Parihaka celebrates peace

Every year on this date, the people at Parihaka celebrate peace.

Parihaka is a small community in Taranaki. Once, in the late 19th century, it was the largest community of Maori people. It was a very busy village with cattle and horses, and large fields of crops including potatoes, melons and cabbages, enough to feed about 2,000 people. They built fences around their fields to keep the animals out. There were houses and two marae.

The leaders, Te Whiti o Rongamai and Tohu Kakahi wanted a good relationship between Maori and Pakeha. They believed in non-violence. After the Land Wars, the government took a lot of Maori land and sold it to European settlers. The men at Parihaka refused to give up their land, and every day, they ploughed the fields which were now owned by Europeans. The European owners were angry and more than 400 of these Maori men were arrested. Most of them were not accused of any crime and there was no trial but Parliament passed a law to keep them in prison. There was no room in the local prison so they were sent to the South Island where many of them died in cold prisons.

Next, surveyors arrived in Parihaka to survey the land to divide it so that it could be sold and for roads. The men at Parihaka – mostly old men and young boys – built fences across the roads and land. They were arrested but more Maori from other areas replaced them. These men were also sent to South Island prisons.

Then on October 19th 1881, the government told the people of Parihaka they had 14 days to leave their land. However, Te Whiti told his people to stay but not to fight. On November 5th 1881, 1500 soldiers and police invaded their village. They met a line of 200 young children singing. Behind them was a line of older girls skipping. Sitting in the centre of the village were the leaders and 2,500 Maori people. The leaders were arrested. As Te Whiti left, he told his people, “We look for peace but we find war.” The soldiers destroyed the fences, crops and houses. Men were arrested. Women and children were left to survive as best they could without food or home.

At his trial, Te Whiti said, “It is not my wish that evil should come to the two races. My wish is for the whole of us to live peaceably and happy on the land.”

One hundred and twenty-five years later, the New Zealand government apologised. Some Taranaki tribes which were connected to Parihaka received compensation for the loss of their land.


• cattle – cows and bulls
• crops – food plants
• marae – Maori meeting houses
• Pakeha – Europeans
• surveyors – they measure the land and draw boundaries
• invaded (v), invasion (n) – entered by force
• skipping – jump rope (Am); a game played with a rope
• apologised – said, “Sorry”
• compensation – money in exchange for taking the land away from them


Many people will know of Ghandi and Martin Luther King (Jr) who also believed in non-violence. Do you know of other leaders who practised non-violence?

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