Parihaka deserves to be celebrated

What happened at Parihaka in 1881 is an important and unique part of our history and should be acknowledged properly.
What happened at Parihaka in 1881 is an important and unique part of our history and should be acknowledged properly.

It is not often that we go against the wise counsel of our readers, but sometimes, just as they can disagree with our actions and opinions, we, too, can disagree with theirs.

We bring this up because 65 per cent of those who responded to our online poll on a Maori Party plan to establish a Parihaka Day said thanks, but no thanks.

Barely one-third of the more than 320 respondents felt that this important piece of Taranaki and New Zealand history deserved some form of commemoration.

Well, sorry, folks, we think you have got that the wrong way around.

There are a couple of important points to note here. First, the Maori Party is not seeking a national day off to remember what took place in the small Taranaki community on November 5, 1881. Its members know that one would never fly. All they are asking for is a recognised day of reflection and commemoration.

Second, it is illuminating that that particular day is already well known as the day that we remember a man named Guy Fawkes, who failed in his attempt to blow up the British Parliament more than 400 years ago.

Some would argue that Guy Fawkes Day strengthens the argument against a Parihaka Day, and that the Maori Party bid is another strand of a long campaign to take away their annual pilgrimage to pyromania. But it's worth noting that Fawkes was a religious zealot and would-be terrorist who almost succeeded in killing and maiming thousands of people.

On the other hand, Parihaka played host to the dramatic conclusion of a now-celebrated campaign of peaceful activism against land theft in a manner that propelled other activists in other countries to iconic status worldwide.

Gandhi's campaign in India made him a star, while Te Whiti and Tohu's brave attempt at passive resistance is little more than a testing Trivial Pursuits question outside Taranaki. And that, along with our continued, enthusiastic homage to Fawkes and his murderous cohorts, is the most galling aspect of all of this.

Both Gandhi and Fawkes, or at the very least their acts of notoriety, are more remembered than our own heroes of history, our own important steps on the path to nationhood.

These New Zealand dates of infamy and inspiration seem destined to finish up in the same rubbish bin of history that is already bulging with significant pa sites and pieces of European colonisation.

It's as though we don't see our own notable points of history as worthy, when compared with those in other countries. It's another form of the cultural cringe that undermines the efforts made and successes gained in stepping out from underneath Mother England's skirt.

It recalls the furore that occurred when the name of our mountain was changed to reflect the region it graced and the people living around its dominating fringe, rather than to honour an obscure Englishman who had never set foot in this country. Tariana Turia and the Maori Party are right: we should never shy away from honouring our own unique history.

For that reason, Parihaka Day is a great idea.

Taranaki Daily News