Two hundred years ago, New Zealand was colonised by a technologically advanced race of aliens: the Pakeha.
Absurd though it may seem, these explorers were, in a sense, from another world. Over hundreds of years, the Maori had developed social structures, customs, values and attitudes in isolation, and although there was evidently some contact with other Pacific peoples, little could prepare them for the alien world of the Europeans. Yet this is not to say that the Pakeha came without warning: Europeans had been charting New Zealand waters for well over a hundred years before coming to live alongside Maori. Although successive waves of whalers, traders and missionaries significantly changed Maoridom in just a few decades (e.
g, the emergence of a sex industry), it was neither eradicated nor assimilated. Maori-Pakeha contact was a rapid series of events, but not a “fatal impact”. The most basic feature of Maori-Pakeha contact was trade.
Although trading was at its peak during the 1830’s,Maori and Pakeha had begun exchanging goods and services, such as food, fresh water, sex, and metal fish-hooks, at the time offirst contact. Europeans wished to harness New Zealand’s natural resources, such as whaling for oil, sealing for skins, and timber logging for shipbuilding . In return, Maori were keen to obtain the new technologies, tools and foods the Europeans brought with them. The revisionist historians Belich and Binney cite such trading as examples of acculturation; in other words, Maori actively selecting knowledge, goods and skills to enrich their own lives. This is true to an extent.
However, it is also true that European “civilisation” influenced Maori society. European clothing became popular among Maori, simply because it enhanced one’s mana (indicating European contact). Like any consumer, Maori were active decision-makers, but were also influenced by “the latest fashions from Europe”…