Māori leaders say acts of terror nothing new in NZ

by Leigh-Marama McLachlan / 21 March, 2019
Che Wilson

Ngāti Rangi leader Che Wilson has composed a song in te reo Māori about the Christchurch terror attacks. Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

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Māori leaders are calling on New Zealanders to reject the notion that 'this is not us' in the wake of the Christchurch mosque attacks.

Ngāti Rangi leader Che Wilson has composed a song in te reo Māori to articulate his grief over two mass shootings on Friday, which left 50 worshippers dead.

The waiata talks about the world being unbalanced - a military onslaught - and bids peace and farewell to the dead.

In the song, he also acknowledges a terror attack on Māori in 1881 when Crown troops invaded the Taranaki settlement of Parihaka and decimated the village.

"The last time this happened in New Zealand was in Parihaka and that is not actually that long ago," Mr Wilson said.

"They were all promoting peace, they were praying and they did the poi - the Crown wanted to take that land and destroyed their lives."

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A 28-year-old Australian is in custody over Friday's terror attack and there has been an outpouring of love for Muslims from around the world.

New Zealanders have adopted taglines condemning the attacks, such as 'this is not us', but Mr Wilson challenges that notion.

"The fact that we are saying that this isn't us, is us denying that fact that is has happened in our nation before. And it is easier to sweep it under the carpet."

"It's a bit like abuse. You know, families will sweep things under the carpet until one day it gets too bad."

University of Waikato associate professor Tom Roa said went to the Hamilton mosque at the weekend and said Muslim leaders raised with him the attacks on Parihaka and Rangiaowhia.

In 1864, Crown troops set fire to a whare karakia in Rangiaowhia during morning prayer, incinerating non-combatants, including tamariki and kaumātua.

"We have this story about an eight-year-old boy who ran out of the burning whare, with his arms flailing in the air, and he was shot dead," Mr Roa said.

He does not want to take anything away from the Christchurch tragedy, but said Māori had been victims to acts of terrorism in Aotearoa in the past.

"Nothing should be taken away from that tragedy... All of us just feel this loss," he said. "That focus is where everything should be - on helping those people."

"But it does cause an itch at the back with statements like "this is the darkest day in New Zealand history", that it is a loss of innocence.

"Perhaps this is a signal to us all that we are a product of our education and our schools continue not to teach our New Zealand history."

Māori Council executive director Matthew Tutaki said Kiwis tell people that they are not racist, but there are some sections of the community that are racist.

He said social determinants of well-being for Māori are telling, pointing to poorer outcomes in health and education, high rates of incarceration and children in state care.

"There is a huge, significant, element of racial profiling going on and some of it is unconscious, but actually some of it is quite deliberate," Mr Tutaki said.

"I don't want to see the opportunity pass us by that we don't have an honest conversation about the fact that racism is alive and kicking ... so what do we need to do to stop it?"

Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikātene said racism and white supremacy had been a concern in Christchurch for years, but this terror attack was a wake-up call.

"It has just totally changed the way we see everything now," he said.

"I would encourage those whānau in Te Tai Tonga, if they have any encounters or concerns or suspicions about anything to please get in contact with the police.

"We have to be very vigilant and ensure that the appropriate authorities are doing their mahi to eliminate and root out this hara."

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