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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soundoff (282 Responses)
  1. james

    Hey Dodge show a little greater sensitivity my Cat is sitting on my lap and was insulted at your Cat eater remark.

    May 14, 2010 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jaycee

    I am sooooooooo sick of political correctness. Who gives a damn whether they're cannibals or not! Good grief!

    May 14, 2010 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  3. james

    Hey Jack read "Churchill Hitler and the unnecessary War," it contains the unvarnished truth. Hitler NEVER had designs on World conquest.

    May 14, 2010 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  4. james

    BTW Joanna my Oxford Dict defines a "Bigot as someone who holds irrespective of reason". Reason being your facts.

    May 14, 2010 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  5. Little george

    If most of you understood history at all you'd get the joke and chuckle and move on. Problem with "western society" is the political correctness that has run amok (check origin of that term) and removed the ability to have clear, focused discussion on issues and events without some meat head going off on a particular tangent.

    May 14, 2010 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  6. Cath

    Actually previous to this and I think I have this right is that a few weeks before the government turned down a claim by Tuhoe for the Urewera National Park – hence – and it was historically true (according to NZ talkback) – his remark re: why it was probably better he was having dinner with Ngati Porou – sorry but this was a joke – and actually historically – if he was in disagreement maybe he would have been on the menu – Get over it and grow up!

    May 14, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Steve

    > I would like to know where you got your information about Maori using body limbs as furniture and eating women and children during festivals...

    "The Maori Race" Edward Tregear

    > As for the Germans choosing to be Nazi or not, there is a difference between being a
    > part of a political movement (which you do have a choice in) and being an indigenous
    > person... namely choice. as far as I know no one can choose their ancestory

    As I said, it is a matter of who people choose to voluntarily associate themselves with.

    One's ancestors have little to do with that choice. People with Tuhoe parents need not associate themselves with the Tuhoe. If they decide to do so, then that is a choice and they must accept the baggage that comes with defining themselves that way.

    I am of European ancestry but I do not self-identify based on ancestry as others may choose to do. I am myself and my actions are my own.

    Perhaps this way of thought is alien to racists and other collectivists.

    May 14, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Steve

    To elaborate – children shouldn't be blamed for the sins of their parents... but the child of a serial murderer+rapist who defends his parent as noble is not beyond criticism.

    Modern Maori tribes standing up for their "rich historical culture" are defending cannibalism unless they actively disassociate themselves from that "rich historical culture". At least pick a new name and define a new tribe. Voluntarily calling themselves same tribe means that they are not really serious about citicizing their ancestors' behavior.

    May 14, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Kraznodar

    If you bother to learn your history you will see that everyone is descended from people that practiced at least some cannibalism. Particularly blond, blue eyed white people of Germanic descent. It is all just a matter of how far back you have to go.

    I found the joke funny but the context of it's usage was poorly thought out.

    May 14, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jay

    It seems Maori are getting more precious every day about their culture, their history, their 'rights', their mana, their language. And yet there are few Maori of pure Maori blood – most have a high percentage of some other ancestral line running through their veins.

    May 14, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. B. Sorensen

    What, so the Tuhoe chief is a Jew? "Kruger"???


    May 14, 2010 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Honey B

    Jay – there are no full blooded Maori left here.

    How many of you actually read the article? John Key refused to give the Tuhoe iwi ownership of a national park and so he made a comment at dinner with another iwi that if he had been dining with the Tuhoe they would have eaten him for dinner – i.e. they would have been openly furious at him for not honouring the treaty. He recognized that as a leader he has wronged the Tuhoe tribe and that is what he meant by his comment being self-deprecating. Given that many Maori iwi cannibalized each other and the Mori Ori he should have thought about what he was saying before he did. I've always thought that he's an idiot but this is ridiculous, stop sensationalizing a harmless joke and get over it

    May 15, 2010 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
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