Māori researcher Dr Leonie Pihama says the use of the term holocaust is an appropriate and valid description of the impact of colonial genocide on Māori. A Radio New Zealand panel featured Taranaki Māori academic Keri Opai using the word holocaust to describe colonisation for Māori. The NZ Jewish Council said his use of the term was “diminishing and trivialising of the Jewish Holocaust experience”. Dr Pihama says the NZ Jewish council are “basically incorrect” in their response. She states “The term holocaust refers to deliberate acts of genocide and ethnocide against groups of people, and that is exactly what occurred here in Aotearoa. There was a deliberate and planned process of colonisation that sought the extermination of our people. That is clear and well documented”.
United Nations conventions define genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group , as such: as killing members of the group;
(i) killing members of the group;
(ii) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(ii) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(iii) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(iv) forcibly transferring children of this group to another group
The definition of genocide by the United Nations is clearly one that reflects the experience of Māori people and there needs to be a greater awareness of the reality of the history of this country and of other Indigenous Nations. “There is clear historical evidence of acts of genocide that were undertaken by successive white settler Presidents in America. Hitler modelled many of his oppressive acts on the forced removal and murder of Native Amerian people and the imprisonment of thousands in concentration camps” states Dr Pihama.
Dr Pihama notes that Māori use of the term ‘holocaust’ should not be viewed as in any way diminishing the experience of Jewish people and others that were targeted by Hitler and Nazi Germany. She says clearly that Maori have always actively acknowledged that history and the impact of it. Dr Pihama explains “This is not about comparing experiences. The reference by Mr Opai is directed to the historical trauma and post traumatic stress experienced by our tupuna and generations of our people who continue to live with that impact on our own land”.
Professor Leonie Pihama (Te Atiawa, Ngati Mahanga, Nga Mahanga a Tairi) Director – Maori And Indigenous Analysis Ltd