A pukeko in a ponga tree

By | 18 December 2013

So starts a distinctively New Zealand adaptation of a true love’s Christmas gifts. The link will take you through to the words – the tune will be easy to work out. (This version was first published by Kingi M. Ihaka in a book of the same name in 1981.)

Pukeko in normal surroundings

Pukeko in more normal surroundings cc Sid Mosell

(Image thanks to Sid Mosell who made this photo available via Creative Commons Flickr.com)

One cannot ignore the persistent injustices and outrages of the colonial period. There is  one relatively recent work – reflecting on the international legal principle behind this historic land grab – which may not have come to the attention of Law Bod readers as the  Bodleian’s physical copies are in Rhodes House and the Bodleian History Faculty Library   However it is available electronically to all holders of an Oxford Single Sign On: Discovering indigenous lands: the doctrine of discovery in the English colonies(OUP, 2010). If you are interested in the struggle of the native peoples to redress the wrongs they have suffered, the Law Bod’s guide Indigenous Peoples: legal resources   is  a good starting point as it points out both physical items in the Law Bod and Oxford,  and electronic resources, not just subscription but also open access. The Law Bod extended its coverage in this topic extensively in 2013, by taking out a subscription to the database Indigenous Collection from Informit. (The full text Collection contains journals, books, conference proceedings and reports. The primary geographic focus is the Asia-Pacific region. Subjects include not just law and land rights but also  anthropology, cultural studies, history, human geography, and  race studies.)

Punga cc Hella Delicious

“Ponga” cc Hella Delicious

(Image thanks to Hella Delicious who made this photo available via Flickr.com)

However, the putting of new words to an old English tune in truth first made our minds jump to the phenomenon of the spread of the English legal tradition across the globe, and the subsequent development of national manifestations. This less  malign (?? perhaps this could be a moot point!) result of English colonialism is put vividly by Sir John Baker:  “By a breath-taking twist of fate, the insular and arcane learning of the small band of lawyers who argued cases in a corner of Westminster Hall became the law by which a third of the people on the earth were governed …” (An introduction to English Legal History (4th ed, 2002) at pp.28-9 Legal Hist B167a4).

If you are interested in the reception of the common law around the globe, the  Oxford International Encyclopedia of Legal History (OSS required for e-access, hard copy is at Ref 103.) is a useful starting point containing (for example) articles on the common law’s reception and development in the US (by Kinvin Wroth) , the Australian experience (an article by Bruce Kercher), and two articles by Peter Spiller,   one on  Canada  the other  New Zealand (Each has a starter bibliography to help you on your way to deeper studies.)

Incidentally this aspect of legal history will introduce even a regular the Law Bod user to the “game” affectionately known as  “Hunting the obscure shelf mark/call number.” For to read our copy of  B.H. McPherson’s  The reception of English law abroad (2007) you need to find the whereabouts of the bijou collection of Cw Gen. This year the Law Bod has had some much more detailed floor plans -with a supporting key – professionally produced to make this less of a puzzle. These floor plans are available as posters at strategic places on all four floors of the library, in booklets to pick up in the Library, and as pdf files to download & consult in advance   A clue to locate Cw Gen is that Cw stands for Commonwealth.   ( Final Tip: as with most library-based puzzles, the skilful deployment of the strategy commonly referred to as “asking a librarian” is as good as a get out of jail free card!)

The website which supplied the text of the Twelve days of Christmas NZ-style, describes this carol as great  “for singing in the car while you are all travelling back home to the coast for Christmas.” – another reminder of how old world traditions have adapted to life south of the equator!

Pohutakawa NZ's Christmas Tree

Pohutakawa blossom (NZ’s Christmas Tree) watching over surfer’s progress to beach

(Image thanks to Bill Harrison who made this photo available via Flickr.com)

And yes all three – pukekos (swamp hen or rail, Porphyrio melanotus), pongas (for the Maori, this si specifically the silver fern – Cyathea dealbata – but it is now commonly applied to many types of tree fern, both Dicksoniaceae and Cyatheaceae), and pohutukawas (Metrosideros excelsa) – feature in New Zealand case law.  The best subscription database for OU students interested in this jurisdiction is LexisLibrary which, in its library of International Cases,  includes NZLR: New Zealand Law Reports, DCR:  District Court Reports, NZAR: NZ Administrative Law Reports, NZFLR: NZ Family Law Reports and NZRMA: NZ Resource Management Appeals.

A persistent legacy of this export of the common law is that it still feels more normal to look within the tradition for helpful comparison, not just in academic studies but in the court room too. To try to help with the need quickly to get to the reports and judgments from another Anglo-American legal tradition jurisdiction we have set up another libguide called Case law: e-resources for common law countries 

One thought on “A pukeko in a ponga tree

  1. Pingback: Pukeko versatility | ventimigliaaltawords

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