To: Mykeljon Winckel
Editor, Franklin E Local
Kia ora Mykeljon,
I was interested to see an anonymous article called ‘An Unpalatable Truth’ in the latest issue of your magazine Franklin E Local. (1) The article suggests that a series of European peoples, most notably the Celts, settled New Zealand thousands of years ago. According to the article, these ancient settlers were peaceful folk who lived happily for many centuries before being conquered by Polynesian invaders who were the ancestors of the Maori. The ‘savage’ Polynesians supposedly ate all the Celtic men, made the Celtic women into sex slaves, and stole the wood and greenstone carvings the Celts had created.
According to ‘An Unpalatable Truth’, evidence of the existence of the original white settlers of New Zealand is being suppressed by a conspiracy of government officials, academics, museum workers, and Maori. You accompanied ‘An Unpalatable Truth’ with an editorial which enthusiastically endorsed the article, and which demanded that New Zealand history ‘be known without political bias’.
I have a PhD in Sociology, I have a research interest in New Zealand history (amongst other things), and I worked until recently at Auckland museum – I suppose, then, that I must be a member of the vast conspiracy that is stopping the truth about New Zealand history being told! It is disconcerting to be accused of such a serious crime, so I hope that you’ll forgive me for explaining why I think the charges that your magazine has brought are not only false but malicious.
Imaginary Celts and real Nazis
When a piece of writing makes sweeping accusations against a host of targets, then readers are entitled to know the identities of its authors. Although ‘An Unpalatable Truth’ is unsigned, a note at the bottom of the article instructs readers to go to the Celtic New Zealand website ‘for more information’. I am familiar with the people responsible for the Celtic New Zealand website, and ‘An Unpalatable Truth’ certainly looks like their work. I recognise their phraseology, and the illustrations that accompany the article seem to have come straight from their site.
The owner of the Celtic New Zealand site is Martin Doutre, an American ‘astro-archaeologist’. Doutre, who has no academic training in either astronomy or archaeology, is the author of a self-published book called Ancient Celtic New Zealand, which purports to show that the stones left lying about in the craters of One Tree Hill, Mt Mangere and other Auckland landmarks were arranged by ancient Celts so as to help them make astronomical observations. (2)
Doutre’s interests extend beyond archaeology and astronomy. He is an enthusiastic member of the 9/11 ‘Truth’ movement, which denies that Osama bin Laden’s followers were responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. In a 2002 article called ‘Pentagon 9/11’, Doutre argues that a missile hit the Pentagon, rather than an aeroplane. (3) Doutre’s article suggests that the attacks on the Pentagon and on the Twin Towers were the work of a sinister international conspiracy designed to create chaos.
Doutre thinks that the same conspiracy is at work in New Zealand, suppressing the history of the Celts who supposedly settled here thousands of years ago. In an article called ‘Forbidden History – Covered Up!’, Doutre claims that ‘ancient control freak’ organisations run this conspiracy. (4) ‘Forbidden History – Covered Up!’ was published on a website called 100777.com, which identifies conspiracies by Jews and Jewish-owned banks and businesses as the cause of many of the world’s problems.
Doutre himself has enjoyed warm relations with two well-known neo-Nazis. He has maintained a friendly correspondence with David Irving, the neo-Nazi pseudo-historian whom courts in Britain and Austria have found guilty of denying the Holocaust. In a letter which is reproduced on Irving’s personal website, Martin Doutre offered the disgraced neo-Nazi help with his ‘research’ into World War Two. (5)
Doutre also maintains a friendship with Kerry Bolton, who is perhaps New Zealand’s best-known neo-Nazi. Bolton joined the fascist Nationalist Workers Party in 1977, and has been active in extreme right-wing politics ever since. In 1980 he founded the Church of Odin, a group which blended far right politics with bastardised versions of the pre-Christian Norse and Celtic religions. Jews were forbidden to join the church. More recently Bolton has been involved with the Nationalist Alliance, a coalition of neo-Nazis created to contest this year’s elections. Members of the Nationalist Alliance have convictions for assaulting Somali New Zealanders and firebombing a marae.
