Taranaki sunrise, Opunake (Photo: Rachel Buchanan)

A little over a week ago, on October 24, the Crown apology for the invasion and ransacking of Parihaka passed into law. The law formalises an apology first given in 2017.

The apology recalls the events of November 5, 1881, when more than 1500 colonial troops — armed constabulary and volunteer militia — invaded the pacifist Taranaki village, which had become “the nation’s biggest and best-organised Māori community”. Women were raped, family heirlooms stolen, and houses and crops were destroyed. Parihaka’s leaders, Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi, were among the hundreds of Māori arrested and then jailed, without trial, in the South Island.

Here Rachel Buchanan, who traces her Parihaka whakapapa back to her tupuna Taare Warahi (Charles Wallace), reflects on what Treaty settlements have meant for her and her family, in this extract from her BWB text Ko Taranaki Te Maunga.



Ko Taranaki te Maunga
Ko Taranaki te iwi
Ko Taranaki te tangata
Ko te puna i heke mai ai te tangata
E kore e pau te ika unahi nui

Taranaki is the mountain
Taranaki is the tribe
Taranaki is the eponymous ancestor
The spring from which we all flow
We will never be overcome, we are like the scales of a great fish

What are Treaty settlements for? What have settlements achieved? I asked one of my senior relatives for his views and he said, “Treaty settlements are fake news.” I nearly choked on my Pepsi Max (this kaumātua’s favourite drink). He makes me laugh so much, but in this instance, I don’t agree.

Good news, bad news, fake news, no news, I appreciate there are many answers to the question about settlements — and the settlements outside settlements, such as He Puanga Haeata — but I can answer only for myself.

Treaty settlements are not about the apologies, or the small amount of money paid out (relative to what was lost or taken), or the fiddling about with name changes and titles, or the sometimes bizarre pieces of unwanted surplus Crown land that are handed back (for Taranaki Whānui ki te Upoko o Te Ika, this included an abandoned school, a hazardous nature reserve, half a car park, and a nudist beach).

For me, the most important and enduring thing about Waitangi Tribunal claims and settlements are the relationships they have created or exposed, and the oral, written and visual records that have been generated, unearthed, debated and shared in the process.

In other words, settlements are about knowledge and they are about custodianship of this knowledge. Alongside the contemporary records generated by the Māori Land Court and its historic block order files, this knowledge is now an immense and priceless data set for us, the descendants of the old people whose homes and cultures were pulled from under their feet in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

This knowledge is not everything, of course, but if you come from a family like mine — one in which the only taonga left by the mid twentieth century were the pieces of paper from the Public Trustee telling you your shares in Māori land are worthless or near worthless — then it is pretty special. I feel a deep gratitude towards all the Māori and Pākehā people who worked on the Waitangi Tribunal’s Taranaki Report and created the amazing “document bank” that I can make withdrawals from whenever I like.

Knowledge beats shame. When Dad was a boy, he knew he had “Māori blood” but not much more. He had to struggle to find out who he was and where he came from, and so did many other descendants of Koro Charles Wallace.

This book, and The Parihaka Album before it, is possible only because of their work, along with the Māori-led land rights and language revival movements and the Treaty claims processes that both prompted and supported whānau efforts.

Dad strained to learn Māori and he did learn enough to uphold tikanga in many different situations. My heart broke when I found all the bits of paper he had filed in his “Te Reo” folder at Village at the Park; he had even kept the notes from the Kuratini course in 1986. He was so dogged. He ploughed through, undeterred by his undoubtedly idiosyncratic pronunciation. One aspect of whaikōrero he did master was the strategic cough, and he milked it.

Dad would give a blessing at the start of staff meetings at Hutt Valley Hospital, where he was a paediatrician. He set up the Māori sub-committee at the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and would do the honours there as well. When St Mary of the Angels on Boulcott Street, Wellington, re-opened after earthquake strengthening, Dad was the kaumātua who blessed the church. Dad even spoke at Waitangi once, when he accepted the John Sands medal for services to paediatrics. Afterwards, one of the locals came up to him and said of the Māori part of his oratory: “We couldn’t believe it. You just kept going!”

When Dad was a child, his grandmother Hannah, would take him to a coffee shop on Manners Mall and she would tell him, “We used to be here — this is our place.” Did they know the name of the place? Te Aro, to turn towards (the mountain, Taranaki).

In any case, Dad had just two scraps of knowledge — his grandmother’s words, and later the mnemonic of the pā’s name — but he lived long enough to see Te Aro Pā reveal itself again in 2005 when remains of whare ponga were unearthed during the construction of Bellagio/Ataahui Apartments on Taranaki Street.

As my sister Hannah wrote: “Leo — alongside other whanaunga — spent many years seeking justice for Te Aro whenua and uri (descendants) of the pa. And in his final decade, one of his greatest rewards was seeing the Te Aro Pā Papakāinga on Evans Bay Parade rise up again.”

Rachel’s dad Leo Buchanan.

Dad and I spent a lot of time trying to find out where Koro Charles’s grandfather Hēmi Parai was buried. We never found out; he was probably put to rest in the part of the Bolton Street cemetery that was dug up for the motorway. We did not discuss where Charles’s mother, Arapera, might be buried, and I don’t know.

It is amazing to me that my father is buried in an urupā, not a cemetery. He is wearing a tie, but Pekiara Rei also pinned a raukura on his coat. He had a bilingual Requiem Mass at St Mary’s and Father Barry gave us permission to sleep next to Dad in the church the night before. Dad had set money aside to pay for James Young, the organist, and the choir, and as we carried Dad out the organ was thumping out Whakaaria Mai. At the doors of the church, the singing and the organ paused and all I could hear was Jamie Tuuta chanting ancient Taranaki incantations and prayers. I offer my sincerest thanks to our relatives for the respects they paid Dad, his ancestors and his descendants at that time, and the support they offered us.

