How can 21st century tools enhance the weave of the cultural lens? What impact can these tools have on 21st century indigenous classrooms whose culture is sourced in oral tradition, whakapapa (genealogical ties and kinship), tikanga (process and protocols for living), reo (language of body, tinana and environment), and wairua (spiritual well-being)? How can the gifts, talents, and strengths you bring enrich the lives and experiences of Māori students, whānau, hapū, and iwi in their respective rohe? Are you making a difference in the cultural presence of the classroom, school, or educational setting you work in?
Take some time to consider my thoughts…
Never will I forget Wharehoka Wano entering Tamatekapua to help me mourn the loss of my dad. How my tears fell on my dad’s face as I reminded him of Whare’s loss just two weeks before. “Tukua mai kia piri, tukua mai kia tata, e hoa so that our tears may mingle together. Returning to Parihaka so I could be cleansed by the winds that sweep down from the summit of Taranaki, I knew I was ready to do this and pay homage to the people of Parihaka.
When the opportunity arose to have our next CORE Māori whanau hui at Parihaka I was already there. Parihaka—the name as majestic in my mind as Taranaki himself—had always captured my imagination, and I wanted to hear their story, not from a book, a DVD, or a digital device, but in the collective voices of the land, the sea, and the ever-present spirit of the people both present and beyond.
“Naumai ki tō Parihakatanga…”
These four words of greeting from Whare haunted my second visit to Parihaka. Literally the words translate as ‘Welcome to your Parihakatanga (or your Parihaka-ness)”. I wondered if these words meant that lying dormant within me was a genetic memory of having been here before, which I could now reclaim. Or, was this an invitation to share my whakapapa (genealogical links) and ancestral histories, leaving me with my own understanding of how, too, I am a descendant of Parihaka’s legacy?
Parihaka! My mind swam in a wave of words and images. Scratch the surface of this peaceful settlement and the scars of land-loss, exile, and settler-greed are still present. The mark of any colonizing force—military, masses, and missionaries had forever cornered this niche of prized real estate in the annals of New Zealand’s history. To look upon the hill where the colonial forces rode down with their preordained agenda on the peaceful inhabitants below, I couldn’t help but feel the warrior DNA rise in me. Yet the people of Parihaka stood staunch and true. Not one hand raised in aggression, the resistance passive, unlike the ancestral ‘utu’ gene that surged within me.
Entering Te Niho o Te Atiawa I was captivated by the tupuna lining the walls. Pride radiates from within the picture frames revealing faces resolute of spirit, resilient in will, and loyal to the descendant obligations to whenua. To know the people of Parihaka and its origins is to understand the impact of mass confiscation, and the dispossession of a people from their land. Like a phoenix that rises from the ashes, so, too, did Parihaka and its people. Our group wove our way through the village, stopping momentarily to bathe in tribal memory and be moved by stories both tragic and heroic.
Te Whiti o Rongomai and his uncle Tohu Kākahi are two Parihaka leaders revered in this corner of the world. Two prophetic visionaries whose peace-loving leadership, influenced by Christian teachings, prohibited the use of arms. They condemned violence and challenged the colonial government over the wars, land confiscations, and punitive policies ratified by the settler government. Their call to arms in the face of injustice was a call to civil disobedience with the use of the plough.
“Go, put your hands to the plough. Look not back. If any come with guns and swords, be not afraid. If they smite you, smite not in return. If they rend you, be not discouraged. Another will take up the good work.” (Te Whiti to his ploughmen, June 1879).
It is said that Mahatma Gandhi was inspired by the teachings of Te Whiti and Te Tohu—just saying!
The first of the Parihaka ploughmen sent to Dunedin in 1879 were part of an attempt, which began at Opunake, to resist the unjust confiscations of land through civil disobedience. This act of rebellion legislated in law saw them become land owning prisoners to landless survivors. It is not surprising that the stone masonry skills they learnt during their enforced labour were brought back to Parihaka. Evidence can be seen in the stone structures and walls still standing today. Taking it all in was personally disquieting—attack, rape, incarceration, enforced labour, condoned legislative Treaty violations.
