Te Whiti o Rongomai
In 1863 the New Zealand Settlements Act authorised the settler government to confiscate any land where Maori were considered to be in rebellion – the government then took 3 million acres, mostly in Taranaki and Waikato. Settler surveyors started carving up Waimate plains for settlers from Canterbury and Manawatu.
In 1879 Te Whiti o Rongomai started non-violent resistance to government surveying. During that period of non-violent unrest, hundreds of Maori were arrested and kept in prison without trial. Parihaka became a stronghold of Maori opposition to the loss of tribal lands.
Te Whiti said, ‘Though some, in darkness of heart, seeing their land ravished, might wish to take arms and kill the aggressors, I say it must not be. Let not the Pakehas think to succeed by reason of their guns. . . . I want not war, but they do. The flashes of their guns have singed our eyelashes, and yet they say they do not want war. . . . The government come not hither to reason, but go to out-of-the-way places. They work secretly, but I speak in public so that all may hear’.
The conflicts between the people of Parihaka and the settler-backed government came to a head in 1881. On 19 October, Native Affairs Minister William Rolleston signed a proclamation to invade Parihaka. On 5 November 1881 the peaceful village was invaded by 1500 volunteers and members of the Armed Constabulary.
The soldiers were welcomed by the 2000 people of Parihaka, children came out skipping, soldiers were offered food and drink and adults allowed themselves to be arrested without protest. The Riot Act was read and an hour later Te Whiti and Tohu were led away to a mock trial.
The leaders of Parihaka along with hundreds of their people were imprisoned in the South Island, many in freezing cold caves where they died from exposure, disease and malnutrition. The destruction of Parihaka began immediately. It took the army two weeks to pull down the houses and two months to destroy the crops.
Women and girls were raped leading to an outbreak of syphilis in the community. People suspected of being from other areas of the country were thrown out. Thousands of cattle, pigs and horses were slaughtered and confiscated.
Fort Rolleston was built on a tall hill in the village; four officers and seventy soldiers garrisoned it. The five-year Military occupation of Parihaka had begun.
Danny Keenan, ‘Te Whiti-o-Rongomai III, Erueti ? – 1907’, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 22 June 2007 URL: http://www.dnzb.govt.nz/
Dick Scott, Ask That Mountain: The story of Parihaka. Auckland: Reed Publishing, 1986.