Land loss in the 19th century
Much tribal land was lost in the 19th century. While some tribes willingly released some land, much land was taken against their will and the will of others. The New Zealand wars were followed by land confiscations, and the Native Land Court also facilitated the sale of land by transferring land titles from tribes and putting them into individual names. Iwi (tribes) made many attempts to halt this loss. The felling of forests and loss of land were a catastrophe for their traditional world view. The trees of the forest were a model for the tikanga or behaviour of a people, so their destruction was a calamity. The widespread loss of land meant the loss of foundation and stability, and of the centring, nurturing principle of Papatūānuku.
When the waves rolled in
The desperation felt in the 19th century was captured by Wi Naihera of Ngāi Tahu:
When the waves rolled in upon us from England, first one post was covered, then another till at last the water neared us and we tried to erect barriers to protect ourselves. That is we entered into agreement with those who purchased our lands from the Queen, but when the flood tide from England set in our barriers were cast down, and that is why you find us now, clinging to the tops of these rocks, called Native Reserves, which alone remain above water. 1
He likened the loss of land to its disappearance under the sea, an echo of the old mythological idea of land rising up from the sea.