Parihaka not Guy Fawkes

An Upper Hutt parish has called for 5 November to become an annual commemoration of a major non-violent protest from 1881.

St Joseph’s parish community in Upper Hutt is furthering its campaign next month to have Parihaka’s anniversary replace Guy Fawkes as the main event for 5 November.

The parish on the corner of Pine Avenue and Main Street is holding a party on Saturday, 3 November, to focus attention on the Parihaka story and the need for Kiwis to remember this first moment of non-violent protest in the country’s history.

On 5 November 1881 Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi led the people of Taranaki in a land occupation that challenged government troops moving in to claim land which had been confiscated by the crown.

A charismatic figure, Te Whiti had prepared the people well for the moment when army men on horseback would come with their weapons to crush one of the country’s last strongholds of M%u0101ori resistance.

He asked the people not to fight back when the soldiers came.

‘If any man thinks of his gun or his horse, and goes to fetch it, he will die by it … place your trust in forbearance and peace … let the booted feet come when they like, the land shall remain firm forever … I stand for peace. Though the lions rage still I am for peace … I am here to be taken.’

M%u0101ori had been preparing for the invasion for some time. The women had baked 500 loaves of bread for their visitors. The people gathered on the marae during the night and at 2.00am they shared a meal.

When the armed constabulary and volunteers move onto the marae, they were not met by the expected fear and anger, but greeted in the traditional M%u0101ori way.

An eyewitness account describes the scene. First a line of traditional Parihaka poi dancers greeted the soldiers, then ‘200 little boys who danced splendidly’ were followed by 60 girls with skipping ropes. A line of children across the entrance to the village were chanting under the direction of an old man with a stick. Their singing continued even when one of the soldiers galloped up and stopped just short of the line so as to spray dirt over the children. (One of these children was Maui Pomare who lost a toe in the encounter. Later Sir Maui, he was the country’s first M%u0101ori doctor and in 1901 became the first M%u0101ori health officer.)

Some of the children were led away but the people sat silently, wrapped in blankets holding tight to their leaders’ call for a peaceful resistance in the face of severe provocation.

Eventually the leaders were arrested and led away, hands tied behind their backs, to the prison in New Plymouth. The soldiers then plundered the village, taking two weeks to destroy the gardens and two months to demolish the houses. A good deal of looting took care of pounamu mere and other M%u0101ori taonga. The people were reportedly roughed up and the women raped during the Pahua (plunder), according to a Waitangi Tribunal report. Groups of iwi from other parts of the country were dispersed and hundreds of people arrested and sent to jails in Wellington and in the South Island.

For Wharehoka Wano whose ancestors were among the resisters, this is the big message: ‘The Pahua was a sad day in our history, but it was a survival tactic, and we did survive. Why did Te Whiti and Tohu want us to survive?—so that we could redress those injustices at the appropriate time.’ (Virginia Winder story on downloaded 27 September 2007)

Guy Fawkes commemorates a 1605 attempt to blow up the British houses of parliament and kill King James I in protest at protestant rule. With the call of Vatican II and subsequent popes’ exhortation to the church to build relationships with people of other faiths, it is no longer wise to mark this date.

Parish activities

Spokesperson Elaine Vandervorst says parish groups are planning a two-hour liturgy on Saturday night at 7.00 which Rev Charles Noanoa will lead in the church grounds with lots of singing including the Parihaka song (see below). Other parishes and denominations in Upper Hutt have been invited to participate. The Mayor of Upper Hutt, Wayne Guppy, has been invited to speak of his quest for the city to be made a peace city.

St Joseph’s School students with those from one of the local state schools are studying Parihaka this year and they will also perform.

‘It may take some time before the country stops celebrating Guy Fawkes, but we feel it’s important to recognise Parihaka’s significance for our nation and commemorate this day of peaceful resistance,’ Elaine Vandervorst says.

See Tim Finn’s Song of Parihaka

My friend, My friend, I hate to see you suffer,

Events conspire to bring us to our knees,

My friend, my friend, you’ve taken this the wrong way,

Rise up, defend yourself, never give in,

Look to the sky, the spirit of Te Whiti,

The endless tide is murmuring his name.

I know Te Whiti will never be defeated,

And even at the darkest hour,

His presence will remain.

I’ll sing for you a song of Parihaka.

Te Whiti he used the language of the spirit,

Then stood accused, the madman and his dream,

He saw the train go roaring through the tunnel,

He heard the voice travel on the magic wire,

But he loved the silence of the river,

He watched the dog piss on the cannon’s wheel.

I know Te Whiti will never be defeated,

And even at the darkest hour,

His presence will remain.

I’ll sing for you a song of Parihaka

One day you’ll know the truth,

They can’t pull out the roots,

Come and take me home,

To weep for my lost brother.

They gather still, the clouds of Taranaki,

His children’s children wearing the white plume,

So take me for the sins of these sad islands,

The wave still breaks on the rock of Rouhotu.

And when you taste the salt that’s on your pudding,

And when you taste the sugar in your soup,

Think of Te Whiti, he’ll never be defeated,

Even at the darkest hour,

His presence will remain,

I’ll sing for you a song of Parihaka

Come to Parihaka,

Weep for my lost brother,

The spirit of nonviolence,

Has come to fill the silence,

Come to Parihaka.

Tim Finn 1989