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Why Gandhi doesn't belong at Wellington Railway Station.

Kupe used to be at Wellington Railway Station. (1) The discoverer of Aotearoa stood in the corner of the gusty, grotty entrance hall of the 1937 red-brick box on Bunny Street. He was enormous and dusty, a towering seven metres of plaster, a shirtless, graffitied man, left hand clasping a taiaha, right resting on a rock. At one foot stood his wife Hine Te Aparangi, her left hand pointing towards the platforms where rattling red trains took people away from the city. Aparangi, apparently, was the one who named this place her husband had found, Aotearoa. Next to her, at Kupe's other foot was the tohunga (healer) Pekahourangi, "who vanquished monsters on this epic voyage of discovery." (2) "The Coming of the Maori" was sculpted by William Trethewey for the 1939-40 Centennial Exhibition in Wellington. It arrived at the station in 1940 and departed in 1986 after being attacked and vandalised. In 2000, the sculpture, now weatherproofed with a skin of real bronze, reappeared at Taranaki Wharf, an appropriate destination for such a romantic, seafaring and dramatic foundational trio.

The railway station was included in the long-standing Treaty of Waitangi claim--lodged in 1987 and settled in 2009--but Kupe and his crew have not been replaced by other Maori forebears at this busy, central site that sits between the harbour and the national Parliament. (3) Instead, on 2 October 2007, Wellington mayor Kerry Prendergast unveiled a larger-than-life bronze statue of Indian politician and activist, Gandhi, in the forecourt outside the station. The Gandhi, a "Mahatma of Peace and Non-Violence" was gifted to Wellington by the people of India. The statue was unveiled on the anniversary of Gandhi's (1869) birthday, a national holiday in India. I saw it a month later. In front of me was Gandhi, frowning, bald, brown with a bare bony chest, a loin cloth, a walking stick and sturdy sandals. At his feet a plaque said: "We must become the change we want to see." Behind him, members of New Zealand's new peacekeeping army, all muscles, buzz-cuts and fatigues, burst down the station steps. "Today is the celebration of the life of a great man," the mayor had told an audience of diplomats at the unveiling. "There is no question Gandhi was a great man, a man of peace, a man of compassion, a man of love. He achieved so much. Gandhi showed the world that you can achieve social and political progress through peace and brotherhood. That is a valuable lesson to us all." (4)

Statues matter. They are powerful public mnemonic objects. Erecting one spurs memory, removing one negates or suppresses it. Barbie Zelizer argues, for instance, that toppling statues has become a key way of representing the toppling of regimes. (5) News photographs of listing greats, shoulders about to crash in public squares around the world, have represented revolution, collapse, overthrow or revenge for at least 50 years now, from a toppling Stalin in 1956 Hungary to multiple topplings in 2004 (Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Christopher Columbus in Venezuela, a cardboard cut-out George Bush in Canada). (6) Gandhi is a thoroughly inspirational figure who shares nothing with the abhorrent Stalin and Hussein, yet he does not belong at Wellington Railway Station. This essay argues that Gandhi's arrival--a case, seemingly, of happenstance in and of itself, a gift offered and received--exposes the deeply flawed regimes of collective memory that exist in Aotearoa New Zealand. (7) These regimes continue to marginalise, elide or silence public memories about Maori people and places. As such, they need to be toppled, and Gandhi's arrival is a welcome prompt for this work. The essay begins by exploring the contradictions involved in the civic embrace of the statue and it then constructs some family, local and national histories of indigenous nonviolent resistance that offer lessons that are perhaps more meaningful than the easy, ahistorical peace and love evoked by Gandhi in Wellington.

So, what was Gandhi doing in the capital? During the unveiling, three reasons emerged. Gandhi belonged at the station because he was a man of the people, someone who travelled with them on trains and other public transport; Gandhi belonged at the station because the statue acknowledged the contribution of the Indian community to multicultural Wellington; and Gandhi belonged at the station because he was a sign of the importance of tolerance and non-violence. At the launch, Indian high commissioner KP Ernest said the statue acknowledged "the commitment of the people of New Zealand for setting an example to the world of a tolerant, open and inclusive society." (8) This statement was challenged only a few weeks later when 300 paramilitary police invaded Tuhoe country (a remote, mountainous part of the central North Island) and arrested members of the Tuhoe iwi (tribe) on charges initially laid under the Terror Suppression Act (2002). The charges were eventually downgraded to carrying unlicensed arms. (9) As cultural theorist Stephen Turner has argued, "the real basis for this strongly overdetermined reaction to Tuhoe activities in the Urewera ranges would appear to be their long-standing claim to be independent of the settler nation-state." (10) The raids suggested that New Zealand was "tolerant, open and inclusive" only towards those who accepted the legitimacy of the nation-state that was imposed--and continues to be imposed in a thousand little ways--upon formerly independent iwi (tribes). The settler nation-state was entitled to respond with swift, overwhelming force to crush any group that challenged its self-proclaimed authority. This excessive 21st century show of military might was an uncanny echo of nineteenth and twentieth-century settler violence against various Maori communities who were audacious enough to challenge the rule of the Crown. (11)

One of these communities was Parihaka, a village established in 1866 (three years before Gandhi's birth) by two spiritual and political leaders, Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi. Parihaka is in the centre of the province of Taranaki, and it provided a refuge for Maori who had lost everything in the brutal land confiscation enacted by the colonial government in 1865 to punish Maori for their rebellion against the Crown in the wars of the early 1860s. Although Maori enjoy a contemporary reputation as "warriors", our past also includes many examples of strategic use of non-violence as a form of protest. At Parihaka, non-violence was the rule and the non-violent or "passive" protests of the residents--such as ploughing Maori land occupied by white settlers--needled, rattled and then finally enraged the government. Between 1879 and 1880, police arrested more than 400 Parihaka men for ploughing or fencing. (12) The prisoners were sentenced, without trial, to hard labour in the South Island. In 1881 in an episode that has been replayed many times in New Zealand books, paintings, plays, films, poetry, songs, hearings, documentaries and exhibitions, 1589 soldiers invaded Parihaka. About 2000 people, all dressed in their best clothes, sat on the marae waiting for them. Singing children greeted the soldiers. (13) Under the watch of an Armstrong canon mounted on Purepo (Mt Rolleston), the soldiers arrested and exiled Parihaka leaders, they raped women and stole treasures, they evicted most of the 2000 residents and ransacked buildings and crops. Many historians describe the invasion as the final act in the New Zealand wars, and three government commissions have acknowledged that the arrests and invasion were a great wrong, a "heinous crime". (14)

