Nelson Mail

Parihaka posturing glosses over history of savagery

- Bruce Moon

If Parihaka is to be rescued from the silence of history, as Judith Paviell suggested in Voices late last year, then we should get its history right. First, the white feather worn there as a symbol of peace was stolen from the Chatham Islands Moriori, who were true pacifists.

In 1835, these peaceful islands were invaded by Te Ati Awa subtribes from Taranaki, Ngati Mutunga and Ngati Tama (yes, that’s a Nelson street name), who proceeded to commit genocide on a colossal scale.

Ngati Toa had already allowed them to annihilate Ngati Ira at Port Nicholson.

The invasion is well documented in Michael King’s book Moriori.

One hundred or more Moriori women were laid out on the beach and stakes were driven through their bodies. The men were treated similarly. King gives witness accounts of how bodies were prepared to be eaten.

It was not long before a Moriori population of about 1600 was reduced to 101 survivors – a holocaust indeed.

At Parihaka, there were no casualties, one child’s foot trodden on accidently by a trooper’s horse being the only injury.

Yet the Waitangi Tribunal, which has assumed much authority, has said, ‘‘The invasion of Parihaka must rank with the most heinous action of any government, in any country, in the last century’’, calling it ‘‘the holocaust of Taranaki history’’.

This statement by the tribunal is quite untrue. The ‘‘holocaust’’ claim was repeated by Keri Opai in a wellpublic­ised interview with Kim Hill on Waitangi Day.

With such statements by such people, how can we ever expect to have a true history of our nation?

Taranaki itself had been conquered by Waikato tribes a few years before the Chathams invasion. One-third were killed and eaten and one-third were taken as slaves, while most survivors fled to the south.

Some Ngati Tama had taken part in Te Rauparaha’s bloody southwards migration, with the virtual annihilati­on of tribes that stood in the way.

When the British came, South Taranaki was almost deserted. With land there having been paid for to the Maori survivors and a British colony establishe­d, southern refugees who had not gone to the Chathams returned and began to fight bitterly with other tribes.

This spilled over to the settler areas, where several defenceles­s farmer families were killed.

The Government intervened as a fullscale rebellion erupted. When this was quelled, the rebels’ land was confiscate­d, as they had been warned it would be, and in accordance with their own practice in the Chathams and elsewhere.

With the developmen­t of Pai Marire, Te W’iti became a convert and took part in the attack on the Sentry Hill armed post. Later, the Hau Hau (Pai Marire) ‘‘prophet’’ Te Ua ‘‘consecrate­d’’ Te Whiti.

He had no right to build at Parihaka, which was on land confiscate­d in accordance with the rules of the time.

Premier Sir John Hall tried to negotiate with Te Whiti, whose replies were entirely evasive. He had only himself to blame for the action taken by the government.

Te Whiti’s own three feathers look remarkably like the Prince of Wales’ feathers. It looks as if he stole from two sources. He hardly qualifies as ‘‘a figure of internatio­nal significan­ce’’, as claimed in the emotive and inaccurate book by Dick Scott, quoted by Ms Paviell.

Nobody should claim that all actions taken by the Government during the Taranaki tribal rebellions were entirely well judged, but they took place against a background of tribal savagery against other tribes and the settlers.

So, if Ms Paviell or anybody else is ‘‘ashamed of [her] ignorance’’, I’d be happy to supply her with references to reliable sources. This is particular­ly needed for latter-day schoolchil­dren, who are being fed a very biased, anticoloni­al ‘‘history’’ of our nation.

The truth is that, before 1840, most Maori were hell-bent on their own destructio­n.

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