A Cultural Misunderstanding

March 4, 2020, Bay of Islands, New Zealand.

After our ride with Geoff I checked out the boat tours of the island.  Holland America offered such a tour in the morning; it costs about $80 and lasts for 2hours.  I looked into booking it but it was sold out.  That was good for me.  When the boat comes back from the cruise ship tour, what does it do?  Well, the operators try to find some other people to take out.  In the afternoon we and several people both from the cruise ship and some independent travelers took the boat, a bright red inflatable with amazingly comfortable seats, for a tour that lasted about — 2 hours.  In stead of $80 a piece it cost us $70 for the two of us.  This is a trick I learned from earlier cruises.  When the ship’s tour is over you can often get the same tour in the afternoon for less.  And when we were done the boat took us directly to the ship’s tender dock before taking the others back to Paihia.  (The tender pulls into Waitangi, which is not a town but is close to the treaty grounds, Paihia is the town, about a 10-minute bus ride from Waitangi.) 

The boat took us to Russell to pick up some other passengers.  Russell is across the bay from Paihia and is the old capital of New Zealand.  Then we cruised the bay of islands visiting, paying visits to Motuarohia Island (Roberton Island) and Urupukapuka Island. 

At Motuarohia we stopped for a little over 20 minutes.  This is one of the islands where Captain James Cook made landfall in Endeavour in 1769.  It didn’t go well.  Several markers interpret how badly the meetings went.  On one occasion the Maori gave some of Cook’s men fish.  A day or so later the same Maori took a buoy from Endeavour.  The English thought it was theft while the Maori viewed it as part of the custom of ‘’reciprocal giving” or “koha” and reacted violently.  In another incident on this beach the Maori greeted the English with a Haka dance, it is a fierce dance with foot stomping, hand slapping ending with the line of dancers making fierce faces and sticking their tongs out at the opposing line.  The custom was that after the Haka the visitors withdraw a short distance and the dancers then invite them to come onto the island.  Cook’s men misunderstood, fires muskets at the Maori, the ship hearing the musket fire shot a cannon over the heads of the dancers.  As I said, it didn’t go well.  Complete cultural misunderstanding on both sides. 

Last year a replica of Endeavour circled New Zealand to commemorate 250 years since the Cook landings.  Maori protested this.  The head of the Northern Ngati Kahu tribe told Radio New Zealand “He was barbarian.” Where he went murder, rape and abductions followed.  “He didn’t discover anything down here.”  The tribe objected to the use of euphemisms like encounters and meetings to describe what was an invasion, according to an article in the Guardian that I read before coming here.

Whatever your views of Cook, and mine may be a little more benign, the island is beautiful, and we enjoyed getting our feet wet on the beach, looking at the two lagoons, the small things in the sand and the movement of the water before going out to our red inflatable and heading for the ship.

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