Poisoning our food is a time worn tactic

Some of my regular readers & correspondents will be aware of my art work being exhibited recently … (having just completed my Bachelor of Maori Visual Arts degree at Putahi a Toi, Massey). For those who are interested I’m posting my work here on the site because it concerns 1080 poison. 

(As good fortune would have it by the way, my two adult children, both artists in their own right,  were also exhibiting at the same time in the Te Manawa Gallery in Palmerston North. The recent feature article from the Manawatu Standard will give you the background to their work also. We were all interviewed as a trio. Unfortunately my daughter’s work is now gone, some of hers is in the newspaper article).

The theme of my work is poison, in particular 1080 & arsenic, which encapsulates the ongoing issues we are facing today … well at least those of us who are concerned about the toxic chemicals that we are involuntarily immersed in daily. These two poisons interweave throughout our history, and are only two of 280-300 active pesticide ingredients registered for use in NZ (read Dr Meriel Watts’ The Poisoning of NZ, p19). The poisoning of our food, our water, our people. The arsenic episode began in the nineteenth century with what was known as the NZ Government’s ‘Sugar & Flour’ policy, where non-selling Māori were targeted with aid in the form of flour mills and other ‘goodies’ to entice them to sell their land. Subsequently the flour became poisoned (as has happened & is documented in other colonized nations) to the extent in the Upper Whanganui River there was a notable decrease in the Māori population.  The poisoning was also discovered & documented by  missionary Rev Richard Taylor in his journals. You can read about it in David Young’s Woven by Water. It is also of course in the oral histories of the River & was spoken about in the Treaty hearings. Tariana Turia (former politician, co-leader of the Māori Party) also wrote about this in the Taranaki Star at the passing of Sir Archie Taiaroa, from the River. Sir Archie had wanted the stories to be made known, saying that Māori were forced to rely on flora and fauna to avoid being poisoned. My great uncle from the Whanganui River died of suspected poisoning. What a damning episode to the record of a so called ‘Christian’ nation. Civilizing so called ‘savages’? It is very clear who were the savages. And so it goes on today with the systematic dropping into our environment, the deadly ecotoxin called 1080.

On this theme I created an assemblage, after the work of indigenous Australian artist Tony Albert, detailing the current poisoning of our waterways and food by the aerial 1080 program operating here in Aotearoa (NZ). In my research on that I have seen testimony of concerned Whanganui people subject to aerial drops who saw incidences of miscarriages & cancer immediately after one. Like the cancer clusters around the cell towers, the authorities of course deny all of this. Dr Peter Scanlon (late) detailed that there have been little if any studies on the effects of 1080 on the unborn. Remember the post about how two midwives advised their pregnant patients to leave town when they heard of an imminent 1080 drop? I would certainly be erring on the side of safety & leaving also were I in their position.

Returning to the assemblage it contains images I’ve used with the permission of the donor* featuring the 2018 hikoi with Emile Leaf & Alan Gurdon. The basic message is … ‘Kāti te paitini haere i ā tātou kai!’ … ‘stop poisoning our food!’ It also features the assimilation drive of the colonists who desired land & and an eventual absorption of Māori into the white race. Well documented if you search … Angela Ballara’s ‘Proud to be White’ is a good start. The newspaper archives she cites speak volumes. Wiping out an ethnic group is technically called genocide however that is well nigh a dirty word in many circles today.

Below is the final gallery version.

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Te Kaupapa Here mō te Parāoa me te Huka | The Flour and Sugar Policy – Artist: Pam Vernon, Te Atihaunui-a-Pāpārangi

Description: Governor Grey’s 1840s policy of aid and education saw the provision of many flour mills in NZ including along the Whanganui River. Matahiwi’s Kawana mill was named after him. David Young records in Woven by Water (p 49-50) the rapid decline in population on the upper river and the alleged systematic poisoning of non-selling hapū there. The government policy therefore became known as the ‘sugar & flour policy’. Land alienation was further fast tracked via The Native Land Court, with depopulation of Māori occurring via land wars, the introduction of muskets and European diseases. Te reo Māori was banned in schools and the assimilation agenda continued into the twentieth century (the Hunn Report,1960).

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Part of the assemblage is this Biblical scripture taken from Matthew , translated it means: “…for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known” referring to the secret poisoning of Māori who would not sell their lands.

There is another scripture under the visible one (second ‘page’) that quotes Isaiah 26:21, “See, the Lord is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed on it; the earth will conceal its slain no longer.

The image below is also part of the assemblage detailing what a former NZ Premier John Ballance had to say about Māori. He was called a ‘nation builder’.

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John Ballance, dubbed a ‘nation builder’ is renowned for his quote “the only good Māori is a dead one” currently in place of  honour outside the Whanganui District Council buildings

The work below titled ‘Ekoruhe 20:13 | Exodus 20:13’  is an installation featuring three flour bags. I was told years ago by a kuia in our home town that the flour bags marked for poisoning had a red circle on them. I’ve taken artistic license to add red circles to the bag marked ‘paraoa’ (flour), although I am unsure how the red circle originally looked.

