Damnatio Memoriae

Captain James Cook is one of the most iconic figures of New Zealand history. He has featured in everything from novels and paintings to statues and Billy T. James sketches. His ship, the Endeavour, is on our fifty cent coin. Mount Cook is named after him, as is the Cook Strait; and so too are the towns of Marton and Whitby, after his birthplace and where he learned to sail respectively.

He was the first to map New Zealand in any great detail, and the first to completely circumnavigate it. Many of the place names he charted for our coastal features are still in use today. He was a war hero - having served in the Seven Years War – and was a renowned explorer.

The flag of Hawaii bears a Union Jack in memory of him. There is also a Mount Cook in Alaska, and two different space shuttles have been named after ships he commanded. There is a Cook Crater on the Moon. The Cook Islands, Cooktown, Cook Harbour, the Cook Mountains, Cooks Brook... there are dozens of places around the world (and beyond) bearing his name.

In 2002, Captain Cook was ranked as the 12th Greatest Briton by a BBC poll, ahead of Alfred the Great, the Duke of Wellington, Queen Victoria, Stephen Hawking and many other major historical figures.

The man is entirely worthy of praise and remembrance. Memorials and statues in his honour can be found from Yorkshire to Canada and Botany Bay to the beaches of Hawaii, and in our country from Christchurch to the Coromandel.

Sadly, those dregs who would see Captain Hamilton punished for his imagined sins are no more forgiving towards Captain Cook.

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The Gisborne District Council, acting at the beck and call of their apparent overlords the Ngati Oneone, has announced that the statue of Captain Cook atop Kaiti Hill, where the Captain made his first landing ashore in New Zealand in October 1769, will be removed from public display and stuffed away in a museum.

If you recall anything of the recent agitation against Captain Hamilton’s statue, the following might seem quite familiar to you. In 2016 the Kaiti Hill statue was attacked and defaced with red paint, with Maori demanding its removal. Today they have gotten their wish.

Note however that a mere 11% of the almost five thousand votes preferred actually removing the statue. The large majority of comments are in favour of the statue, and the only quotes against it are from Iwi activists, who are nothing more than opportunistic scroungers.

The same trend is continued in media articles referring to the statue’s removal. Only perennial members of the Maori Enrichment Brigade are quoted. Naturally, they all have such lovely lies to justify their hatred of the white man, and a simultaneous need to appropriate the white man’s belongings.

A ludicrous justification for the destruction of our heritage was given by a Gisborne councillor, Meredith Akuhata-Brown, who said that it was significant, because ‘James never climbed Titirangi… so for local iwi it’s been a massive disappointment that he’s maintained that space for as long as he has’.

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There is, of course, a reason he never climbed the hill: after Cook’s party landed on the shore a Maori, traditionally named as Te Maro, was shot as he attempted to throw a spear at the strangers who the tribesmen believed were gods.

The encounter was over very quickly; the bewildered Maori dragging away their dead kinsman, and the Europeans getting back into the boat and heading back to their ship to find a friendlier harbour.

This wasn’t some genocide, and if anything it was less severe than what the Maori themselves might have done in Cook's place. Utu blood-feuds and the many vicious wars and massacres that stemmed from them could be triggered by the mere suggestion that someone had insulted a chief. Had one Maori attempted to throw his spear at the chief of another tribe, more than the one man would have been killed.

The trouble-making Mrs. Akuhata-Brown has previously claimed that no less than nine Maori were killed on that day. Presumably the professional historians who wrote the accounts of Cook’s voyage were racists who wanted to minimise the infinite oppression the Maori race has suffered.

The Gisborne District Council, in its statement regarding the removal of the memorial, says that “Cooks Plaza will be upgraded so iwi stories and cultural design elements can be shared”. If these iwi stories are like those that Akuhata-Brown tells, they will most likely be completely lacking in both truthfulness and historicity, and be entirely intended towards the promotion of the Maori people above the European majority.

One wonders if we were to demolish a marae and build a replica of Buckingham Palace, to show 'Pakeha stories and cultural design elements'... No, best not to even complete that thought, lest the ‘Pirihimana’ come and take me away.

Councillor Akuhata-Brown in an apparently unironic comment said that this move will allow 'heritage stories' to be told from 'both sides'. As we all know, knocking the white child off the see-saw will result in perfect harmony. How removing the European portions of our nation’s heritage benefits both peoples is left to the public's imagination.

Akuhata-Brown also makes a slip when she says she wants an 'honest narrative'. Honesty is not so much the intention, but they certainly have the narrative down. Another Maori, iwi spokesman Barney Tupara, says that this will 'allow a more balanced version of historical narratives'. Hitting both of the same talking points Akuhata-Brown brought up in a single sentence.

The self-serving narrative that they would like to present is that Captain Cook was a monstrous imperialist who invaded Gisborne and killed six million Maoris, opening the door for all the evil pakeha to come in with their roads and schools and medicines and force the poor gentle natives to stop toiling in the mud, wearing skirts made out of grass, and eating each other.

Our true history – one which is less-than-flattering to Maori – is not something that they want you to know. As long as the majority of our people are unaware of our past, they can continue to make up lies about it. As long as people believe the lies, or refuse to push back against them, these iconoclasts will be able to use them as justification in their campaign to rewrite our history. When they have rewritten our history, we will have nothing to look back to for inspiration as they rewrite our future.

Don’t let our people be doomed to suffer damnatio memoriae. Remember Captain Cook as the brave explorer who journeyed to New Zealand; our genesis as a nation, the start of our history. Think of him on the open seas, seeking the land somewhere beyond the horizon, as you seek your own promised land.

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