Historian: Don’t ignore distasteful aspects of past
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.’’
Dr Paul Moon, Professor of History at the Faculty of Maori Development at AUT University.