I have mixed feelings about this post, as I have known and liked the executive producer of Tatarakihi, Gaylene Preston, for 25 years.
Nonetheless, as I say so often, truth matters.
This is what Bruce wrote…
I went to see the much-lauded film Tatarakihi in Nelson on Monday night, 5th November.
It was accompanied by a live presentation, led by Maata Wharehoka, a well-known partisan of Parihaka.
She is a personable and confident lady, but that should not make what she says immune to criticism.
Earlier this year, she gave a very unbalanced account of Parihaka history to Pamela Wade, and this was printed in the NZ Herald.
I sent the Herald a detailed account of the false and misleading statements in this article. But the editor refused to publish it.
In a word, this film is propaganda.
The most glaring omission is that nowhere are any reasons given for the occupation of Parihaka by government troops.
Nor is it stated that there were no casualties at all.
Are we to assume that the government action was merely spite?
Those Maoris concerned seem to have very long memories about alleged injustices by Europeans.
They appear to have remarkably selective memories and ignore the many atrocities committed by Maoris against their own people.
Maata quoted a prophesy of the Maori king which “foresaw” the building of Parihaka and symbolism of the white feathers.
It would be appropriate to mention something of the record of the first of them, Potatau or Te Whero Whero.
installed as the first Maori King
Potatau I, in 1858.
Thus, as recorded by E.J. Wakefield:
“Those who knew Te Whero Whero Potatau will recall the peculiar dignity of his manner, and certainly no one would have supposed that the tall graceful looking man in the full dress of an English gentleman, who conversed with quite ease with those whom he met in the drawing rooms of Government House at Auckland, was the same person as the savage who sat naked on the ground at Pukerangiora smashing the skulls of hundreds of defenceless prisoners, until he was almost smothered with blood and brains”.
As W.T.L. Travers said in the 1872 book he wrote with Rev. J.W. Stack:
“I do not quote this bloodcurdling passage for sensationalism, but as an illustration of the deceptive and unconscionable ease with which tribal mentality can change to exploit differing circumstances.
We could do well in 2012 to remember this 1872 observation by Travers.
In 1840 much of Taranaki was entirely deserted, following the conquest by Waikato tribes, in which one-third of the people were killed, one third were carried off as slaves, and one-third fled to the south.
The remnant of fifty or so who remained lived in constant fear of attack, ready to swim to off-shore rocks at the least sign of danger.
After British sovereignty was established, the survivors in the south judged it safe to return.
But this led to disputes with the conquerors about who had the right to sell land to the would-be settlers.
This situation was highly confusing to the British.
And it was one frequently exploited by the tribes — land was sold three or more times over, as the following letter shows.
The History of Taranaki, published in 1878 by B. Wells, provided extracts from a letter the warrior chief Ihaia Kirikumara wrote in conjunction with his friend Tamati Tiraura to the settlers in New Plymouth:
Chief Ihaia Te Kirikumara
Formerly we, the Maoris, lived alone in New Zealand.
We did wrong one to another. We ate one another. We exterminated one another.
Some had deserted the land. Some were enslaved.
The remnant that were spared went to seek other lands.
Now this was the arrangement of this Ngatiawa land.
Mokau was the boundary on the north, Ngamotu on the south.
Beyond was Taranaki and Ngatiruanui.
All was quiet, deserted.
The land, the sea, the streams, the lakes, the forests, the rocks, were deserted.
The food, the property, the work was deserted.
The dead and sick were deserted.
The landmarks were deserted.
Then came the Pakeha hither by sea from other dwellings.
They came to this land, and the Maori allowed them.
They came by chance to this place.
They came to a place whose inhabitants had left it.
There were few men here.
The men were a remnant, a handful returned from slavery.”
And the Pakeha asked, “Where are the men of this place?”
And they answered, “They have been driven away by war. We few have come back from another land.”
And the Pakeha said, “Are you willing to sell us this land?”
And they replied, “We are willing to sell it that it may not be barren.
Presently our enemies will come, and our places will be taken from us again.”
So payment was made.
It was not said, “Let the place be taken”, although the men were few.
The Pakeha did not say, “Let it be taken”, but the land was quietly paid for.
Now the Pakeha thoroughly occupied the purchases made with their money.
And the Maoris living in the land of bondage, and those who had fled, heard that the land had been occupied.
And they said, “Ah! Ah! The land has revived. Let us return to the land.”
So they returned.
Their return was in a friendly manner.
Their thought of the Pakeha was, “Let us dwell together. Let us work together.”
The Maoris began to dispute with the Pakeha.
When the Governor saw this, he removed the Pakeha to one spot to dwell.
Afterwards, the Pakeha made a second payment for the land.
And afterwards a third.
And then I said, “Ah! Ah! Very great indeed is the goodness of the Pakeha. He has not said that the payment ceases at the first time.”