The year 2007 was the 100th anniversary of the deaths of Parihaka leaders Te Whiti and Tohu but there is no memorial to either man outside the remote community of Parihaka itself. The community remains poor and divided, left alone with the burdens of remembrance and restoration. (15) Gandhi's bronzed permanence--in Wellington and in Canberra and in many, many other cities in India and elsewhere--may be contrasted with the impermanence of his nonviolent Maori forerunners. A global non-violent superstar is so much easier to accommodate, recall and unveil than a couple of difficult little indigenous nobodies and their white-feathered followers. Gandhi appeals because, to quote Wellington's mayor, "he achieved so much." Gandhi's non-violent activism worked. India gained independence. If you overlook his death and the cataclysmic violence that followed with partition, Gandhi is a hero whose work was completed. Maori political and spiritual leaders are not so simple. Their stories defy conclusion because their descendants are still waiting for their prophecies to be fulfilled. (16) There is neither a happily ever after nor a never again nor even a lest we forget. There is no straightforward, truthful enough, dominant narrative that the public can grasp, and perhaps that is why in the case of Parihaka an excess of storytelling has provided no protection against public extinction. Quite the opposite. It's as if the more that is said about Parihaka, the less people can hear. Parihaka leaders are still dangerous, threatening figures whose actions continue to make demands on the nation-state, whose protests and teachings destablised and continue to destablise cherished stories of New Zealand as a "tolerant, open and inclusive society" where peace and non-violence are the rule.

Maori radicals, such as the Parihaka leaders, need to be kept in their place and that place is history (meaning both the past itself and official narratives constructed about that completed past). In describing the work of memory studies pioneer Maurice Halbwachs, Jeffery Olick writes that: "History is the remembered past to which we no longer have an 'organic' relation--the past that is no longer important in our lives--whereas collective memory is the active past the forms our identities." (17) Maori at Parihaka (and elsewhere) are stuck in a short history, one that tends to begin around the time of the 1840 signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, and no matter what they do, they can't get out of it. (18) Gandhi, in contrast, is free. He can be both in history and out of it. He can transcend his time and his place and stand in global collective memory as an icon of peace, doing whatever work we require of him.

The ongoing public invisibility of Aotearoa New Zealand's own heroes of peace and brotherhood suggests that there are unresolved (and perhaps unresolvable) historical and contemporary battles over the meanings of the words violence and non-violence, victim and perpetrator, justice and injustice in settler societies like Aotearoa New Zealand, a country with a double-barrelled name that does not signal a loving union between equals but, rather, a constantly threatened coupling. There is a fault-line or chasm in public and private collective remembrance in my homeland, a fault that reveals a persistent, endemic inability to acknowledge the twin forces of violence and non-violence that have shaped the nation's messy past and continue to shape it still. The arrival of Gandhi demonstrates that although much work has been put into remembering places like Parihaka, even more has gone into forgetting them. As Elizabeth Jelin has observed, in relation to Argentina's military junta in the 1970s, societies have to work hard to forget, they have to decide not to pass on stories from one generation to the next, decide not to acknowledge a person or event as meaningful. But forgetting is not a void or a vacuum. It is "the presence of an absence," "the representation of what was once there and no longer is, the representation of something that has been erased, silenced or denied." (19)

One of the things that the statue of Gandhi "forgets" is the simple, cruel mathematics of settlement. Gandhi's non-violent protests helped achieve Indian independence and freedom from British colonial rule, a feat that was only possible because British people were never more than a tiny minority in the vastness of India. In New Zealand, of course, the handful of early white arrivals--pets, allies, lovers, enemies, friends--whom Maori were prepared to host, quickly became the majority. By 1840, just before my white ancestors started to arrive, there were 100,000 Maori and about 2000 non-Maori. By 1860, New Zealand was inhabited by 79,000 Pakeha and up to 62,000 Maori. Less than twenty years later, Pakeha outnumbered Maori 10 to 1. (20) The odds, as they say, were against us. Luisa Passerini has argued that researchers need to recover lost connections between events and memories and to do this we need to "break institutionalised links in order to establish risky ones." (21) In responding to Passerini's challenge, this essay now moves to the end of the line and then shunts backwards and forwards to uncover what Passerini calls the "memories between silence and oblivion," the unlikely connections between traces (or absences) of the violent past in the seemingly bloodless present.

The Pacifier

My great-grandmother's father was Taare Warahi (Charlie Wallace). I never knew him, of course, but I have talked with old people who did. And I've seen a photo. There he is, above the landing, on the stairs, big black beard, thick hair, black eyes, a suit, two small children in white frilly Victorian dresses at his feet and a wicker pram with those enormous Victorian wheels. Charlie grew up in a coaching hotel in the Ngahauranga gorge just outside Wellington. His dad William ran it. Charlie was born in 1848. He had a Maori mother, Arapera, and a Pakeha father, a man had arrived in 1840 on the Glenbervie, one of the "first ships" in Wellington. The pub he grew up in was on a busy route, a road well travelled by his Maori relatives, a hitching post on the long journey from Wellington to Taranaki, two places twinned in the Maori world by at least 200 years of departure and return.

