Remembering Parihaka

October 29th, 2020 By Dylan Owen

Many New Zealanders associate 5 November with Guy Fawkes and an evening of family fun and fireworks. But some Māori remember the date for a very different reason.

Parihaka Peace Festival, Parihaka with Mount Taranaki in the distance and giant white feather on the side of a neighbouring hill.
Mount Taranaki from Parihaka Peace Festival, Taranaki by victoria. Flickr. Some rights reserved: CC BY 2.0. Image cropped.

The Day of Plunder

For Taranaki Māori, 5 November 1881 is known as 'Te Rā o te Pāhua' or the 'Day of Plunder'. The invasion of Parihaka — te pāhuatanga — happened when around 1500 armed constabulary and volunteers led by the Native Affairs Minister, John Bryce, invaded Parihaka.

Officers of the NZ Armed Constabulary holding swords.
NZ Armed Constabulary at Parihaka. Photographer unknown. Alexander Turnbull Library. Ref 1/1-017952-G. Copyright unknown.

For months leading up to the invasion, troops had surrounded the peaceful Taranaki Māori village. They even set up a cannon on a nearby hill. While the soldiers had enough ammunition and rations to see them through a ‘bloody battle’, the reality was very different.

There was no bloody fighting. Instead, soldiers entering the village were greeted by singing children and women offering them fresh loaves of bread.

Children from Parihaka posing for a photo, some wearing white feathers in their hair, with Taare (Charles) Waitara standing centre back.
Children from Parihaka with Taare Waitara, Parihaka Pa. William Andrews Collis. Alexander Turnbull Library. Ref 1/1-006430-G. Copyright unknown. Note:The white feathers in the children’s hair are known as the 'raukura'. They are a dominant and lasting symbol of Parihaka’s passive resistance movement.

What happened?

It made no difference.

Following the invasion of Parihaka, its leaders, Tohu Kakahi and Te Whiti o Rongomai, were arrested and imprisoned without trial. Sixteen hundred followers were expelled, while buildings and crops were plundered and destroyed by the Pakeha troops.

In 1903, journalist William Baucke met Te Whiti and wrote down his thoughts on the events that led up to the sacking of Parihaka. Te Whiti told him:

'The white man in his covetousness ordered me to move on instead of removing himself from my presence. I resisted; I resist to this day'… suddenly he (Te Whiti) pointed to the mountain. 'Ask that mountain,' he said, 'Taranaki saw it all!'
— 'Ask that Mountain: The Story of Parihaka' by Dick Scott. Raupo, 2008, p.186-187.


In 2017, over 100 years later, the Crown was again met with singing children and food baskets at Parihaka. This time the circumstances were very different.

The Crown was there to deliver te whakapāha — a formal apology for its actions over Parihaka.

Hundreds attended He Puanga Haeata — the reconciliation ceremony. Some openly wept as Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson delivered the Government apology.

'That is why the Crown comes today offering an apology to the people of Parihaka for actions that were committed in its name almost 140 years ago.'

'... Parihaka has waited a long time for this day,' Finlayson also added.

Te Pire Haeata ki Parihaka (Parihaka Reconciliation Bill)

The Crown acknowledges that it utterly failed to recognise or respect the vision of self-determination and partnership that Parihaka represented. The Crown responded to peace with tyranny, to unity with division, and to autonomy with oppression.

On 24 October 2019, the apology or Te Pire Haeata ki Parihaka (Parihaka Reconciliation Bill) was finally passed into law.

Korero, waiata, and tears — it was an extraordinarily emotional day for politicians and the 100 or so people who had travelled from Parihaka to Parliament to witness the occasion.

Next steps

The Reconciliation Bill also included:

  • the establishment of a Parihaka–Crown Leaders’ Forum
  • Te Huanga o Rongo — healing and reconciliation assistance
  • the setting up of a Parihaka fund
  • protection of the name 'Parihaka' from commercial use.

At Parliament for the Bill’s final reading, Puna Wano-Bryant (Parihaka’s Papakainga Trust chair) also noted that the teaching of Aotearoa New Zealand history in all our schools was an important next step.

We want our children to not only talk about the facts of history but also about the pain and injury that has caused and that how we move forward as a nation together — Māori and Pākehā.

Resources about Parihaka

Interested in the full story of Parihaka, why it was invaded, and the passive resistance campaign? Explore these resources for students (and others):

This blog post

This blog post was first published in 2018. We've since updated it to include information about Te Pire Haeata ki Parihaka, a new resource about the New Zealand Wars, and a new feature image.

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Joseph Cullen
6 November 2020 12:41am

What happened at Parihaka is so emblematic of British
imperialism. Wherever the Brits went they brought death and
destruction to native peoples. The same thing happened to my people in Ireland for eight hundred years until we kicked the bastards out.

Horiana Henderson
2 November 2020 8:23am

Wonderful post Dylan Owen. Kia ora & thank you.

Jocelyn Chalmers
6 November 2019 8:08pm

Thanks Dylan - a great resource.

13 June 2019 11:54am

this is all the information that i needed fo my story on thew old wars