The Unsettled author Richard Shaw interviewed for Stuff


George Heagney interviews Richard Shaw, author of The Unsettled: Small stories of colonisation for Stuff: 

‘Author and Massey University professor Richard Shaw believes New Zealanders are mature enough to examine uncomfortable stories about their family’s settler origins.

In 2021 Shaw published a book, The Forgotten Coast, which looked at his family's history in Taranaki and their involvement in the historical confiscation of land from Māori at Parihaka.

Shaw received a lot of feedback about the book, good and bad. Some people were angry he had examined the subject, while others had similar stories and it was them who inspired his new book, The Unsettled: Small stories of colonisation.

The new book tells the story of other pākehā whose families had similar backgrounds as settlers.

Shaw said some people were not interested in having discussions about the subject matter of his first book and told him, “it’s time to move on”, or “why do you bother talking about Māori stuff”.

“All I thought I was doing was [discussing] that I never knew this about the land, my family’s farm, I never knew that was confiscated. I could get over halfway through my life and not have asked questions.

“A proportion of people would quite like to not ask those questions, but heaps more of them would. The people were all sorts of people from Auckland to Palmerston North, the South Island, farmers and in cities.”

Some of them were descendants of families who had migrated to New Zealand, like Shaw’s from places like Ireland, having come with nothing and become landowners. Some of them were bothered by their own family history.

“Some call themselves kiwis, some call themselves European, some call themselves pākehā.

“I think what they're doing is tapping into a feeling of not wanting to dismiss the ancestor or disparage them, but wanting to have a bit more understanding of the basis of how their family established themselves here.

“It’s not about guilt or criticising.”’


Read the full article here