Parihaka Day: Kōrero with Kura Moeahu

If you haven’t heard of Parihaka,
Be sure
Your grandchildren will
And their children after them

From “He waiata tēnei mō Parihaka” by J.C. Sturm.

5 November 1881. Tucked between Mt Taranaki and the sea is a settlement of almost three thousand people. For the past two decades it has been a centre of political, ethical and religious thought in Aotearoa, a site of tino rangatiratanga in the wake of warfare and confiscation. Electric lights have been installed; councils held; a campaign of non-violent resistance maintained over several years. The settlement is Parihaka.

But just before daybreak, colonial soldiers are sighted nearby–Armed Constabulary and mounted rifles. Local media are arrested in an attempt to mask what is about to happen. So begins the Day of Plunder, what has been called “one of the worst infringements of civil and human rights ever committed and witnessed in this country.”

140 years later, 5 November is remembered as Parihaka Day. Dawn ceremonies are held at sites across the motu, and there are increasing calls for official recognition. As part of this, we recently reached out to Te Rūnanganui o Te Āti Awa ki te Upoko o Te Ika a Māui Inc. Tiamana | Chairman Kura Moeahu to discuss the importance of Parihaka, and its powerful role in the country’s past and future.

Armed constabulary awaiting orders to advance on Parihaka Pa. Collis, William Andrews, 1853-1920 :Negatives of Taranaki. Ref: 10×8-1081. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23081905

Parihaka Day is coming up on 5 November. What could people do to mark it this year?

Kura Moeahu: Waking up at 4am and sitting quietly outside reflecting on what took place that morning on 5 November 1881, hearing the bugle in the distance from Pungarehu signalling 2000 soldiers to advance onto Parihaka, a peaceful village. The first to meet them were the children singing, skipping rope and playing only to be shunned and physically assaulted by the soldiers, horses and the guns the soldiers carried. Secondly, reflect about the women who met the soldiers with food and water and like their children were physically abused and the food knocked out of their hands, and in days that followed raped as payment to the soldiers and had to carry the whakama (shame) for the rest of their lives and the intergenerational trauma that followed that still exists today. And thirdly think about the men who were encouraged to sit quietly on the marae, as the soldiers surrounded them, placed a cannon up on the hill aimed down at them. Sitting quietly listing to the words and inspiring delivery of both Te Whiti and Tohu commanding the men not to retaliate, reminding them that “should the bayonet be put to your neck smite not in return for surely, we will be obliterated…”. You ask what people could do, simply rise at 4am on 5 November and reflect on the ordeal and strong resilience to not retaliate in the face of adversity.

How would you like to see Parihaka discussed in the recently updated school curriculum?

Kura Moeahu: Parihaka is only one part of the total Māori suppressive behaviour of another culture on ones rangatiratanga and tuakiritanga. To gain a deeper understanding of Parihaka one must go back and understand the historical impact of colonial and imperialism protocols of a foreign system and infrastructure from its arrival, the impact of Christianity and legislation speedily passed to maximise for the benefit for white colonial privileges.

Parihaka has been recognised as a forerunner of international non-violent resistance. How did this global connection begin, and how has it continued to develop?

Kura Moeahu: It emanated out of the actions of Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi, whom Ghandi studied and saw how powerful passive resistance and a strong Māori economy was supporting the towns around Taranaki. It continues to be developed through stories, and waiata. Within the rich waiata held by whanau, hapū and iwi allows for deeper analysis and examination through wananga that generates thoughts and the creation of Matauranga Māori.

Parihaka Pa. Collis, William Andrews, 1853-1920 :Negatives of Taranaki. Ref: 1/1-011758-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22789285

What current and future role do you think Parihaka has in terms of addressing climate change?

Kura Moeahu: It is encapsulated in the saying “Honour and glory to God on high, peace on earth and goodwill to all men”. Honour and glory to God on high reminds us to reconnect with our spiritual side. Peace on earth is the section dedicated to looking after our environment and taking care of the work. Goodwill to all men reminds us to care for everyone including our enemies.

How do you see Parihaka developing over the next decade?

Kura Moeahu: Developing tourism, education, health and environmental strategies, create opportunities for the people of Parihaka to tell their stories through visits, virtual 4D experience, usage of technology.