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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
Changing the flag
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.
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.
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.
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.
This year marks the centenary of the ANZAC landings at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.
Since 1921, when ANZAC Day celebrations began, the landings at Anzac Cove have become part of our national myth-making – that New Zealand ‘came of age’ on the beaches of Gallipoli, where our boys ‘spilled their blood’ in 1915.
‘Coming of age’ at Gallipoli however is more myth than fact. It’s a story now buried deep in our national psyche with no affirming historical roots in our earlier histories.
Quite the reverse – it’s a day that forgets all that went before, especially for Māori. Every ANZAC Day, though, you will hear ‘coming of age’ repeated often, especially by those who have benefited from its political and historical utiliy.
Occasionally, you will hear calls for ANZAC Day to be our national day; Waitangi Day, it is said, is too divisive. If you would like to read more about this debate, read Danny’s article published in Mana : click here – ANZAC or Waitangi? (The reference is Mana, no 92, February-March 2012, pp. 44-45).
There are many other events to commemorate this year; here are some of them ..
‘Other’ 2015 Anniversaries
1805 Governor King in Sydney prohibits the forced removal of Māori from New Zealand
1815 Ruatara dies, leaving new missionaries exposed to the fearsome war chief, Hongi Hika
1825 Christian Rangi, the first Māori ever converted, dies
1835 First Christian pamphlet published for Māori by Colenso and missionaries
1845 Northern War starts with British attack on Puketutu Pā, $100 bounty placed on Hone Heke’s head
1855 British troops sent to New Plymouth as deterrent against Māori warfare
1865 Taranaki Pai Marire prisoners transported to the South Island ; Native Land Court established (in the form it thereafter functioned) by the Native Lands Act 1865. The earlier 1862 Native Lands Act set up the Court as a Māori communal tribunal convened by the local Resident Magistrate. Finding this too slow and cumbersome, the government changed the Court’s structure in 1865 – one judge (or more) making all the decisions.
1875 Native Minister McLean forbids surveying of the contested Waimate Plains, south of Parihaka
1885 Rail link begins through the King Country, with Ngāti Maniapoto resistance finally overcome
1895 Minnie Dean hanged in Dunedin
1905 New Zealand’s national rugby team called All Blacks for the first time, when playing Somerset at Tauton
1915 ANZAC troops land on the beach at Gallipoli, and New Zealand ‘comes of age’ ..
Source: Alison Dench, Essential Dates A Timeline of New Zealand History, Random House, Auckland, 2005.
Former Prime Minister John Key once said that New Zealand was ‘settled peacefully’. It’s an idea that many hold to in this country but, unfortunately, it’s not quite true. We spend a lot of time remembering our ‘boys who died overseas’ but we forget the dead of the Land Wars.
It’s important that we change this, and remember our own who passed away during those conflicts, most of whom were Māori, and there were quite a few.
The best estimates we have of the Land Wars dead – men and women who died on our own battlefields – were provided by New Zealand Wars scholar James Cowan in 1922 and 1923.
Cowan put the total war’s dead at an estimated 2990 people, comprising 736 British and Colonial troops, as against 2254 Māori. And a further 1589, writes Cowan, were seriously wounded. Most of these – 1014 – were Maori, for the most part suffering grievous bayonet wounds.
In fact, of the total war dead, Māori account for over 75%, figures greatly boosted by disproportionate iwi deaths at desolate places like Mahoetahi (50), Rangiriri (50) and, worst of all, Orakau (160).
A Problem of Counting
Knowing quite how many Māori died, however, is difficult. Where missionaries cleared the battlefield, as they did at Rangiriri, accounting for the deceased was straight forward. But Māori were often in retreat, taking their dead with them. Occasionally, it was Māori who cleared the field, as at Puketekauere in 1860, burying their own dead, as well as the 30 British Regulars who fell on that barren hill above Waitara.
The dead, then, on both sides, represent the sharp edge of our wars of the 1860s, bitterly dividing the protagonists. Occasionally, however, the dead of both sides were interred together, as at Ohaeawai (51) symbolizing the hope that reconciliation might one day come to Aotearoa.
Have you seen the Vietnam Remembrance Wall in Washington DC? It’s awesome and well worth the visit. For more on the amazing memorials in Washington DC, click here – DC War Memorials.