As a Nazi, Bolton considers that whites are superior to other races, including Maori. It was Bolton who invented the theory of a white indigenous population in a series of writings including his self-published book Lords of the Soil: the story of Turehu, the White Tangata Whenua. (6) Much of the material on the Celtic New Zealand website seems to have been either inspired by or taken directly from Bolton.
Bolton and Doutre have worked together on several projects besides the Celtic New Zealand website. Bolton has written for the website of the One New Zealand Foundation, an extreme right-wing group which Martin Doutre helps to run. The One New Zealand Foundation claims that the Treaty of Waitangi is racist, that whites are an oppressed group in New Zealand, and that the United Nations is preparing to take over the country. In an article written in 2000 called ‘Who Will Look After Them When the Pakehas Have Gone?’, One New Zealand Foundation leader Ross Baker wrote ‘thank God I’m not a Maori’, and predicted that whites would soon leave New Zealand en masse to escape their oppression. (7)
Both Martin Doutre and Kerry Bolton have written extensively for the website of the One New Zealand Foundation, and Martin Doutre has travelled the country with Ross Baker giving talks about the Foundation’s politics. (8 ) Recently Bolton wrote a leaflet for the Nationalist Alliance in which he praised Doutre as a friend and defended his writings. (9)
Why the racists lie
I have talked a little about the background of the people responsible for the Celtic New Zealand site because I want to provide some context for their claims that a massive conspiracy of academics, government bureaucrats, museum workers, and Maori is suppressing knowledge of New Zealand’s prehistory. Both Martin Doutre and Kerry Bolton are conspiracy theorists par exellence – they believe that every aspect of the world is governed by a set of elaborate conspiracies.
You might argue, Mykeljon, that the Celtic New Zealand theorists could be very wrong about many other things, like the existence of an international Jewish conspiracy or the cause of 9/11, and yet right about New Zealand prehistory. It’s certainly true that Doutre and Bolton’s views on history cannot be dismissed outright, simply because some of their views on other subjects are wrong and repugnant. Their claims about our prehistory must at least be considered, no matter how unlikely they seem. Don’t you think, though, that a little caution might be in order, when dealing with people like Doutre and Bolton? Isn’t it more probable that the politics of Doutre and Bolton have affected the quality of the ‘research’ on Celtic New Zealand?
And, make no mistake, there is a real political motivation underlying the pseudo-historical claims made by the likes of Doutre and Bolton. In The Politics of Nostalgia, his study of the far right in New Zealand, sociologist Paul Spoonley noted that one of the main barriers to fascist politics here was the status of the Maori people as tangata whenua. Pakeha Kiwis could not, Spoonley suggested, imitate the ‘We were here first’, ‘Keep our country white’ rhetoric that had helped make neo-Nazism popular amongst certain parts of modern European societies. (10)
The theory that the ancient Celts settled New Zealand first before being conquered by Maori can be seen as an attempt to dispose of the impediment to fascist propaganda that Spoonley noted. For the likes of Doutre, the One New Zealand Foundation, and Bolton, the assertion that an ancient European people were the first to settle these islands is enough to discredit Maori nationalism and the ideology of biculturalism. If Maori only took control of these islands as a result of a ‘genocide’ of Europeans and if Maori taonga like, say, the magnificent carvings at Auckland museum were actually produced by Europeans, then Maori lose their mana, and seem actually to deserve the treatment which was meted out to them by colonisers’ armies and governments.
It will be obvious by now that I regard the claim that European people settled New Zealand in ancient times in large numbers to be completely false. How is it that I can be so confident in my opinion? Am I not a victim of the sort of dogmatism that people like Martin Doutre perceive everywhere in New Zealand’s intellectual ‘establishment’? In reality, there is no sinister ‘establishment’ that acts to enforce a single viewpoint about New Zealand prehistory and repress the views of people like Doutre. Scholars are divided on all manner of questions concerning our past. The difference between them and pseudo-scholars like Doutre is that they base their reasoning on the evidence available, and not on wild conspiracy theories.
I’m open to the possibility that the facts of the history and prehistory of this country might one day have to be rewritten, but I think that there are some theories about our prehistory which have to be considered very unlikely to be true. It is highly unlikely that a very large population using advanced technology could have existed on these islands thousands of years ago, as the Celtic New Zealand circle claims, because such a population would have left a record of its presence which we do not find.
