Parihaka Day – November 5th (1881)

A Story Shared

It was 1948 with the assassination of Gandhi
our neighbour spoke, just that once, of pacifism,
sharing the story of white feathers and children:
Te Whiti-o-Rongomai, Tohu Kakahi and Gandhi.
Gandhi, who, took his own road to pacifism.

With my neighbour I talked about Te Whiti and Tohu and Parihaka.
And had she a fear for her father? Did he become one of the volunteers
when Maori from near and far moved in to give support to leaders
who held high hope for a formula of passive resistance? Who made
their peaceable gestures; ploughing the land again and again.

The press; reporters who today we would call whistle blowers:
all banned, yet who, in secret made their way in and were given
a whare from where they wrote –

“The whole spectacle {was} saddening in the extreme.” *

With my neighbour I talk about Gandhi.

A quiet woman, with a love of literature. She would
also have read, the poet Jessie MacKay who, along with
many others, roundly called out the Parihaka scene –

“Children to the left of them.
Children to the right of them.” **
Little girls with skipping ropes; out at Parihaka.

Not to be wondered at, how the now, sad old face,
dark bun pulled severely back from her head,
made so poignant a picture. She who was past
childhood: she had moved on as we as a nation
grapple to move on and yet governments can’t
seem to help themselves in still serving out wrong.
An old woman had, a story shared, and despaired.
Yes, she had feared her father, and failed to comprehend
how he forbade innocent friendships made on fields she never
fully regarded as her father’s; friendships she sought
to defend. I saw the look in her eyes, the sadness we feel.
Te Whiti-o-Rongomai, Tohu Kakahi and Gandhi.
The world knows Gandhi, but the world should know
he walked thus, in the steps of Maori Leaders,
Tohu and Te Whiti.

Benita H. Kape © 15.1.2016

* Lyttleton Times reporters 2 of 5 reporters, all press having been banned, and only official(?) news items were to be released. Accounts of which appear first in “Parihaka Invaded” by Dick Scott, later expanded upon to become the book “Ask That Mountain”.

** Jessie Mackay poem The Charge At Parihaka.