Theatre of War: Lake Waikaremoana, in the territory of the Tuhoe people, where the terrorist/freedom-fighter, Te Kooti, based his forces in the early months of 1869. The Crown's pursuit of the warrior-prophet, following the Mohaka Massacre of 10 April 1869, extracted a heavy price from his Tuhoe protectors.
AN ARMED BAND of about 150 terrorists enters an isolated village in a country torn by civil war.
The men defending the village, accepting the terrorist leader’s assurances that they will not be harmed, surrender their weapons. One man refuses, telling the terrorist leader: "If I hand over my gun you will kill me." Shots are exchanged, the man falls.
The terrorists then start slaughtering the defenceless villagers – mostly women and children. Forty are killed – many hacked to death with bayonets and axes. Meanwhile, outside the village, local farming families are also being attacked and killed. About a dozen men, women and children are murdered: some bayoneted; some shot in the back as they fled. Their homesteads are looted and set alight.
Having completed their grisly raid, the terrorists take refuge in the nearby mountains.
What would be your best guess as to what happens next? If you said a small army made up of professional soldiers and local volunteers headed into the mountains in pursuit of the terrorists, you would, of course, be correct.
And if the commanders of that small army discovered that the local inhabitants of the mountainous region into which the terrorists had fled were providing them with food, shelter, ammunition and new recruits? What would your best guess be as to their next move? If you said they’d probably "unleash hell" on the local inhabitants, then, once again, you’d be quite right.
Now, when and where did this terrorist raid take place? Last week in the mountainous border region separating Afghanistan from Pakistan? Not even close.
The incidents I’ve just described took place in and around what is now the Urewera National Park in April 1869. The "terrorists" were Te Kooti’s "Hau Haus". The village was Mohaka. The local tribe which gave Te Kooti and his men shelter was Tuhoe.
The Waitangi Tribunal has so far released over a thousand pages of historical research into the Tuhoe people’s claim to Te Urewera. But you’ll not find anything on those thousand pages remotely resembling the Mohaka Massacre as I have described it.
There is a peculiar reticence on the part of the Tribunal’s historians to acknowledge that the war which spilled over into the Tuhoe people’s territory in the 1860s and 70s was a civil war. Few New Zealanders understand that more Maori died at the hands of other Maori during the so-called Land Wars than at the hands of Pakeha. At Mohaka, for example, two-thirds of the victims were Maori women and children.
Instead, we get statements like this, from the AUT History Professor, Paul Moon, speaking to Radio New Zealand - National’s "Morning Report" host, Geoff Robinson, on Tuesday:
"Well the parts of the Waitangi Tribunal Report that have been released in the last few days show that Tuhoe suffered in a very different way from other tribes. Other tribes were involved in wars and had their lands confiscated, but in parts of Tuhoe the Crown enacted almost a scorched earth policy. They burnt crops, shot people, shot children. They burnt houses, destroyed livestock. They shifted entire communities off their land. So the scale of the suffering and the effect it’s had on the community has been different from just about any other tribe in the country."
And, of course, Professor Moon is right, the Crown did all of those things. What he (and the Waitangi Tribunal historians) neglect to do, of course, is set those dreadful deeds in the context of the equally dreadful deeds that preceded them.
Tuhoe picked the wrong side in the war to decide what sort of country New Zealand would become: a modern, technologically sophisticated, socially progressive and politically democratic state.
So modern and democratic, in fact, that in order to bind up the wounds of the losers, its liberal elite is willing to traduce the historical record and besmirch the reputations of the courageous men and women – Maori and Pakeha – whose blood sacrifice made New Zealand possible.
This essay was originally published in The Dominion Post, The Timaru Herald, The Taranaki Daily News, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Evening Star of Friday, 6 August 2010.