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Move To Make Nov 5th Parihaka Day

Move To Make Nov 5th Parihaka Day Instead Of Guy Fawkes

On 31st October and 5th November every year, our nation celebrates two festivals, Halloween and Guy Fawkes Day. Since Halloween is relatively new to NZ, many adults still look uncomprehendingly at the little figures "trick or treating" at their front doors. The children, however, have learned about it from American TV programs or, in recent years, at school.

Guy Fawkes Day most adults do comprehend, as a night for fireworks and a bonfire. It celebrates the capture and execution of Catholic activist Guy Fawkes for his attempt in 1605 to blow up England's Parliament building. Many NZers, I suspect, would rather cheer his attempt than his capture, but only because they don't know he was trying to assassinate a lot of people - the Protestant king (James V), his queen, his son and his cabinet ministers.

Both festivals are colourful, especially for children, and can be a lot of fun but what values are they communicating from generation to generation? There's no doubt that these celebrations fill a hole in our national need for festivals, fun and a bit of exotic colour. But why are we still celebrating the death of a villain 400 years ago on the other side of the planet, and the end of the Northern Hemisphere's summer when ours is actually beginning? Are we in NZ today so lacking as a people that we have to import another nation's history and culture? Well, we are if we have to lean on our TVs instead of our imaginations AND if we don't know our own country's history well enough to recognise an event here truly worth celebrating! On November 5th, 1881, the pa at Parihaka was invaded by a rogue government*. This day saw the arrest of their two leaders, Te Whiti O Rongamai and Tohu Kakahi, two of the most determinedly peace-loving leaders of all time. From 1869, under the guidance of Te Whiti and Tohu, the people of Parihaka had actually practised practised peaceful protest and resistance to injustice here in NZ by beating their "swords into ploughshares".

To understand just how far ahead of the times they were, in the Wild West on October 26, 1881, Wyatt Earp and Doc Halliday were gunning down the Clanton gang at OK Corral; Geronimo and his Apaches were still on the war-path. Mahatma Gandhi, India's greatest hero of the peaceful resolution of conflicts, was still a teenager. Mahatma means "great soul" and today he is rightly recognised and honoured internationally.

In the 1970's the Americans created a new national holiday to celebrate the life and works of Martin Luther King Jr., and his "I have a dream..." still echoes around the world but what of New Zealand's "great souls" of a hundred years earlier? Many NZers, let alone other nations, have not yet learned of the extraordinary courage, ideals and humour of these two leaders and their community and I believe the time has come to change that. What follows is necessarily a very brief synopsis but for more details, Dick Scott's book "Ask That Mountain" and Hazel Riseborough's "Days of Darkness" are excellent and readily available.

What's To Celebrate?

What would the children and the nation gain if we were to celebrate this event?

(i) True heroes to be emulated. Te Whiti's motto was "Peace on earth and goodwill among men". He and Tohu knew that European settlement was inevitable and actively welcomed the newcomers with these words. Their goodwill extended to renouncing armed violence as a way of resolving conflicts and to instead teaching love and peaceful negotiation within the law (compare this with Halloween and Guy Fawkes!) The children of Parihaka were also heroes - it was after all the children who faced the armed troops that morning.

(ii) A better sense of who we are as a people in NZ today, unafraid to face past injustices and honour those proven to be right. The Parihaka way of resolving disputes points the way ahead for us as a nation, calling for and acknowledging aroha/goodwill and justice amongst Maori and Pakeha.

iii) An event in our own history truly worth celebrating, upholding and reaching our children excellent values and motives. We shouldn't be afraid of directing the idealism of our young people.

The Celebration

How could we celebrate the day? We could aim to add a little bit to the previous six days so it's a week of celebrations, retaining all the fun, fireworks and lollies for the children, with the colour and excitement of the present but celebrating the values, hard work, self-discipline and community of Parihaka. Focussing on our children, starting on 30th October we could have some brief daily activities in every school in the country to foster a community spirit and the voluntary service of others:

(i) On the 30th, every child can hear the story of Parihaka

(ii) Leading up to this week, schools (Parent Support groups) can take note of elderly or shut-in neighbours whom the children could help on the 31st for a half-day e.g. mowing lawns, clearing sections, walking dogs, helping with shopping or errands

(iii) Those helped must not be allowed to pay but can reward the children with lollies or treats

(iv) For the rest of the week, a daily session bringing together many elements of peace-making already in the schools, such as peer mediation, communication skills and anger management.

(iv) The climax of the week will be each city's fireworks display on 5th November.

The Campaign

We would need to ensure a co-operative and co-ordinated approach to ensure everybody in the country knows of the events at Parihaka and why we want to celebrate.

We already have:

(i) the blessing of the kaumatua, kuia and community of Parihaka

(ii) the support of many prominent leaders of our society including the Prime Minister, Members of Parliament from most of the parties, prominent Maori, civic and business leaders, journalists and artists.

(iii) a high profile for Parihaka in the media thanks to the Parihaka Exhibition in Wellington City Gallery, a spontaneous emergence of articles in "Grace" & "Listener", "City Voice" and many other newspapers, TV documentaries in "Epitaph" and "Pounamu", and frequent mentions on radio programs and in speeches by, for example, our new Governor General

(iv) support from some businesses with a commercial interest in the promotion of festivals e.g. Dick Hubbard, leader of Businesses for Social Responsibility; Stephen Tindall of The Warehouse has promised his support as soon as we can show him there is a wide enough interest in changing the festivals. We can build on these and co-ordinate efforts.

We have yet to do:

(i) to influence our education system, via Teacher Training Colleges and the Waitangi Tribunal resource kits, to teach more of our own history to the children from their earliest days at school. At the moment our education system is actively and powerfully promoting Halloween, cashing in on American TV's children's programs. This can be changed as a policy and alternative resources provided.

(ii) an achievable goal is that Wellington's annual city-wide fireworks on 5th November be redesignated as a tribute to the people and message of Parihaka, in response to the exhibition, "Parihaka: The Art of Passive Resistance".

(iii) a feature film, rather than a documentary, to tell the story accurately and powerfully in epic style, like "Gandhi" or "Chariots of Fire", for international release. Roger Randall-Cutler, Academy Award- winning producer of "The Commitments", is willing to produce it and is related by marriage to Ngati Te Whiti.

Visit the Waitangi Tribunal's


official findings on Parihaka.



Chrissie Williams City Councillor, Pegasus Ward 122 Pine Avenue South New Brighton Christchurch 8007 Ph 03 3880798 Fax 03 388 4738 email: chrissie.williams@ccc.govt.nz

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