"People need to know what happened at Parihaka". This was the main motivation behind Dr Danny Keenan’s decision to write the publication about the life of the prophet Te Whiti o Rongomai. Te Whiti o Rongomai’s story of speaking truth to power, and of resistance, inspires Māori and non-Māori alike.
Keenan, D. Te Whiti o Rongomai and the Resistance of Parihaka. Wellington: Huia Publishers, 2015.
This is an account of the life and times of Te Whiti O Rongomai set against the politics and Crown policies of the nineteenth century. It traces the forces that shaped Te Whiti’s life’s journey from Ngā Motu, where he was born, his move south to Waikanae, to his settling at Parihaka and his evolving sense of the injustices and disempowerment Māori experienced and his response to these. The book includes detailed information about the events which lead up to the 1881 invasion of Parihaka by armed colonial troops and the subsequent arrest and imprisonment of Te Whiti and Tohu. It also recounts his 1883 return to Taranaki after being detained in the South Island for two years. After returning home, Te Whiti lived a relatively quiet life, rebuilding Parihaka but remained involved in the protests against the unfair land dealings which saw him arrested twice more, including being jailed for a period of time in Wellington.
The role Te Whiti, along with fellow prophet Tohu Kakahi, played in shaping the reputation of Parihaka as a place of peace is an important thread explored by Keenan. The unflinching determination of the pair is what sets them apart from other rangatira or Māori leaders around Aotearoa who accepted compromises regarding the confiscation of their land, rather than standing up for their rights. Keenan attributes this to the strength of purpose shown by Te Whiti in the face of overwhelming odds. Te Whiti o Rongomai’s story of speaking truth to power, and of resistance, inspires Māori and non-Māori alike.
This publication is part of the series Te Takarangi: Celebrating Māori publications - a sample list of 150 non-fiction books produced by a partnership between Royal Society Te Apārangi and Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga.