Guy Fawkes versus Parihaka

Today is Guy Fawkes Day, the anniversary of and attempt to blow up a parliament on the other side of the world over four centuries ago.

It is still ‘celebrated’ in New Zealand, but to an ever diminishing extent as increasingly severe restrictions on the sale of fireworks has gradually deterred individuals and families from buying stuff to burn. We gave up burning stuffed ‘Guys’ decades ago.

Is it time to consider commemorating something of local importance instead?

This is suggested in the ODT: A place for peace

On November 5, 1605, a tip-off led to Fawkes’ arrest in the parliament cellar where he was found nursing 36 barrels of gunpowder and a serious intent. He was tortured and executed. The day was then marked throughout England with an annual celebration that included bonfires, the burning of “Guy” effigies and fireworks.

But the truth is that most people in New Zealand know little, and care less, about who Guy Fawkes was and what he did.

Typifying the attitude, one dad shared on social media, “My girl just told me it’s `gay fox’ season …”

November the 5th also marks an important event in New Zealand history.

On that date, in 1881, almost 1600 armed soldiers invaded the western Taranaki settlement of Parihaka.

Parihaka had been established by Te Whiti, a Maori prophet who combined Christian and traditional Maori teachings.

His most distinctive belief, which he and his thousands of followers practised tirelessly, was a rejection of violence, even when resisting injustice.

This radical approach was first tested in 1879, when the colonial government tried to occupy land in Taranaki. Te Whiti and his right-hand man, Tohu Kakahi, responded with homegrown, non-violent civil disobedience. They sent out men to put fences across roads and to plough disputed land.

The ploughing was a literal application of a biblical prophecy that a day of peace would come when people “beat their swords into ploughshares”.

Hundreds of “Parihaka ploughmen” were arrested and sent South.

Between 1879 and 1881, almost 140 Parihaka ploughmen were sent to Dunedin as prisoners. A decade earlier, more than 70 men from Taranaki were imprisoned here for having supported south Taranaki leader Titokowaru in a war against land confiscation. Titokowaru later worked with Te Whiti to resist the confiscations.

Passive resistance against oppressive colonialists.

When released a couple of years later, they and others returned to Parihaka and to their ploughing.

In response, in October 1881, the government gave Te Whiti and his followers 14 days to leave their settlement; or else.

When the volunteer and armed constabulary troops arrived at Parihaka on November 5, ready for battle, they were greeted by several thousand Maori sitting quietly on the marae while the children of the settlement greeted the soldiers with song and poi.

Te Whiti and Tohu were arrested, much of the village was destroyed and the people dispersed.

It was a national disgrace.

Almost three centuries previous, when Fawkes was questioned by King James I about his foiled plan, he pithily replied, “a dangerous disease requires a desperate remedy”.

Te Whiti would have agreed. He and Fawkes were radicals. But one embraced terror and the other peace.

They may have shared a date, but Te Whiti’s own biblical motto – “Peace on earth and goodwill among men” – took him in a completely different direction.

That sounds a bit like Christmas but it is also an appropriate response to the gunpowder plot.

So it comes as no surprise that several New Zealanders have called for the celebration of Fawkes’ failed assassinations in England to be dropped in favour of Te Whiti’s non-violent resistance at Parihaka.

At the forefront, at a political level, has been the Maori Party. Then co-leaders, Tariana Turia, in 2011, and Marama Fox, in 2015, called for Parliament to “formally recognise the fifth of November as Parihaka Day to commemorate the peaceful resolution of conflict in New Zealand”.

The Maori Party is now out of Parliament, but Parihaka Day momentum appears to be growing.

Te Whiti’s passive resistance is of international significance.

It may even have influenced Gandhi – his first practised passive resistance was as a young lawyer in South Africa in the early years of last century.

Prior to that, he trained as a lawyer in London in the late-1880s.

It was a time and place in which a number of people were thinking about how best to solve conflicts.

“That in New Zealand, we had this tribal people who had arrived at this way of resolving what seemed an intractable conflict – the ill-effects of colonisation – and they had done it independently of anyone else in the world.”

Speaking from Parihaka this week, Ruakere Hond, who is the speaker for Te Paepae o te Raukura, said community members favoured a “national day of remembrance”.