Charlie, apparently, was well known around the Thorndon streets that go up the hill from the railway station. Later in his life, he used to drink at the Thistle Inn near Parliament, a rickety wooden pub that is still there, renovated now and extended, available for corporate functions. Charlie was, apparently, a bit of a character. He used to carry a couple of bottles of beer around with him in his kete, a basket woven from flax, and he used to wear a straw hat, something a little less smart than a Panama. My aunty, Agnes 'Bubs' Broughton (nee Wallace), told me those things about Charlie at my dad's 60th. Agnes gave dad a kete for his birthday. She thought it was a great joke. Dad turned 60 the year I started my Phd research on Parihaka. I explained my plans to Agnes, especially my interest in non-violence, and she started to tell me a story about how Charlie Wallace had stopped a battle up in Taranaki, some fight or other that was connected with a train. Agnes had a soft voice and it was hard to hear above all the noise of a party. Not long after the party, Agnes died so I never got to hear her story. A newspaper obituary sketches some details. When Charlie died in October 1932, The Evening Post said his death removed "one of the very last links in the relations of Pakeha and Maori in early Wellington." (22) It said Charlie had not taken part in the "Maori Wars", meaning the wars in Taranaki between 1860 and 1868, because he was very young then but also because his relatives on his mother's side were fighting against the Pakeha. It said that after the war, he joined the armed constabulary in Taranaki and had helped maintain order in that still turbulent district. Charlie had also acted as Native interpreter to the Hon John Sheehan, Native Minister in the Grey Government. Around this time, about 1879, he had been involved in an affair at Waitara.

The newspaper reported that the railway between Waitara and New Plymouth was to be opened by the Premier, Sir George Grey, and there was a great gathering of several thousand Maori at Waitara. A gale arose and blew down one of the structures, injuring a Maori boy. "Instantly the Natives were up in arms, and there were all sorts of threats. To pacify them Sir George Grey called on Charles Wallace to explain, and after a long korero the effort was successful," the newspaper said. Maori were then taken for a trip to New Plymouth in the first train, which they crowded all over, hanging on the sides and the roofs. "The occasion of the first train duly celebrated in festivities in which all joined," the obituary noted. (23)

Charlie's railway opened in the 1870s, a decade after the last war in Taranaki. The 18-kilometre track linked the settler colony of New Plymouth with the deep-water, sheltered port of Waitara, the place where the Taranaki War began in 1860. The New Plymouth railyards were built by the sea on reclaimed land. Settlers levelled the massive, towering bulk of Puke Ariki--the hill of chiefs, a former pa site--to obtain the soil they needed to make the train yards. Despite all these efforts, by 1884, the Waitara-New Plymouth line was almost obsolete. A new breakwater in New Plymouth meant people, mail and goods could safely land there. Only the 1885 opening of the Waitara freezing works saved the line and the port from becoming totally useless. Charlie married (Margaret O'Toole) and lived up and down the West Coast. He was an interpreter for the Native Land Court, an institution that later became known, with great contempt, as the land-taking court.

Roads to Non-violence

In his fascinating examination of histories made about a riot at Chauri Chaura, a small market town in India where peace-loving Gandhian volunteers destroyed a police-station and killed the 23 police offices inside, Shahid Amin argues that master narratives about nationalist struggles rely on the retelling of famous or memorable events. These tellings are distinguished by what Amin describes as an excess of "stereotypical description", a "slow accretion of meaning" that forms around "the event, like a cell inexorably multiplying." (24) One of the key meanings in such nationalist stories is the elaborate and heroic triumph of good over evil. The story of Parihaka has become an emblematic, if provisional, site in New Zealand history, a story in which good triumphs over evil. In the nineteenth century settlers were the force for good and Maori were the opposite. By the late twentieth century, these roles had been inverted, although the narrative and moral victory Maori came to enjoy was lacking in some of the material and capital gains acquired by Pakeha in the 1860s (through confiscation of land) and never surrendered. The Parihaka story serves a powerful purpose: for Maori and for Pakeha, it is a story that can both acknowledge and elide the violence of New Zealand's many wars of foundation. Soldiers invaded Parihaka but no shots were fired. Parihaka was a village of peace surrounded by blockhouses and redoubts. Maori waited, seemingly passively, on the marae, sending children forward to greet the armed oppressors with singing, dancing and food. To contemporary eyes, it appears that Parihaka residents were the ultimate righteous victims and the invaders (Pakeha soliders and their Maori allies) were greedy colonisers.

And of course this is true, but such a fixed story hides the intense nineteenth-century debates about the morality, or otherwise, of Maori and Pakeha actions in Taranaki and at Parihaka and also assumes that the identities of Maori and Pakeha were fixed, when patently they often were not. Even more disturbing is the way that the focus on the violence (or not) of the November 1881 invasion discourages reflection on the civilising violence that preceded the invasion and followed it, in the long decades of the twentieth century when Maori loss of land, language and culture continued, indeed accelerated. The longer colonisation went on, the more skilfully the violence was hidden beneath a story of harmony and peace. As Gyanendra Pandey notes in his histories of the partition of India, modern nationhood is characterised by an absence of violence, "a state of non-violence, where mature, adult human beings negotiate with one another to determine their rights and duties." (25) War was negative and primitive. Peace progressive and civilising. In the 1870s, 1880s and beyond, Maori and Pakeha wanted to claim the title of non-violent, civilising, peacemaker. Leading figures in the Parihaka story were aware of themselves as historical actors. They were very sensitive to the way history--meaning accounts of their actions to be told in the future--would judge them. Appearances were all.

Although it did not describe it as such, the government's military campaign on Parihaka began with the forcible surveying and installation of the West Coast road, then the construction of a web of telegraph lines (between 1879 and 1881 six military and press-only telegraph offices were opened around Parihaka and then closed as troops advanced) and finally a lighthouse on the nub of land settlers called Cape Egmont. Soldiers advanced towards Parihaka on the road they were building. The installation of these technologies and infrastructure was an essential part of the invasion, but they also served a symbolic purpose as a show of settler power, progressiveness and ownership. The Native Minister, John Bryce, was quite explicit about the literal and symbolic triumph these public works would bring. As another show of justice, the government in 1880 established a commission to inquire in to Maori grievances about confiscated land. In August 1880, Bruce told this commission,
  Your excellency will perhaps remember that when the survey of the
  Waimate Plains was about to be commenced it was agreed at Parihaka
  that the lighthouse ought not to be opposed, though the site will
  ardly be six miles from Te Whiti's village. A very great political
  effect would now be produced upon the Natives throughout the coast if
  they saw the three things for which the government have so long
  contended, being done together; the road, the telegraph line, and the
  lighthouse. (26)