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Description: “Kaua e patu” (do not kill), are words from the Bible, the book brought here by the missionaries. Governor Grey’s Flour and Sugar policy was said to be partly an attempt to reduce Māori ‘rebellion’ against land acquisitions, targeting areas where he hoped to acquire land. With the alleged poisoning of Māori, they were forced to use their knowledge of flora and fauna to avoid death. Used globally to this day, the destruction of indigenous food sources on colonial fronts is a time-worn tactic. Currently, another poison is being dropped into our waterways, contaminating both our water & our wild food.

The work below titled ‘E Paitini ana i te Whenua me te Wai | Poisoning the Land & the Water’ speaks for itself.

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Description: For over 50 years, 1080 poison, a class 1A ecotoxin with no antidote, banned in most countries, has been dropped regularly onto NZ soil, currently at amounts of 4,000 tonnes per annum, enough to kill 60 million people. The Government recently changed legislation so that it can drop 1080 into the waterways without a resource consent, excluding the operation from Resource Management Act protection. A retired NZ Doctor recently warned that if you die from 1080 poisoning, nobody will know because Doctors are bullied by the MOH into not testing for it.

Below is the work titled E Paitini ana i ngā Manu | Poisoning the Birds. This also speaks for itself.

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E Paitini ana i ngā Manu | Poisoning the Birds, Artist: Pam Vernon
Te Atihaunui-a-Pāpārangi

Description: It’s claimed by DoC that 1080, a class 1A ecotoxin targets pests, however, originally an insecticide, 1080 kills all oxygen breathing animals and organisms (Dr M Watts 2010).  A 2002 Otago 1080 drop killed an estimated 10,000 non-target birds. Over 5 years, of 89 dead tagged kiwi in the Tongariro Forest, none were tested for 1080. In 1984 Brodifacoum exterminated Tawhitinui Island’s entire weka population.

The bird image is from a carved kōkako from Te Keepa Te Rangihiwinui’s house, Huriwhenua, at Ranana on the Whanganui River. It’s speculated it may symbolize the raven sent forth from Noah’s ark (David Young, Woven by Water).

Finally is the work titled St Joseph’s Church & Convent at Hiruhārama. Hiruhārama is on the Whanganui River, home of the pictured Catholic mission presence and Sister Aubert.

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St Joseph’s Church & Convent at Hiruhārama . Artist: Pam Vernon
Te Atihaunui-a-Pāpārangi

Description: Patiarero on the Whanganui River was re named Hiruhārama (Jerusalem) by missionary Reverend Richard Taylor in the 1850s, as were many other Whanganui River settlements. In 1892, Suzanne Aubert (known as Mother Mary Joseph) established the congregation of the Sisters of Compassion, a charitable and religious order, where they cared for abandoned children. Their presence is still there today.

(Thanks to the Sisters of Compassion for permission to use their photograph).
Thanks also to Rere Tihema for the use of his protest images.


The exhibition will remain up until February so if you are in the Palmerston North area over the holiday break you can see it at Te Manawa.

Link to Standard article: https://www.stuff.co.nz/manawatu-standard/lifestyle/109022748/an-artistic-family-shows-their-work-under-the-same-roof?fbclid=IwAR0H6uwgw44-6bqfcvA3thQzKQRv31Zh9_BryTCWMEloo_eYnuLWA8SVJjw


 

I acknowledge especially my kaiako at Putahi a Toi Massey from whom I’ve learned so much. My learning is a journey that’s still in progress.


And finally, a correction regarding the Standard article. This is just a misunderstanding & was not intentional. I whakapapa to the River through my father’s side (see ‘about the author’ at the main menu) … I am unsure of our marae. It could well be Patiarero  (going by my research) however the article reads as though we do come from there. Apologies.

 

14 thoughts on “Poisoning our food is a time worn tactic”

  1. Tena koe e Pam , I was searching for this issue on Google and found your korero. I wish I could share this but I cant!! I’m researching my Whanganui tupu na and wanted to find more detail about this. Great article

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    1. Tena koe C Ham. Glad you found my korero, You are welcome to share it. Is there a problem with that? … if you like I can send you the links I found in my own research for this. They’re not necessarily in the article. Just use the contact form.

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  2. stunning work Pam. I thought that the flour and sugar were naturally poisonous enough without anything added to them, this adds another layer of toxicity. Do you know what they used?

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  3. Flour and sugar are not a policy I was aware of. But then I am an immigrant that has been here only 1/2 a century. What an enlightening display! Is this not taught in schools? Not for hatred and revenge but for balance.

    Enlightening indeed.

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    1. Hi Joe, no most would not be aware of that policy & ‘policy’ is loosely applied there. It just became known as that. And the fact you never heard of it is not surprizing … the victors write our histories s the saying goes, particularly it would seem British histories. Very much cover up I have found in my research. And also, no definitely not taught in schools. Stories like this are generally in the oral histories only which IMO makes for much of the misunderstanding between peoples because when told, they aren’t believed. Carly Thomas who wrote the Standard article asked the exact same question as she had never heard of the poisoning of the flour either. I believe we need to tell the stories for as you say balance… like, let’s get the record straight. I’ve already been called a liar for telling this story. That is what we’re up against. Thanks for your thoughts Joe, always appreciated. (BTW sometimes immigrants know more than the locals lol!).

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  4. Congratulations Pam…..profoundly moving….
    And how special to exhibit with your children…well done …..and thank you for all you contribute in so many ways. Blessings..

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