‘NZ Wars Day’ on the way

Bella and Anais standing by the Whaka Rewarewa Bridge, New Plymouth. The bridge crosses the Waiwakaiho River near the historic Whaka Rewarewa Pā.

The government has announced a New Zealand Land Wars Day will soon be introduced, to commemorate the wars fought on New Zealand soil between 1843 and 1872. Constabulary actions though continued until 1916, one whole year after Gallipoli where, and when, we supposedly ‘came of age’ as a nation.

Heaps of Māori political figures are now pronouncing loudly in support, all new adherents to the cause; and good thing too. Some historians have been arguing for this commemoration for a long time. Other historians are now hopping on board; it’s a strange thing, how it all works out in the end.

Kaumātua Rangikotuku Rukuwai conducts a blessing at the Wahitapū Ūrupa, New Plymouth.

Historiography (the study of how history is written), however, is not about scholarship, it’s about politics; and it’s something even historians forget about. You will see this in a number of recent academic tracts published on the wars, to say nothing of comments appearing in the press. In New Zealand, historiography is not every historian’s fortē. You can read more about the New Zealand Land Wars historiography here – Wars historiography.

Leah Bell speaks, with Waimarama Anderson and kaumātua Rahui Papa in support, at Parliament to the petition organised by Otorongonga students, calling for the NZ Wars Day. The Students who got the ball rolling

We should however acknowledge the students from Otorohanga College, in Ngāti Maniapoto/the King Country, who put the case before Parliament for such a commemorative day – Rhiannon Magee, Tai Jones and Leah Bell. They really did get the ball rolling. The students also organised a NZ Land Wars Day petition which was signed by 13,000 people.

You can read more about this here – http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/311482/nz-wars-day-from-street-petition-to-government-goal

Memorial for Battle of Moutoa Island, Moutua Gardens, Whanganui.

What date should the NZ Wars Day be?

Wellington’s The Dominion Post also published an excellent editorial (on 25 August 2016) on remembering the New Zealand Wars – you can read it here:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/comment/editorials/83518542/editorial-bring-nz-wars-out-of-the-shadows

Deciding which day should be our New Zealand Land Wars Days won’t be easy – there are so many good options, given that the wars lasted about 20 years or so, possibly longer.

If you want to look at some of the possible dates, here is a New Zealand Wars timeline – http://newzealandwars.co.nz/land-wars-timeline/full-timeline/

Parihaka Peace Walk

Parihaka Peace Walk, on the stretch of highway between the old Pungarehu School and Parihaka Road.

From 15 to 17 June, the Mayor of New Plymouth, Andrew Judd, led a peace walk of hundreds of supporters from New Plymouth to Parihaka, a distance of about 25 miles. The walk took place over 3 days, with stops at Oakura and Okato.

The walk happened because of Pākehā resistance in New Plymouth to the creation of a Māori Ward; 83% of the electorate there recently overturned a Council decision to introduce such a Māori Ward. But wider issues were also addressed – especially the woeful state of race-relations in Taranaki.

Mayor Andrew Judd (in blue jacket) and supporters approach Parihaka - Māori Councillor Howie Tamati stands just behind him, to his right.

The walk was hugely successful and Mr Judd is to be applauded for his principled stand. Unfortunately though, it was noted that no other New Plymouth Councillors took part in the walk, except for Howie Tamati, the sole Māori Councillor.  Other Pākehā Councillors ‘had other engagements’.

The truth is, as they well knew, given the nature of the New Plymouth electorate, their participation would likely rebound against them in the forthcoming council elections – politics over principle, in other words.

Remembering all of our sites

The Japanese Memorial and garden, Featherston, a beautiful and sad place to pause There is a really stunning epitaph inscribed on the memorial to the Japanese soldiers who died during a prison riot just outside of Featherston, in the Wairarapa – ‘Behold the summer grass, all that remains of the dreams of warriors’. The memorial commemorates the 64 Japanese prisoners who were shot during a prison riot on 22 February 1943, along with 94 who were wounded (of the 275 prisoners).

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Remembering Our Own Dead

There isn’t much else either for Māori or Pākehā, around the hills of New Zealand, where 3000 or so died in our own wars. Here is a photo (below) of the rotting sign at Te Kohia, lower Waitara Road, Waitara, where the ‘great civil wars of the 1860s began’, says one J Belich. We have been pointing to this issue for awhile now, but  there doesn’t seem to be much that can be done at the moment because the will amongst most New Zealanders just isn’t there.

Memorial to Japanese soldiers who died at Featherston as POWs during the Second World War.

Also, the RSA is too strong – their purpose is to promote the memory of our overseas dead, not those who died on our own battlefields. The myth that ‘we came of age on the beaches of Gallipoli, where our boys spilled their blood ..’ is also very strong – we hear it every ANZAC day.

A New Land Wars Veterans Association?

Perhaps we need a new organisation to speak for our own Land Wars veterans – Māori and Pākehā – whose passing goes largely forgotten, since the RSA is not interested.

