The forgotten history of Pākehā slaves

This story was originally published by the New Zealand Listener and is republished with permission.

A new book about Europeans kept as slaves by Māori between the 1790s and 1880s challenges the theme of “colonisation and exploitation that is central to postcolonial writing”.

They were nearly home, well within sight of land, when a southerly gale drove the barque Harriet, carrying Elizabeth Guard, her husband, Jacky, and two young children on to the Taranaki coast. Remarkably, everyone on board made it to shore. Their luck, however, was about to run out.

In 1834, the shipwrecked survivors of the Harriet were attacked by a group of Ngāti Ruanui and other Taranaki Māori. A number of crew members were killed, including Guard’s brother. Guard herself, her family and other crew members were taken captive. After two weeks, Jacky and several other men were released on the understanding they would return with a cask of gunpowder as ransom for the rest of the party.

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Four months later, the man-o’-war Alligator and the schooner Isabella launched a rescue expedition. Confronted by the sheer scale of British firepower, the tribe released eight sailors.

Several days later, Guard and her baby daughter were given up in exchange for the rangatira Oaoiti, who had been captured and brutally treated on board the Alligator.

The capture and eventual release of Guard and her children attracted huge attention. In lurid detail, the Sydney Herald described Guard as being stripped naked and dragged into a hut.

Her husband claimed she had been taken as a “slave wife”, even though other accounts suggest that, after the initial affray, she was treated well and protected by Oaoiti, who took Elizabeth as his wife or lover. Unfortunately, Guard’s version of events is absent, her story reliant on reports by others, including one suggesting she later gave birth to twins fathered by Oaoiti.

Utu: Louis John Steele’s 1889 painting The Blowing Up of the Boyd.
Utu: Louis John Steele’s 1889 painting The Blowing Up of the Boyd.

The rescue itself was criticised for its excessive use of force against Māori.

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Inglorious Dastards: Rangiaowhia raid and the ‘great war for New Zealand’

Guard’s story featured in Tauranga historian Trevor Bentley’s 2004 book, Captured by Maori, a follow-on from his 1999 study of male captives, Pakeha Maori.

It is retold again in his new book, Pakeha Slaves, Maori Masters, the mostly forgotten story, he writes, of the Europeans who lived and sometimes died as slaves in tribal New Zealand between the 1790s and 1880s.

A shadow portrait of Elizabeth Guard, left, and a news cutting of Caroline Perrett, who was recognised after being kidnapped as a child.

“I’ve always had this fascination with people who had crossed cultures,” he says.

“One of my ancestors was a Portuguese sailor, a shipwreck survivor who washed up at my ancestral village in Samoa in the 1700s, so I have had this long-term interest in people who formed new identities and became part of these new cultures.”

In his new book, he walks readers through the short but little-known history of Pākehā taken prisoner or enslaved by Māori. In some cases, this was done as an act of revenge for serious breaches of Māori tikanga.

In 1874, eight-year-old Caroline Perrett was kidnapped by Māori in Taranaki after her father dug up Māori graves and a local Māori child had also been kidnapped by Europeans (Perrett was recognised some 50 years later while working alongside her adopted hapū).

Utu similarly motivated the attack on the London-bound Boyd by Ngāti Pou and Ngāti Uru in 1809. A leading rangatira, accused of stealing pewter spoons, had been flogged and robbed before being sent back naked to his people at Whangaroa. In the ensuing attack, 60 passengers and crew were killed and nine survivors enslaved.

But most Europeans taken captive by Māori were runaway seamen – a motley crew of stowaways, castaways, mutineers and escaped convicts from Australia – or shipwrecked mariners. Some of these would have been killed.

Others would have been put though the “terrifying rituals”, writes Bentley, of whakataurekareka/enslavement such as being stripped, beaten, forcibly tattooed or marched over long distances – rites of passage, says Bentley, in which captives passed from the status of herehere/prisoners to that of taurekareka/slaves.


From here, the treatment of those taken captive varied, often depending on their status and usefulness to their captors.

