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Worlds collide

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Shotgun, circa 1860, Morter, William (date unknown–1873), England. Exchanged 1907. Te Papa

 
  • Explosive relations
  • 'Ship buster'
  • Broken relations
  • Flagging authority
  • Fighting figure
  • Double barrel, dual purpose
  • Mixed victory
  • Guns for decoration
  • Details of war
  • Weaving peace

Double barrel, dual purpose

Double-barrelled shotguns like this were made for shooting birds. Māori quickly saw their potential as weapons because they could fire faster than the rifles of British soldiers. They called the guns ‘tūpara’ (two barrels).

The popularity of tūpara shot up in the 1860s, during the New Zealand Wars. These conflicts were fought between colonial forces and iwi (tribes) over dubious purchases of Māori land for British settlement. Many Māori died defending their land. Others joined forces with the colonists, sometimes to settle old tribal scores.

Because the guns had such mana (prestige) for Māori, the wooden butts were often elaborately carved, as in this example.