SOMETIMES I regret not being available for the opportunities that present. There have been many occasions when I have felt I could have tried harder to be in a place at a time when history was made. Last Friday's hikoi to Parihaka from New Plymouth is a case in point.
Funnily enough, the reason I couldn't be there is intimately connected to the Parihaka story as I was sitting in a Select Committee Treaty of Waitangi Settlement hearing in Palmerston North listening to the Rangitane Claim.
There will be many who will continue to think this hikoi was all about Maori Wards and the New Plymouth District Council but they are wrong. The march was about the racist response to the mayor who promoted the idea. That response being the name calling, spitting, threats and other abuse was the whole reason why there was a need to march.
It is exactly the sentiment that needs to be railed and rallied against. Every time I post online or write about the celebration of an event involving Maori I am lambasted by the haters and wreckers who want to write a different view of history. Yet this is not about different views, it is about the right to hold a view and not to be spat on, sworn at and threatened. Funnily enough the worst vitriol is saved for the Pakeha showing an understanding of tikanga Maori and a desire to see long held wrongs set to rights.
Opening a meeting using Maori words of greeting or correctly pronouncing Maori place names is enough to incur the wrath of those who would rather we remain ignorant. It was the same when I publicly agreed with the installation of an "h" in Wanganui. It was the same when I attended meetings to discuss West Coast leasehold land arrangements in 1996. Bastion Point, the same. Every Waitangi Day, the same.
Thankfully the voices are getting croaky and softer with old age. Theirs is an olde worlde view. Younger people get it.
I recall my first visit to Parihaka, which was at the launch of a new police initiative to address youth crime in the mid-90s. It was the first official police visit since the pa was sacked by Bryce and the Armed Constabulary in the 1880s yet the police never saw the significance of it all. There was no acknowledgement of the wrong done. There was no presentation and certainly no apology. I was absolutely and completely embarrassed having, at that time, only recently learned of the history of Parihaka. How come we were never taught that story at school? Why was this history not part of the School Certificate or University Entrance syllabus? Is it now part of any educational core subject?
Having now visited many sites where Taranaki Maori were held captive around New Zealand; the caves and the urupa, and having returned to Parihaka a number of times, I have a view on such things as a shared history.
I have understandings of colonialism and obviously about the pertinence of the Treaty of Waitangi which I have gleaned from the books written by the leaders of the colonial forces, the recent settlers, current and former historians like Cowan and James Bellish, and Michael King and from listening to tangata whenua.
I wish many others would take a more global view of what went on in New Zealand, this God's Own Country, as we struggle our way towards a civilised society. But people want what they read to reinforce what they believe not what challenges those sentinels of their inner selves. This was hit home when I publicly commented on a push to set aside a specific day to commemorate the Land Wars.
Andrew Judd's march to Parihaka with the 400 plus others last week was not reflective of the Grand Old Duke who marched troops up just to march them down again. It was poignant, timely and relevant. So much so that it is an indictment that it needed to be done. Many will scoff, which only goes to underline that poignancy.
I wish I'd been there to lend my weight to his wheel because if you stand for nothing, you'll fall for anything.
-Chester Borrows is the MP for Whanganui.