Let's celebrate occasions unique to us as a nation

By Tariana Turia

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Remembrace. This is a word that comes to my mind around this time of year.

People have just yesterday finished celebrating Guy Fawkes and last week many children took to the streets dressed up in various forms of ghoulishness to celebrate Halloween.

Our holidays and annual celebrations are a time of remembrance, a time to reflect on our history and legends which remind us of who we are.

I love seeing our children take delight in celebrating with their families, but this time of year also reminds me of something else - the absence of positive whanau celebrations which are unique to us as a nation, Aotearoa.

Only last week Pita and I made comments about the need to have Maori history and traditions taught to our children. This can happen in schools, but it can also happen in our communities and our families through celebration.

Every year on November 5 our communities come out to celebrate a man named Guy Fawkes who in the 17th century attempted to assassinate King James I by blowing up the British Parliament.

How relevant is this to us as a nation?

Did you know that on the same day in 1881 a significant event took place in Aotearoa? It was an event which is imbued with both sadness and pride; hope and sorrow. It is a day that should be remembered so that our children may know of the proud deeds of their ancestors, and also of the histories that have shaped us here today.

It was on that day that 1500 government troops seized approximately three million acres of Maori land.

It was also on that day the movement of passive resistance led by the community of Parihaka came to a head.

In the lead-up to this event, there was a concerted effort by the government to secure land for new settlers. Two great leaders, Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi, urged their community to resist these acts without the use of violence, and through passive means.

On November 5, the day the troops came, it is recorded that around 2500 adults sat in silence from midnight onwards bracing themselves for the attack.

When they did come, Te Whiti and Tohu were arrested, and in the days that followed terrible things happened to that community and the whanau that lived there. Houses and crops were destroyed, cattle slaughtered, men taken for imprisonment who never returned, and women and children violated. These things would have far-reaching consequences for the community.

These are painful memories, but it is the story of resilience that unfolded within Parihaka that should be remembered. Despite the violence that came from those who invaded, the spirit of the people could not be broken, and the commitment to peace and non-violence prevailed.

Long before Gandhi's first non-violent civil disobedience campaign in South Africa, and Martin Luther King's first campaign for black civil rights in America this event happened here in Aotearoa.

It should be remembered. Our communities across the country should know of our history, and so should our children.

I do question why we celebrate events such as Guy Fawkes or Halloween when we have our own powerful stories and history that need to be remembered. Last year I presented a petition by Don Rowlands and 891 others to have Parihaka Day recognised on November 5, and I am still working on having this powerful moment in our history officially acknowledged in our country.

There are also many great other deeds and events which have happened here in Aotearoa. These stories are our history. They have shaped who we are as whanau and communities.

These are the strands that we should weave into our sense of nationhood. We must remember them.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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