28 October marks the national commemoration of Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa (The New Zealand Wars), this date was chosen as it is the date of the signing of He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tirene / 1835 Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand.
We have only recently started having a national day to remember Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa, and the idea came from some Ōtorohanga College students after they had visited two former Waikato battle sites, Ōrākau and Rangiaowhia. Ōrākau became mythologised by Pākehā through films like Rewi’s Last Stand, while the killing of the elderly, women, and children at Rangiaowhia was conveniently overlooked, though not by Māori.
The Ōtorohanga rangatahi were disturbed by the fact that these sites and their stories were largely unknown, and New Zealand’s uncomfortable past of conflict and land confiscations was not compulsorily taught in school. Students Leah Bell and Waimarama Anderson decided to start a petition to raise awareness of the Land Wars, ensure that Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa was part of the New Zealand Curriculum for all New Zealanders and to remember those who died during the wars by implementing a statutory day of commemoration. The first rā maumahara (remembrance day) was held on 11 March 2018 and the next took place in Taranaki on 28 October 2019. Since then COVID-19 has stopped national commemoration events for 2020 and 2021.
The New Zealand Wars took place from 1845 to 1872 and were the bloodiest wars in New Zealand's history.
The New Zealand History Collection from Bridget Williams Books has a great selection of key texts on this significant part of New Zealand's history. Vincent O'Malley has written some excellent books on Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa, including the the huge book The Great War for New Zealand Waikato 1800 - 2000, that focuses on the human impact of the war, and the more recent The New Zealand Wars: Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa.
Watch the conversation between Vincent O'Malley and Mihingarangi Forbes at Te Papa'a Marae Rongomaraeroa, exploring the significance of these conflicts for New Zealanders today.
BWB Talks - Vincent O'Malley on The New Zealand Wars | Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa