Recruitment poster

A First World War recruitment poster uses an image of Tūmatauenga to encourage Māori to enlist. But what stories of inequality and discrimination does the poster not reveal?

The Spirit of His Fathers by William Blomfield, 1915.

The Spirit of His Fathers by William Blomfield, 1915. Alexander Turnbull Library. A-312-1-088

The Spirit of His Fathers by William Blomfield, 1915. Alexander Turnbull Library. A-312-1-088

Context 

In December 1915, this drawing appeared in The New Zealand Observer, a popular illustrated weekly newspaper. Its purpose was to encourage Māori to enlist in the army. 

When recruitment started in earnest in 1914, many Māori men signed up. Some Māori leaders believed that Māori participation in the war would strengthen Māori claims for equal status with Pākehā. Others were opposed to going to war and to fighting for the British Empire. This was because of the harm that the British Crown had done to Māori communities by activities such as confiscating Māori land and other violations of the Treaty of Waitangi during the latter half of the nineteenth century. 

The Māori Contingent had a reputation for fighting strongly and were famous for their haka, but many of these soldiers died on the battlefields. 

By the end of the war, 2227 Māori and 458 Pacific Islanders had served in what became known as the Māori Pioneer Battalion. Of these, 336 died on active service and 734 were wounded. Other Māori enlisted (and died) in other battalions as well. 

from NZHistory.net.nz 

Key questions 

  • What can we observe? 
  • What do we already know? 
  • How might people view this poster in different ways? 

Possible discussion questions 

  • What can you see in this image? 
  • How are the different figures in the image portrayed? 
  • Who is the target audience? How do you know? 
  • What is the purpose of the image? 
  • How effective is it? 
  • Why were recruiters at the time specifically targeting Māori? 
  • Why did Māori have conflicting views about joining the war? 
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