Some, particularly those considered of lowly status or who showed little respect for Māori rangatira or tohunga, were treated harshly, many living under the constant threat of death at the apparent whim of their masters.

Others gradually assimilated into their communities, their identity restored, even their personal names reinstated.

“If you could contribute in some way as an artisan, a fighting man, someone with agricultural knowledge or technical skills, you very quickly acquired status. So, if you had ambition and wanted to improve your conditions, it seems you had the opportunity to do so, but if you were a humble person, you were treated as a slave for life.”

Trevor Bentley.

The mistreatment of enslaved castaways diminished as rangatira realised they could be exchanged for muskets (this was the time of the Musket Wars), gunpowder, axes or hard cash.

When the American schooner Cossack was wrecked near Hokianga in 1823, local Māori provided Captain Dix and his crew with good food and housing before they were escorted through neighbouring rohe and sold to Anglican missionaries and ships’ captains.

Some captives were imprisoned only briefly. Others became bound to iwi through marriage, many gaining respect as interpreters, warriors, trade negotiators or even “Pākehā rangatira”, often enjoying a life far better than the harsh treatment on board ships.

Jack Marmon, who lived with a Te Hikutu hapū on the Kerikeri River between 1817 and 1820, described living quietly with his wives, fishing, hunting, boatbuilding “and when all things failed had my pipe to fall back upon”.

These captives fall into Bentley’s category of “chattel slaves” – they were the personal property of their captors, placed within a hierarchy similar to that used for Māori slaves or war captives.

(As Hazel Petrie wrote in her 2015 book Outcasts of the Gods?, the loose labelling of Māori war captives as “slaves” conflated two quite different institutions “and led to those captives being perceived in much the same way as African slaves in the Americas rather than as the prisoners in intertribal warfare that they almost always were”.)

Others, writes Bentley, were tributary vassals or demi-slaves – the missionaries, shore-based whalers, sealers, sawyers, flax traders and entrepreneurs who were welcomed into Māori communities and, as long as they obeyed Māori law and paid regular tribute, allowed to live on Māori land and use the resources, whether it be timber, whales, seals or people’s souls.

“They were given access to resources and protection and got on very well with Maori – as long as they contributed. If not, then they were plundered.”


So, were they slaves? Bentley agrees slavery/ taurekareka is a slippery term, “But the act of stripping somebody indicates you are enslaved. [For chattel slaves], your identity has been removed, your ship or whaling station has been plundered or your boat confiscated and you are going to be worked hard and, in the case of war captives, put through rituals of whakataurekareka, which could be quite brutal physically and psychologically.”

But whether they lived as chattel slaves within Māori communities or semi-independently as tributary vassals on tribal lands, he writes, is immaterial.

“In New Zealand before the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 and in Maori-dominated regions thereafter, they were subject to the control of local rangatira. Dependent upon Maori for protection in return for service or tribute, they all had a place on the Māori continuum of slavery.”

Bishop Selwyn, for example, was one of about 14 missionaries “enslaved” when he was detained and imprisoned in 1861 by Māori in retribution for the killing of family members and the destruction of homes and crops by British and colonial troops.

“Some were stripped and [their possessions] plundered while mission stations were burnt but they don’t mention this in their journals or they skim over it very lightly.”

Bishop Selwyn was “enslaved” in 1861, according to Bentley.

The record is skewed in other ways.

For this book, Bentley researched published histories by hapū and iwi historians and writings by Māori scholars, but the most frequently referenced sources are the journals, letters and logs of ships’ captains, the captivity narratives by returned “slaves” and media accounts of the day.

Many of these veered towards the sensational. Tales of helpless white women in the hands of “savages” were in high demand in the 19th century as British and American readers seized on the often-salacious accounts of captivity and rescue.

Once newspapers got going in Australia and New Zealand, says Bentley, “they retold these stories over and over again”.

Ramping up the drama was useful. Exaggerated tales of torture served the purposes of British and colonial officials, their military forces and land-hungry settlers.

