A flotilla of ships including a replica of Captain James Cook’s Endeavour has arrived in New Zealand, meeting both celebration and protest. The Endeavour made its way into the town of Gisborne’s port on Tuesday as part of an event known as Tuia 250, which marks 250 years since first contact between the British and New Zealand’s native Maori.
New Zealand divided over history on 250th anniversary of Captain Cook’s arrival
Dozens of protesters were waiting for the Endeavour as it arrived into Gisborne, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, claiming that marking the beginning of British colonisation was offensive.
“For the Endeavour to be berthing in our waters at this time shouldn’t just be unsettling for Maori, it should be unsettling for everybody,” Marise Lant, who led the protest in Gisborne, told the ABC.
Demonstrators flew the red and black Maori Tino Rangatiratanga flag and claimed to have burned nine Union Jacks, representing the murders of nine Maori people at the hands of the Endeavour’s crew shortly after their arrival in 1769.
“We’re aiming to get people talking about the experiences of their ancestors, and particularly elevate the stories from the Maori perspective, which have been overshadowed by the European perspective to date,” Tamsin Evans, deputy chief executive of Tuia 250, told the ABC.
“Really it’s a conversation starter for the nation.”
During a visit to Gisborne over the weekend, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand needed to “talk about our history much more openly”.
“We were only really telling, I believe, 50 per cent of the story, and not always telling it well,” Ms Ardern said, as quoted by TVNZ.
The Endeavour replica, which is based at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney, left Australia in September.
James Cook celebrations 1970
The Maritime Museum offered packages costing between $1,450 and $9,730 to join the Endeavour’s voyage, promising the opportunity to “learn about New Zealand’s dual-heritage”.
The ABC contacted the Museum for comment.
The Tuia 250 Voyage will make various stops around New Zealand from October to December at what organisers call sites of “significant cultural and historical importance to both Pacific and European voyaging”, aimed at provoking “honest conversations about the past” in order to “navigate a shared future”.
The Endeavour is one of six main boats on the Tuia 250 along with two Maori double-hulled canoes known as waka hourua, a vessel from Tahiti, and other heritage European ships.
Announcing the vessels taking part in the flotilla earlier this year, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage chief executive Bernadette Cavanagh said the event would, “be so much more than simply focusing on what happened in 1769 when James Cook … and the Endeavour crew arrived in [New Zealand].”
“Tuia 250 acknowledges the stories from those first onshore encounters between Maori and Europeans, both good and bad, so we can learn about our history in a balanced and respectful way.”
In September, The Ngāti Kahu tribe banned the flotilla from landing in the town of Mangonui, which was later removed from the voyage by the ministry.
“For some of us, this is an awkward conversation to have,” local resident Matai Smith was quoted as saying by the Gisborne Herald, adding that Tuia 250 was an opportunity to “further educate the next generation”.
But Ms Lant, the protest organiser, said James Cook “doesn’t represent anything” for Maori people.
“He is part of our history that was forced on us, not one we wanted. I don’t have that closeness to Europe or Britain,” she said.
“It’s their right to celebrate whoever they want to. But unfortunately, my people believe we have a history with Captain Cook that doesn’t benefit us.”
Other Maori activists have said they intend to put Captain Cook “on trial” for crimes against indigenous people.
British High Commissioner for New Zealand Laura Clarke said last week, the UK “regretted” the deaths of Maori upon first contact, however stopped short of a full apology.
“I acknowledge the pain of those first encounters,” Ms Clarke said during a speech to Maori leaders.
“I acknowledge the deaths of nine of your ancestors … who were killed by the crew of the Endeavour.”
Next year, Australia will mark 250 years since James Cook’s first voyage to Australia in 1770.
The Federal Government will give $6.7 million to the Maritime Museum so the replica Endeavour can circumnavigate the country, stopping at 39 different spots along the way.