Several years ago, a similar dedicated war memorial to the Land Wars Maori war dead was mooted, to be built alongside the Auckland Museum. The late Dr Miria Simpson of the Alexander Turnbull Library discretely sounded out affected iwi, especially (but not exclusively) Taranaki, Waikato and Tauranga. The idea had its merits but, in the end, iwi were not ready.
Perhaps an idea for the future.
SOURCES : James Cowan, The New Zealand Wars. A History of the Māori Campaigns and PioneeringÂ Period, R. E. Owen Government Printer, Wellington. Published in two volumes -Â Volume One was published in 1922; and Volume Two was published in 1923. See pages 465-466 Volume I; and pages 550-553 Volume II.
Last Christmas, we commemorated the 200th anniversary of Rev Samuel Marsden’s 1814 Christmas Day service to Māori.
Marsden’s Christmas service, presented on Rangihoua beach, was the first ever delivered to Māori. Celebrations were held to mark this day of commemoration. But Marsden’s story, and that of the missionaries, is a little more complex.
Land and Axes
Marsden also purchased land from Māori for a mission station, insisting that the sale be formalized with a ‘deed of sale’, being a document (and a concept) that Māori of course had never seen before. Marsden paid for the land with steel tools, notably axes.
Marsden, then, introduced or utilized three things – the word of God, written documents and steel weapons.
The word of God has had an ambivalent history amongst Māori, as we all know. But by the 1860s, and the development of synchretic faiths like Pai Marire, Māori had lost faith in the church.
Written documents, like those used by the Native Land Court, would prove equally problematic. As Māori would soon find out, where the Treaty of Waitangi was concerned, those with the power to write the documents (and control their meaning) would soon emerge the stronger, and it wasn’t Māori.
Steel tools also soon showed their down side, contributing significantly to the extreme bloodletting amongst Māori that soon followed.
In the end, we are told, Marsden’s presence at Rangihoua, preaching on Christmas Day 1814, began New Zealand’s long march to nationhood.
The problem with this populist theory is that, for Māori, Marsden represented the arrival of a new ethos, culture and technology that, far from enhancing Māori lives, would almost sweep them away.
Further Reading: The literature on the Missions and Māori (and Marsden) is enormous. See Danny Keenan, ‘See The Word, Hear The Word; A Comment on Oral Culture, Literacy and Print In Early New Zealand: The Treaty of Waitangi’ in John Thomson (ed), Books and Bibliographies; Essays in Commemoration of Don McKenzie, Victoria University Press, Wellington, 2002, pp. 57-68; Keith Newman, Beyond Betrayal. Trouble in the Promised Land – Restoring the Mission to Māori’, Penguin Books, Auckland, 2013.
Keith Newman, Bible & Treaty, Missionaries Among the Māori – a New Perspective, Penguin Books, Auckland, 2010; Robert Glen (ed), Mission and Moko. Aspects of the Work of the Church Missionary Society in New Zealand, Latimer Fellowship of New Zealand, Auckland, 1991; Hugh Morrison, Lachy Paterson, Brett Knowles and Murray Rae, Mana Māori and Christianity, Huia Publishers, Wellington, 2012.
HISTORIES TOLD IN OBJECTS
Examples of works in this vein are Neil MacGregor’s A History of the World in 100 Objects (Penguin, London, 2008) and Gary Sheffield’s The First World War in 100 Objects (Andre Deutsch, London, 2013).
Depicting the New Zealand Wars in ‘objects’ is interesting. Over the next short while, we will be listing some ‘items’ which might comprise ‘100 objects’ though of course the list is probably very long and is certainly subjective.
Object No 1 – The Flagpole on Maiki Hill, Russell, formerly Kororareka.
The flagpole on Maiki Hill was very famously cut down four times, in the end precipitating the attack on Kororareka that, some argue, began the New Zealand Wars.
The first felling occurred on 8 July 1844, after 3 days of uproar, disobedience and looting in the small frontier town. Though credited to Hone Heke Pokai, the flagpole was actually cut down by Haratua, chief of Pakaraka. The second felling occurred 6 months later, on 10 January 1845 when trouble and dissension amongst Māori returned to the area. An American trader Henry Green Smith was blamed for inciting this act of defiance against the British flag.
