18 April 2021

Dear Richard Crawford,

At the beginning of this month (I do not have the exact date) an event, organized, I expect, by yourself, was held at your school with students from seven Hamilton secondary schools attending.

 As reported by Ellen O’Dwyer of Stuff, a “special Assembly” was addressed by Leah Bell, a former student at Otorohanga College who has been active politically since 2014 during her schooldays. Young, articulate and well-presented, she was no doubt highly convincing when, as reported, she said she: “won’t forget the tears rolling down the elders’ cheeks as they stood at the green fields of Rangiaowhia. ‘We felt the immense grief and mamae there … at the lack of justice given, the lack of apology for an atrocity where innocent women, children and elderly people were murdered and sent from their homes.’”  There was more in the same vein thus:

“On February 21, 1864, British forces unexpectedly attacked the flourishing agricultural centre of Rangiaowhia – burning homes and churches, killing women, children and elderly people.”

Now, whatever grief those attending may have felt, a simple check of historical records would show that this description of events there in 1864 is a base lie concocted soon afterwards by rebels furious at being so outwitted by the humanitarian General Cameron in the actual events of the day.

If this account masquerading as history is not stopped in its tracks, it will spread like a fire in dry bush until all schoolchildren in New Zealand are led to believe it.

If New Zealand history is to be a compulsory subject in all schools, then it is of paramount importance that the truth be told and such misinformation and distortion of the truth as the present example ruthlessly excluded.

Is this or is this not a core belief of yourself and, likewise, I may ask them, of the principals of all the schools who attended?

If school principals do not take the initiative in this development, then the signs are unmistakeable that what is taught in our schools will be racist propaganda by part-Maori activists and their supporters in our midst. Our democracy will be destroyed and we shall become an apartheid state with a strident part-Maori elite calling the shots and acquiring all sorts of undue privileges.

Yet I have not received any acknowledgement from any of the seven school principals to whom I wrote, nor the Otorohanga Principal.  If school principals cannot or will not defend our school children from racist and politically motivated lies, who will do so?

Are you willing to take responsibility to teach real New Zealand history to your students; that you will teach young New Zealanders to celebrate who they are in all their genetic diversity and cultural values; that you recognise that the social changes of the mid 19th century opened up opportunities to people in New Zealand to confront the embedded tribal violence inherited from pre-colonial days and embrace new and different values and opportunities?   Will you make it clear that belligerent sullenness  and gruesome misinformation typified by the present example must not be the essence of New Zealand today?

Whatever Bell may have said to the assembly[1], there was no church full of people burnt at Rangiaowhia – ever.  I attach [below] a press clipping, undated but apparently ca 1925, reporting the state of the churches at that time when, owing it its advanced decay, the Catholic Church was dismantled.

I appreciate that it can be challenging starting your own research into NZ history based on fact, eye witness reports and informed analysis.  I respectfully suggest that my text, “New Zealand; the fair colony”, originally prepared for the 2020 History Teachers’ Conference, to which I was invited as a panellist, would be a good starting point [2] Contact charlton@farmside.co.nz

Richard, however good your intentions, it was a mistake to invite this young woman to speak at your school. There was no slaughter of innocents at Rangiaowhia in February 1864, not one.  All the principals concerned have a true account of events there, attached to my earlier email. 

Telling the truth to all today’s students is the next essential step for yourself and the other principals: Virginia Crawford, Mary Curran, Sarah Davis, Catherine Gunn, Mary Gordon, Grant Lander and Traci Liddell.

With my compliments,

Bruce Moon


[1]And by Tommy Wilson in the “Bay of Plenty Times”, 12/8/09, in  Eraka’s Blog in Tainui News, 7/5/14,  by JOC Phillips on air, 2/4/16,  by Susan Devoy in the “Bay of Plenty Times”. 4/1/17,  by Vincent O’Malley in “The Listener”, 25/2/17,  by Te Ahua Maitland in “Waikato Times”, 9/12/17,  by deceived children of Otorohanga College and by Tom Roa reported by Lawrence Gullery, “Stuff”, 21/2/20

[2]The onset of Covid led to its cancellation.

Catholic Church - Rangiaowhia