New Zealand Map
Cook, James. A chart of New Zealand or the Islands of Aeheinomouwe and Tovypoenammu Lying in the South Sea. (1770).

The image I have selected to analyse is the map of New Zealand/Aotearoa drawn by James Cook as I believe it reflects western attitudes towards ‘others.’ First, it must be recognized that this idea of ‘The Other’ reinforces, “the notion that Europeans are superior to their ‘others’.” (O’Shaughnessy and Stadler, 403). It polarizes many different people and cultures by creating an ‘us and them’ attitude, white and black, European and non-European etc. By doing this, you remove any middle ground between people and refuse to recognize the similarities and commonalities between groups. In turn, this makes anything that is unknown into a frightening, distant and unrelatable thing.

When James Cook initially drew a map of New Zealand, he created an image or representation of land. However, many people take for granted the fact that how things are represented shape our attitudes towards them. Cook showed a group of land masses together and called them a country (which is also a socially constructed idea as borders and groupings as we know them, do not occur naturally.) This infers that the people across these islands are one and so share things such as ideologies. When this happens, colonialists are able to then treat all the inhabitants as the same and no longer acknowledges the diversity across the people. This becomes problematic with documents such as the Treaty of Waitangi/Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The treaty assumes that because a majority of indigenous people in a westernized idea of New Zealand signed it, it can be imposed on all and does not recognize or attempt to understand that different iwi have different needs. This is shown in a modern translation of the treaty which states that, “The Chiefs of the Confederation and all the Chiefs who have not joined that Confederation give absolutely to the Queen of England for ever the complete government over their land.” (Kawharu, 2).

In addition to this, the map did not show any iwi and so erased their existence as their occupation of the land is deemed so unimportant that it isn’t displayed. The act of mapping also erases nomadic groups who move from site to site as it displays their land as uninhabited which not only allowed for the stealing of land, but justified it as well. Also, most place names are colonial when there were already existing Maori names. This strengthens the previously discussed idea that Europeans are superior and that their idea of knowledge is better than that of an ‘other.’

I believe this idea of superiority is also displayed within the differences in translations between the Treaty of Waitangi and Te Tiriti o Waitangi. In the aforementioned quote, the word government is substituted with kawatanga. However, a better word would have been mana. “Mana is religious power, authority and ancestral efficiency… It is humanity’s greatest possession.” (Henare, 208). By having the Maori agreeing to a statement where they did not know the impact it would have, the Europeans made the assumption that they could govern the maori people better than they had done up until that point. This shows a lack of understanding by the Europeans of underlying principals such as Tikanga and Kaupapa which are respectively translated to, “… the right way of doing things.” And “ground rules, first principles, general principles.” (Marsden, 66). In doing this, the Europeans stripped Chiefs of their most valuable thing, mana.

Unfortunately, this eurocentric ideal is still ingrained in our current society. I think then, it is important to not only continue to educate ourselves on these issues, but to act on them when we see them.


Works Cited:

Henare, Manuka. “Tapu, mana, mauri, hau, wairua. A Maori Philosophy of Vitalism and Cosmos.” Indigenous Traditions and Ecology. The Interbeing of Cosmology and Community. John A. Grim, Havard University Press, 2001. pp. 197-221.

Kawharu, H. “The Treaty of Waitangi translated from Maori into modern English with notes.” Waitangi – Maori Pakeha Perspectives of the Treaty of Waitangi. Hugh Kawharu, Oxford University Press, 1989. pp. 319-321.

Marsden, M. “Kaupapa and Tikanga.” The Woven Universe: Selected Writings of Rev. Maori Marsden. Te Ahukaramu Charles Royal, Estate of Rev. Maori Marsden, 2003.

O’Shaughnessey, Michael and Stadler, Jane. “Ethnicity, Ideology, and the Media.” Media and Society – Fifth Edition. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2012. pp. 395-410.


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