Any large-scale settlement of these islands would likely be accompanied by the destruction of a considerable amount of forest by fires, and scientists can discover the date at which this sort of destruction began by testing pollen spores preserved in the sediment of lakes. Tests do not indicate any man-made destruction of the forests began until less than one thousand years ago, so the claims in your article about mass settlement occurring five thousand years ago look rather unlikely. (11)
If huge numbers of European people lived here thousands of years ago, then we ought to be finding their skeletons, as well as burial items which reflect a distinct, non-Polynesian material culture. But the oldest skeletons and burial items we’ve found so far are distinctively Polynesian, and are less than a thousand years old. Why have we never found any human skeletons or human artefacts under the layers of ash left by the massive Taupo eruption a couple of thousand years ago?
Of course, the Celtic New Zealand circle claims that a massive conspiracy is busy hiding the bones and artefacts of ancient Celtic New Zealanders. In his article ‘Forbidden History – Covered Up!’ Martin Doutre even claims that special teams of armed men controlled by sinister international forces are going around the country deliberately blowing up caves where Celtic bones are found.
The truth is that prehistoric bones unearthed in New Zealand are routinely scrutinised by archaeologists, biologists, craniologists, museum curators, representatives of iwi and hapu, and even coroners. Are all of these people really involved in an enormous conspiracy? Auckland War Memorial Museum holds a large collection of human remains, which it is slowly and carefully identifying and returning to groups both inside and outside New Zealand, in a process involving dozens of experts from this country and overseas. Is this process really being controlled by some unseen sinister conspiracy?
The most devastating evidence against the claim of ancient non-Polynesian settlement comes from DNA testing. The article you have published claims that the ancestors of the Maori slaughtered the male Celts who had settled this country and then raped their women, and that present-day Maori therefore have some of the blood of the ancient Celts.
In recent years a series of scholars have run DNA tests on Maori, in an effort to trace their ancestry. These tests confirm that Maori are a Polynesian people, and that Polynesians have their origins in coastal Asia thousands of years ago. In 2005 a team from Victoria University was able to establish an ancient connection between Maori and one of the indigenous peoples of Taiwan: both groups have the same rare gene marker for coping with alcohol. (12) If Maori really were part-Celtic, then the connection would show up in DNA tests. It doesn’t.
Misrepresentations and blunders
‘An Unpalatable Truth’ contained a series of claims which misrepresented not only the most basic facts about New Zealand prehistory, but also the opinions of respected researchers who have nothing at all to do with the idea that Celts settled New Zealand. The article repeatedly suggests that Auckland University of Technology historian Paul Moon supports the view that Celts or another white people settled New Zealand before the Maori, who ate them. Moon has never advanced such a view; his recent book This Horrid Practice, which is cited by your authors, is a study of Maori cannibalism which scrutinises accounts of the practice written down in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. There is no reference at all to a pre-Maori New Zealand population in Moon’s book. (13)
‘An Unpalatable Truth’ quotes the archaeologist Michael Taylor as saying that a site he examined in Taranaki ‘definitely pre-dates European settlement’ because of (amongst other things) ‘the presence of woven flax’. Taylor was making the straightforward point that he had visited a pre-European Maori site; the authors of your article, though, present him as saying that the site belonged to Europeans who had arrived in prehistoric times, long before Cook and Tasman! This sort of misrepresentation is both idiotic and defamatory: it is defamatory, because it falsely associates a respected archaeologist with a viewpoint that he does not hold, and that would bring him ridicule amongst his peers; it is idiotic, because there is no reason at all why the presence of woven flax should suggest a non-Maori archaeological site. Maori, after all, weren’t averse to a bit of weaving!
There are many other parts of the article which make me doubt whether the authors have even the most basic grasp of New Zealand history. At one point, for instance, they claim that the Maori word ‘tohunga’ means ‘historian’. In fact, ‘tohunga’ translates much better as priest. There is no comparison between the role a tohunga played in pre-contact Maori society and the role a historian plays in our society today. At another point in their article, your authors claim that the discovery of bodies buried in a sitting-up position is a sure sign of an ancient Celtic presence in these islands. How can this be so, when it is widely known that both Maori and the Moriori people of the Chatham Islands sometimes buried their dead in a sitting-up position in the sand? Other claims in ‘An Unpalatable Truth’ are so bizarre, and so lacking in any basis in fact, that they can probably most kindly be treated as hallucinations. The claim that the bones of sixty thousand ancient Celtic New Zealanders were made into fertiliser at an Onehunga mill in the 1870s falls into this category.