By fluke or serendipity or some other force, Dad is the first one at Opau, the new urupā at Makara that was part of the 2009 Treaty settlement between Taranaki-Te Ātiawa whānui in Wellington and the Crown. The urupā is one thing I can wholeheartedly celebrate about the settlement.

Six months after Dad’s death, I returned to New Zealand. I went to see him at Opau. I told him about this book and I mentioned I was going up to Taranaki the next day. I had a schedule in mind; I hoped to sit in on a hui about the mountains — Taranaki, Pouākai and Kaitake. The record of understanding signed in December 2017 says representatives of the post-settlement entities of the eight Taranaki iwi are in negotiations to “develop an apology and cultural redress in relation to ngā maunga” and that “the apology and cultural redress . . . will not include any financial or commercial redress”.

The day after I arrived in Taranaki, I borrowed my foster-sister’s jeep and drove up to the car park at “North Egmont”. I choose the loop track and started to climb, powering past the other walkers with an ease I did not know I possessed. But then I was alone and climbing down the mountain, and I ran out of breath. I was coughing and wheezing. Help me, I said to the air. I touched the trunk of a big old tree. Help me. After Dad’s death, I had put certain painful things into the deep-freeze compartment of my brain, but now I was back in New Zealand they had started to thaw. I had no idea what to do.

I stared down at my feet. I was on the mountain. He has his own weather, his own time, indifferent. What am I going to do? I asked. Silence. I was alone, trudging through the mud. Wood pigeon, kererū — I heard the familiar low whooshing sound of its wings. I used to love seeing the wood pigeons in our garden at Rogan Street when I was a kid. They feasted on the strawberry tree. Now this bird was with me here. It landed on a tree up just ahead, a beauty, with luxuriant glossy green feathers and a white breast and legs, the pinhead sitting serene above the juicy body. The bird took off as I got nearer and swooped among the trees, landing again further on from me. This time, the bird let me get very close. I unzipped my backpack and took out the camera. The bird didn’t move, not even when the shutter clicked. I took a couple of selfies back at the car park, and under the sweat there is pleasure and some peace.

Tracker Tilmouth talked about the enjoyment of land rights. Alexis Wright uses the phrase many times in her biography. Joy, delight and happiness are rarely part of stories around land rights. It’s mostly the other stuff: alienation, loss, exclusion, degradation, frustration and poverty.

Achieving the enjoyment of land rights was part of what Tracker called his vision splendid. He talked about how Aboriginal people had responded, or not, to the different policies of the successive governments they have had to deal with. It all came back to the question of “who we are as a sovereign people — and if we are a sovereign people, please act like a sovereign people”.

In other words, don’t wait for someone to give you permission, to deem you worthy enough, or black enough, or traditional enough, or authentic enough, or victim enough or whatever. Act like a sovereign person now!

Tracker said: “So you go through this process, and when you look at what has been delivered in land rights, the big question that still lies unanswered is not the acquisition of land rights, but the enjoyment of land rights. How do you enjoy being where you are?”

I read Tracker just before my trip back to New Zealand. Dad, enjoyment of land rights, I’ve written on one page. I’ve written the same thing on a Post-it stuck in another page.

Knowingly or unknowingly, Dad exercised a full enjoyment of land rights in Wellington and Taranaki. One of the main ways he did this was by walking. His enjoyment of Taranaki was extreme. We lived in New Plymouth in the 1970s and early 1980s, and Dad took us up the mountain many times. We climbed the tracks, crashed through the bush to catch a baby goat that we wanted to keep as a pet (Mum said no), screamed our heads off at lookouts, and followed Dad across icy slopes, decked out in top-of-the-range mountaineering gear (Charlie Brown school shoes, homemade skirts and jerseys). Dad wore knee-high socks, brown slip-on shoes, walk shorts and a jersey of flecked brown and burgundy wool.

I recall all the little details because my sister had a friend with her that day, and this girl, reasonably enough, had a panic attack as we started to skid about on the snow-encrusted slope. The walk took ages as a result. We visited Pukeiti and Dawson Falls.

Two nights before Dad died, I dreamed we were on the mountain again. I was a child, and I was wearing a woollen skirt with flowers and butterflies on it. Dad was in his thirties, still young, and he was wearing those walk shorts and long socks, his slip-on leather shoes and his flecked jumper, and we were laughing so hard. Dad was panting and gasping with laughter.

“Come on, Dad,” I shouted out to him. “Hurry up, Dad. Follow me.” I ran ahead of him, skipping over the rocks and vines. I was as light as air and it was easy for me to breathe; the air was golden and it flowed in and out of me smoothly. In this beautiful dream, my childhood asthma was gone. I was free. I was leading Dad up the mountain, teasing him, but urging him on as well. “Dad! Come on, silly sausage. Hurry up!” It was not so easy for Dad, he was struggling a bit, but he kept trying to catch me.

When I woke up, I felt peaceful for the first time in months. I told Mike about the dream and said I thought Dad would die soon. Much later I learned that two nights before he died, Dad had had a massive stroke. He could not see anymore, or speak. He felt no pain but his heart was still beating.


Dr Rachel Buchanan (Taranaki, Te Ātiawa) is a historian, archivist, journalist, and curator based in Melbourne. She is the author of The Parihaka Album: Lest We Forget, published by Huia in 2009, and Ko Taranaki Te Maunga, published by Bridget Williams Books.

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