The Hokianga Dog Tax Uprising
Keywords:Hokianga Dog Tax Rebellion, finance, colonisation, taxation, Kīngitanga
Why was a seemingly mundane 19th-century fiscal measure—a tax levied on dog owners—met by Māori with widespread repudiation and an armed uprising? The significance of what is known as the ‘Hokianga Dog Tax Rebellion’ is often framed in terms of its apparent quashing by colonial forces in 1898, taken to signal the moment at which Crown sovereignty was finally imposed upon northern Māori. This paper questions the mainstream historical narrative, taking seriously the political stakes of taxation and locating the ‘dog tax’ within a disciplinary colonial regime that sought to interpellate Māori as financially and morally liable subjects. The dog tax was aimed at the protection of sheep, a central pillar of the early colonial economy, but was also viewed as a means of transforming Māori into citizen-subjects of the colonial regime. The doggedness with which colonial officials sought to enforce payment, and the steadfastness of Māori opposition to the tax, illuminate the highly politicised character of taxation in the colonial context. This article is an excerpt from Catherine Cumming’s The Financial Colonisation of Aotearoa, to be published by Economic and Social Research Aotearoa in late 2021.