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Northern Wars anniversary offers lesson for today

Thursday 08 March 2018

For Immediate Release

Northern Wars anniversary offers lesson for today

In the lead-up to the annual commemoration of the 1845 wars fought in Northland, Ngapuhi kaumatua, David Rankin, has spoken about their significance to the country. Rankin’s ancestors fought on both sides of the war. Hone Heke provoked the British into fighting, while Tamati Waka Nene supplied troops to the British to fight Heke.

“Heke’s motives have always been at the centre of the war,” Rankin points out. “He wanted to overcome the power of his more senior relatives, and wanted to use his considerable diplomatic skills to extend his influence over everyone in the region…and for a few months in 1845, he succeeded in that.”

Although known mainly for chopping down the flagpole in Russell and taking on the Crown in a series of battles, Heke is regarded by his hapu primarily for his diplomatic skills. “He made peace with his enemy, Kawiti, in order to build a bigger alliance, he worked with the missionaries so he could maintain communication with the Governor, and even at the height of the war, Heke was engaged in correspondence with British officials.”

And as final evidence of Heke’s diplomatic genius, Rankin points out that Heke was the only person in the entire British Empire in the nineteenth century who waged war again the Crown and was then let off with no punishment whatsoever.

“There’s a lesson in this for Ngapuhi today,” says Rankin. “There are times when enough is enough. You stop fighting the Crown and accept what’s on offer so that the people can live in peace and prosperity.”


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