To settle Taranaki, to produce the Taranaki that exists today, the government had to assert the full range of its bureaucratic, military and domestic power over Maori. The "trouble on the plains" could only be ended by the erasure of independent and stubbornly Maori forms of life there. But this erasure was not to be represented as an act of war but as one of peace. In its third report, the commission said: "As on the Plains, even more so certainly at the doors of Parihaka, the establishment of English homesteads and the fencing and cultivation of the land, will be a guarantee of peace." (27)

However, this constant talk of peace failed to fool Maori who were kept busy repairing the fences around their own cultivations. The archive bristles with Maori disgust at the veiled violence behind so many Pakeha things and symbols. Surveying was one of them. In 1878, Te Whiti explained this to McKay, a government representative who had come to see him at Parihaka. "I told Brown, the Commissioner, to take his guns away," he said. Brown "said he had none there. He misunderstood me. He thought I meant firearms. The surveyors themselves are guns; that is, they will cause the guns to be used." (28)

Maori at Parihaka flagged their intentions with the raukura, white albatross feathers worn in their hair to symbolise their adherence to the pacifist teachings of Te Whiti and Tohu. They wore raukura when they were sent out to repair fences that soldier road-builders had torn down. The first group of them were arrested in July 1880 for repairing fences near the Waitotara footbridge, an area close to Parihaka that surveyor Newall noted had "extensive cultivations". Even as their own food sources were being destroyed, Parihaka residents continued to fulfil their obligations as generous hosts, a role that asserted tribal mana, ownership and control. Before the invasion Maori gave the interlopers pigs and potatoes, fowls and peaches. On the day the pa was invaded 500 loaves of bread were baked for them. Sacks of potatoes were offered the next day, gifts that soldiers refused. They preferred to steal vegetables instead. Still, Maori clung to the role of host. On New Year's Day 1882, they cooked a hangi for soldiers. By their non-violent responses to settler incursions, Maori wanted to demonstrate the violence of the colonists' actions and the peaceable intentions of their own.

Like many other Maori leaders of the mid to late nineteenth century, Te Whiti and Tohu were millennial prophets, and their teachings blended Maori and Christian ideas. Both men were talented orators and on the 18th of each month thousands of people travelled to Parihaka to hear oratory that was soaked in Biblical references. Te Whiti, for example, sometimes called himself the King of Peace, a reference to the Old Testament character, Melchisedec, King of Salem. (29) Many songs composed at this time show that residents believed that these nonviolent teachings elevated the community to a divine level that transcended the laws that oppressed them. (50) Although Te Whiti and Tohu were opposed to guns and physical violence, they both repeatedly referred to their words as weapons, their tongues as swords. In an 1879 speech, Te Whiti said: "In the olden days laws were given to the prophets but I have only my tongue which is sharp on both edges." These words, like the words of the Biblical prophets, would have a global reach, speaking to present and future generations around the world. The translation of a song composed by Tonga Awhikau, a ploughman, ends: "The land continues to depart / To ridicule the work / Of Te Whiti, he will have the final word." In a speech at Parihaka, Tohu said: "The very extremity of my tongue is at battle as a treasure for the generations/ Which continue on after us/ They will establish the self-determination / Forever." (31)

Maori outside of Taranaki understood the meanings of this wordy battle. In a speech to Parliament opposing the Maori Prisoner's Bill as a document as slippery and slimey as an eel, Maori MP Henare Tomoana said: "Te Whiti has always said he cares not to fight. His only weapon is his tongue ... He has no firearms, no gunpowder. His tongue and his voice are all he uses." (32)

A Railway Survey Party

In 1883, Charles Hursthouse and his team started a reconnaissance survey on the portion of the 680-kilometre main trunk line that would run through the King Country down to Taranaki. The line had been mooted since 1870 but it was not until 1882 that Maori leaders, including Rewi Maniopoto, had agreed to its construction. Even so, problems arose.

After the invasion of Parihaka, Maori were evicted and ordered to return to the areas they came from. One of them was Te Mahuki Manukura, a Ngati Maniopoto follower of Te Whiti and Tohu who had built a replica of Parihaka village in the King Country and established his own community there. Te Mahuki's followers called themselves Tekau-ma-rua, the sacred Twelve, a reference to Christ's twelve disciples or the twelve tribes of Israel. (33) In March 1883 at Te Uira, Te Mahuki and his men attacked and robbed Hursthouse's railway survey party. The surveyors were bound with chains and ropes for 40 hours. The men were rescued by the most unlikely of heroes--the notorious former East Coast rebel leader Te Kooti. Te Mahuki and 22 of his followers were arrested, tried and imprisoned for their crime. The case displayed what one newspaper called "the impotent, but violent fanaticism which has sprung up, through the demoralisation of the barbarous remnant of the Maori people." (34)

Most settlers had supported the invasion of Parihaka. The wars of the 1860s were a recent memory, and Pakeha feared that Parihaka Maori were preparing for another battle. But a vocal, prominent minority--including the Governor of New Zealand Arthur Gordon, Australian historian and writer George Rusden and Irish immigrants who saw many parallels between their own battles against the English and those being fought by Maori--had opposed it. Not long after the invasion, Christchurch newspapers had published satirical ballads the lampooned Bryce and his men as "the noble 1200" and asked whether "each doughty soul/ Paid for the pigs he stole." (35)

The kidnapping of Hursthouse's party by some of Te Whiti's "disciples" seemed to prove, retrospectively at least, the wisdom of the government's actions at Parihaka two years earlier. For instance, The New Zealand Herald reported that:
  The natives were spoken of as peaceful, dignified and calm, while Mr
  Bryce and the other Ministers were accused of getting up a vulgar,
  useless and expensive show. But there can be no doubt now that the
  natives assembled at Parihaka were a most dangerous lot of men, and
  it may fairly be concluded that but for the display of overwhelming
  force that was made, there would have been a very different result.

