It is said that we learn from history but that is predicated by what sort of history we are taught. New Zealand history has become of major importance as with many Waitangi Tribunal findings being based on histories.
The Waitangi Tribunal's role as a truth-recovery mechanism has been questioned by historians critical of the Tribunal's interpretations of the past. Eminent NZ historian Bill Oliver criticized the Tribunal's conclusions as creating a “retrospective utopia”.
We now have new narratives being created by those with vested interests to improve their own ideological or financial position. The following are two examples.
1. A revised history for the Battle of Rangiowhia.
Rangiowhia is near Te Awamutu and was a supply village, supplying food to the Kingite garrisons. Standard war practice is to cut off supplies to the enemy. General Cameron outflanked the Kingites’ heavy defences at Paterangi and Rangiatea and attacked Rangiowhia on the morning of 21 February 1864.
Casualties of the battle are recorded as:
Maori: 12 killed including chiefs Hoani and Ihaia and possibly two daughters of Kereopa Te Rau (one of the murderers of the Rev. Volkner at Opotiki and notable for having swallowed Volkner's eyes).
European: 3 killed and 2 mortally wounded.
Revisionist historians now claim that Maori were rounded up, locked in a church which was then set on fire burning them to death. Some of these historians claim as many as 144 were killed, The inconvenient fact that both churches at Rangiowhia survived the battle ( the English church is still there today) seem to have been erased from their “history”. This was certainly not “an appalling act of genocide” as claimed by academic and historian Jock Phillips.
Some teenagers from Otorohanga who on a school history trip to the site of the Battle of Rangiowhia "were horrified to hear that women and children who sought shelter in a local church were locked inside and the church burnt to the ground". Clearly the students did no research to check the veracity of this claim because they then started a petition to have a holiday to commemorate the "Land Wars". The Government of the time also swallowed this story and provided $4 million to Iwi to fund a NZ Wars Commemoration Day.
My main concern is, it seems, the commemorations are to be run only by Maori.
Of the approximately 3000 who died in these wars, some 1000 were British soldiers and militia. Their descendants are not being consulted. My forebears arrived in 1841 and some lost their lives in the Waikato and Taranaki wars. No one has approached me or my family. Have we no say?
1845 is the official starting point for the NZ Wars Commemorations and so conveniently rules out the holocaust that was the Musket Wars, the invasion of the Chathams and the genocide of the Moriori and Te Rauparaha's blood-drenched rampage through the South Island. It seems that only part of NZ history that Maori want commemorated is where history can be revised and so weave a new korowai of victimhood.
2. Dunedin Cave Prison claim
Recent research of the story of Taranaki Maori prisoners being held captive in a Dunedin cave between 1869 and 1881 showed the stories of the cave's use lacked one thing - “evidence” and it may have been built in the early 20th century It shows the inherent danger of accepting oral history without conclusive evidence, and that despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, there are still some who clearly don't want the truth to get in the way of a good grievance.
I favour New Zealand history being taught in our schools but it has to be based on fact and not an elevation of sensitivity over truth. The Department of Education has failed to write a factual history syllabus for teaching in schools instead they have left it to teachers to decide if and what they teach.
This has left a vacuum which is being filled by Iwi such as Tainui providing schools with their own version which seem designed to portray themselves as victims of the NZ Wars, the British, and colonisation and leaving out anything that may portray Maori in a poor light.
NZ history must must be factual, it must be warts and all, and must be acceptable to all New Zealanders.
We now have so-called “modern” historians writing revisionist history and including the vilification of early historians such as James Cowan.
Criticism of revisionist historians is best expressed in the words of Daniel Patrick Moynihan - “people are entitled to their own opinions, what they are not entitled to is their own facts”.
Attempts to re-write history does little for race relations and unity in this country.
If we continue down this path of separatism and don't unite as New Zealanders we will fail as country.
Richard Prince is a former Wellington Real Estate Licencee and property investor. He is a noted political commentator, and torturer of Councillors. He now lives in sunny Tauranga.