The Māori war effort at home and abroad 1917
- Date: Wednesday, 7 June, 2017
12.15pm to 1.15pm
Te Ahumairangi (ground floor), National Library, corner Molesworth and Aitken Streets
- Contact Details:
Space is limited, so book your spot by emailing email@example.com
Dr Monty Soutar discusses the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion
One hundred years ago in June 1917, the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion was toiling in the war torn environment around Messines in Belgium. The Pioneers had over a year’s experience as a mixed-race battalion (that is, Māori, Pākehā and Pacific Islanders) and before that as the Māori Contingent and Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment at Gallipoli.
This talk is based on a paper recently delivered at the Myriad Faces of War Conference at Te Papa. It invites the audience to contemplate the development of three processes and their results during 1917, so that they may understand the Māori situation after the First World War. The first is the reaction of Māori leaders to the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion’s casualties, which led them to focus more sharply on financial support for returning soldiers.
In parallel, after valuable work at Messines, the Pioneers had a name change and became known as the Māori Battalion. By the end of the year the unit had morphed into an almost wholly Māori organisation. What were the implications and impacts of becoming the Māori Battalion?
A third process, perhaps the most important in 1917, the Military Service Act was extended to include the conscription of Māori, “especially the Waikato tribe,” who the Minister of Defence claimed, “had not answered the call to enlist voluntarily.” This move had long-lasting consequences that dominated political activities after the war.
About the speaker
Monty Soutar (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Awa, Ngai Tai) is an historian with the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and World War One Historian-in-Residence at the Auckland War Memorial Museum; he specialises in Māori history. He has worked widely with iwi and Māori communities as demonstrated by his book Nga Tama Toa (Bateman, 2008), which told the story of the 28th Māori Battalion in the Second World War through letters, diaries and oral testimonies from over a hundred veterans and their wives. Next year (April) he publishes Whitiki, another major work about Māori in the Great War. Currently he is leading a digital project on Treaty of Waitangi Settlements in New Zealand.