How quickly non-violence can become violence, the peace-lovers the warmongers. Meanwhile, there was a railway line to build. It was backbreaking. The first sod of the Main Trunk Line was turned in April 1885 just south of Te Awamutu. Contractors had to pierce a one-kilometre tunnel through Poro-o-Tarao near Mokau. Six years later the tunnel was finished and 17 years after that, on 8 August 1908, VIPs got on an 11-car train in Wellington and made a 20-hour journey to Auckland. Thirty-eight years after it had been mooted, the main trunk line was complete.

A Murderer Goes to Court

Two weeks before Parihaka was invaded, George Rusden, a retired senior public servant in the colony of Victoria, wrote a letter to the just-resigned Native Minister William Rolleston. From the comfort of the Melbourne Club on Collins Street, Rusden expressed his concern that Rolleston had been succeeded by Bryce and asked Rolleston to consider "the judgment of posterity if the marauding schemes of the New Zealand company--the robbery of Waitara ... the confessed broken promises on the West Coast--are wound up by an attack upon Te Whiti". (37) His letter to Rolleston finished with a request for any archival material relating to the West Coast difficulty and Parihaka. Such material would help him with a history of New Zealand he was writing. Rusden wrote his books and the three-volume history, published in 1883, was the subject of one of the nineteenth-century's biggest libel cases, after Bryce sued the author for defamation. Drawing on Maori memories of Bryce's behaviour during an encounter between his troops and Maori children on a Taranaki farm in 1868 and on his role at the head of the invading troops at Parihaka in 1881, Maori had given the Native Minister a nickname: Bryce--kohuru (Bryce, the murderer).

According to volume II of Rusden's history, Bryce earned this nickname because he murdered women and children at 'Handley's Woolshed' during the war with Titokowaru. (38) This accusation was the basis for Bryce's libel case. In evidence tendered during an eight-day hearing at the Supreme Court in London, Maori testified that members of the Ka Iwi cavalry, not Bryce himself, killed children at the woolshed. Baron Huddleston and the Supreme Court jury found that Rusden's accusation was baseless, and the historian was ordered to pay Bryce [pounds sterling]5000 damages, an enormous sum for the day. All remaining copies of his history were withdrawn from sale.

Kohuru is a word that has many dictionary meanings, including to "kill by stealth", to "ill-treat grievously" or to "deal treacherously". (39) In these more subtle meanings of the word, rather than the literal description of a man who takes another's life in an act of murder, Maori expressed their responses to the supposedly non-violent colonisation of Taranaki.

The testimony of statesman and former MP Wi Parata, of Waikanae, exposes the different interpretive strategies at work when settlers and Maori described colonisation. (40) Maori witnesses were questioned at a court in Wanganui, and their testimony was tabled in London. Parata began his testimony by talking about the fighting that had occurred in Taranaki in 1881. He said when people carried arms, Maori "speak of" it as fighting" (even if no shots were fired). He explained that Bryce was known as a "tangata kohuru", "he was a murderer, a man that murdered." (41) Parata, who was at Parihaka during the invasion, said he first heard that description of Bryce then.
  Q: Did you ever hear it said that the action of Mr Bryce or the
  soldiers was murder at that time?
  A: Yes, Mr Bryce went there with his guns and the Maori had no guns.
  That was a murderous action.
  Q: You said that the term "kohuru" you heard applied to Mr Bryce at
  Parihaka; do I understand that it was a consequence of something that
  had taken place at Nukumaru [Handley's Woolshed] or something that
  happened at Parihaka?
  A: For both. They were coupled together. (42)

Bryce's libel case was concerned with two lines in volume two of Rusden's history that related to events in 1867, but as Parata's testimony suggests, most of this famous case was concerned with what happened at Parihaka in 1881. For eight days, an often rather puzzled London court became a stage on which Maori and Pakeha and their supporters or detractors could narrate alternative versions of the history of the place that was now called New Zealand. "The trial has laid bare, here before the English public, the history of the struggle between the colonists and the Maories [sic]," the Times reported on 13 March 1886. In this history, the invasion of Parihaka functioned as a test case for the morality or otherwise of British colonisation of New Zealand. Had colonists behaved like gentlemen or not? (43)

Each side tried to claim the title of most civilised (and least violent). This meant that Bryce, like his Maori opponents, could find violence in episodes where there had been no bloodshed. Consider this exchange between Bryce and counsel for Rusden, Sir John Gorst.
  Gorst asked: In the fanatical movement of Te Whiti from the first to
  the last there was the most absolute submission on the part of the
  natives to the executive government?
  Bryce responded: Not at all; there was absolute defiance of the
  Gorst: Not by violence?
  Bryce: Not by bloodshed.
  Gorst: Only by passive resistance.
  Bryce: I should not like to say that. I am quite willing to say not
  by bloodshed. (44)

Nineteenth-century Parihaka narratives are knotted up in exchanges such as this. What Maori and their supporters might label as "absolute submission", settlers chose to see as "absolute defiance". The problem is one of definition. Who was violent? Who was peace-loving? What sort of resistance, if any, might be legitimate?

Histories emerge from these debates. As time passes and new events take place, reputations are reassessed, emphasis is changed, meanings are twisted. For Maori and the settlers who supported them, the bloodless installation of the lighthouse, the telegraph and the road and the bloodless invasion of Parihaka did not mask the government's violent intentions. "It was suggested by Mr Bryce that it was necessary to do something which had the appearance of war in order to avoid war," said Sir Richard Webster, another member of Rusden's defence team. "That it was necessary to take up an armed force, an Armstrong six-pounder--to seize guns and pull down houses and to take people's property, to avoid war." (45) This kind of thinking--that war is necessary for peace--is common. In Wellington a 1932 war memorial sculpture depicts a naked youth riding Pegasus, a boy ascending towards "the great spiritual assurance of peace." (46)

Maori narrators sought to broaden the definition of violence beyond the firing of cannons and into a more subtle domain that included the installation of technologies like roads and telegraphs and the unjust imprisonment of peaceful protestors. They did this through oratory, through song and in the evidence they offered at trials like Rusden's. The violence of the arrests of Parihaka ploughmen was branded into families in a more secret way too. Maori children were called Totoi (Toto) for short, which means dragging, a reference to the way a forbear was dragged around a paddock "because he wouldn't stop ploughing." Other children were named Te Iwi Herehere (literally imprisoned people), Te Kirihaehae (lashing), Matengaro (lost death or hidden death) and Ngarukeruke (discarded body). (47) In Taranaki, there are marae (meeting places) called Te Aroha (literally the love) but there are others named Muru Raupatu (confiscation and marginalisation).

