This year the Green Party announced that Marama Davidson will re-enter the Maori Party’s Te ra o Parihaka Bill into Parliament’s Member’s Bill Ballot to establish a further grievance day following Land Wars Day (aka Tribal Rebellions Day) on October 28, and of course Waitangi Day on February 6. (1)
Davidson, who is the Green Party’s Maori Development spokesperson, went on to say that “earlier this year, in a truly historic reconciliation ceremony, the Crown apologised to the people of Parihaka for the first time, including for the rape of women and children.
Note, she alleged the rape of women and children.
The apology, by former Treaty Negotiations Minister Christopher Finlayson in June of this year, detailed the Crown's failings which included the imprisonment without trial of residents, the depravation of the prisoners' basic human rights, the invasion and forced eviction of residents, the sacking of the pa, for the rapes committed by Crown troops and the arrests of Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi.(2)
Curious about the allegations of rape, I sent to Mr Finlayson a request under the Official Information Act asking:
1.The date or dates on which these alleged offences occurred.The reply from Nashwa Boys of the Office of Treaty Settlements provided as evidence testimony to the 1927 Sim Commission, a newspaper report from 1882, an unreferenced assertion in Ask That Mountain by radical writer Dick Scott, oral testimony to the Waitangi Tribunal by a single claimant, and a poi song/dance that purportedly tells the story.
2.The specific location where these alleged offences occurred. Ie Where at Parihaka?
3.The number of such offences.
4.The names or description of the alleged offenders.
5.The names or number of alleged victims.
6.The ages of the alleged victims.
7.The date when the alleged offences were first reported.
Testimony to the 1927 Sim Commission from two witnesses who were at Parihaka in 1881, one named Rangi Matatoro Watene, who was aged around 24 at the time, and the other named Noho Mairangi Te Whiti, the son of Te Whiti O Rongomai) who was aged 14 at the time.
Watene said that “the women folk were gathering food for the people in the pa, for us, and the soldiers were assaulting the women folk. Some of those women got children through the soldiers”.
The younger Te Whiti said that soldiers “took the women and made use of them, cohabitating with them, the outcome of which is that their offspring are living now”.
A lengthy opinion piece in the Otago Daily Times on March 18, 1882, had a brief mention of “soldiers plying Parihaka women with rum”.(3)
The unreferenced assertion in Ask That Mountain says that “women were frequently the victims of drunken and diseased troopers”. In his autobiography, Scott quoted a doctor who alleged looting, debauchery, and congenital syphilis resulting from the occupation of Parihaka.
Other evidence came from Taranaki claimant Peter Moeahu who said he had been told by elders of women and girls who suffered at the hands of the Crown’s forces.
According to the reply from the Office of Treaty Settlements, “Crown officials also considered the words of a traditional poi that recounts, in the first person, the experience of women from Parihaka being raped”. (4)
That’s all the evidence that the Office of Treaty Settlements provided. I’m sure if there was more they would have happily provided it.
That office was unable to provide dates on which these alleged rapes occurred, a specific location or locations, or the number of such offences. Alleged perpetrators were simply described as “the soldiers”, there was no number of alleged victims, no ages, and it appears the first report of the allegations was in 1927, 46 years later, to a grievance commission.
In other words, if such evidence was taken to a rape trial, there would be insufficient evidence to support conviction. But in his abject apology about Crown actions at Parihaka in 1881, the Minister, Christopher Finlayson, conceded rape anyway. Any descendants of troops who served there had their memories blackened.
News reports of Finlayson’s apology in June 2017 focussed on the rape allegations, giving the impression that rape was the main activity at the Parihaka crackdown.
The story has obviously grown somewhat in the retelling over the years. The two eyewitnesses alleged that women were assaulted. News reports earlier this year turned the mass eviction into a mass rape. Green MP Marama Davidson has upped the ante by claiming the rape of women and children.
There appears to be no end of calls to acknowledge all wickedness by coloniser forebears. But ANY Minister whose role it is to atone for the past should tell the truth. And MPs who like to climb up on this bandwagon, like Marama Davidson, should not make stuff up.
Adding a Parihaka Day to our two other grievance days every year should be the last thing wanted by our new inclusive government that wants foster harmonious race relations.
1. Marama Davidson to adopt Te ra o Parihaka Bill, https://www.greens.org.nz/news/press-release/marama-davidson-adopt-te-r%C4%81-o-parihaka-bill.
2. Crown apologises to Parihaka for past horrors, Stuff, June 9, 2017. https://i.stuff.co.nz/taranaki-daily-news/news/93492596/crown-to-apologise-to-parihaka-today-for-past-injustices
3. The Times of Te Whiti, Otago Daily Times, March 18, 1882. https://Paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ODT18820318.2.24
4.Taranaki Iwi Historical Account, www.govt.nz/dmsdocument/6172.pdf.