Anniversary of Cook’s Arrival Marked with Debate

The British government have expressed “regret” that explorers killed some of the first Māori they met 250 years ago but stopped short of issuing a full apology.

British High Commissioner Laura Clarke met Māori tribal leaders in Gisborne as New Zealand marked the anniversary of the arrival of explorer Captain James Cook and his crew on board the Endeavour in 1769.

Clarke’s words held historical significance but fell short of the full apology that some had sought.

Shortly after the arrival of Cook and his crew, the group encountered armed Māori and believed they were under attack. Many scholars now believe the Māori were probably only issuing a ceremonial challenge.

The sailors shot and killed an important leader, Te Maro, and over the following days killed eight more Māori before a Tahitian priest managed to mediate between the sides.

The British High Commission said the exact wording of Clarke’s speech to Māori leaders would remain private, but that she would acknowledge the pain of those first encounters and extend her sympathy to the descendants of those killed.

In a Facebook video, Gisborne iwi Rongowhakaata described that first encounter: “After only being here for two hours, Cook and his crew had trespassed, terrorised, killed and stolen from us,” a narrator says.

New Zealand’s Race Relations Commissioner and former Gisborne mayor Meng Foon said Clarke’s words were another part of the reconciliation and relationship-building process.

“It’s not the end of the story,” Foon said of Clarke’s speech. “I believe future generations will demand an apology.”

Original article by Al Jazeera, October 2, 2019.

Tags: Al Jazeera  Captain James Cook  Meng Foon  Rongowhakaata  Te Maro  

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