Why not November 5th?

In response to questions from the ODT, Mahuta said Parihaka had become a symbol of peaceful resistance and self-determination against oppression.

A national Parihaka Day on November 5 would “signify our maturity as a nation that wants to embrace biculturalism and the principles of peace and respect”, she says.

That sounds a lot more appropriate for New Zealand in the 21st century – we should be doing the opposite of commemorating terrorism and torture.

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  1. Trevors_elbow

     /  November 5, 2017

    Evil Colonisation. Evil Europeans. Give it a rest.

    Ask the Moriori of the Chathams about the Evils of Colonisation or the now defunct tribes of Wellington. Ngati Mutunga and Ngati Tama taught them both about the joys of Colonisation…..

    • The Moriori of the Chathams were treated very badly, but so were the Maori of Parihaka. One doesn’t detract from the injustice of the other.

      • Gezza

         /  November 5, 2017

        I’m from Taranaki. My younger brother did his Masters thesis on Parihaka & I’m well versed in its history. I agree with what you say but a recent settlement deal included a formal apology from the government for the wrongs committed against Te Whiti & Taranaki Maori.
        I think commemorating this apology in a monument would be more fitting & less nationally divisive than commemorating it on a particular day. There were other wrongs committed for which apologies have been made & future apologies will be made. These are things done in the past we would not allow to happen today. Teach the history properly. That should suffice.

        • Any other suggestions for 5th November then? Guy Fawkes has very little relevance to New Zealand.

          • Gezza

             /  November 5, 2017

            Well, that’s so true. I think the only time Guy Fawkes actually had any significance for me was at primary school when Sister Annette, the Principal, told us all she hoped we were not celebrating Guy Fawkes Day because Guy Fawkes was a Catholic.

            I think they might as well just call it National Fireworks Day – because that’s all it really is here in Godzone.

          • Blazer

             /  November 5, 2017

            I suggest we have an ‘All Black’ day where everyone wears black to remind us that we hold the W.C.

            • Gezza

               /  November 5, 2017

              Nobody would notice anything different in Wellington. Otherwise, mightn’t be too bad an idea. Combining it with the National Fireworks Day should allow for useful synergies & possibly cheaper fireworks – although there could be issues with scalpers of any AB brand whizbangs.

      • George

         /  November 5, 2017

        So, is it your claim that those at Parihaka were butchered and enslaved as were the Maoriori on the Chatams ?
        And why suddenly are European traditions no longer kosher.
        To be culturally sensitive should we bring back cannibalism ?

        • Gezza

           /  November 5, 2017

          What are you? An idiot?

        • I didn’t claim the two were the same, although now you bring it up there are some similarities. Wrecking, looting, raping, enslaving.

      • Trevors_Elbow

         /  November 5, 2017

        My objection Pete is the constant villianisation of Europeans by revisionists whorefuse to see broader context and acknowleding things were very different in the 1860s through 1890s

        It happened as did events I highlighted. Where is the villianisation of Rangihaeta and Te Rauparha?

        • I brought up Parihaka, that’s all, and you’ve generalised to a much wider complaint that is quite debatable, but I don’t want to get into that here.

          Are you saying there isn’t something to celebrate about a passive approach to protest like that of Parihaka?

          • Trevors_elbow

             /  November 5, 2017

            I read the article pete and its just another evil European narrative meant to shame Europeans. It is tiresome.

            What happen in Parihaka wasnt uncommon at the time in terms if dominant power reactiin.. ciukd have been much more extreme in fact… and i provide some contrast to other colinisation efforts which occurred in NZ

            • robertguyton

               /  November 5, 2017

              Trev finds it “tiresome”.
              We must respect Trev’s low tolerance for reality.

            • Gezza

               /  November 5, 2017

              👍🏼 Absolutely. Caught me by surprise there you did. All about accepting diverse tolerances. Well done.

            • Trevors_Elbow

               /  November 5, 2017

              Robert…. hate yourself all you want….. its obvious you do with your attempts at wit and endless attempted putdowns trying to deflect from looking at yourself…

              Personally I find the Left wing hatred of western values, cultural and history tiresome. The European Colonial shame meme Lefties run is completely tiresome…… I suppose the Greens and their supporters are the ultimate in leftie self loathing … so I find them the most tiresome bloggers of all….


