Patricia Grace’s short story “Ngati Kangaru” is particularly striking to read after finishing her novel Potiki. In this story it is the Maori who become the aggressors against their former colonizers in an attempt to return to their cultural roots. The Maori family in the story, led by the scheming and morally questionable father Billy decides to reclaim the land of his ancestors for the “Ngati Kangaru” returning to New Zealand from Australia. Billy succeeds in stealing hundreds of luxury homes by employing the exact methods of deception that the members of the New Zealand Company used to procure land from the Maori in the nineteenth century. Grace’s depiction of the family’s new company, “Te Kamupene o Te Hokinga Mai,” and their outlandish plot to reclaim New Zealand is satirical. But at the same time, it demonstrates the absurdity of the New Zealand Company’s claims to that same land. The story both represents a victory for the Maori and portrays a sense of loss at the changes that the Maori culture has undergone at the hand of colonization.
Billy and his family are triumphant in the sense that they are able to use the weapons of the colonizers against them. Throughout the story we see the family using tactics identical to those that where used to displace the Maori and colonize New Zealand. Billy even uses the same terminology that the colonizers used (i.e. “wasteland”) and Hiro quotes E.G. Wakefield, director of the New Zealand Company, directly when he says: “Possess yourselves of the soil and you are secure” (29). The family literally uses the colonizers’ own words and ideas again them all in pursuit of the “worthy cause” of Maori repatriation. This gives the reader a sense of justice in the families actions similar to the feelings invoked when Tangi and James use the developers machines to destroy their construction site in Potiki. It seems as though everything has come full circle.
But Grace doesn’t end this story with the victory of the family. They continue in their scheme with plans to house every Maori they can find, even “the solos, the UBs, pensioners, low-income earners, street kids and derros” (41). It also becomes clear that the family in this story is not working toward a return to or preservation of Maori tradition and culture in the way that the Tamihana family was in Potiki. Billy and his family have become just as greedy and materialistic as the members of the New Zealand Company proved to be. They live in luxury houses and dream of motorbikes, video cameras and political power. Makere even dreams of renaming Queen Street in Auckland “Ara Makere,” after herself. The only thing resembling a return to Maori culture in the novel is the family’s plan to transform the “wilderness of churches” into wharenui. Grace ends the story with Billy’s command to “Get moving” which indicates that this greedy and aggressive behavior of the new company will continue as long as they can justify it. And the reader feels an undeniable sense of loss at seeing how the family has changed, how they have become just like the people who came to colonize their country over one hundred years before. Through their method of retribution against the colonizers, they have almost assimilated into papalegi culture. Grace allows her readers to see the ridiculous nature of the theory of colonization first hand while simultaneously showing