His­to­rian: Don’t ig­nore dis­taste­ful as­pects of past

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An Auck­land pro­fes­sor says re­mov­ing a mon­u­ment ded­i­cated to a colo­nial com­man­der from the streets of ta¯huhu, Auck­land would be like ‘‘bury­ing our heads in the sand.’’

There are calls to re­move the 13-me­tre mon­u­ment, to Colonel Mar­maduke Nixon, which cur­rently stands in Great South Rd. Nixon led at­tacks on Waikato Ma¯ori in what are now known as the New Zealand Wars. In Fe­bru­ary 1864, Nixon took 1500 colo­nial troops into the vil­lage of Ran­giao¯whia where elderly men, women and chil­dren were liv­ing. Nixon was shot and his troops set alight the town church, killing 12 peo­ple who were hid­ing in­side. He died about three months later.

Auck­land fa­ther Shane Te Pou told RNZ he wanted a dis­cus­sion, in­clud­ing Auck­land Mayor Phil Goff, to be opened up about re­mov­ing the memo­rial.

But AUT His­tory Pro­fes­sor Paul Moon said so­ci­ety tends to judge the past by the stan­dards of the present.

‘‘I don’t think it should be re­moved at all, if you re­move it, it’s like bury­ing our heads in the sand. You might not see it any­more but the his­tory is still there. What hap­pened in 1860 would be re­pug­nant to most peo­ple now but at those times that was how things were done. He di­rectly was in­volved but there’s no ev­i­dence he him­self com­mit­ted such atroc­i­ties.’’

Moon said Kiwi’s should rather look at the mon­u­ment as a mile­stone of New Zealand’s his­tory, which in turn would spark peo­ple’s cu­rios­ity of why it was erected in the first place.

‘‘Re­minders of our past, some are dis­taste­ful but I think this is the irony, the peo­ple who com­plain ... they weren’t aware and that’s what got them to re­search.’’

That cu­rios­ity was what sparked Te Pou to re­search the memo­rial af­ter his chil­dren asked what it was for, he told RNZ.

I thought, ‘ What, we have a com­mem­o­ra­tion in mod­ern New Zealand to this guy?’ ... How do we ex­plain this to our kids?’’ he told RNZ.

‘‘I think it ought to be re­moved. I’m not say­ing to­tally, I think it is part of our his­tory, but it needs to be put in a mu­seum and we need to have a de­bate and dis­cus­sion about it. But it cer­tainly ought not to be out there stand­ing in mem­ory of who I think was a thug, a man who went down to Te Awa­mutu and killed in­no­cent women and chil­dren.’’

‘‘I think it is part of our his­tory, but it needs to be put in a mu­seum.’’

JA­SON OXENHAM/FAIRFAX NZ

Dr Paul Moon, Pro­fes­sor of His­tory at the Fac­ulty of Maori De­vel­op­ment at AUT Univer­sity.

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