6 Nov 2021

Parihaka descendants commemorate resilience of tūpuna during invasion

3:12 pm on 6 November 2021

Descendants of Taranaki are remembering the peaceful resistance carried out by their tūpuna during the invasion of Parihaka 140 years ago.

Parihaka Papakainga Trust trustee Ruakere Hond.

Parihaka Papakainga Trust trustee Ruakere Hond says this Sunday's anniversary will be marked differently because of Covid-19 restrictions. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

In 1881, the small settlement of Parihaka was invaded by about 1600 Crown troops seeking to confiscate their lands.

Ancestors at the time, including prophets Te Whiti ō Rongomai and Tohu kākahi, were arrested, assaulted, and imprisoned.

Parihaka Papakainga trustee Ruakere Hond said this Sunday's anniversary would be different with whānau following Covid-19 restrictions to protect the vulnerable.

Instead, commemorations will be held outdoors with whānau being socially distanced and bringing their own kai.

"Normally, each year we might get 300-400 people and it's usually on the 7th as they are people who are connected to the tūpuna who were there on the day," Hond said.

"However, this year because of Covid and because we have so many elders living on the reservation then we need to really put their health and well-being to the forefront," he said.

"This year we won't be having our kai indoors, we won't be having a shared hāngī in the way that we would normally ... but the difference this year is that we will be outside where the people sat at the time."

The special recognition on 7 November reflects the day the colonial soldiers pointed a cannon at the residents of Parihaka but it never fired.

Instead, Parihaka descendants for generations have celebrated the anniversary of Te Pāhua - The Day of Plunder - by remembering the type of activities that happened on the day.

Armed constabulary prepare to advance on Parihaka pā, in Taranaki, in 1881.

Armed constabulary prepare to advance on Parihaka pā, in Taranaki, in 1881. Photo: Alexander Turnbull Library, Parihaka Album Ref: PA1-q-183-19

During normal Te Pāhua celebrations, they embraced many symbolic elements such as gathering, sharing hāngī with all the kai being cooked whole and eating mainly white meat, Hond said.

"On the 7th, we share a kai together as they did in those days, we sit on the ground and eat our kai out of harakeke kono - baskets woven out of harakeke, we also don't cut up our food as in those days they didn't cut up the food and they broke it apart with their hands.

"In today's times, it's also to recognise the fact that they stayed together, so there are many symbolic elements to the way in which it's recognised in the community."

For the people of Taranaki, the peaceful approach their ancestors Tohu and Te Whiti demonstrated when faced against conflict with the colonial troops remains a meaningful part of their history.

The community reflects back to what the two prophets sought to achieve 140 years prior in relation to peace and understanding, and recognises they are still pursuing that vision today.

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Rangi Kipa looking over Parihaka in 2017 before the Crown's formal apology for the military invasion of 1881. (File image) Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Hond said the significance of 5 November was still an excellent way for the rest of the country to recognise the occasion where Māori and Pākeha ancestors were involved in this incident.

More importantly, he said it was a time for the future generations, because when the soldiers invaded, it was the children who were the first to meet them to demonstrate that Parihaka was not responding in battle.

Meanwhile, the community of Parihaka continues to mark the anniversary of Te Pāhua as an opportunity to celebrate the survival of their tūpuna.

"We come together to recognise our tūpuna who stood firm on that day.

"It's a way in which we can look at the history, we can look at what took place in those days and say things should have been done completely different or should have been done in a way that recognised and respected each other. As a result then we need to work hard on rebuilding that trust and that respect, what we're trying to re-establish in today's generation.

"We refer to our tamariki as tātarakihi, like little cicada's that come out of the ground when the sun shines, in a similar way our tamariki come out and they're a part of the community.

"We hope the tamariki are a part of this day ... to say this is what your tūpuna did and this is a way in which you can recognise their strength, their stamina and resilience."

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