Akaroa History Storyteller Marie Haley is featured as a local resident with a powerful connection to place developed over seven generations, in the current Akaroa Museum Comte de Paris Exhibition display of the French Settlement 180th celebration.
Akaroa Museum Comte de Paris Exhibition encapsulated 180 years of French Settlement in Akaroa, showcasing some of the original settlers and their descendants that live across New Zealand, and one Marie Haley who still lives in the town and tells the stories of her ancestors with The Seventh Generation Tour Company.
Etienne Francois Lelievre arrived in Akaroa as a blacksmith on the whaling ship the Nil, under an American commander. Lelievre built a hut in Akaroa and spent several months living ashore. He returned to France and came back to Akaroa in 1840 aboard the Comte de Paris as a crew member and continued as a blacksmith for Nanto Bordelaise Company.
Etienne is Marie Haley’s Great Great Great Grandad, who married Justine Rose de Malmanche, who arrived as an eight year old girl from France. Their eldest son Etienne Xavier married Louisa Helena Rodrigues who arrived as a young girl from the island of Madeira, Portugal.
In the 1830’s many French whaling ships came to Banks Peninsula each year. In 1837 the first European built a hut in Akaroa, Etienne Francois Lelievre, there he planted the famous napoleon willow next to his hut.
In 1838 that same Frenchman was present when Captain Jean Langlois made a purchase for most of Banks Peninsula from Māori chiefs in Little Port Cooper.
Returning to France Langlois created the Nanto-Bordelaise Company and gained support from King Louis-Philippe, who sent the warship Aube to protect the settlement.
When the French captain Lavaud reached the Bay of Islands in New Zealand he found that the British governor Hobson had already secured sovereignty over the whole country, the North Island through the Treaty of Waitangi and South Island by ‘the right of discovery’.
Hobson immediately sent his own frigate the Britomart to demonstrate sovereignty over the South Island and preempt any French settler ship that may have arrived.
When the settler ship the Comte de Paris arrived with Langlois and Lelievre onboard they found the Union Jack flying and the Britomart had been lying at anchor in the harbour for only 5 days. Their hopes were dashed.
In reality there was no race for Akaroa as the British had already secured sovereignty long before the French settler ship arrived, it was a race to demonstrate that sovereignty.
I was honored to be chosen as the only local resident in the Akaroa Museum Comte de Paris Exhibition display of the Comte de Paris descendants 180th celebration. In this beautiful temporary exhibition a selection of descendants were shown for what it means to them to be connected to the first French settlers in Akaroa. Here’s my take on living in one place for seven generations.
“This deep sense of connection moves me to tell stories with my own tour company, The Seventh Generation.”
Knowing who I am gives me the ground to stand on, to know where I am going –tūrangawaewae. Like the tall totara tree that once covered Banks Peninsula from summit to sea. They dig in their feet and stand firm through the strongest storms and their memory is long.
This is how I know the land, over seven generations through all the changes that have taken place. My Great-grandmother spoke of a forest fire that burnt for three months. I saw the last tui, and the first.
From knowing my history, I draw on a deep well of hope for the future. I know how far we have come; my great-great-great-great-grandmother, Rose Victoire Joanne de Malmanche, gave birth to the first born European child in Canterbury, in a tent by the sea, how much easier we have it now! (His christening gown was also in the Akaroa Museum Comte de Paris Exhibition). How we decimated the ecosystems, and how nature is already returning, faster than we could have imagined.
I have always walked in the footsteps of my ancestors and carry the responsibility to create a more beautiful, abundant place with stronger vitality (mauri). For I am not separate to this place, and you could not separate me from this place.
This deep sense of connection moves me to tell stories, with my own tour company and school education trips, so others can connect to both this place and their own history.