Student fights for Gisborne schools to teach land war history

By Talisa Kupenga
  • North Island: East Coast

A Gisborne teenager has pitched a proposal to the Ministry of Education to include the Turanganui-a-Kiwa Land Wars into the region's school curriculums. Sixteen-year-old Tahua Pihema was given the chance to present, after four Gisborne tribes gave up their spaces in support of her cause.

Pihema is challenging the Ministry of Education to include Gisborne's land wars in the region's school curriculum.

“I am very passionate about this because last year at the 150-year commemorations at Waerenga-a -Hika, I knew nothing about my links and history to my ancestral land and it broke my heart.”

Pihema presented her cause to an audience that included Members of Parliament after four tribes gave up their presentation slots so she could stand in their place.

Ruth Smith who supports the initiative says, “She is very passionate about her ties to her East Coast tribes. I believe there is no better person to be advocating this cause.”

Gisborne Girls teacher Morehu Nikora says, “It's important to listen to what the youth want because they are the future and they are today. If the youth are asking for this and the teachers listen, then maybe this is the way it can be incorporated in the classroom.”

Pihema says although it might be too late for her, it would be a dream come true to provide this opportunity for new students. She is confident this could happen given the success of other tribes such as Ngāti Whakaue and Waikato.

“This is a cause supported by a community, not an individual cause being pushed by one person. So you can't consider not including this in schools.”

The Ministry of Education has not decided if it will or will not support Pihema's proposal, but Pihema says the Ministry should show its support and get on board.

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