We shouldn’t be too surprised at the RSA stance thō on the Land Wars. To acknowledge that men and women who died during our own wars is quite a subversive idea – it disturbs the popular notion that’ we came of age on the beaches of Gallipoli, fighting for Empire’ – when, in reality, we came of age as a troubled nation on our own battlefields. I’m not sure the RSA could live with that.

Rangihoua, in the Bay of Islands, where the first mission station was established in 1814.Incidentally, if you are trying to find the Japanese memorial, it’s across the road from the actual prison site – it’s not actually on-site because the RSA complained about memorialising the Japanese ..

Remembering all our war dead, whether overseas or local, shouldn’t be that hard ..

If you’d like to read more about our New Zealand Wars dead, click here – Our Wars Dead.

Teaching the Wars

Massey students visiting the site of the Turuturumokai battle, near Hawera, in 1868.Prominent Māori historians like Dr Malcolm Mulholland of Massey University are calling for the New Zealand Wars to be taught in schools as a compulsory subject. You can read Malcolm’s comments on the issue here – Malcolm’s Comments.

We think the idea makes really good sense.

Those of us who used to teach the New Zealand Lands paper at Massey in the 1990s to about 2005 remember well the responses of students to the material imparted – always positive, especially on our field trips around Taranaki. Understanding why the wars happened, and with what consequences, especially for Māori, will do wonders for our appreciation of our shared past.

Remembering our Māori Veterans

Photo from the movie 'River Queen', shot on the Whanganui River. Each year, ANZAC Day comes and goes … a time to remember our overseas veterans. But what about our Land Wars veterans? Will we ever remember them?

Well, we might, it seems. Māori  ‘rebels’ who fought against the British Army and Armed Constabulary during the Land Wars may soon be officially recognised.

Recent calls have been made for the government to remember all Māori war veterans, not just those who fought overseas on the side of the Crown.  See here for recent press article – Māori War veterans

Quite a few Māori died of course, during the Land Wars. Many of those were fighting alongside the Armed Constabulary, as well as against it. See here for more, Remembering our Māori Dead. 

Our Māori veterans .. photo of awesome Māori actors from the Vincent Ward movie 'River Queen'.

It is not at all clear how such remembrance will be arranged. But the idea seems timely and is similar to a proposal, raised in the 1990s, that a special Māori War Memorial be erected in Auckland.

Back then, negotiations were to have been arranged with iwi. But opposition from some Māori  saw its demise.

Still, with all the publicity now being given to remembering the Land Wars, perhaps the time for such a Māori War Memorial is now right.

A New Zealand Land Wars Day?

Otorohanga College student Rhiannon Magee, Tai Jones and Leah Bell who organised the Land Wars petition. The government is calling for submissions on whether we should set up a new Land Wars Day, to remember those 3500 or so people, Māori and Pākehā, who tragically died during the conflicts.

Students from Otorohanga have been pressing the case for such a commemorative day, especially  Rhiannon Magee, Tai Jones and Leah Bell who organised a Land Wars petition signed by 13,000 people.

A taua of Māori warriors, from the awesome movie 'River Queen'.

Here is an article covering their  recent submissions to Parliament – Students at Parliament. They are to be commended for this awesome initiative, which we wholeheartedly support. See here also for details of submissions, which close in late April submissions sought.

Perhaps the time has come, in this post-Treaty settlement era, to commemorate such events, which James Belich once likened to ‘a nightmare’ which, like children, we hasten to forget.

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And what day should it be? We suggest that 17 March would be ideal – 17 March 1860 was the day that the British Army opened fire on Te Ātiawa who were defending Te Kohia Pā, at Waitara.

This action by the British Army began what Belich calls ‘the great civil wars of the 1860s’. You can read about this engagement here – British attack Waitara.

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Students visiting the site of the battle at Turuturumokai (fought 1868), near Hawera.However, appropriate days are many – see this link  Dates of the Wars for some examples of important dates.  The Māori King is contemplating calling all interested parties together, to settle on an appropriate day. This discussions will be interesting, for sure, not least for the names we use ..

New Zealand Wars Day, Land Wars Day, or Māori Wars Day – does it matter what names we use? Does it matter what we call the wars themselves – which name is the most appropriate?

Read here for more media reaction – Land Wars Day?

Waimarama Anderson and Leah Bell with kaumatua Rahui Papa presented their petition earlier this month to push more awareness about the New Zealand Land Wars.

What’s in a name? ..  see here for a discussion on what happens when we seek to give names to history ..   Giving Names to History.

Finally, should the New Zealand Land Wars be taught at schools as a compulsory topic .. ? We think it should but it’s unlikely to happen. Ministry of Education officials and the Minister have poured cold water on the idea – see here – Education Officials Coy On Wars.

Green MP Marama Davidson has put the issue simply – teaching our children about the wars will act as a strong defence against racism – read her comments here – Defence against racism.

