They belong to all of us. That’s what newly appointed government Minister Peeni Henare says about why Kiwis should care about the New Zealand land wars.
Mr Henare says New Zealanders have created a ‘warped’ view of what being a Kiwi is and what New Zealand is about. “We love to think we’re jandals, hokey pokey and buzzy bees,” he says.
“We’ve denied our history for far too long and that’s why I think our general population are ignorant to our real past, our actual past.”
On October 28 the first national commemoration of the New Zealand land wars was held north of Whangārei at Ruapekapeka. It’s the final battle site of the Norther Wars 1845-1846.
Peeni Henare descends from both sides of the battlefield. Among the 1600 British soldiers was his ancestor, Colonel Robert Henry Wynyard, while his tipuna Patuone and Te Aho stood against them with 400 Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Hine.
“The significance of Te Ruapekapeka I think for me in particular it stood as a temple of what our tupuna stood for.
“They fought and stood for something so it’s important to carry their stories into my everyday work at Parliament.
Henare says as a Crown official and public servant he often finds himself questioning his loyalties, making sure he is representing his people first and foremost.
“You don’t find mana motuhake here in Parliament. This is essentially a Pakeha construct. Our job is to make sure the views of our tupuna and our people are represented in here.”
Henare says the new government doesn’t have any immediate plans to turn the national day into a public holiday because it’s new. But he says they are committed to making sure the history of our land wars is taught in all schools.
“We’ve already made a commitment to making sure there’s resources there for kura but also, we want to make sure the localised stories are told so that we don’t have a generic land wars stories being taught to tamariki.”
“By learning our shared history will help with tolerance and understanding our past because many of our people in New Zealand don’t know or understand our past.
“That’s why it’s important that we do share these stories and it’s not just one view, it’s got to be all views because they are the fabric that makes the kākahu for our country.”