            • Gezza

               /  November 5, 2017

              Nice to see that end on a pleasant note.

  2. Gerrit

     /  November 5, 2017

    Guy Fawkes to remain just to remind politicians that the people hold the power. We celebrate it as a failure to hold politicians to account but its a reminder that politicians serve the people (not the other way around) and that they better remember that. Besides, you cant beat a bit of celebratory anarchy even though the politicians have taken much fun out of fireworks, the spoil sport bastardy brats. Actually anarchy is starting to look like a reasonably inviting political option. wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

    Do we really need two days a year when we hear about the “evil colonisation” ?

    Waitangi day is enough.

    Maybe we should have a remembrance day for the Maori on Maori slaughter of the Musket Wars?

    “Thousands of Māori died in the intertribal Musket Wars of the 1810s, 1820s and 1830s. Many more were enslaved or became refugees. Northern rivals Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Whātua led the way, but all the tribes were soon trading for muskets.

    Muskets (ngutu pārera) changed the face of intertribal warfare, decimating some tribes and drastically altering the rohe (territorial boundaries) of others. By the 1830s campaigns had become too costly. With European diseases also taking a heavy toll, warfare gave way to economic rivalry.

    By this time thousands had fled their traditional lands, complicating questions of ownership and freeing large areas for potential Pākehā (European) settlement.”

    Somehow these inter tribal wars and the consequential loss of Maori tribes and land is swept under the carpet.

    If we are going to teach kids New Zealand history one cant just start with the treaty, it has to include the lead up to it. How many people know about the letter thirteen Ngapuhi chiefs wrote to the King of Britain asking for protection from French influence?

    • Gezza

       /  November 5, 2017

      Some good points there. Jesus. Imagine being on the Committee charged with writing an agreed New Zealand History for teaching as part of the national curriculum.

    • Never understand why people associate Guy Fawkes with holding politicians to account. It it was an attempt to overthrow the Government and established protestant order it clearly failed !

  3. corky

     /  November 5, 2017

    ”That sounds a lot more appropriate for New Zealand in the 21st century – we should be doing the opposite of commemorating terrorism and torture.”

    The thing is Pete, Guy Fawkes is so much fun…Parihaka isn’t. Parihaka is associated with the Maori protest movement by many Europeans. It means nothing to them so will receive little support. Ironies abound here, both with history and Guy Fawkes.

  4. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  November 5, 2017

    I hate Guy Fawkes night – always have ever since a “yoof” threw a live jumping jack at me (age 5 or 6) at Castlecliff Beach bonfire.
    But I don’t believe we should forget episodes of religious terrorism …. they are not new, they have not gone away; and those who live in democracies need to be ever vigilant.

  5. Alan Wilkinson

     /  November 5, 2017

    Most celebrations seem to be about pissing someone off. Guy Fawkes night is really a chance to blow up the bastards. Whoever you like to think they are. There’s a lot to be said for that. Typical English subtlety and utility.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  November 5, 2017

      Of course the rest of the world doesn’t get it and think it is just a chance to show off pyrotechnics. Which is why it will die.

      • Gezza

         /  November 5, 2017

        It’s pretty ho hum these days. Sounded like a quiet night in Kandahar here for about 3 hours, a few interesting MG42 spandau rrrrips, some rpgs, the odd suicide bomber tripping over before he got out of the room with his bosses & taking them with him, & sundry bangs & ricochet sounds bouncing off the hills. Nothing to see though. Once they banned the sky rockets – for good reason, I must admit, especially when it’s windy like earlier tonight – all the fun & spectacle went out of it.

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  November 5, 2017

          It’s just something to survive with one of our dogs that panics. But she got a tranquilliser tonight and seems fine. It didn’t last very long either. Forecast bad weather seems to have stopped most of it even though not much rain happened up here. Spent the day going down to Auckland and picking up a low power fridge for your cabin. So you can do your laundry. The old one will go to our dog rescue people tomorrow. Road is still a goat track. Heaps of roadworks and full of Sunday blondes, tourist and old men. Like pulling teeth but we got there.