The following article by Adelia Ferguson was published in the NZ Herald on 25th March 1996. It is reproduced with permission, and acknowledgement.
Sailing into New Zealand race relations was a shock for the Australian crew of the Endeavour. Until late last year the closest most of them had got to understanding Maori culture was watching an All Black haka.
They were ill-prepared for the mixture of welcome and protest they got in New Zealand. Although the people in charge realised the visit of a replica of Captain James Cook's ship would probably spark some discussion they were stunned by the level of dissension they found.
It all started out well. The Australians watched in wide-eyed wonder as a handful of Maoris stood in the rain in Sydney to farewell the ship on her way to Auckland.
To the New Zealanders on board it was a pleasant yet run-of-the-mill ceremony. What was surprising was the total absence of Aboriginal culture.
The Australian fascination with Maori tradition grew as the ship sailed across the Tasman Sea. The two Maoris on board, Auckland student Graham Tipene of Ngati-whatua and Gisborne policeman Constable Craig Peerless of Ngati-raukawa, were constantly being asked to explain themselves.
The attention was wearying and Constable Peerless admitted he felt like a performing seal.
Nevertheless, he took his cultural ambassador's job seriously and lined the crew up daily to practise the haka they would perform in Auckland.
The Australians loved the novelty of the haka and performed it all over the ship but it was the reaction of the Pakeha New Zealanders on board which was the most surprising.
Seeing an aspect of their country treated as a sideshow nudged a sense of national pride and their hakas contained a dignity the Australians could not copy.
The romance fell away in Auckland. Within hours of arriving to a Ngati-whatua welcome the ship was being told to keep out of Poverty Bay.
The Endeavour Foundation was taken by surprise. The chief executive, America's Cup veteran Mr John Longley, thought he had done the right thing by seeking in advance the blessing of all tribes in the ports the ship would visit and was stunned to hear Te Runanga O Turanganui a Kiwa say she was not welcome at Gisborne.
He flew to Gisborne and spent hours discussing the issue with the runanga (council). He even appeared on television saying the Maori welcome in Auckland was one of the most moving experiences of his life.
Days later in Auckland the ship was boarded by a group of noisy protesters, led by the Moutoa Gardens activist Mr Ken Mair and the Rev Eru Potaka-Dewes.
By now Mr Longley and Captain Chris Blake were getting edgy and while they were happy to talk to the group they did not actually take them below.
The police maintained a tight presence for the rest of the ship's stay in Auckland and the ship's watches were doubled. For the crew, used to being toasted wherever they went, hearing people say their ship should be burned to the waterline was hard to take.
The tension remained for the six weeks the ship sailed around the North Island. The ship was not burned or rejected by any of the tribes in the ports she visited but the Australian crew began to realise that the hakas were real challenges and not cultural shows put on for their entertainment.
Mr Longley acknowledges that visiting New Zealand has changed him. While he no longer has such a rose-tinted view of Maori culture he has instead gained some understanding of the complexities of race relations in this country.
This new insight has given him a different view of his own country. When back in Australia recently for the launching of a project to build another ship he noted the lack of Aboriginal content in the ceremony.
"I probably wouldn't have really noticed that before," he said.
But while the Endeavour's visit to New Zealand might have raised the cultural awareness of the all-white Australian crew, was it good for New Zealand?
The ship was brought here to raise awareness about Captain James Cook and his voyages. Although most New Zealanders had a fairly good knowledge of his visits their role in our history had never really been debated.
The debate which followed the Endeavour replica teetered on the edge of becoming a row over the presence of Europeans in this country. At times it almost slipped into that, as Maori radicals and redneck Pakehas exchanged insults on the wharves and in the letters columns of newspapers.
But through it came some voices of reason, such as those of Pakeha academic Dame Anne Salmond and Ngati-hei elder Mr Peter Johnston.
They pleaded for an honest look at what happened between Cook and his men and the tribes of New Zealand. On the beach at Anaura Bay, on the East Coast, Dame Anne warned against the dangers of using history to parade prejudices.
Cook was not a great white hero here to save savages nor the harbinger of white colonisation, she said.
There had been moments of great respect and friendship between the Endeavour crew and Maoris and it was these that should be followed.
In welcoming the Endeavour replica to Whitianga in the same way his ancestors welcomed the original ship, Mr Johnston said that a member of his tribe had been killed by Cook's men but the hapu did not seek retribution.
The arrival of Europeans had brought hardships but it had also brought benefits and this should not be forgotten, he said.
As the Endeavour sails away from New Zealand her crew can say that they did raise awareness of New Zealanders about Cook, even if it was not in the way intended.
The thousands of people who visited the ship have some understanding of the magnitude of Cook's voyages, while people who listened a bit harder have learnt a little about early race relations.
From information supplied by Norman Wansbrough
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 1302, volume 19, number 3 (1996)
your email address will not be published