I turned to address Taranaki. My words were inaudible punctured only by solemn tears as I cried to Papatuanuku, listened to Tawhirimatea’s stories, and mingled with the spirits whose voices were whispers everywhere.
How the people have overcome this adversity and continue the legacy of peaceful compromise today is awe-inspiring. The 18th day of every month is celebrated every year, and is a forum where the iwi meet to maintain the traditions and teachings associated with Parihaka. As related to us, the 18th marked the first day arms were used against the people of Taranaki at Waitara. The legacy of living in harmony with the land and people from other nations continues today. The annual Peace Festival is an example.
Inevitably, any journey to Parihaka begins and ends farewelling those who lie peacefully in the urupa. It is with this in mind that my thoughts turn to Maata Wharehoka, and one of the most poignant and moving discussions I have ever been privileged to be a part of. She talked of the dying legacy of her husband Te Ru Wharehoka. While very sick he disclosed his wishes for his tangihanga to draw on ancient customs and traditional methods only. Committing to their fruition, they had six months. What moved me to tears was how important it was for the wairua of Te Ru to be at peace and spoken to both before and after his passing. He was at peace and present right through to the time of his spiritual return to Hawaiiki. To prepare, preserve, and prime everyone for his burial has now resulted in these teachings being shared with whanau, hapū, and iwi across Aotearoa. How special it was to allow Te Ru the dignity of designing his own passing in his remaining days. How visionary of Te Ru that now these practices are being maintained and taught today.
As my thoughts return to this korero I can only think of my colleagues in CORE who have suffered losses recently. As I watched a colleague walk down the aisle behind her husband, the white feathers adorning her hat were reminiscent of the symbol of peace at Parihaka. My silent wish that her husband’s wairua was able to depart cloaked in a korowai of unconditional love feathered by the plumes of an albatross. E te rau o titapu okioki atu nei…
…so, how would you share in the world of your Māori students?
And so these meanderings in to my mind inevitably turn to our core business as professionals and practitioners in education. The Parihaka I came to know had its own stories and songs born of the land. The mountain’s distinctiveness is manifest in its people, in the birds that wander in from off the sea breezes, and the snow-kissed breath of Taranaki. How would you respond to the Māori student who invites you to share in their world, and commune in such a way that your culture is embraced and welcomed to its own Parihakatanga-ness.
We are challenged in our educational settings to realise the potential of Māori learners, to nurture their inherent capabilities, and accept the cultural advantage they bring to our classrooms just by being Maori. Would your relationship or approach change if you found out that the cultural location of one of your students was from Taranaki, or they were a descendant of Te Whiti or Te Tohu? How might stories from localised settings you work in influence the curriculum design of a school? What of the stories in the areas you work in? Is cultural distinctiveness present or acknowledged in the work you do?
In your field of expertise in curriculum design, art of facilitation, blended e-learning, UDL, IT innovation, thought leadership, or where the craft of teaching and/or transforming 21st century classrooms falls upon you to lead, how do you see yourself enhancing the cultural distinctiveness of Parihaka to make a difference to the intergenerational experiences of your clientele?
My invitation has been to invite you to share my Parihakatanga, in my voice, and see how the work you do might offer a way to connect and share in the intricacies of cultural intellect, knowledge and epistemology from whichever New Zealand setting you work within.
Nō reira, e te rangatira, e Whare, nei rā te mihi maioha o Ngongotahā ki Taranaki maunga. Tū tonu, tū tonu, Te Atiawa e! Whare, with utmost humility I thank you for inviting us in to your world, and sharing the significance of your ancestral home. To know you is to know whom you represent. To appreciate your cultural lens is to pause for a moment, and step on to your surfboard and ride the waves of prophetic wisdom, pacifism, and martyrdom.
“Just as night is the bringer of day, so too is death and struggle the bringer of life”
- Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi
- TATARAKIHI – THE CHILDREN OF PARIHAKA "A True Story of War, Passive Resistance, and The Children who will never forget"