Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Bruce Moon: The Rangiaowhia Incident

There must be few events in New Zealand’s history which have been the subject of more brazen lying than the occupation of Rangiaowhia by government troops on 21st February 1864.[1]  

In particular the gross falsehood of the burning of a church full of women and children has been repeated time and again, and recently, for example:

- by Tommy Wilson in the “Bay of Plenty Times”, 12/8/09
- in  Eraka’s Blog in Tainui News, 7/5/14
- by JOC Phillips on air, 2/4/16
- by Susan Devoy in the “Bay of Plenty Times”. 4/1/17
- by Vincent O’Malley in “The Listener”, 25/2/17
- by members of Ngati Apakura in “Waikato Times”, 9/12/17
- by deceived children of Otorohanga College

The great irony of it all is that the Rangiaowhia affray was what military chaplain Frank Glen has called “commendable humanitarianism”[2] by General Cameron who wanted to avoid a “set piece” confrontation with the Waikato rebels at their massively strong fort at Paterangi.  In this he was brilliantly successful but the rebels, furious at being so outwitted by him, soon started spreading the foul lie of the church-burning and that has blazed up again and again with all these so-called “historians” and their like joining the chorus today.

And now we have Arini Loader on “Twitter”, 6/11/18,  talking of the “massacre at Rangiaowhia”,  the site where the people say upwards of 100 Māori villagers died on 21 February 1864. Terrorism. Mayhem.”  Yes, well actually the number of rebels killed was twelve, almost all in the whare where an old fool, Hoani Papita, shot and killed Sergeant McHale at point-blank range when invited to surrender.  Notwithstanding that Loader is a university lecturer, expected to obey a high standard of research,  she prefers to write what “people say”, old wives’ tales, those of Hazel Warner for example[3] in preference to doing some sound research of the historical evidence so the lie rolls on and on.[4]  By contrast, even prominent rebel leader, Wiremu Kingi said “There was only one house burnt; that was the house where the Maoris died.  I went there and saw it.”

Far from being the haven of peace which these people would have us believe, Rangiaowhia was the principal source of food for the rebels in their strong fort at Paterangi and therefore fully involved in the rebellion.  And let us remember that that was no small affair, advanced plans for the destruction of the town of Auckland being considered seriously by the rebels at one stage.

It was General Cameron’s plan to take possession by surprise of this food basket of the rebels, forcing them to surrender without a frontal attack on their fort which would have led to serious loss of life on both sides.  He took good care to invite all the women and children to escape unharmed and nearly all of them did so but then spasmodic musket fire erupted from within the village, notably from one of the churches.  Rapidly the troops took control, just two rebels being killed at this stage and a few wounded with substantial quantities of arms being found on the dwellings being searched.

At one whare, fashioned as a gunpit with a sunken floor, the occupants were called upon to come out and one man, his wife and small son[5] did so safely.  Then Sergeant McHale, an Australian, was directed to enter the whare and call on those remaining to surrender but in response Hoani shot him dead.  A sharp and furious encounter followed, the whare being set alight, possibly by the discharges of the occupants’ guns but maybe in an attack by the troops and Colonel Nixon and several soldiers fell.  Blinded by smoke, Hoani staggered out, waving his blanket in no more, it is likely, than a reflex gesture to ward off the fire of the troops.  Indeed the officers called on the men to hold their fire but in the heat of battle a volley cut him down.  This incident should be seen in the light of the circumstances and not his surrender, still less as his waving a white flag, the tale told in Te Awamutu today.*

The slain were buried and about thirty prisoners taken back to the mission station at Otawhao, the wounded being treated kindly.

So ended the capture of Rangiaowhia, but for one exception the almost bloodless outcome which General Cameron desired.   It was a most significant event after which the end of the rebellion and restoration of peace were only a matter of time.  Both churches remained standing for many years afterwards in mute testimony to his success.  

The point to be stressed is that it was not the actions of the benevolent Cameron and his troops which are responsible for the reported anguish of Ngati Apakura but the lies nurtured by their own people from then to this day.

If they will not accept the truth let them get an archaeological examination done by professionals to remove the doubt for ever.

[1]     Though the Parihaka tale must come close!
[2]     F.Glen, “Australians at war in New Zealand”, Willsonscott, 2011, ISBN 978-1-87742-739-8, p.146
[3]     “Waikato Times”, op.cit.
[4]     For a fuller account of this event, see: “We Have Just One True History”, “New Zealand Voice”, March 2017, p. 40
[5]     This lad, Potatau, gave his own account many years later, consistent with what is written here.  See "Brett's Historical Series, ed. Thomson W Leys & H Brett, Auckland 1890
As a colleague of mine was informed at the Te Awamutu Museum

Bruce Moon is a retired computer pioneer who wrote "Real Treaty; False Treaty - The True Waitangi Story".


John Laurie said...

I have read many contemporary accounts, including one by a Maori child who was in the whare, and this seems to be a fair representation of what really happened there.

Unknown said...

We as New Zealanders need a public friendly booklet / school reader that gives a brief factual summary of all faulsely represented battles and also a list of all the final treaty settlements awarded to all Iwi as well as a short summary of the devastating inter Iwi warfare pre treaty which saw so much land left empty for settlers to occupy.
I am happy to be part of getting this done and contribution money to its publication both as an ebook and as a printed version that could go to all schools and members of parliament. Terry

Unknown said...

If a lie is told for long enough and often enough then it becomes the new truth. Just like Rangiaowhia. Recently in the NZ Nursing journal it stated that before the colonials came to NZ the Maori people lived in harmony and peace. This nursing Journal which I read every month is telling readers that all the Maori problems is because the coming of the white man. This journal is becoming a propaganda rag and therefore is racially dividing all of us.