The story of the Kemp Monument at Pakaitore/Moutoa Gardens is one of misunderstandings, disagreements and miscommunication, historian Ewan Morris says.
He's giving a talk about the monument in Wellington tomorrow, and has been researching it and other objects and symbols that have been the focus of debate between Maori and European New Zealanders.
Monuments are some of the important objects. Flags and place names can also be sources of disagreement - the spelling of Wanganuibeing one example.
The Kemp Monument is the first Dr Morris has researched at Pakaitore/Moutoa Gardens. He will move on to the Moutoa Monument, with its controversial "fanaticism and barbarism" words next. His research is likely to be part of a book of essays, and later could form a whole book.
The subject of the Kemp Monument is Taitoko Te Keepa Te Rangihiwinui.
He was born in the 1820s in Horowhenua. His mother was Te Atihaunui a Paparangi and his father from the Muaupoko tribe.
He led a force against upriver Maori at the Battle of Moutoa in 1864, and spent the next six years at the head of Maori soldiers fighting for the Crown. They fought first Titokowaru, then Te Kooti. He was given the rank of major and became known as Major Kemp.
The European settlers respected him for his military skill, and he won the Queen's Sword of Honour and other medals and awards.
There were to be nearly 30 more years before his death, and Dr Morris said he then used his skills to help his own people retain their land and autonomy.
He amassed a private militia that gave him influence in land disputes, and he put in place four poles inland from Wanganui, with the aim of retaining the land within them in Maori ownership. He also got involved in the Te Kotahitanga movement, for Maori unity and autonomy.
Not long after he died in 1898, Maori people at a hui at Putiki decided he should have a memorial. The idea was approved by the council of the day, but paying for it became a problem, and the initiative lapsed.
In 1911, Te Keepa's sister Rora Hakaraia revived it. She decided there should be a statue on a plinth, and commissioned a company to make it.
When the Government promised some funding it was decided to add four bronze panels, each showing and describing one of Te Keepa's major battles.
The statue was modelled after a Lindauer painting of him as a young man, and he was shown wearing his medals and with his sword.
The statue was erected in 1912, but Ms Hakaraia and others didn't like it. They said it didn't look like Te Keepa. She wanted another one made and she said she would not pay the rest of its price.
The company sued her, and she countersued them.
In the end Ms Hakaraia died, the Government didn't make a contribution, and the company went into receivership. About half the cost of the monument was never paid, and it was never formally unveiled.
But Ms Hakaraia may have had the last word, Dr Morris said. One panel on the plinth is in Maori, with no English translation, and appears to come direct from her.
It says she and her brother were descended from chiefs and warriors, and gives a genealogy that shows Te Keepa's connection to that place. She talks about his career and loyalty to the Crown, and calls him "a strong, quiet man, and a peacemaker".
Dr Morris' central question, given all this, is whether the monument is really a Maori one, or whether it is a piece of Pakeha propaganda. The monument projects a view of Te Keepa that is all about his military service, with nothing about his later life. "It's really quite a partial view of him," Dr Morris said.