Classroom ideas - sealers and whalers

This page contains a broad outline as to how the material on Sealers and Whalers 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 as well as the contact with those who sought to make profit from contact with New Zealand through to 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.

The hunt for seals and whales attracted Europeans of all descriptions to New Zealand in the closing decade of the eighteenth and opening decades of the nineteenth centuries. Their ability to exploit the resources New Zealand had to offer was dependent on reaching a satisfactory understanding with Maori who were often needed to supply local knowledge, food, resources, companionship, labour and most importantly safety. This was a Maori world and European traders were there on Maori terms.

While this period is sometimes referred to as the race relations apprenticeship, it must be remembered that 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. The whalers usually arrived between November and April. While conflict did occur it tended to be the exception not 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 and History programmes

Whether as the basis for carrying out an investigation of a significant historical event or place through to the examination of a significant historical situation during a period of great change this topic represents a meaningful context or case study for social studies and history teachers at all levels.

For more detail of specific activities relating to this period go to Pre-1840 contact activities- NCEA History Level 3

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