November 1881 the undefended village of Parihaka in Taranaki was
invaded and then ransacked by government troops and militia. Its
celebrated spiritual and political leaders Tohu Kakahi and Te Whiti o
Rongomai were forcibly removed to nearby New Plymouth and then to
Wellington. Meanwhile a date on which they would be tried was
repeatedly postponed. Having removed the two chiefs from their peaceful
stronghold, the Government found it had insufficient evidence to
support the sedition charges it had brought against them.
months after their arrests and still expecting to be tried, Te Whiti
and Tohu were brought to Christchurch where they were held for several
weeks in the modern jail at Addington. With a newly completed Anglican
Cathedral, large Museum and an Industrial Exhibition underway in Hagley
Park, Christchurch was seen as an ideal place for the Government to try
and drive home to its two prisoners the folly of resisting the advance
of British civilization. Despite tours of the district by rail and tram
Tohu remained indifferent; and though Te Whiti clearly enjoyed much of
what he saw, his greatest affection was reserved for the Avon River.
Christchurch did reveal some novel items, Parihaka was already
embracing the new technology on its own terms - later becoming one of
the country’s most advanced municipalities. Rather than rejecting
European technology however, Parihaka’s leaders rejected the spiritual
vacuum within which it was being operated and out of which the
Government had advanced into their land.
Parihaka was already
the largest and most prosperous of any Maori community in the country.
Unlike settler towns however, Parihaka’s modernization was from firm
spiritual foundations which according closely with the New Testament.
With its industriousness and famed generosity to visitors, it stood out
as a rebuke to the government’s advance.
For those colonists
wearing the cloak of settler-styled Christianity the rebuke was deeper
still, especially to those now occupying Maori land converted to their
Settlers on North Island’s West Coast resented
this peaceable Maori community in their midst, as did their seriously
indebted Government which finding no other means to acquire the chiefs’
land, was swayed towards invasion. Aggressive feelings towards Parihaka
were magnified throughout the young colony by newspaper editors and
politicians accusing its leaders of being war-mongering hypocrites and
Acute political and spiritual discord about land is
evident in a travel-diary written by John P. Ward called: “Wanderings
with the Maori Prophets”. Employed as Te Whiti and Tohu’s interpreter
and traveling jailer, Ward begins his diary as they arrive in
Christchurch. It covers an extensive tour of the South Island by rail
and ship, finishing in Nelson from where Tohu and Te Whiti were shipped
home in March 1883. The diary ends as the two chiefs greet Maunga
Taranaki from the sea, and step ashore at Opunake to begin a glorious
return to Parihaka.
Now reprinted for use in Treaty of Waitangi education, Ward’s diary is a testimony to
19th Century Pakeha beliefs about their entitlement to individualize and exploit Maori land.
a unique account of twelve months spent with two most creative and
resolute peace-activists it is certainly a precious record; but it is
Ward as unintended apologist for the colonial economy which may be the
diary’s most important and revealing aspect.
Ward declares he
has set out to write an honest record, yet reveals himself to be deeply
biased. For example he applauds visiting Government officials bringing
inducements of privately owned land and government incomes to his
captives. These benefits will be granted, the chiefs are told, on
condition they: “…agree to give up assembling the people”. Though these
offers are renewed at intervals on the journey, the chiefs are unmoved.
Eventually Te Whiti tells Ward: “I want none of their love”, at which
Ward’s commentary swings furiously between admiration for their resolve
and horror at such foolish indifference.