Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Mike Butler: Old Hauhau Kereopa gets new shine
Yet another chapter in the history of New Zealand was re-written last week when the old Hauhau fanatic Kereopa Te Rau was quietly given a statutory pardon for involvement in the killing of Reverend Carl Sylvius Volkner at Opotiki in March 1865.
The pardon does not change the past because Kereopa remains executed and Volkner remains murdered but it does mean that Ngati Rangiwewehi could use it to help squeeze $6-million in financial redress from the government as their settlement deed was passed into law.
Notable by its absence in the New Zealand Herald report titled "Pardoned at last: Chief cleared of 1865 murder" is any context of the murder of Volkner. The missionary was hanged from a willow tree and then beheaded beside a wooden church near Opotiki.
The context was of armed conflicted between government forces and disaffected tribes that started in Taranaki in 1860 and spread into the Waikato district in 1863. In this environment, Pai-Marire founder Te Ua Haumene combined smatterings of church doctrine with ancient incantations to create a religion that united tribes in a bond of passionate hate against the wicked white coloniser.
His fanatical followers, who settlers called “Hauhaus” for the sound of their battle chant, attracted government attention when they attacked and defeated a patrol at Te Ahuahu, north Taranaki, on April 6, 1864, and left seven soldiers naked and decapitated. Worse, the heads were smoke-dried and used as a medium in Pai Marire rites.
Te Ua sent Kereopa Te Rau and Patara Raukatauri to the East Coast in December 1864, to spread his liberation theology. They took with them two deserters from British forces, including a French Canadian Indian, who carried the head of the leader of the patrol slaughtered at Te Ahuahu.
Kereopa was perhaps more strongly motivated than Patara Raukatauri because the year before, his wife and two daughters died near Te Awamutu after British troops burned down a whare, and the next day, in another Waikato seige, Kereopa's sister was killed. He believed that missionaries had guided troops to where his loved ones were located.
Kereopa told the Ngati Awa tribes in Whakatane in February 1865, to hand over the Catholic priest in the area. While the tribes thought about their response, Kereopa and Patara went to Opotiki, converted most of the Whakatohea tribe, and told the tribe to hand over Volkner, a German Lutheran missionary who was not there at the time.
Volkner did return to Opotiki on March 1, 1865, when Kereopa had him and fellow missionary Rev. Thomas Grace seized.
On the afternoon of the next day, Volkner was marched into his church, crowded with excited Hauhaus. Kereopa said from the altar that Volkner was to die. He took Volkner’s coat and waistcoat, which he put on, and ordered the minister to be taken outside and hanged.
Volkner was walked to a willow tree about 100 metres away, a rope was tied around his neck, he knelt and prayed, shook hands with some around him, and was swung up into the tree. His body was hauled up and down several times and left for about one hour, when it was taken down, carried closer to the church, and his head was chopped off.
Details of what subsequently happened have been omitted from later histories. Kereopa filled a communion chalice with Volkner’s blood, carried it and the head into the church, set both down on a reading table, and cried: “Hear, O Israel! This is the word of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! We are the Jews who were lost and have been persecuted.”
At this point he gouged both eyes out of the head, and swallowed them. The second eye stuck in his throat so he called for a glass of water. He drank some blood from the chalice and passed it around for members of the Pai Marire congregation to sip from it. Kereopa was nicknamed “Kai-karu” or “Eye-eater”. The head was taken to the house of the Catholic priest and smoke-dried over a fire.
It took soldiers five years to catch up with the elusive Kereopa, who had a £1000 bounty on his head. Eventually he was taken captive in the Ureweras, where Tuhoe people protected him along with another fanatic, the guerrilla leader Te Kooti. Tuhoe are still trying to figure out why government troops drove them out of the Ureweras.
After a brief trial on December 21, 1871, Kereopa was hanged at the old Napier jail on January 5, 1872.
Five others had been executed on May 17, 1866, for their role in the killing, including Mokomoko, a chief of the Whakatohea tribe, who was pardoned in 1992, and who had his character and reputation restored by legislation last December. Three Ngati Awa involved in murdering Volkner were pardoned in 1988.
With Ngati Rangiwewehi seeking a pardon as part of their settlement, in 2011 the Office of Treaty Settlements commissioned Professor David Williams of the University of Auckland Law School to write a report on the treatment of Kereopa that the tribe could use as support.
The report said that many of those who testified against Kereopa were themselves (allegedly) implicated in Volkner's death, but had been granted immunity from prosecution in return for helping to secure a conviction.
Kereopa had wanted to call a number of witnesses for his defence, but the Crown refused to assist in bringing any of them to Napier for the trial. Consequently, no witnesses for the defence appeared.
Other historians who want the Crown to pay for failing to apply 2014 standards to the 1872 execution of Kereopa while giving Maori perpetrators a free pass include Vincent O’Malley and Peter Wells.
Descendants of Kereopa say the statutory pardon was immensely important, citing a history of suicide among male descendants of the Arawa chief.
Now that five of the six people hanged for their role in the murder have been pardoned "the circumstances surrounding Volkner's death remain surrounded by a great of mystery", according to historian O'Malley. So it appears that Volkner’s killing was just one out-of-the-blue act done by Mr Nobody.
And that is exactly how history is revised. Dissident killers are quietly transformed into noble savages, and the new orthodoxy that presents Kereopa as an innocent victim of the wicked white colonizer will be taught in schools and universities.
And anyone who questions it is, well, racist and being mean.
Pardoned at last: Chief cleared of 1865 murder. NZ Herald, June 21, 2014. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/maori/news/article.cfm?c_id=252&objectid=11278442
The role of the Crown in the trial and execution of Kereopa Te Rau (1871-2), Professor David Williams, http://www.parliament.nz/resource/0001880403
The New Zealand Wars, James Cowan, Vol 2
A Statutory Pardon for Kereopa Te Rau, Vincent O'Malley. http://themeetingplacenz.blogspot.co.nz/2014/04/a-statutory-pardon-for-kereopa-te-rau.html
at 3:51 PM