Commemorating peaceful protest – Parihaka

Human beings. We can be a bit disappointing sometimes can’t we? We’re often very easily swayed by things that are bright and shiny rather than other more meaningful things.

FireworksTake for instance the event we usually commemorate on 5 November, Guy Fawkes Day. Four hundred years ago in England a group of people plotted to blow up the King and Parliament. The plot was foiled and Fawkes (among others) was caught , tried and executed.
And this would probably be no more than a barely remembered fact from high school history class if explosives weren’t involved. Because we love a bit of a fireworks display, we choose to remember, remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot.

Parihaka, a very different kind of protest, doesn’t get as much attention even though it’s far more recent and took place in our own country.

Parihaka by Josiah Martin, [ca 1880]
Parihaka by Josiah Martin, [ca 1880], Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Accession No. 1997/34/7
The Māori settlement of Parihaka, Taranaki was home to around 2000 people. In the wake of the Land Wars many Māori had become dispossessed as the Government of the time had undertaken “confiscations” of land. A movement to resist this acquisition and occupation of Māori land had grown, but rather than warfare, peaceful means were used to undermine Government “ownership” of disputed lands. Surveyor pegs were removed, fences were built, fields were ploughed.

By 1881 the Government determined that this peaceful but disruptive protest should come to an end, so on 5 November a militia and armed constabulary of 1500 men invaded the settlement of Parihaka. They were met without resistance. The settlement, and its surrounding crops were eventually destroyed. The leaders of the movement  Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi were sent south and jailed, as were a number of men, some of whom never returned.

So, in both cases the Government of the day is accused of injustice – one group chooses a violent protest, the other a peaceful one – but it’s the former that we commemorate. Hmmm. Interesting.

But should you want to pay tribute to the fearless, peaceful protestors of Parihaka you have the opportunity. Lyttelton Community House invite you to attend their Annual Parihaka Remembrance service. This will be held on Thursday, 5th November, 10am at the Lyttelton Rose Garden – (Former Gaol site). From there you are also invited to attend a second service that will be held at the memorial stone next to the church at Rapaki at 11am. Light refreshments will be served afterwards. Please phone Christine on 741-1427 if you require further information.

Or at the very least, you could spend Thursday humming this pop classic by Tim Finn.

4 thoughts on “Commemorating peaceful protest – Parihaka

  1. Roger Strong 30 October 2015 / 4:02 pm

    The big difference is that there is no one trying in 2015 to make money out of a failed Catholic plot to blow-up the UK house of parliament whereas much of our early history is being distorted to extract money from a government in 2015. If you read around much of the happenings in those days you will find that it is much more complex than the way it is often presented. Large parts of Taranaki was largely unpopulated at the end of the musket wars as it had become a place too dangerous to live in. I don’t think that you should seek to present a complex situation in just a few words as though there was only one aspect to this incident.

    • Mo-mo 2 November 2015 / 10:37 am

      Hi Roger,
      Thanks for your comment.
      I think we probably have a different point of view on this topic but I do agree that it’s a much more complex issue than I’ve been able to elaborate on in the relatively brief post above. My main point was that we should look more to our own history rather than that of Britain and perhaps not celebrate violent protest more than we do the peaceful kind.
      Anyone wanting to know more about the events that lead up to the invasion of Parihaka should definitely consult the many resources the library has about this. I’d highly recommend Ask That Mountain by Dick Scott.

  2. Paul 2 November 2015 / 11:23 pm

    Indeed we must look at our own history and try to understand the way the stories that were told in the past may not be the truth. I wish I had known about Parihaka as a teen. November the 5th is a day in New Zealand’s history when we must remember Parihaka. And in Christchurch we must remember how we treated the prisoners of peace in our backyard.

    • jannacclJanna 3 November 2015 / 10:32 am

      I agree with Moata and Paul. There are thousands of us living here in Canterbury that are unaware of our ‘prisoners of peace’ being jailed here in Addington prison and Ripapa island. As yet to discover how Port Lyttelton was built. And by whom. I believe it’s important to be informed/enlightened about Aotearoas historical truths. To truly understand the unrest of today. Another example of a historical truth is that Te Whiti and Tohu of Parihaka, began the non-violent civil disobedience movement here in Aotearoa before Ghandi was born. That’s something to be proud of, I feel.

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