Food for thought[Muhooly’s] wife rested there. Her head was fragments of skull and pulped brain; her throat ripped, her torso superfluously shredded. Three children lay near, similarly used, the youngest quite headless. –Maurice Shadbolt in Season of the Jew, p. 212

by Roger Childs

In the wake of the Christchurch tragedy, I haven’t noticed the Mainstream Media listing the worst massacres in our history. It’s a rather sensitive subject and probably not Politically Correct to compile a record.

Back in 1835, Ngati Tama and Ngati Mutunga, according to Michael King, killed at least 220 Moriori on the Chatham Islands. Other historians like Andre Brett see the killing as genocide and give higher estimates of the dead.

Te KootiHowever, if the period from 1840 is taken as the timeframe, then the biggest death toll occurred at Matawhero in Poverty Bay when overnight on 9-10 November 1868, 70 innocent settlers and Maori were slaughtered there by Te Kooti and his warriors. Shadbolt’s account in his novel is soundly based on the records of the time.

Respected historian Ron Crosbie in his book Kupapa states:

The night time raid … involved a brutal massacre with widespread killing, raping, pillaging and burning of farms… The total killed numbered 37 Maori and 33 Pakeha men, women and children.

But Te Kooiti wasn’t finished. In April 1869 in the Mohaka area over 50 people, mainly Maori were killed in a series of raids.

Many history books remain quiet on Matawhero and Mohaka, and where it is mentioned there is usually no condemnation. Renowned historian James Belich in The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian Interpretation refers to the Te Kooti slaughter of innocent people “as an understandable act of war.”

However, the Matawhero massacre was not a case of people waking up to find themselves on a battlefield and getting caught in the crossfire. Like in Christchurch 150 years later, it was a calculated act of terrorism.