Danny’s New Book

Danny Keenan, Te Whiti O Rongomai and the Resistance of Parihaka, Huia Publishers, Wellington, 2015.Danny’s new book – Te Whiti O Rongomai and the Resistance of Parihaka – will be available in early December; advance copies have just been received.

Please contact Huia Publishers for queries – see advertisement bottom right of this home page.

Featured Battle Site: Ruapekapeka

Young Jaydn standing on Ruapekapeka battle site, Northland – photo by our website photographer (and Jaydn’s Dad), Bryn Thomas. To see more of Bryn’s amazing photo’s, click here – Bryn’s photos.

RuapekapekaThe battle of Ruapekapeka was fought between northern Māori and the British Army during January, 1846, with the British assaulting the Pā on 11 January 1846. The Pā however was largely empty, with Māori having already retreated out the back of the fortification.

The Northern war ended with the loss of Ruapekapeka, with Hone Heke Pokai and Te Ruki Kawati persuaded to sue for peace by Tamati Waka Nene – all three were prominent chiefs of Ngā Puhi. Twelve British Regulars died during the fighting at Ruapekapeka, with twenty Māori also killed, along with 60 wounded, 30 on each side.

Ruapekapeka has it’s own awesome website – to visit the site, click here – RUAPEKAPEKA.

Ruapekapeka Pā is well worth a visit, if you are ever up north; it’s an awesome example of the care and effort that local folks can put into the upgrade and protection of such an important NZ Wars battle site.

Ruapekapeka Pā, Northland

To read more about the battle fought at Ruapekapeka, see James Cowan, The New Zealand Wars, Volume One, pp.73-87. Alternatively, to see the Northern Wars covered on this site, click here – Northern Wars.

 

Flying the Fern

.. our new flag that might have been ..In 2015 and 2016, we had the chance to change our flag. It’s a great shame that we didn’t. Perhaps someone will write a book about the process we went through, because defenders of the current flag said some mighty strange things, in defence of our existing flag.

Worse, many groups, like the Labour Party, New Zealand First and the RSA (Returned Services Association) attacked the then PM John Key, making him the issue, which was tiresome and unfortunate; Mr Key deserved better.

Sadly, too, many Pākehā historians who have been writing ‘Māori history’ for some time – supposedly with some empathy for Māori – came out in support of the current flag, which of course is a colonial relic. This attitude from New Zealand historians was really disappointing. As it turned out, most New Zealanders voted for the old flag. Perhaps New Zealanders have the flag they deserve.

.. one of the suggested alternative flags ..

Meantime, then PM John Key of course staunchly supported the new flag. You can read some of the background behind the flag referendum here –  Changing the Flag.

In our view, New Zealand still needs to change its flag.

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Changing the flag

The old and the new .. sadly, New Zealanders stayed with the old .. Mainly because our current flag is a colonial relic; and the Union Jack was flown by those who invaded New Zealand, depriving Māori of their land, livelihoods and sovereignty.

You can imagine how Rewi Maniāopoto and King Tāwhaio felt on the evening of 19 November 1863, when they peered north from the Rangiriri battlements and saw the British Army approaching. The British Army’s invasion of the Waikato had reached their doorstep.

The flag pole, and Treaty House, at Waitangi. The Union Jack flag was raised here on 6 February, 1840. Fluttering above the invading British Army was the flag now being defended by the RSA and New Zealand First as the flag ‘under which so many of our boys have died’. Defending New Zealand’s flag on these grounds  suffers terribly from forgetting our past.

This is because the flag seen at Rangiriri would go on to devastate Māori communities in the Waikato, Tauranga and Taranaki, in particular, as it had already done in North Taranaki and the far North.

The British attacked Rangiriri from the north – see photo. 50 Māori would die at Rangiri, 67 at Waiari/Rangiaowhia/Hairini, and 160 at Orākau. That’s 277 in the Waikato alone – and these are James Cowan’s conservative estimates.

Rangiriri battle site today. The British attacked from the left of the photograph. The original Pā extended far to the east, over the road and out of the picture; the road (Highway 1) was constructed through the Pā, after the battle (as was often the custom in those days).Add to this the death toll of Māori in Tauranga – 44 – and further later losses elsewhere, especially South Taranaki, the Ureweras and the East Coast, at the hands of the British and its successor, the New Zealand Armed Constabulary. The figure probably exceeds 500, though it is difficult to know precisely.

By some estimates, 2500-3000 Māori died during the Land Wars. That’s a lot of people, defending hearth and home and papakāinga. .. another one of the awesome alternatives what might have been ..

The New Zealand flag, it is true, did not make its appearance until 1902. But variations of it were in unofficial use throughout the wars, and the Union Jack was of the course the flag under which the British, Armed Constabulary and settlers fought against Māori.

For estimates of the Land Wars casualties, see James Cowan, The New Zealand Wars, Volumes One and Two, Wellington, 1922/1923, pages (respectively) 465-466 and 550-553.