Te Pūtake o te Riri - helping this nation come to terms with its history

By Marena Mane

Ngāti Maniapoto historian Kawhia Te Murahi says the concept of the national day of commemoration was first discussed in 2010-2011 to commemorate, remember and acknowledge the unsung Māori heroes, tribal warriors and steadfast leaders who were killed in the early colonial period.

“There was no recognition of that aspect of our country's history. So that was really the origin of the idea,” he says.

Today is Te Pūtake o te Riri, New Zealand's national day of commemoration for the New Zealand Wars.

Today is also the anniversary of the signing of Te Whakaputanga,' New Zealand's declaration of independence

Tainui was supposed to host this year's commemoration day event at Ōrākau in Kihikihi but, owing to Covid-19, the day's events have been reduced to a one-hour online broadcast.

Murahi says the name Te Pūtake o te Riri was given to remember the New Zealand Wars and refers to Aotearoa's past, sacrifices made, and how vital it is for the present generation to recognise the price that has moulded the way New Zealanders live today.

Accepting the past

“Te Pūtake o te Riri, the national commemoration day, is all about helping our nation come to terms with our history.”

According to Murahi, the national commemoration day was meant to be carried out over a few days, with the official day being October 28 but it was postponed until the same time next year.

“We want to ensure that all New Zealanders...have an opportunity to take part in the day. We want to blend in aspects of Pākehā tikanga and kawa and of course maintain our Māori tikanga and kawa in the day so it becomes something very, very unique. And that reflects who we are.”

Murahi claims that he does not wish to think of this day as a day off or a public holiday but rather as an important component of the rohe's psychology and identity.

“This is who we are, and o do that we must engage with all of Aotearoa in this conversation.”

Murahi claims one of the core issues that the country needs to come to terms with is, “our country was founded on a notion of one people being superior over another and that’s why we have the institutions we have today.”

Murahi believes that New Zealand must confront issues of unfairness and racism, which he believes are holding the country back and preventing it from being the best it can be.

“While this notion of superiority and fear is endemic in the country, we're not going to go very far. Te Pūtake o te Riri is a catalyst to move us forward.”