But Maori efforts failed to convince those who saw the settlement of Taranaki as an event that was, ultimately, non-violent. In 1886, after eight days of evidence, the English jury took just 15 minutes to decide that the history of New Zealand constructed by Rusden, a history that displayed a strident sympathy with Maori, was libellous. Bryce's reputation had been vindicated. One newspaper noted that Rusden's history had argued that the government had been brutal and treacherous towards Maori, but it believed the native policy in New Zealand had been "at once patriotic and forbearing to the point of generosity". (48) As for Bryce, he was "one of those honest, energetic and straightforward persons of whom England produces so many for the conduct of affairs abroad and retains so few for the management of affairs at home." (49) Patriotic, generous and honest, such was the judgment that the English justice system passed on Bryce and the colonisation of New Zealand.

A New Line for Gandhi

There is another way of looking at the bronze Gandhi at Wellington Railway Station. Rather than arguing he doesn't belong there, I might choose to say the statue is proof of Gandhi's long-standing presence in New Zealand histories. For at least three decades, the small, Indian non-violent global superstar has been invoked to encourage readers to elevate--or merely acknowledge--the teachings and actions of "our own Gandhi's", Te Whiti and Tohu. In Ask That Mountain, his 1975 bestseller about Parihaka, one-time Communist Dick Scott explained that Te Whiti was a figure of "international significance" whose "finely-honed tactics anticipated those of Gandhi by a generation." (50)

Likewise, in the Waitangi Tribunal's 1996 Taranaki Report, the work of Parihaka's leaders is compared with the work of the best leaders of the twentieth century, Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Te Whiti and Tohu, like Gandhi and King, were jurists who promoted "higher constitutional norms" the report said. (51) The residents of Parihaka, like the followers of Gandhi and King, were disciplined and organised and their actions were morally right. The tribunal report juxtaposes the words of Te Whiti with those of King, linking the "civil disobedience" of Parihaka people with the civil disobedience of civil rights activists in 1960s America. The tribunal lamented,
  For decades, the shameful history [of Parihaka] lay largely buried in
  obscurity. Young Maori were schooled to believe that those of their
  forebears, whose images should have been carved with pride, were
  simply rebels, savages or fanatics. The Government's criminality was
  hidden. New Zealanders were not to know that forced removals, pass
  laws and other suspensions of civil liberties, so often criticised of
  governments elsewhere, had been applied here. We were not to know,
  when paying tribute to Gandhi and King, that their policies and
  practices had first been enunciated by Maori.y

Inspired by the tribunal, perhaps, Maori narrators have now identified the potential of the Parihaka story to resonate with global concerns--especially concerns about peace and war--and have used the Parihaka story to claim a place for Maori in global history.

At the City Gallery exhibition opening, two Parihaka kuia--Parekaitu Tito and Sadie Rukuwai--were presented with a UNESCO Peacebuilder Award. The year 2000 was the United Nation's International Year for a Culture of Peace, so the award linked Parihaka with other iconic sites of peace around the world and to New Zealand's emerging role as a regional "peacekeeper" through its increase in spending on UN peacekeeping missions and a decrease in spending on military equipment. (53) Pat Lynch, who coordinated New Zealand "culture of peace" activities said an important theme of the year was conflict resolution. "And Parihaka provides an uplifting and enduring model of a peaceful approach to dispute resolution," Lynch said. (54) In the 1990s when the tribunal was conducting hearings at Parihaka, the place and its leaders were used as an example of unresolved foundational conflicts in New Zealand. But more recently, the village-of-peace narrative has gained greater valency for Maori and Pakeha. Since 2005, an annual peace festival has been held at Parihaka, for example. Many Maori are attracted to the peace angle because it invites a more positive story in which the invasion of Parihaka was the start of something (the global passive resistance movement) rather than the end of something (Maori autonomy and power in Taranaki).

In the past few years, Maori and Pakeha have made the link between Te Whiti and Gandhi specific. In 2003, Parihaka leader Te Miringa Hohaia told Puke Ariki museum and library that Gandhi had learned about Te Whiti "from an Irish delegation that visited Parihaka and then had a meeting with Gandhi. Although Gandhi was already committed to non-violence, the impact of finding out about Te Whiti must have been startling." (55) In late 2009, Jim Holdom wrote to a national news magazine to explain that the nineteenth century Parihaka protests were well reported in English newspapers, "which Gandhi would have read." Holdom explained: "Gandhi's grandson has recently confirmed what had often been wondered, that what Gandhi had learnt about Parihaka helped as he developed his pacifist understandings." (56)

By positioning Parihaka leaders as pioneers of a multinational line of great pacifists, Maori (and others) tell a Parihaka story in which the actions of Maori in a remote corner of New Zealand had ripples that spread to the other side of the world, concentric circles of influence that have continued to radiate from Parihaka in the decades following the prophets' deaths and on into the present. This story inverts what Dipesh Chakrabarty has described as the "first in Europe, then elsewhere" structure of "global historical time", a historicist narrative in which "history" is a story imported from Europe into New Zealand and featuring a cast of offshore figures, such as British generals, explorers and policemen or, in more recent times, famous non-white foreigners such as Gandhi and King. (57) In this storyline, the history of passive resistance begins with indigenous actors in Aotearoa, spreads to Ireland and then on to India before making its way across to the United States. It is an inventive whakapapa (genealogy) of non-violent protest in which the seeds of the family tree of passive resistance were planted by Tohu and Te Whiti at Parihaka. With this genealogy in mind, the arrival of Gandhi in Wellington makes perfect sense. He is paying homage to those who came before him, to the Maori leaders who are yet be cast in either local, national or global memorial landscapes.

