5 Nov 2017

Kelvin Day on the Taranaki Wars.

From Te Ahi Kaa, 6:06 pm on 5 November 2017

In this series about the NZ Land Wars Kelvin Day (Tumuaki of Puke Ariki Museum, New Plymouth) talks about the early commemorations of the Battle of Waireka, Te Ngutu o te Manu and the invasion of Parihaka.  

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Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

The Battle of Waireka centred around Kaipopo Pa, built by Taranaki iwi following the bombardment of Kohia Pa on 17 March 1860. The south Taranaki pa was built at Ōmata, using fence posts, wire and saplings.

“Following the killing of five settlers at Ōmata there were increasing fears that New Plymouth was under threat, on the 28 March a military force was sent out to Ōmata district to rescue the remainder settlers,” Kelvin Day says.

A military force made up 120 troops and 100 volunteers and militia travelled to Ōmata under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Murray to rescue the settlers there. After several hours of firing, Murray followed orders to head back to New Plymouth by dark.

On his way he passed by Captain Cracroft with sixty of his men, it was Cracroft who then stormed Kaipopo Pa.

“Much has been written about this engagement and it is still being dissected and keenly debated today,” says Day.

In commemorating the Battle of Waireka Day says the first official commemoration was held on 29 March 1897 with a formal dinner.

The 40th anniversary was marked with a veteran’s picnic at Ōmata on the 29 March 1900. 

At the centennial of the Battle of Waireka in1960 the procession began to include local Māori.

“On the actual day an estimated 600 people were present, including members of the Māori community who had been noticeably absent from previous events,  along with military personnel and civic leaders…the proceedings were not carried out at Kaipopo pa but on the nearby redoubt which was a Pākeha military site constructed in 1860. One of the church leaders the Reverend Mangatitoka Cameron gave a particularly perceptive address which was subsequently published in full in the two regional papers.”

The invasion of Parihaka

Parihaka Pa, circa 1900, with Mount Taranaki - taken by an unidentified photographer.

Parihaka Pa, circa 1900, with Mount Taranaki - taken by an unidentified photographer. Photo: Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand / Alexander Turnbull Library

On 5 November 1881 the peaceful settlement of Parihaka was invaded by 1500 colonial troops. The village under the leadership of Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi was ransacked, the village was dismantled, crops destroyed and acts of violence were inflicted upon the Parihaka people.

On the 22 November, around 600 Kaumatua, children and women remained at Parihaka, who faced ongoing deprivation and violence at the hands of the constabulary who remained there.

Day described the earlier commemorations of the invasion of Parihaka.

“On the 5 November 1931, a celebratory afternoon tea was held in New Plymouth to mark the 50th anniversary of the invasion of Parihaka…the proceedings can only be viewed as somewhat bizarre, statements were made as to how the invasion had led to a permanent peace between Natives and Pākeha.”

Kelvin Day is Tumuaki (head) of Puke Ariki Museum, New Plymouth.

Kelvin Day is Tumuaki (head) of Puke Ariki Museum, New Plymouth. Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

According to Day the 75th anniversary was not marked, but the centennial was a different affair.

“Māori from Parihaka were clearly in the driving seat as would be expected considerable discussion took place as to what should happen. A suggested re-enactment of the 1881 invasion was quickly dismissed as inappropriate, leading up to the event a number of buildings were repaired and painted included Te Whiti’s tomb.  On the weekend of the centennial over 5000 people descended on Parihaka including many dignitaries and members of parliament in recognition of what was being commemorated,  interestingly the local print media was strangely silent on the speeches that would have been made.”

The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery hosted an exhibition about the centennial that included work from 42 artist’s including Ralph Hotere.

In June this year, the then Minister of Treaty Negotiations Chris Finlayson apologised to the Parihaka people for the atrocities inflicted upon them as part of a reconciliation package with the Crown.

Thanks to Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi for allowing RNZ to record and broadcast this series.

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Photo: Supplied