A new seven-part video series explores what it means to be Pākehā, 250 years after Captain Cook’s arrival in New Zealand.

Pākehā New Zealanders need to take their colonial guilt and turn it into action, say subjects in a new online video series Land of the Long White Cloud.

A range of Pākehā share their experiences and insights in the seven-part series, funded by NZ On Air and screening on nzherald.co.nz.

Their message is that there will be no easy absolution from the behaviour of Pākehā in the past.
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Former New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd sets the tone, saying: "My ancestors came here. We took over. We murdered and plundered. We set up an agreement to try and work together and ignored that, because you try to give yourself permission about the past: 'Don't blame me, I didn't take the land. I didn't stop the language. It's not my fault.' What I've done is maintain my privilege by ignoring the past."

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Author Juliet Batten says, "It takes strength to go past guilt and maybe it's helpful to realise it's a self-indulgent excuse in a way. It's good to be guilty when you first find out, but to see it as a stage and not stay there, and to change from guilt to responsibility."

Land of the long white cloud documentary series Cook Legacy (top, from left) Juliet Batten, Zeb Schrader, Alex Hotere-Barnes, Jo Randerson (bottom, from left) Ensai August, Tom Clarke, Jen Margaret, Andrew Judd
Land of the long white cloud documentary series Cook Legacy (top, from left) Juliet Batten, Zeb Schrader, Alex Hotere-Barnes, Jo Randerson (bottom, from left) Ensai August, Tom Clarke, Jen Margaret, Andrew Judd

The series stems from the controversy over the Ministry of Culture and Heritage's $23 million Tuia 250 Encounters fund to commemorate Captain Cook's arrival in New Zealand.

The decision sparked outrage, particularly among Māori, given the mass bloodshed that followed Cook, and the lasting, detrimental impact on Māori.

Two-hundred and fifty years since Cook's arrival, Māori make up 51.3 per cent of the prison population, have lower life expectancy and poorer health outcomes than Pākehā, and are about half as likely as Pākehā to own their own home.

The ministry responded that the commemorations, which run until December, wouldn't be a blinkered celebration but would provide an opportunity to discuss the impact of colonisation for Māori and address its ongoing issues.

Land of the Long White Cloud explores how Pākehā New Zealanders feel about their heritage and seeks to address their feelings towards it.

Kathleen Winter, the Pākehā filmmaker behind the series, says she wanted to find ways to move the conversation forward in a productive way - turning guilt into action.

The first episode provides an overview of the six personal stories that follow. Subjects include Wellington-based Treaty of Waitangi educator Jen Margaret, who was proud of her ancestors' positive relationship with Māori, until she learned that her great-great-grandfather's land was stolen from local iwi.

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Actor Tom Clarke, who plays Captain Cook in a walking tour of Wellington.
Actor Tom Clarke, who plays Captain Cook in a walking tour of Wellington.

Former New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd looks at the local referendum on his council's Māori ward seat and the overwhelming lack of community support for it and actor Tom Clarke mulls over colonisation as he makes a theatrical walking tour of Wellington dressed as Captain Cook.

Winter's previous work also investigated social issues. Last year she created Minimum, a documentary series for RNZ that told the stories of women living on minimum wage. Winter says that when she first heard about the Tuia 250 commemorations she felt "disappointed that in 2019 we are still upholding historical myths of the 'founding' of Aotearoa by Europeans - myths that gloss over the realities of the brutality of colonisation."

Winter says she chose the subjects in the documentary because they all had the "ability to be vulnerable and honest, which is the only way to tell a good story and reflect on such a challenging subject."

She says that making a series for Pākehā by Pākehā has at times been difficult to defend but "we are purposefully being guided by the mahi and analyses of Māori, without asking them to do more work to communicate with Pākehā."

She hopes that Pākehā who view the series will "realise the impact they can make by speaking up and speaking out - especially to each other. I hope that Pākehā will push through their own anxieties around racism and join those who are taking action against colonial structures of power."

Watch all the episodes at nzherald.co.nz/captaincook