An embarrassment to Franklin
In conclusion, Mykeljon, I want to suggest that think carefully about whether you made the right decision in presenting ‘An Unpalatable Truth’ as a credible piece of research into New Zealand prehistory. There are hundreds of wonderful people of all races at work studying the rich history of these islands, inside and outside universities, museums, and government departments. Why not publish some of these real scholars, instead of the racist conspiracy theorists who maintain the Celtic New Zealand site? (14)
I grew up in Franklin, and I know that the area is dotted with memorials to the young men who died fighting Nazism during World War Two. What would they say if they knew that a magazine which claimed to serve their local community was giving free advertising to the views of neo-Nazis like Kerry Bolton and his friends?
1. ‘An Unpalatable Truth’ purports to be the third of a trilogy of articles. I have been unable to find the other two pieces, so I’ve restricted my comments to the claims in ‘An Unpalatable Truth’.
2. Martin Doutre, Ancient Celtic New Zealand, De Nann publishers (self-published), Auckland, 1999. The Celtic New Zealand website can be found at http://www.celtic.co.nz, accessed 17/11/08.
3. Martin Doutre, ‘Pentagon 9/11’, published on the Serendipity website at http://www.serendipity.li/wot/pentagon911/pentagon911.html, accessed 17/11/08.
4. Martin Doutre, ‘Forbidden History – Covered Up!’, published at the 10077 website, http://100777.com/node/372, accessed 17/11/08.
5. Martin Doutre, ‘The Belt of the ‘Beast’ (a letter to David Irving), David Irving’s personal website, http://www.fpp.co.uk/Auschwitz/Belsen/Doutre011103.html, accessed 17/11/08.
6. Kerry Bolton, Lords of the Soil: the story of Turehu, the White Tangata Whenua, Spectrum Press (self-published), Wellington, 2000.
7. Ross Baker, ‘Who Will Look After Them When the Pakehas have Gone?’, One New Zealand Foundation website, http://www.onenzfoundation.co.nz/LookAfter.html, accessed 17/11/08.
8. For an example of Bolton’s writing for the One New Zealand Foundation, see Bolton, ‘Rats and More Rats’, One New Zealand Foundation website, http://www.onenzfoundation.co.nz/Rats.htm, accessed 17/11/08. Bolton signs this rambling piece ‘Dr Kerry Bolton’, but he does not in fact have an academic qualification of any kind.
9. Kerry Bolton, ‘Anarchists and Martin Doutre’, Nationalist Alliance website, http://www.nationalistalliance.org.nz/, accessed 17/11/08.
10. Paul Spoonley, The Politics of Nostalgia, Dunmore Press, Palmerston North, 1987.
11. For an introduction to the way that pollen spore analysis works, see the Landcare Research website at http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/research/ecosystems/past_env/, accessed 17/11/08. For a detailed study of what pollen spore analysis says about settlement patterns in New Zealand, see MS McGlone, ‘The Polynesian Settlement of New Zealand in Relation to Environmental and Biotic Changes’, New Zealand Journal of Ecology, vol 12 (supplement), 1989, pgs 115-129.
12. For a succinct, accessible introduction to this research, see the One News article and video clip on the Television New Zealand website at http://tvnz.co.nz/view/page/411365/596904, accessed 17/11/08.
13. Paul Moon, This Horrid Practice: the Myth and Reality of Traditional Maori Cannibalism, Penguin Books, Rosedale, 2008.
14. For a more thorough critique of the idea of a pre-Maori settlement of New Zealand, see Kerry Howe’s fine book Quest for Origins: who first discovered and settled New Zealand and the Pacific? (Penguin, Auckland, 2003).
Scott Hamilton is an Auckland writer and reviewer. More of Scott’s writing can be found at the Reading the Maps Blog.