Dear Arena Williams,
In your “Conversations” column for 18 February 2021, you state that “in an age of misinformation online and social media noise” .. “learning our history ... teaches us to think critically”. Yet you repeat one of the grossest lies which have ever been perpetrated about the history of New Zealand. Yes, you repeat one of the most frequently chanted lies with which our history is sullied: that “Colonel Nixon was famous for razing unfortified Rangiaowhia while men, women and children burnt in their church.” Not a word of this is true.
The truth is that in a humanitarian move to minimize loss of lives, both of Government troops and Waikato rebels, General Cameron chose to bypass the rebels’ strong fort at Paterangi and cut off their food supplies from Rangiaowhia which was thus actively engaged in the rebellion. In an early morning move after women and children had been allowed to leave the village unharmed, the village was quickly occupied, the churches still standing. At one slab hut occupied by armed rebels, Sergeant McHale was ordered by Captain Wilson to enter and demand the surrender of the occupants. Old fool Hoani Papita shot him dead, at which point a furious encounter took place in which Colonel Nixon was mortally wounded and the slab hut burnt to the ground. The accounts of Captain Wilson, two troopers who were present and one Potatau who had escaped early from it with his parents are all consistent. The fort at Paterangi was deserted without a fight. As historian Chris Pugsley has observed: “it was the decisive action in the entire conflict, a severe economic setback for the Kingitanga and a major blow to its morale.” - a rebellion in which, at one stage, the rebels had planned to attack Auckland and slaughter most of its inhabitants.
So much for your “razing [of] unfortified Rangiaowhia while men, women and children burnt in their church”, concocted within months by the rebels, furious at being so outwitted, as Captain Wilson discovered in a discussion with two Wesleyan ministers at a great Maori meeting at Kopua not long afterwards. It has been repeated in one shape or form ever since; in recent times by Tommy Wilson, in “Eraka’s blog”, by JOC Phillips, by Susan Devoy, by Vincent O'Malley, by members of Ngati Apakura in the “Waikato Times” and by deceived children of Otorohanga College.
And so, Arena, you have stated once again in a column published in most local newspapers in New Zealand and read by perhaps millions of people, one of the most blatant lies ever perpetrated in our country. Yet you are a Member of Parliament which is responsible for law-making and for government. You could well take your own advice, learning to think critically by a study in more depth of New Zealand’s true history.
 Records very on whether McHale was a
corporal or a sergeant.
 Full references are available
 This would not include your example of “the arrival of Maoris in Aotearoa” since our country was never called that when they did but only by a couple of English storytellers in the 1890s! Their actual arrival can only be described accurately as “pre-history” since nobody knows for certain the whereabouts of “Hawaiki” which the legends say is the place which they came from.
Bruce Moon is a retired computer pioneer who wrote "Real Treaty; False Treaty - The True Waitangi Story".