19 April 2013

James Cowan and Kimble Bent in Hawera, Taranaki, New Zealand

Kimble Bent in 1903, aged 66
James Cowan (1870–1943) was a writer of non-fiction who was born in Pakuranga, Auckland, and who became a great admirer of Māori culture. He spoke fluent Māori and wrote a great number of books, perhaps the most well known of which is The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period (1922–23).
First published as a series of articles in the New Zealand Times called The White Slave in 1906, Cowan's book The Adventures of Kimble Bent: A Story of Wild Life in the New Zealand Bush (1911) is a study of one of New Zealand's frontier figures whom he had interviewed extensively and photographed.

Bent (1837–1916) was an American serving with the British army and had been posted to New Zealand in 1861. He was regularly disobedient and drunk, and had been imprisoned in Wellington and flogged in front of his company. In 1865, while with the army in Taranaki a little south of Hawera, he deserted. He was found by Tito te Hanataua, chief of the Ngāti Ruanui, and lived with Māori for thirteen years, avoiding contact with Pākehā (or people of European descent).
Maurice Shadbolt partly fictionalized Bent's story in Monday's Warriors (1990).
In Tawhiti Museum there are several representations of Bent's story. Here, he is surrendering to Tito te Hanataua.

Tito te Hanataua leads Bent into Orangai Pa, where he is made to do heavy manual work. He slowly earns the trust of the Māori.
In Orangai Pa Bent (now Ringiringi) came to follow the Pai Mārire faith established by the prophet Te Ua Haumene. Above, a march around the niu, or sacred pole that the prophet had the people erect.

During an attack by the soldiers, Ringringi guides the old and the women and children to safety.

An online edition of the book is linked below:

James Cowan: The Adventures of Kimble Bent

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