Classroom ideas - go-betweens

This page broadly outlines how the material on the go-betweens could be used by teachers and students in social studies and history. It is part of a section on pre-1840 contact and when used in conjunction with other features from this category will provide users with a concise summary of the pre-1840 period. This category examines the European exploration of New Zealand, contact between Maori and those who sought to profit from involvement with New Zealand, and the humanitarian interest taken by the Christian missionaries. All of this set the context for the British decision to formally enter into a treaty with Maori in 1840.

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An important feature of early contact in New Zealand was the role of people who acted as go-betweens or intermediaries, bridging the gap between the two cultures. Sometimes they were referred to as Pakeha–Maori or kaiwhakarite. Intermediaries helped smooth the way in terms of trade. Maori women who lived with European men, either as wives or in purely sexual relationships, offered a form of protection as Maori were less likely to attack if women were present.

For many Maori during this period, contact with Europeans was still rare. This reflected both the regional and seasonal nature of early trade and business ventures. Whalers, for instance, tended to arrive between November and April. While conflict did occur, it tended to be the exception rather than the rule.

During this time Sydney became an important part of the New Zealand story. Much of the European influence here ‘was strained through Sydney first’.  Sydney received the bulk of New Zealand’s early trade and was the most visited overseas destination for Maori.

Social studies

'Culture and heritage' and 'Time, continuity and change' are two strands that are supported by this feature. Go-betweens helps set the context for any study of the Treaty of Waitangi or early contact in New Zealand as it examines the impact of the spread of new ideas, the effects of cultural interaction and the impact of contact on people's lives.

NCEA Level 3 history

Those who acted as go-betweens during this period were generally motivated by profit. Pakeha–Maori realised the wisdom of establishing good relations with Maori, while Maori were also aware of the potential benefits of establishing relationships with Europeans. Women were used as a way of attracting and keeping a Pakeha in the community and therefore ensuring contact with other Europeans. As hapu and iwi sought to gain an advantage over their rivals, acquiring a European trader became a matter of mana as much as economics. On a day-to-day basis these intermediaries played an important role in bridging the gap between the cultures, and their story is an important part of pre-1840 contact. This feature provides students with a context in which to prepare for the following achievement standards:

  • 3.4: Examine a significant decision made by people in history, in an essay.
  • 3.5: Examine a significant historical situation in the context of change, in an essay.
  • 3.3: There are numerous excellent historical sources relating to whalers and sealers that can be used as practice for final assessment.

For more detail of specific activities relating to this period, go to Pre-1840 contact activities – NCEA Level 3 history.

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