In 1869, there were around 2,000 Chinese in New Zealand. Many were gold miners, but some people ran shops and hotels, like this one in Round Hill in Southland. Photo / Southland Museum and Art Gallery.
The New Zealand Chinese experience is unique and important – the new history curriculum cannot ignore it, writes Manying Ip for The Conversation.
The news of a revised New Zealand history curriculum has been well received by many, including me as a historian and someone who has worked closely with high schools and the education sector. .
In particular, it seemed like an opportunity to broaden the scope of the history taught, including the important stories of the migrant and refugee communities of Aotearoa.
In its current form, however, the Department of Education’s consultation paper on history curricula falls short.
In view of the fact that the draft program proposal is intended to be “a framework” for “setting directions” and not a detailed prescription, certain aspects of it are nevertheless of deep concern – notably the invisibility of Chinese history. .
With the public consultation process coming to an end on May 31, it is essential to fill this gap.
Other New Zealand stories
The aim of history teaching should be to enable learners to think critically about the past. This enables them to understand the present and deal with the complexities of the future.
History is an interpretation of past events as fully and impartially as possible. The sound history must have accuracy and integrity.
Rightly, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, as the founding document legitimizing the relationship between Maori and the Crown, is at the heart of the draft program.
However, there is little mention of the Tauiwi, the many communities who have come to call Aotearoa home, but who do not identify as Maori or Pākehā.
The Chinese as “ others ”
I write from the experience of researching and writing New Zealand Chinese history. The Chinese have been in Aotearoa in New Zealand for almost 180 years and have never been part of the binary framework of the colonizers and the colonized.
They were itinerant workers brought to the Otago gold fields and subjected to a series of anti-Chinese laws from 1881. The Chinese could not apply for naturalization from 1908, they could never be citizens. British subjects nor be represented by the Crown.
Neither Pākehā nor Māori, the Chinese are still labeled “others”.
Relegated to the margins of society, they had no say in national policies and could not expect even the most basic of rights, from juvenile accident compensation and family reunification to health care.
They were the only ethnic group to pay a £ 100 city tax for entry and had to be thumbprinted on arrival and departure. Many of the arbitrary policies targeting the Chinese have been applied to Chinese born in the country, confirming that they relate to race and not nationality.
Governor George Gray fostered the development of New Zealand as “the best Britain in the South Pacific” and successive New Zealand governments have continued to build a white nation.
Chinese immigration was strictly controlled by tonnage ratios, quota systems, voting taxes, and an English test. From the 1860s to the 1950s, the Chinese suffered enforced family separation in the interest of this unofficial white New Zealand policy.
A story of suspicion
Welcoming and treating the Chinese as a community is an interesting social barometer for New Zealand as a whole.
In the era of relative abundance after World War II, New Zealand took in refugees and orphans from many parts of war-torn Europe. During this period, a few hundred Chinese women and children who escaped the Japanese occupation of China in 1939-40 were allowed to remain in New Zealand.
This modest group formed the nucleus of the New Zealand Chinese community, and the Chinese eventually became families instead of cohorts of singles.
The arrival of the “new Asians” after 1987 was a wake-up call for all concerned. They seemed a long way from the discreet, docile and polite Chinese New Zealanders.
Auckland suburban newspapers ran a sensational two-page article on “The Inv-Asian” in 1993. In 2006, “for thinking New Zealanders” magazine North & South ran an article called “Asian Angst : Is it time to send some dos? “
A program for all New Zealanders
The proposed program risks continuing this unfortunate legacy of treating Chinese New Zealanders as perpetual migrants, a label that is not applied to the British who settled in Aotearoa.
A strong history curriculum should ensure that all New Zealand children see history as a truly relevant subject. It must be everyone’s story. The links of non-Pākehā, non-Maori history must be made within the framework of national history.
The relationship between the Chinese (as the most distinctive, “unwanted” or “despised” immigrant group) and the Maori (as tangata whenua) is arguably the most essential relationship to be exposed.
The draft program proposal does not specifically recognize the diversity of New Zealand society past or present. Without meaningful and explicit advice on the history of the many diverse communities that inhabit Aotearoa, the risk is that they and their children will not identify with their country’s history.
And that will make it all the more difficult to see themselves as an important part of their country’s future.
Manying Ip is Emeritus Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Auckland.
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This notice was published: 2021-05-26 21:04:25