Historian says land wars day should be held in Taranaki, where the wars began
A New Zealand historian has said a new national day commemorating the countries bloody land war history should be held in Taranaki, where it all began.
After a six-year long battle - sparked by students at Otorohanga College - to have the day recognised, tribal representatives from around the country met at Mangatoatoa Marae, south of Kihikihi, and settled on October 28 as the national date.
The day marks the signing of the New Zealand Declaration of Independence in 1835 but Taranaki historian Danny Keenan said March 17, the day in 1860 which he said marked the start of the wars in New Zealand, would be a more appropriate date.
"October 28 doesn't really have anything to do with the wars," he said.
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"It was more about the beginning of things in terms of a long history of treaty settlements, rather than the wars."
While there had been several smaller engagements prior to 1860, Keenan said it marked the point where the crown decided to end the escalating situation in Taranaki.
"Some might call me a historical purist, but this was a chance to do something special and pick a day which emerged from the wars themselves and reflects the pain and suffering they caused."
The first commemoration day will be hosted by the Te Taitokerau tribes in Northland - where the Declaration of Independence was signed - but the service will move around the country each year.
Taranaki was the first region to see minor conflict between Maori in Pakeha, in 1834, before full war broke out in 1860 and carried on intermittently for another nine years.
Keenan said another more appropriate date for the commemoration day would be November 20, which related to the battle of Rangiriri in the Waikato where 1400 British soldiers defeated a Maori force of 500.
"That was a turning point for Maori, it was where the war was lost for them," he said.
However, owner of the Tawhiti Museum and historian Nigel Ogle said the date the day was held didn't matter.
"It would be hard finding a date which suits everyone from the Waikato through to Northland, right across the country," he said.
"A day that encourages people to look at their country's history has got to be a good thing."
Ogle said awful wrongs were committed by the British, particularly to do with land confiscation, and although the history wasn't pretty it still needed to be remembered.
"A lot of issues that we have today with Pakeha and Maori stem back right to the beginning, so October 28 seems a good a date as any," he said.
The Tawhiti Museum has always had a dedicated a section to the land wars, especially around battles in South Taranaki, and Ogle said it would stay that way as his own personal commemoration to the wars.
"The history is not something we should be proud of, but we should at least know about it."