Church missions were often forced to rely on explicit accounts of so-called barbarity to ensure ongoing funding. For those who had been enslaved, especially those forcibly tattooed, recounting their experiences provided a livelihood otherwise denied them.

As Bentley says, it was difficult to live with tā moko in Victorian society. “They were considered white savages, who had slipped down the scale of civilisation.”

Bentley’s book does not hold back on the sort of details written to terrify or titillate a 19th-century reading public. In telling Guard’s story, he quotes extracts from the 1834 journal of Alligator crew member Lieutenant Clarke, including accounts of Māori licking the blood from her wounds and attempting “to made an incision in her neck with a piece of hoop iron in order to drink her blood”.

Many of the reprinted images seem to be aimed at whipping up horror; even the red sticker on the cover, warning of content “that may offend some readers”, can be read as an attempt to ratchet up the shock factor. Bentley says this was done in the wake of the Christchurch mosque shootings, “when everyone was obsessed with hate speech and offending each other”.


The purpose of Bentley’s book, however, is not to entertain or to shock. Rather, he says, it is to provide a counter-narrative “that challenges the entrenched myth of Europeans as sole oppressors and exploiters in 19th-century New Zealand while reminding us that slavery is a human problem, not a race problem”.

In revealing the extent of white slavery in New Zealand, and exposing a period when Māori had power and Pākehā were powerless, Bentley sets out to cast light on a part of our history that does not fit into “the general theme of European conquest, colonisation and exploitation that is central to postcolonial writing”.

In doing so, he says, Pakeha Slaves, Maori Masters follows overseas publications such as White Slaves, African Masters, an anthology of Barbary captivity narratives edited by Paul Baepler, and Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters by American historian Robert Davis.

But Davis’ comments that “white slavery had been minimised or ignored because academics preferred to treat Europeans as evil colonialists rather than as victims” have proved controversial. In this book, the lack of macrons, unfortunate references to “Pakeha roastees” and “Maori gourmands”, even his mention of “Negroes” – in the context of the times, he hastens to explain – may well prove equally contentious.

So, might there be some fightback, particularly from Māori academics? Bentley, who is working on an anthology of 20 first-hand accounts by 16 men and four women captured by Māori, says there could well be – after all, he says, it took 14 attempts to find a publisher for this book.

“But I’m looking forward to that. Criticism is good. That is how we move forward.”

PAKEHA SLAVES, MAORI MASTERS: The Forgotten Story of New Zealand’s White Slaves, by Trevor Bentley (New Holland, $39.99)

Ihumatao Is a Watershed Agreement: Legal Owners of the Land Are Returning 1/4 of That Land to Maori

From Facebook

A reader drew my attention to an interesting point of view about Ihumatao that she read on a Facebook page yesterday.

It had the headline: Two sides to every story.

I whakapapa to the Whenua at Ihumatao. I have whanau living in the papakainga, and whanau buried in the urupa. My grandfather’s photo and those of many more tupuna hang in Makarau Marae.

I do not support SOUL.

I support the kaumatua who have spent decades fighting for iwi rights to that land and those waterways and fighting to protect wahi tapu. Kaumatua who have done so tirelessly, not through garnering limelight in social & other media, but through the court and post treaty negotiations framework and through clear and measurable opposition to foreshore and seabed issues. Who when after being knocked back again and again by the legal system in this country in their opposition to urban development on the Wallace Block, have achieved an absolute watershed agreement where the legal owners of the land are returning 1/4 of that land to Maori, along with houses within the other 3/4 that will allow iwi to live on that land, to own homes at a value preferential to purchasing elsewhere on the Auckland market, whanau who have never had the opportunity to own homes before let alone the opportunity to live in the local papakainga where the home sites are available to the lucky few.

So please read that again people, LAND THAT WAS HISTORICALLY CONFISCATED FROM MANA WHENUA BY THE CROWN IN THE 1860s IS GOING TO BE RETURNED TO MANA WHENUA. And yes – a quarter is not ALL the land. But under the legal framework that like it or not has been agreed to, anyone who has ever been involved in any post treaty settlement will tell you, we are not going to get everything back.