This second felling moved Rev Henry Williams to advise that the ‘flag should not be flaunted in the face of the natives’, lest it be cut down again, which it was, on 19 January 1845. Two companies of the 58th British Army Regiment were immediately called for, from their base in Sydney. But they arrived too late, on 28 April 1845.
The fourth and final felling of the flagstaff had occurred earlier, at 4am on 11 March 1845, followed by a concerted attack on Kororareka by Hone Heke Pokai and allies, including Kawati. This attack, and subsequent sacking of the town, precipitated the outbreak, some argue, of the New Zealand Wars.
To read more on the Northern War, click here – # The Northern War. To read Danny’s essay on Hone Heke Pokai, as published in the Mana Magazine, No 51, 2003, pp. 83-86, click here – # Essay on Hone Heke. To see a map showing the location of the Northern Wars, click here – # Map of Conflicts.
Further Reading, James Cowan, The New Zealand Wars A History of the Māori Campaigns and Pioneering Period, Volume 1 1845-64, Government Printer, Wellington, 1922, pp. 14-33.
RANGIRIRI – WHERE MĀORI LOST THEIR COUNTRY
The Waikato War started with the British Army invasion at Mangatāwhiri on 12 July 1863.
The most important battle of the Waikato campaign was fought at Rangiriri on 20 November 1863. Defeat at Rangiriri effectively meant the end of the wars for Māori and, though they would continue for another nine years, the wars had been lost. Māori had also lost their country.
Last year, on 20 November 2013, we commemorated the 150 year anniversary of the battle.
At Rangiriri in 1863, the British Army defeated the Tainui defenders and ‘kicked open the door’ to the Waikato, pushing south to take Ngāruawāhia, the Māori King’s home, by 8 December 1863.
Within five months of the Rangiriri conflict, the invasion of the Waikato was over.
For Māori, then, the loss of Rangiriri effectively signaled the end of the wars which for Maori had also been lost. At Rangiriri, King Tāwhiao and his people had borne a terrible burden for all Māori. They had needed to either turn the British Army back, or at least force terms, but sadly they lacked the numbers and weapons to do either.
To read more of the Waikato campaign, click here – # Invasion of the Waikato. To read Danny’s essay on King Tawhiao, as published in the Mana Magazine, No 40, 2001, pp. 78-79, click here – # King Tawhiao. Also, to read Danny’s essay on the history of the King Movement, as published in the Mana Magazine, No 50, 2003, pp.63-68, click here – # History of Kingitanga.
Further Reading: James Cowan, The New Zealand Wars. A History of the Māori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period, Volume One: 1854-64, Government Printer, Wellington, 1955 (first published 1922), pp.326-335; James Belich, The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian Interpretation of Racial Conflict, Penguin Books, Auckland, 1988 (first published 1986), pp.145-157; Chris Pugsley, ‘Walking the Waikato Wars. Controversy at Rangiriri’ in New Zealand Defence Quarterly, Summer 1996, pp.31-37.
Danny’s latest book was published last year, on 1 November 2013 – Ahuwhenua. Celebrating 80 Years of Māori Farming.
The book tells the story of Māori farming focused on the Ahuwhenua Trophy which has been presented to winning Māori Farmers since 1933.
The competition was launched by Sir Apirana Ngata, Minister of Native Affairs, and Governor General Lord Bledisloe to encourage Māori to take up farming on remote and difficult land development blocks.
Māori farmers from further afield were later included and encouraged to compete for one of the two ‘Bledisloe Cups’ plus cup replicas and medallions.
In recent years, since 2003, the competition has been expanded to include Trusts, iwi collectives and million-dollar Māori incorporations.
The book was commissioned by the Ahuwhenua Trophy Management Committee to celebrate the trophy’s 80th year of competition. The Trophy Management Committee manages the annual competition on behalf of the Trophy Trustees, comprising the Minister of Māori Affairs, the Minister of Primary Industries and the Governor General.
To view the October 2013 Ahuwhenua Newsletter on line, click the ‘BNZ Māori Excellence in Farming Award 2011’ image (right), especially see page 3.
Ahuwhenua. Celebrating 80 Years of Māori Farming was launched by Dr Pita Sharples, Minister of Māori Affairs, at the Federation of Māori Authorities Conference in Hastings on 2 November 2013.