Endeavour replica reveals racism

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

A petition opposing a replica of the Endeavour coming to Aotearoa for the Tuia Encounters 250 commemorations is being shared online. The replica is part of a flotilla that will voyage around Aotearoa marking 250 years since the first encounters between Māori and Pākehā.

The Endeavour is coming back to Gisborne, but a petition to stop it has over 1000 signatures.

The petition states that, "The discussions we have ahead of us as a nation require honesty, compassion and sensitivity. For many communities - the return of the Endeavour is anything but healing - it is hurtful, unsafe and unnecessary. It creates contexts for re-entrenching hurtful colonial fictions that underpin racism in Aotearoa. It forces us to relive painful events in a way that will not always lead to healing. It wrongfully equates British imperial expansion with Polynesian navigation in a way that avoids the harmful impacts of imperial expansion in Aotearoa and the Pacific."

One local Gisborne person says, “I just think we all need to grow up as a country and become one, and stop looking at who's done what and who has what and just grow.”

Another local Gisborne resident says, “They're entitled to their opinion, they'll probably looking at it from how their culture or the Māori version has been misrepresented in the past.”

Aubrey Ria is tangata whenua in Tūranganui a Kiwa and descends directly from the original inhabitants of the region, who date back over 500 years before the arrival of Europeans.

“For a long time, my people, the tribes of this region, have been asking for an apology from the government, from those who strongly support this individual called Cook, but we're still waiting," she says.

When the Endeavour first landed in Gisborne in 1769, local chief Te Maro was killed. He was a great cultivator and renown gardener who fed the many tribes of the Tūranganui a Kiwa area. 

Ria says accurate histories are still being overlooked in Aotearoa.

“For a long time, Te Maro has been remembered merely as the person who was shot by Cook's soldiers, most people aren't aware that he was a chief among our people."

Meanwhile, the Gisborne Herald is being scrutinised for publishing a selection of opinion pieces responding to the petition that have been labelled as ignorant and racist.

One writer says, "Don't be such hypocrites. Hand back your cars, house, mobile phone, your fridge, TV, computers, in fact everything that modern civilisation has given you. It's not about Captain Cook. What happened after his visit is not Cook's fault. Accept, as people are trying to do, and move on.  If it wasn't Cook, it could have been the Japanese, or Vikings, or Germans or Chinese. We should think ourselves lucky."

A media and broadcasting veteran, Ria says, “Regarding the letters, ignorance is ignorance, but in terms of the editor it's an appalling act to us the people of Tūranganui a Kiwa. Perhaps, it's just stirring the pot in the community with those opinions that, as you say, reside under the surface, but what's the point?”

Te Ao asked the Gisborne Herald about the 'nom de plume' bar that the newspaper would ordinarily employ in cases where it is being asked to print opinion pieces by those wishing to conceal their identity. The editor of the newspaper revealed that the bar was lowered on this occasion because the group behind the petition is anonymous and that printing a page three lead article about the petition invited commentary that could be anonymous too.

A writer under the name "Thundaga" says, "The Endeavour's re-arrival won't rekindle fears of imperialism and colonialism in the community. This is nothing but political correctness gone insane - a small, vocal minority demanding everything go their way."

Ria says, “Don't allow the disparaging thoughts of those who hide their names, what's the point in that? Those are the keyboard warriors we see on Facebook. Should Facebook be the standard for our newspapers? No.”

However, Ria says there may still be positive outcomes from Tuia250.

“We can use Tuia250 as a platform to tell our own stories and our own histories pertaining to our ancestors,” she says.

The Tuia250 commemorations will take place in October.