There has to be a point at which we as a people stop perpetuating the victim mentalityand instead put our energies & focus into doing what we can with what is NOW in our power.

I do not support those that have been putting their energies into perpetuating Maori as continuing to be oppressed on that Whenua, who have presented a slick, emotive and captivating campaign, so alluring that people are blindly liking and sharing in their droves, changing their Facebook and Instagram profiles like moths to a flame, spurring people to seek petition support without seeking out all the information. A campaign so well woven visually and lyrically that it would have the untrained eye and ear think that houses are going to be built on w?hi tapu sites on land that is now council-owned, rather than the actual site on neighbouring farmland that is flanked by factories.

A campaign so misleading that it has left my babies, tamariki who whakapapa to that whenua, confused and questioning why their 13 and 15-year-old friends are changing their social media profiles like it’s some cool group to be a part of. A campaign so fashionable that it’s trending on Twitter, spoon-feeding people misinformation.

A campaign so click-baitable that various groups and political parties are using it as a soap-box to promote their own agendas. What have these people been doing in the last 150 years whilst the whenua has been farmland and the kaumatua have been neck-deep in struggle with the legal system and post treaty negotiations reality?

Then there are those motivated to go to the land to support the cause, to “stand”. But I challenge those people to truly question, what are they standing for? And yes, people have a right to freedom of speech and peaceful protest, but the problem is when a one-sided message goes out to the misinformed masses, there’s always a risk a renegade person or subgroup of supporters will push the boundaries of peace. To me that’s deliberately running the risk of innocent people getting hurt. And it puts at risk whanau who live in that papakainga that don’t subscribe to SOUL’s campaign.

And yes, those whanau do exist. And honestly, if I see another selfie of someone posing with a line of police behind them doing their jobs, well… talk about turning this into utter modern era self-promotion ridiculousness!

So contrary to what the majority of mass media to this point, widespread social media and the SOUL group would have people believe, this isn’t a generalised dispute open to the public. This isn’t something the Crown should get involved in. This is a dispute between two interested parties that have gone different ways about achieving ultimately the same thing. One who after turning over all other avenues has achieved legal return of confiscated lands in perpetuity, vs another who is pushing up against a legal brick wall… for what?

  • To have the land purchased for all New Zealand?
  • To be kept as farmland or to be turned into a tourism venture?
  • To try to establish a dangerous precedent enabling access and forcing sale on other pieces of privately owned land within New Zealand?
  • To derail the work and progress that has been put in place on treaty claims already settled and pending raupatu claims?

Seriously people, think about this very carefully. […]

  • Ihumatao is not Bastion Point
  • Ihumatao is not Standing Rock
  • Ihumatao is not Mauna Kea
  • Ihumatao is a whenua for transformation through compromise.

Yes, this will go down in history and I for one will be educating my children so they don’t carry myths into generations to come.

Guns off the Streets… Nek Minnit

Since the Christchurch terror attack, the media hand in glove with the government have done their very best to demonise gun owners. Now the Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Clement has gone one step further… he is demonising inanimate objects!

Guns cannot be “evil” in their nature, as he claims, any more than other inert pieces of wood, metal or plastic. The people holding the guns committing crimes are the evil ones. If guns are evil, then spoons cause obesity, and pencils, pens and keyboards cause spelling mistakes.

Police are hitting back at claims the gun buyback won’t make New Zealand safer, since bad guys won’t be the ones handing over their weapons.

[…] But Clement said it doesn’t matter who owns the guns now – as long as they exist, they’re a threat.
I can tell you that there are far too many guns that are evil in their nature in this country…

[…] “If we take tens of thousands of firearms off the streets during the next six months, then I absolutely think New Zealand has to be a safer place.”
[…] He added that police are working on how to take newly illegal guns off gang members and others who don’t give them up.
“Of course we’re not going to have people walking up to a collection point if you’re a gang member… and handing it across to police.”

