by Historian Bruce Moon
Waatea News, 17 February 2022
“A locality near Whanganui which was the site of an unprovoked attack on tamariki Māori during the Land Wars has been returned to its original name. Accepting the recommendation of the New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa, Land Information Minister Damien O’Connor said the change from Maxwell to Pākaraka addresses a long-standing Treaty grievance. …
“Pākehā settlers renamed it in the 1870s to honour George Maxwell, the leader of a government militia which in 1868 attacked a group of unarmed Māori children with sabres and killed two boys.”
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Half-truth can be worse than a lie
Students of history do not need to be reminded that articles and statements by Waatea News do not always give an accurate account of events in New Zealand’s history.
Half the truth, it has been said, is often worse than a direct lie. Here we have a glaring example.
In reporting the change of the name of the locality Maxwell to “Pakaraka”, accepted by Minister Damien O’Connor, Waatea News states (17 Feb 2022) that it “was the site of an unprovoked attack on tamariki Māori during the Land Wars” when “a government militia … in 1868 attacked a group of unarmed Māori children with sabres and killed two boys.”
Here, somewhat more fully, is the true story.
The event referred to occurred during the bitter rebellion by Titokowaru who, in reviving the practice of cannibalism is reputed to have said “I have begun to eat the flesh of the white man … My throat is continually open for the eating of human flesh by day and night.”.
A strong force of rebels, who were both skilful and ruthless, was known to be present at Nukumaru and a report was received that some of them were raiding a settler’s farm in the neighbourhood. A cavalry patrol led by Maxwell was despatched to deal with them.
Approaching the scene, the cavalry heard a commotion — clear sounds of stock — pigs and geese — being disturbed. It takes little imagination to sense the heightened awareness and rush of adrenalin amongst the troopers as they drew their sabres and prepared to attack. In they went and in the brief moments before it was realized that their quarry were mere boys, two of them had been slain and several wounded.
So who should be blamed for that?
Titokowaru? The boys’ parents for less than adequate supervision of their “tamariki”? How close to the truth is the Waatea News statement that it was “an unprovoked attack on tamariki Māori”? How balanced is the Waatea News statement that “a government militia … in 1868 attacked a group of unarmed Māori children with sabres and killed two boys.” Shorn of any account of their context, are these statements, these half-truths, not worse that outright lies?.
So, now: officialdom yields again.
The history-twisters get their way again.
The district loses an historic name.
And a “treaty grievance”, Minister O’Connor? Next they’ll be claiming that an untoward change in the weather is a “treaty grievance”!
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Let all New Zealanders who care in any way for their country, and would honour their heritage, be aware that in this there is an example of the distortion of our history which confronts us time and again today and whose consequences it is not hard to conjecture.