Victoria 3086



(1.) This essay is for Parihaka leader and historian, Te Miringa Hohaia. Moe mai Te Miringa. I also thank participants in the symposium on 'Social Memory and Historical Justice' at Swinburne University for their contributions to this work.

(2.) Roger Blackley, "Historical Wellington: The City's First Public Sculptures," Jenny Harper and Aaaron Lister, eds., Wellington: A City for Sculpture, (Wellington, 2007), 58.

(3.) The Taranaki Whanui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika claim was settled in August 2009. The Port Nicholson Trust Block, which represents claimants, has new offices inside the Wellington Railway Station on Waterloo Quay. My family are part of this claimant group and in February 2010 my book, The Parihaka Album: lest we forget (Wellington, 2009) was launched there. The settlement package includes the first right of refusal to buy back "Wellington Railway Station and the land directly under it and the Social Hall and the land directly under it." Other sites subject to this provision include Archives New Zealand, the National Library and the High Court. See "Summary of the Taranaki Whanui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika Deed of Settlement," Office of Treaty Settlements, accessed 19 February 2009. Also, "Port Nicholson Block Claim Taranaki Whanui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika" Ratification Booklet, 25.

(4.) An address by the Mayor of Wellington Kerry Prendergast at the unveiling of the Gandhi Statue Wellington Railway Station, 2 October 2007, 3.

(5.) Barbie Zelizer, "Local memories--global news" (paper presented to "Journalism in the 21st Century: Between Globalization and National Identity," University of Melbourne, 17 July 2009).

(6.) With thanks for Barbie Zelizer for these wonderful examples.

(7.) Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples (London, New York and Dunedin, 1999). See also Aroha Harris, "Theorize This: We Are What We Write," Te Pouhere Korero 3 Maori History, Maori People (2009): 83-89. On the transformative possibilities of Maori history-making see Nepia Mahuika, "Korero Tuku Iho: Our Gift and Our Responsibility," Te Pouhere Korero 4 Maori History, Maori People (2010): 24-40 and Arini Loader, "Casting the Net Wider: Native American Literary Nationalism in Aotearoa," also Te Pouhere Korero 4 (2010): 51-57.

(8.) 'Statue of Mahatma Gandhi to be Unveiled in Wellington', 1 October 2007, press release, Wellington City Council,, accessed 2 September 2010.

(9.) For a comprehensive exploration of the raids see Danny Keenan, ed., Terror in Our Midst? Searching for Terror in Aotearoa New Zealand (Wellington, 2008).

(10.) Stephen Turner, "Compulsory Nationalism," Moving Worlds 8.2 (2008): 7-19. It might also be argued that the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 is a more veiled but not less violent extinguishment or suppression of Maori expressions of independence. See Andrew Erueti and Claire Charters, eds., Moon' Property Rights and the Foreshore and Seabed: the last frontier (Wellington, 2007).

(11.) For an exploration of how the wars of foundation are marginal--or erased all together--in national memorial sites, such as the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, see Rachel Buchanan, "The Dementia Wing of History," Cultural Studies Review 1 (2007): 173-186 and "Dementia Wing," Parihaka Album, 203-234.

(12.) For a comprehensive history of this event see Hazel Riseborough, Days of Darkness: The Government and Parihaka Taranaki 1878-1884 (Auckand, 2002). A popular history of the invasion is Dick Scott's Ask That Mountain (Auckland, 1975). The connection between Wellington, Taranaki and Parihaka is commemorated in the name of the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust newsletter. It is called "Te Ngonga o te Piukara" a reference to a song about the invasion of Parihaka.

(13.) I trace the production and reception of these stories in my doctorate, Rachel Buchanan "Village of peace, village of war: Parihaka stories 1881-2004," Phd thesis, Monash University, 2005 and in my book, The Parihaka Album: lest we forget (2009).

(14.) Other historians argue that the final act of white military aggression against Maori took place in 1916 when the New Zealand Police invaded Tuhoe prophet Rua Kenana's community at Maungapohatu in the Urewera mountains. See Keenan, Terror in our midst? and Judith Binney, Gillian Chaplin and Craig Wallace, Mihaia: the prophet Rua Kenana and his community at Maungapohatu (Wellington, 1979). I'm referring here to the 1880 West Coast Commission, the 1927 Royal Commission into Confiscated Land and the Waitangi Tribunal's Taranaki Report of 1996. The tribunal argued that the invasion and sacking of Parihaka "must rank with the most heinous action of any government, in any country, in the last century. For decades, even to this day, it has had devastating effects on race relations," 309. See The Taranaki Report: Kaupapa Tuatahi, (Wellington, 1996.)

(15.) They have been very inventive. For instance, Te Miringa Hohaia was an instigator of the landmark 2001 City Gallery show and catalogue, Parihaka: The Art of Passive Reistance. In 2005, he set up the Parihaka Peace Festival, a weekend of music and culture.

(16.) The two tribes most closely associated with Parihaka, Taranaki and Te Ati Awa, are moving, only now, 14 years after the Waitangi Tribunal released its Taranaki report, towards a negotiated settlement of their Treaty of Waitangi Claims.

(17.) Jeffrey Olick, The Politics of Regret: On Collective Memory and Historical Responsibility (London, 2007), 20.

(18.) Stephen Turner, '"Inclusive Exclusion': Managing Identity for the Nation's Sake in Aotearoa/New Zealand," Arena journal 28 (2007): 87-106. Danny Keenan also makes the point about short and long history in his evidence before the Waitangi Tribunal's Taranaki inquiry. Keenan, "Ngati Te Whiti Muru me te Raupatu Waitangi Tribunal presentation," Documents to the end of the fourth hearing, 12 April 1991, D14, Waitangi Tribunal Archive.

(19.) Elizabeth Jelin and Susan Kaufmann, "Layers of memories: Twenty years after in Argentina," T.G. Ashplant, Graham Dawson and Michael Roper, eds., The Politics of War and Commemoration,(London and New York, 2006), 106.

(20.) For detailed population information see Philippa Mein Smith, A Concise History of New Zealand (Melbourne, 2005), 76-81.

(21.) Luisa Passerini, "Memories between silence and oblivion," Katharine Hodgkin & Susannah Radstone, eds., The Politics of Memory (London and New York, 2003), 240.

