Te Rā o te Pāhua | The Day of Plunder
November 5 marks a dark day in the history of race relations within Aotearoa New Zealand. The shadow of events in Parihaka stretches from the mountain of Taranaki to the shores of Whakaraupō Lyttelton Harbour and beyond.
Māori peacefully united in Parihaka for their survival and the cultivation of their soil in the face of land confiscation and the concentrated efforts of imperial forces. The values of peaceful protest and nonviolent resistance preceded the time of Gandhi and has become a practice echoed in protest movements since. The values of this movement must be acknowledged, especially in their continuation within the challenging environments and people that the prisoners and remaining whānau were met with in the aftermath of Te Rā o te Pātua.
Following is an extract from the book “Rāpaki Church A Sesquicentennial 1869-2019” by Ngāti Wheke kaumātua Donald Couch.
Parihaka is a Māori community in Taranaki. The name is now associated in New Zealand history with nonviolent resistance by Māori to European forceful occupation of confiscated Māori land, and their subsequent treatment.
In 1870, 74 Māori from Pakakohi, Taranaki, received death sentences imposed by courts-martial. The sentences were later commuted to imprisonment in Dunedin for terms of three or seven years. Subsequently, it was officially recorded that 18 of the 74 died there.
One of the ways non-violent resistance was practiced was to plough confiscated land. About 420 plowmen were subsequently imprisoned. Another method was to build fences. None of the 216 arrested in 1879 were granted a trial. They were sent directly to South Island prisons.
On 5 November 1881, 1600 troops and cavalry (including Harry Ell, later of Port Hills Summit Road fame), entered the village of Parihaka. 1600 inhabitants were expelled and dispersed throughout Taranaki without food or shelter. Soldiers looted and destroyed most of the buildings at Parihaka. The leaders Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi were arrested and jailed for 16 months.
As the Waitangi Tribunal reported in 1996, “a vibrant and productive Māori community was destroyed (with] total State control of all matters Māori.” More than 400 Māori were arrested and jailed in the South Island where they remained without trial for as long as 16 months. This was done via a series of new repressive laws, which permitted the Government to postpone trials indefinitely.
The Government moved all Parihaka prisoners to the South Island, incarcerating them in jails in Dunedin, Hokitika, Lyttelton and Rīpapa (later to Ōtamahua Quail Island). There were an increasing number of deaths in custody in the freezing South Island jails.
In March 2000, descendants of Parihaka prisoners visited Rāpaki during a heke to Te Waipounamu to visit the places where their tīpuna had been imprisoned or buried.
Unfortunately, compared with the Parihaka prisoners sent to Dunedin and Hokitika, where some details of their experiences are available, there is little information about those who were imprisoned in Whakaraupō. The Waitangi Tribunal confirmed that neither the Government nor the media wanted information released.
In 1881, the Lyttelton Times declined the publication of an article on the prisoners because “our correspondent gives details which are really too disgusting for publication and if true, cast the utmost disgrace upon those who had the prisoners in charge.”
And, in Parliament the Native Minister gave only vague replies, such as “the deaths amongst Māoris have been very few in proportion to the numbers of the prisoners…”
But die they unfortunately and undoubtedly did on Ōtamahua. Rāpaki offered manaaki with burial in a Māori urupā on Māori whenua. As the Rāpaki urupā Parihaka monument states, the prisoners that died on Ōtamahua Island were buried on the island, but Rāpaki people exhumed and reinterred them back at Rāpaki urupā.
In June 2017, the Crown made a formal apology. Chris Finlayson, Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations and Attorney General of New Zealand, on behalf of the Crown, acknowledged the past events at Parihaka as “among the most shameful in the history of our land.”
Copyright ©️ 2019 Donald Couch
See also “Rāpaki Church Sesquicentennial 1869-2010 A History” by Donald Couch https://ngaitahu.iwi.nz/shop/rapaki-church-sesquicentennial-1869-2019-a-history