Remembering Parihaka – Maungārongo Ki Te Whenua

Remembering Parihaka – Maungārongo Ki Te Whenua

On 5 November 1881, about 1,600 government troops and cavalry entered the Taranaki village of Parihaka to arrest its leaders and many of its men. Homes and crops were destroyed; 1,600 Parihaka residents were eventually evicted and dispersed across Taranaki without food or shelter; and some women were hurt. Within a few weeks, a once-thriving, prosperous community was reduced to ruins.

In the years leading up to this, peaceful protests including the ploughing of furrows through settler grasslands were met with increasingly stern responses; for instance, the New Zealand Parliament passed special laws to enable the ploughmen of Parihaka to be imprisoned indefinitely without facing trial. Many were sent on ships to the South Island to undertake hard labour. Evidence of their prison labour can still be seen in places like Dunedin with the Andersons Bay causeway a notable example.

Leaders Te Whiti-o-Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi together with the people of Parihaka found peaceful ways to strongly resist and protest the injustices they faced. For them, the Bible was a source of hope and inspiration during a time of great injustice.

The message of Parihaka is a message of peace and is timely considering troubling global events. Otēpoti Dunedin/Otago and Parihaka/Taranaki will always have a sad but special connection, but as we reflect and learn from history, we can be inspired to be people of peace. We can celebrate peaceful actions through creative activities as well as promoting peace among families and communities.

Each year Flagstaff Community Church hosts a Season of Peace in Otēpoti Dunedin which includes acknowledging the people, story and memory of Parihaka. On 5 November, we host a Dawn Commemoration Service at the Rongo Stone 1 collaborating with community groups, churches and other organisations. We consult with the University of Otago and Dunedin City Council; and work closely with the Parihaka Network and Parihaka Papakāinga Trust.

Events vary from year to year: for example, an art exhibition displaying items reflecting the theme of peace and hīkoi around sites where Māori prisoners worked. Each year a koha is taken and donated to the Dunedin Night Shelter Trust.

In March 2023 we welcomed Tonga Karena (Papa Kainga Trust) for a lecture hosted by Dunedin Elim Church. We then gathered with people who support the Kaupapa of Parihaka for a kōrero followed by a hīkoi to observe the progress of beautification projects.

Members of Flagstaff Community Church and the community choir undertake on-going upkeep and planting around the Rongo Stone as well as the Parihaka Memorial at the North Cemetery. Ngai Tahu (through Edward Ellison) in consultation with Dr Ruakere Hond (Parihaka) have given their blessing to beautify the area around the headstone at the North Cemetery, which commemorates 21 Parihaka prisoners who died during their incarceration in Dunedin, most of whom were buried in unmarked graves in the cemetery.

He Hōnore, he korōria, maungārongo ki te whenua.

  1. The Rongo Stone Memorial, gifted by the people of Taranaki and positioned on a grass reserve next to the cliff beside the Andersons Bay inlet, commemorates the 211 Māori prisoners transported to Dunedin between 1869 and 1879. It was unveiled in 1987 following a hikoi to Dunedin by descendants of the Taranaki prisoners.

Scott, Dick (1975). Ask That Mountain: The Story of Parihaka. Auckland: Heinemann.
Riseborough, Hazel (1989). Days of Darkness: Taranaki 1878-1884. Wellington: Allen & Unwin.

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