(22.) Undated clipping, Charlie Wallace obituary, Evening Post, October 1932?

(23.) Charlie Wallace obituary, Evening Post, October 1932?

(24.) Shahid Amin, Event, Metaphor, Memory: Chauri Chaura 1922-1992 (Delhi, 1995), 52.

(25.) Gyanendra Pandey, Remembering Partition (Cambridge, 2001), 54.

(26.) West Coast Commission, August 1880, Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives (AJHR), G-2, 14.

(27.) West Coast Commission third report, AJHR, Vol II, G-2, lviii.

(28.) Reports of the Royal Commissions--The Confiscated Lands Inquiry and Maori Prisoners' "Trials Act 1879," Appendixes to the Journals of the House of Representatives AJHR, Vol II, 1880. G-2, 10.

(29.) Bronwyn Elsmore, Mana from Heaven: A Century of Maori Prophets in New Zealand (Tauranga, 1989), 238-153.

(30.) For transcription and translation of songs and speeches composed at this time see Te Miringa Hohaia, "Ngaa Puutaketanga Koorero Moo Parihaka" in Hohaia, G O'Brien, L Strongman, eds., Parihaka: The Art of Passive Resistance (Wellington: 2000), 42-65. I also analyse these songs and sayings as sources in my book. See Buchanan, Parihaka Album, 24-35, 90-91.

(31.) Tohu Kakahi, 1895. Speech recorded by Te Kaahui Kararehe, Hohaia, "Koorero Moo Parihaka," Art of Passive Resistance, 59.

(32.) Henare Tomoana, cited in G W Rusden, History of New Zealand, vol III (London, 1883), 321.

(33.) See Elsmore, Mana from Heaven, 297-302. For an account of why Te Kooti freed Hursthouse see Judith Binney, Redemption Songs: The Life of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki (Auckland, 1995).

(34.) New Zealand Herald, 28 March 1883, File 23/5 Archives New Zealand. For a different perspective on Te Kooti see Binney, Redemption Songs, 311.

(35.) See Jessie Mackay, "The Charge at Parihaka," cited in Jane Stafford, "To sing this Bryce and bunkum age" in Passive resistance, 179-185.

(36.) New Zealand Herald, 28 March 1883.

(37.) Rusden to Rolleston, 21 October 1881. Rolleston correspondence 1831-1903, 82-355-03/2, Alexander Turnbull Library (ATL).

(38.) See James Belich, I shall not die: Titokowaru's War, New Zealand 1868-69 (Wellington, 1989), 190-207.

(39.) See H. W. Williams, Dictionary of the Maori Language, seventh edition (Wellington, 2002), 127.

(40.) Wi Parata is a very significant figure in New Zealand tribal, political and legal history. In 1877 he took the Bishop of Wellington to court to demand an inquiry into whether Maori customary rights had been properly extinguished. He lost, and the controversial and still-debated decision means "the radical title of the Crown to all lands was emphasised." For an excellent discussion see David V. Williams, "Wi Parata is Dead, Long Live Wi Parata" in Erueti and Charters eds, Maori Property Rights (2007), 31-58.

(41.) Wi Parata in Bryce v. Rusden, Queen's Bench Division, High Court of Justice, (London, 1886), 625. The exact exchange is as follows. Q: Have you heard the natives apply any term of opprobrium to Mr Bryce. A. Yes I have. Q. What was that term? A. It is said that he was a murderer: a man that murdered. Q. Gives us the Maori expression? A. Tangata Kohuru. (The interpreter then explained that this expression means murderous man or murderer).

(42.) Wi Parata in Bryce v. Rusden, 622-626.

(43.) See Bryce v Rusden, 123-148 for exchanges that cover these questions.

(44.) Bryce v Rusden, 119.

(45.) Bryce v Rusden, 409.

(46.) Blackley, "Historical Wellington", 55.

(47.) See Amiria Matoe Rangi, "Living Legacy" in Parihaka: art of passive resistance, 69; "Nga Ana a Puketai: the Caves" text panel in Te Iwi Herehere exhibition: the story of Maori prisoners from Taranaki in Otago 1869-1882, Dunedin Public Art Gallery 2002; and Ngati Mutunga Deed of Settlement, Historical Account, Office of Treaty Settlements, 7.87, 2004.

(48.) St James Gazette, 13 March 1886, extract in Bryce v Rusden, 513.

(49.) St James Gazette, 13 March 1886, 513.

(50.) Dick Scott, Ask that Mountain (1975), 7.

(51.) "Chapter 8, Parihaka," The Taranaki Report Kaupapa Tuatahi, Legislation Direct: Waitangi Tribunal, 1996. Available online at the Waitangi Tribunal,, accessed 2 September 2010.

(52.) The Taranaki Report Kaupapa Tuatahi, Legislation Direct: Waitangi Tribunal, 1996, 209. For an exploration of history-making before the Waitangi Tribunal, see Rachel Buchanan, "Decolonizing the Archives: The Work of New Zealand's Waitangi Tribunal," Public History Review, vol 14 (2007): 44-63.

(53.) For information on New Zealand's role in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions see Accessed 5 February 2008.

(54.) "UNESCO Peacebuilder Award Honours Parihaka Legacy," Press Release, 24 August 2000, http://(, accessed 2 September 2010.

(55.) Te Miringa Hohaia, quoted in "Pacifist of Parihaka--Te Whiti o Rongomai" in Puke Ariki Taranaki Stories Tangata Whenua,, Accessed 23 July 2009. See also comments from Hohaia that "Parihaka's leaders were important world leaders in terms of peace makers and peace advocators," when Parihaka: The Struggle for Peace opened at Puke Ariki in September 2003, "Exhibition", undated clipping, Daily News.

(56.) Jim Holdom, "Gandhi and Parihaka," Letters to the editor, The Listener, 5 December 2009.

(57.) Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton, 2000), 7.

By Rachel Buchanan La Trobe University
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Title Annotation:SOCIAL JUSTICE
Author:Buchanan, Rachel
Publication:Journal of Social History
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Jun 22, 2011
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