutions feel that they’ve done enough.

As if their capacity to speak Māori is somehow the fulfilment of their Treaty obligations no matter how corrosive the social policy.

This brown washing is best exemplified by Oranga Tamariki, it was originally called ‘The Ministry for Vulnerable Children’ but got its brown washed name as the shear scale of weaponised Māori child uplifts made everyone realise a brown wash name was going to mask the stolen generation perception better than ‘The Ministry for Vulnerable Children’.

I bring all this up because it’s almost delusional the way the Wellington Bureaucratic elite seemed to think that celebrating Cook’s 250th year anniversary would be universally celebrated when so little in terms of the damage colonisation caused has been healed.

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Just because Wellington Civil Servants can open a meeting with a waiata or order their lunch in fluent Māori doesn’t mean jack shit has been done in honouring the Treaty.

A critical Māori perspective of Cook is well established and to avoid enflaming that perspective, we get this non-coherent mishmash of a ‘celebration’ where James Cook doesn’t even get mentioned once on the Tuia 250 front page.

We are celebrating a 250 year event, but not actually mentioning the man who created that event. I’ve always thought that the private business interests that secretly funded Cook to embark upon his sea going Astronomical side hustle was interesting as it showed the very first white exploration of NZ was always for profit.

To fully be able to celebrate our past we must examine and acknowledge our injustices coupled with a clear and precise ongoing policy designed at countering the legacy of that injustice in the present.

Because we fail to do that, and because our public service pay lip service to Māori, we get these ill thought out nothings that can’t celebrate anything and are too frightened to know what to respect.

Cook was a product of his time, understanding his failings helps explain our own failings.

We could celebrate him if the damage caused by colonialism had been healed.


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