May 13th, 2010
10:49 AM ET

New Zealand P.M. criticized for comparing tribe to cannibals

John Key made a joke at a dinner that one Maori tribe may have made him the main course.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key was facing heavy criticism Thursday after making a cannibalistic comment about a Maori tribe for the second time in a week.

Key angered the Tuhoe, a tribe of Maori, on Monday after ruling out turning over part of a national park to the tribe as part of a treaty settlement, according to a Radio New Zealand report.

On Tuesday, during a dinner meeting with another Maori tribe, the Ngati Porou, Key said he was glad he was with them instead of with the Tuhoe, who would have made him the main course. He repeated the remark as a joke during a meeting with tourism officials in Auckland on Thursday.

"The good news is that I was having dinner with Ngati Porou as opposed to their neighbouring iwi, which is Tuhoe, in which case I would have been dinner, which wouldn't have been quite so attractive," Key was quoted as saying.

Asked later about the remark, Key said he was sure the Tuhoe would get the joke, Radio New Zealand reported. The prime minister’s office characterized the remark as flippant and light-hearted, according to a New Zealand Herald report.

Key later issued an apology. "Ah look, it was a light-hearted joke, a bit of self-deprecating humour - but if anyone is offended, then I deeply apologise," Radio New Zealand quoted him as saying.

But Tuhoe chief negotiator Tamati Kruger wasn’t laughing or very forgiving.

"I'm just astounded that the prime minister can make light of what we regard as a very, very serious situation regarding ... our future relationships with the Crown. I don't think it's becoming at all of a prime minister," Radio New Zealand quoted Kruger as saying.

Kruger went further in the New Zealand Herald report.

"It gives me the sense that whatever we say or do he will never, ever take it seriously,” Kruger said in the Herald report. "He is affirming a rigidness which is not really in the spirit of good faith negotiations. He is really going to force Tuhoe into a position that makes us look like the bad guys.”

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Filed under: New Zealand
soundoff (282 Responses)
  1. Battleneter

    Something like 80% of New Zealander's that officially claim to be Maori are way under 50% cast. Its offensive to the rest of THERE heritage which may be Irish/English etc to identify just with Maori. Unfortunately most are brainwashed into thinking this way so the fat cats making the land grabs have more pulling power. Maybe Tuhoe can make a claim against this comment for Tax payer cash$$. But seriously Tuhoe needs to get a sense of humor this is 2010.

    May 13, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. MrsFizzy

    It was an unfortunate comment for a PM to make...twice... However, if anyone is really offeneded, what about when one of the most famous living Maori, Opera singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, who once said in an interview "I'm Maori. We eat our rivals."?? In NZ it is no secret that Maori once were cannibals, it is routinely mentioned in museums or if you go to any of their tourist entertainment shows which are all Maori-operated.

    May 13, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jim

    He shouldn't have apologized. That's as silly as Americans apologing to the stone-age bug eaters we liberated this country from. If you can't defend it you lose it!

    May 13, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. YourPantiesInnaWad

    Yeah, Yeah, those canniblals should Eat Him, including his juicy Testicles.

    May 13, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dave

    Cliff – Yes NZ is full of these PC whack jobs as well.

    Maybe teh Tuhoes could do us all a favor and start boiling a large pot...

    May 13, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. FUZZZ

    Remember the old childhood adage: "Sticks & stones may break my bones but NAMES wil NEVER hurt me"

    May 13, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Charles (Florida)

    What's appealing about eating cows, goats, pigs, chickens, snakes, deers, or anything that we eat in the western world? We are so narrow minded.

    May 13, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ladislav Nemec, Big Bear, CA

    Many of our ancestors were cannibals. Proteins are good for you, vegans would have not survived too long (I think). Currently it is not practice (widely). McDonalds are everywhere. Whether any Maoris ate their neighbors after they killied of the giant moa birds remains to be seen. Some people just lack of sense of humor, even a bit silly one.

    May 13, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Cannibal

    Cris- I tried, but nobody seemed to get it. I go by "Cannibal" and I am a descendant of the Donner Party. In fact, I still carry the family name. To answer the question about rednecks, I've had plenty of G.R.I.T.S.; that's what made me leave the south. Yeeeeeuck!

    May 13, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Raed

    Comment 20
    May 13th, 2010
    11:56 am ET


    "Minority whiners" aside. Don't you think after you've just refused to honor part of treaty settlement (which is pretty @#%@%^ up in itself) you should not be such an @#%@%#!?! Not to mention if you know all the other history on the Maori. I do have to say, they seem to have been treated slightly better than American Indians were but –
    I mean really – Mr. Keys and his ilk are illegal immigrants to the Maori. lol.
    Posted by: me

    The NZ government have been settling this treaty for decades. The Maori have done very well for themselves (Well, the rural Maori. The urban Maori have it stuck to them by their own theoretical Iwi. ). If you think that Mr. Keys and his ilk are illegal immigrants to the Maori, then have a thought for the poor Moriori who are the original indigenous people of NZ. Oh wait... they were eaten by the Maori. Hmmm......

    Also it is the Maori who decimated their own kind by cannibalism to 10% of their original numbers before the white man arrived.

    Get over yourselves.

    May 13, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Greg

    "self-deprecating humor"?? This guy's an ignorant retard. But that's just my self-deprecating humor talking

    May 13, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Wyn

    My ancestors were head hunters. I dont't care if people joke about it. its the truth. And its kind of funny.

    May 13, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. morleyl

    we should stop taking away other people's land for starts..

    May 13, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Gleedwerp the eye-biter

    I knew a Maori lady who told me her grandfather had eaten a missionary. But it's ancient history by now.

    May 13, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Craig

    Imagine an American president saying in the midst of a policy dispute with Germany, "I bet they'd like to put me in a camp and gas me in the shower!" Or–to put it in more proper context–saying in regard to a treaty with Native Americans "I bet they'd scalp me given half a chance!" It has nothing to do with "minority whining", and everything to do with lack of tact at best, racial and historical insensitivity at worst.

    May 13, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
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