My friends the Pakeha,
Wholly through you this land and the men of this land have become independent.
Do not say that I have seen this your goodness to day for the first time.
I knew it formerly, at the coming here of Governor Grey.
I was urgent that the land might be surrendered and paid for by him, that we might live here together.
We, the Maori and the Pakeha.
And my urgency did not end there but through the days of Governor Grey…”
This letter was written by the warrior chief Ihaia Kirikumara and his friend Tamati Tiraura at Waitara on 15 July 1860, and records that the land there was paid for three times over.
I cannot give here a full account of early Taranaki history.
But the foregoing should be sufficient to indicate that where the film Tatarakihi claims that Maori ancestral lands were seized by the Crown, that settlers ploughed the stolen land and broke the fences, to the tune of three million acres, it is simply not telling the truth.
It is true that after the suppression of the initial rebellion, the government did confiscate rebel land.
They had been warned of this, and in any case would have understood such action, as it was in accord with long-standing Maori custom.
The rebels were not “tricked and cheated”, as the film says.
Much of the confiscated land was returned subsequently.
It was on such land that Te W’iti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi founded Parihaka village in 1867, the year after the end of the second rebellion in Taranaki (1863-1866) — clearly a provocative act.
They were followers of Te Ua Haumene’s Pai Marire (Hau Hau) religion, and in 1864 both played a part in the Hau Hau attack on Sentry Hill in northern Taranaki.
Only later did they became pacifists.
In December 1865, Te Ua consecrated them to carry on his religious work, though they did not observe the bloody Hau Hau practices at Parihaka.
The film makes much of Te W’iti’s three feathers.
They look remarkably like the British Prince of Wales’ feathers, which date back to Edward the Black Prince in the 14th century.
In any case, as I have noted earlier, white feathers were a symbol of peace of the Morioris of the Chatham Islands, who were enslaved, murdered and eaten by invading tribes from Taranaki, only 101 of an initial population of about 1600 remaining a few years later.
With reference to the prisoners taken south from Parihaka:
In visiting Ripapa Island, where they were held en route to Dunedin, Maaka says in the film that she feels the squalor and chains in its catacomb-like tunnels — failing to mention that it was built as a fort for harbour defence, and the tunnels were designed for that purpose.
My own father was ‘in camp’ there early in WWI, as a member of No 2 Company, Garrison Artillery, before he went to France.
While the prisoners’ conditions were harsh, for the film to show a picture of Dunedin under snow, which happens for only a few days each year, is gross exaggeration of the situation.
That 21 of 153 prisoners died there is regrettable, but perhaps not excessive in 19th century conditions anywhere.
Again, the film states that the last of the prisoners returned to Parihaka in 1898, which was after 17 years, not 19 as the film says.
It fails to say that most were released after 16 months.
But in a film which is a piece of propaganda, such lack of balance is to be expected.
We are told:
“The struggle continues. In the absence of justice there can be no peace.”
In conflict with that, an adjacent wall panel in the theatrette displays the three feathers and says “Where to from here? Goodwill to all humanity.”
Given the huge sums in Waitangi settlements recently given to numerous Taranaki tribes, it may be asked just how much more ‘justice’ do they expect?
Where else in the world are such huge sums in reparations paid to defeated rebels?
Note: my latest figures say four tribes have received a total of $111.5 million — with four more to come.
Remember, this is after a settlement in 1926 and a ‘final settlement’ of claims by the Taranaki Maori Settlement Act in 1944!
A biased Parihaka story has been presented repeatedly for far too long as a blot on the record of colonial days in New Zealand.
This has been aggravated recently by the blatant lying of the supposedly authoritative, but racist, Waitangi Tribunal in its statement that
“the invasion and sacking of Parihaka must rank with the most heinous action of any government in any country in the last century”
linking it with an alleged “holocaust of Taranaki history”, this being dutifully repeated by Taranaki ‘academic’ Kerry Opai in a well-publicised Waitangi Day interview with Kim Hill.
This shows just how far privileged groups will lie in order to advance their own interests.
With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that some of the actions of the colonial government of the day were not well-judged.
But they were faced with many difficulties of Maori making, including the murder of defenceless settler families.
Today, the sort of propaganda of which this film is a small example, has grown into a massive cancer upon the integrity of our nation.
The consequent deterioration of race relations is deplorable.
In conclusion, I mention that I am no racist.
The film says members of the Ellison family assisted prisoners in Dunedin.
I knew many of them well.
Rangi (1901-2001) and his younger brother, Mutu,QSM, were my friends.
And I knew their wives and family members.
My grandfather gave blankets to Maori families who needed them in the 1918 influenza epidemic.
And I have accepted his views in my work with people of many races, some of which continues to this day.
Obama has just won the US election! Great!
I wouldn’t say Obama’s re-election was so great. But we’re a broad church here. 🙂