When presented with evidence from Australia that a gun buyback will not make New Zealand safer, Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Clement disagreed and became overbearing in the TV interview.

[…] ACT leader David Seymour […] told Newshub […] it wouldn’t make New Zealanders any safer.

“People who are prepared to line up in the full public glare and hand in their firearms at below-market rates are not the people we should be worried about,” […]
His view is backed up by Australian homicide researcher Samara McPhedran. She told Magic Talk in June that gun buyback schemes don’t really achieve what officials think they will.
“Based on the Australian experience and international evidence, there is very little evidence to suggest the path New Zealand is taking, and the path that Australia took in the 1990s, has any real impact on public health and safety,” she said.

“That the people that tend to hand in guns aren’t the high risk people who tend to be involved with firearm violence.”

But Clement said it doesn’t matter who owns the guns now – as long as they exist, they’re a threat.


Clement is living in cloud cuckoo land. The kinds of people currently handing in their guns are not criminals so handing in their guns does not equal getting guns out of the hands of criminals. Clement tries to say that good guys with their guns securely locked away are part of the problem because sometimes criminals break into their homes and steal their firearms. It is a very weak argument indeed.

The vast majority of firearms in the hands of criminals are diverted from the legitimate fleet – in other words, they are stolen in burglaries.
“I’m not blaming gun owners for that – they have security, we have more determined criminals who are prepared to break in… and steal those guns. That’s the vast majority of guns that we find in the hands of criminals.”

Imagine if I said that because certain types of cars are often stolen and used for boy racing that the law-abiding owners should hand them in to ensure that they don’t end up in the hands of criminals.

I can tell you right now that every person handing in a gun to the police will take their nice fat wad of government cash down to the local gun store to buy a replacement gun or two.

Meanwhile, the bad guys who are the real danger to police and the public won’t hand them in at all.

Dear Aussies, Please Accept Our Apologies

I will never forget the Christchurch earthquake in February 2011. None of us will, of course. But one of the things that stands out in my mind was how quickly the USAR crew arrived from Australia. They were here by late afternoon, after the earthquake had struck just before 1.00pm. All I could think of that day was Thank You, Australia. You truly are, as always, our friends when we are in need.

That was over 8 years ago though, and it seems a lot has changed.

Australia’s policy to deport people who commit crimes to New Zealand – even when they’ve spent most of their lives living overseas – is “corrosive” to the relationship between the two nations, Jacinda Ardern said today, warning that it’s not an issue she’s intending to let go.

Once again, I am embarrassed by our naive prime minister. She has absolutely no rights here. Among the large number of Kiwis living in Australia, there are a significant number who are being or have been deported because they have committed serious crimes. I have heard all the sob stories about them not having a support network in New Zealand, but it makes no difference. Kiwis in Australia will always be deported if they commit crimes. A really good idea would be for them not to commit the crimes in the first place, but that doesn’t seem to occur to anyone, especially Jacinda Ardern.

“New Zealand absolutely accepts Australia is within its rights to deport those who engage in criminal activity in Australia,” she told media today.

Well, that is it then. Even Jacinda acknowledges that Australia is acting completely within its rights. If only she had left it there, then maybe the relationship would still be safe.

But no.

“However, there are examples on the more extreme end, where individuals have little to no connection at all to New Zealand, have grown up in Australia, and those are the cases we continue to raise with Australia at every level.”

She said Mr Morrison “knows I consider it to be corrosive to the relationship”. 

And you know what, Jacinda? Scott Morrison doesn’t give a damn if you think this is ‘corrosive’ to the relationship. You know why? Because nobody in New Zealand votes for him… and those people who do vote for him don’t want our criminals on their shores. Fair enough too.

The thing is that being the minnow in the relationship (or as is often said, being the ‘kid brother’), Jacinda is both stupid and naive to speak as arrogantly as she does. It puts our relationship with Australia in serious jeopardy. Australia can change the rules regarding residency to the detriment of thousands of Kiwis at the drop of a hat. Australia also does not have to constantly come to our aid as soon as we call. The fact that they do, every time, is a measure of the close ties between the countries. I don’t think we can take that attitude for granted though, as Jacinda so arrogantly does.

