The bell rings 60 times. 60 deaths. Relative to the contemporary devastation of Covid19, not many deaths. But like representative charges, those 60 peels of metallic note represent the wholesale deprivation of land and the overwhelming social dislocation of post-colonial New Zealand Maori.
The annual commemorative service at St George’s Church at Gate Pa in urban Tauranga is one founded on reconciliation. Still surprising despite that 1864 battle having had the benefit of a pre-written behavioural code and post-battle examples of human empathy, compassion and generosity of spirit in the face of the subsequent massacre of Maori at Te Ranga.
Tauranga has superficially changed significantly since 1864 but the underlying and intertwining threads and bonds of blood and kinship haven’t. 1864 is almost yesterday so there are direct descendants of the participants of both sides of the battle living in this comparatively small New Zealand town. Families associated with the pre-battle dinner host. Families descended from ethical code writers and warrior leaders. Descendants from both factions have been born here, grown up here, more or less gone to school together and continued to work and live here with their names. Living memorials to the past.
I’ve always wondered what it must be like to carry a name redolent of history, of bravery, of anything significant. Names of battles, of behaviours during battle, sites of battle.
While it is a fortuitous honour to be named after a famous, or infamous, ancestor, it is also a burden. The name marks you out. It places you. It predetermines you. It creates expectations of you and it can limit or expand you.
Puhirake Ihaka carries a brave and famous name. Puhirake – a name you’ll find in the Mission Cemetery in a once quiet garden at the end of the Te Papa peninsula. A name on a significant monument. Puhirake speaks of his famous ancestor, an ancestor whose name must have shaped his life. He carries it well.
The Church Hall is packed and bustling and it’s here you see what reconciliation means. I don’t stay for kai, the large and fragrant supper. I walk out into beautiful, brilliant cloud twilight.
Rosemary Balu. Rosemary Balu is the founding and current Managing Editor of ARTbop. She purchases her power from Trustpower and is a beneficiary of the Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.
The Battle of Gate Pa Pukehinahina took place on the 29th April 1864. The battle at Te Ranga took place on the 21st of June 1864. The Treaty of Waitangi was first signed on the 6th February 1840. The Inscription on the monument to Rawiri Puhirake in the Mission Cemetery, Tauranga says:
He tohu / whakamaharatanga / mo / Rawiri Puhiraki / he rangatira no Ngaitirangi / mana i arataki te pakanga a te Maori ki te Pakeha e te pa I Pukehinahina i te 29 o Aperira / 1864, i te pa ano huri i Te Ranga i / te 21 o Hune 1864, a i hinga ia i / Te Parekura i Te Ranga. / He rangatira a Rawiri I aromatia / kuitia e ona iwi Maori katoa me te / tino whakamoemiti hoki o nga Pakeha katoa ki a ia i runga i tona. / Toa ki te riri mo tana aroha ano hoki ki / Nga Pakeha i tu a kiko me Nga Pakeha i noho noa / iho, ka waiho ra nga mahi rangaitira a nunui ma / hei tauira mo te whakahaerenga o a matou mahi a / muri mei koia I whakaturia ai e matou tenei kowhatu / hei tohu whakamaharatanga tonutanga mona / hei tonu hoki mo to matou aroha me te nui o to / matou whakameomiti ki tenei rangatira nui.
Sacred / to the memory of / Rawiri Puhiraki / a chief of the Ngaiterangi tribe / who led the Maoris in battle at Gate Pa / on April 29th and at Te Ranga on June 21st / 1864, being killed in the latter engagement. / This monument was erected / on the fiftieth anniversary of his death / by people of the British and Maori races / to commemorate his chivalrous and / humane orders for the protection of unarmed / or wounded men who fell into the hands of / the Maoris and for the respectful treatment / of the bodies of any of their enemies slain / in battle. This order framed by Rawiri / with the assistance and approval of Henare Taratoa / and other Chiefs, was loyally observed by his / followers, and after the repulse of the assault / on Gate Pa, the British wounded who lay all / night in and around the Pa were given water and / treated with kindness. / This chivalrous conduct of the Maori leader and / his people so impressed their contemporaries / that Rawiri’s body was exhumed in 1870 from the / trenches at Te Ranga and was reinterred at this spot / with befitting ceremonies. / The seeds of better feeling between the two races / thus sown on the battlefield have since borne ample / fruit: disaffection has given place to loyalty, / and hostility to friendship, British and Maori now / living together as one united people. / June 21st 1914.
In memory / of / Henare Taratoa / killed at Te Ranga / June 21st 1864