Ms Ardern added that many New Zealanders consider the policy “not fair dinkum”.


I have not met one single Kiwi that agrees with this statement, but I think that is probably because most of us respect Australia’s right to apply its own laws. Jacinda has no right to tell another sovereign country how they should treat foreign nationals who commit crimes in their country.

Nothing will stop her though. Punch drunk on her positive international image after the Christchurch massacre, she seems to think she has some divine right to tell everyone what to do. She doesn’t.

The good thing about this is that her true colours have been shown to the Australians, who, until now, have treated her with great reverence and respect. Reports coming out of Australia this weekend are not all complimentary to our dear leader.

So to all Australians (and I know there are a few who read this blog), please accept our apologies for our prime minister’s complete lack of international diplomacy and her self aggrandisement that lets her think that she can tell your country what to do. She may well completely wreck our close relationship, just like David Lange did to relations with the USA, and we will be out in the cold for decades. We really don’t want that.

I just hope that next time we have a major disaster where we need you guys to drop everything and come to our aid, that we have a proper prime minister by then… one that respects the sovereignty of your country and tries to work together with you, rather than split us apart.

For many of us in New Zealand, who have not fallen for the fairy dust she sprinkles around, that day cannot come soon enough. A few Australians can probably understand that now.

Female Athletes ‘Sent to the Back of the Bus’

The Pacific Games were held in Samoa this month. A biological man stood above two Pacific Island women on the podium. “With their silver and bronze medals, they were stony-faced. Feagaiga Stowers and Iuniarra Sipaia should have worn gold and silver.” Missing from the photo was Charisma Amoa Tarrant. Rightfully the third-place medal belonged to her but as blogger Daphna Whitmore has written, female athletes have been sent to the back of the bus and told to stop complaining.

For over two years voices have been raised about the unfairness to womenweightlifters competing against Laurel Hubbard, a former competitive male weightlifter.  Those voices have been ignored and shouted over. Women are told to stop being nasty and get to the back of the bus. 

[…] Gender ideology teaches that Hubbard’s win was a brave and wonderful thing. To the non-believers, Hubbard is a male-bodied athlete who should not compete against females.

Daniel Leo, a top NZ-born Samoan international rugby player, witnessing the travesty, has spoken up:

Daniel Leo


Our generation has allowed this to happen on our watch… is this what we want to be remembered for?

We must right this wrong before one of our daughters or sisters gets seriously hurt.

Come on Rugby… time to show we really care about our ladies! 

Dan Leo smashes head long into transgender athlete debate on Twitter

One of sport’s most hotly debated topics currently is transgender athletes competing in women’s sport. This subject was brought into sharp relief recently with former Wimbledon champion Martina…

696 people are talking about this

Leo cannot unsee the injustice and clearly will not be muzzled by the gender ideology clergy:

Daniel Leo


Please don’t patronise me with that “bigotry” BS. I have many friends and family who identify as Faafafine -among the most respected people in our Samoan & Pacific societies- who I love & who I stand up for in their struggle for equality.

This is not equality though. 

120 people are talking about this

Indeed,  Samoa fa’afafine (third gender) people compete in sports but they are in the male divisions. Fa’afafine don’t muscle into female divisions.

[…] Samoa’s prime minister has spoken up too: This fa’afafine or man should have never been allowed by the Pacific Games Council President to lift with the women,” he said. “I was shocked when I first heard about it.”

Is this just being cruel to transgender people who want to compete as women? Where does the line get drawn?  Should sportswomen turn the other cheek to accommodate the needs of transwomen? Is it a rare event? There are eight transgender players on Iran’s women’s national football team. There is your answer.

The rules which currently allow transgender athletes to compete in women’s divisions need to be changed. Samoa, a tiny Pacific island, is leading the conversation.