On Friday a Green crew walked with the peace hīkoi from Ōkato to Parihaka. Some of us were from Parliament and some were party members from Taranaki and further afield. It was a cloudy but gentle day and at one point Taranaki maunga emerged in snowy splendour to urge us on. We had some excellent conversations about peace and justice based on Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd spoke with Jan Logie and me about his belief that no mayor should wear the chains of office without understanding the need to negotiate a more effective governance arrangement with the manawhenua of that place.
We agreed that referenda on Māori wards are not effective, and that we need a deeper conversation about local governance where tangata whenua define the relationship that would work for them in a genuine dialogue with the local community and its non-Māori leaders.
I had a great catch up with colleagues like Richard Manning of Canterbury University, who has led research on how we teach, or largely fail to teach, our country’s history to our young people. I talked about the Waitara river pollution as an issue of peace and justice with Te Ātiawa people.
I met young Pākehā who were walking for a peaceful future and an end to racism in Taranaki and everywhere else. Everyone from the Dean of New Plymouth Cathedral to the students from Ōpunake High School had a positive reason for walking.
As we got slowly closer to Parihaka there was a feeling of excitement as well as some sore feet. We were close to the inspirational heart of non- violent resistance where the people have maintained a profound tradition based on the teachings and mana of Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi. We were walking the same road that the soldiers had walked when they came to destroy Parihaka and its threatening visionary commitment to non-violence and collective decision making.
The karanga and haka which called us into the village carried us back to those traditions so that we might all walk forward together. The manawhenua asked Andrew to carry the drum of Parihaka as we arrived into that humble and historic space.
I was so grateful to our young orator Jack McDonald, who spoke for the Green Party on that paepae. Not only did he speak eloquently for us and the hīkoi, but he is also a mokopuna of Parihaka and a Pākehā tradition of non-violence exemplified by his extraordinary ancestor Archibald Baxter. Parihaka and Archibald Baxter offer us a powerful option for active and principled non-violence in the face of militarism.
Parihaka is a living village without fences, and Andrew and all of the hīkoi were warmly welcomed. It was a moment when peace and mutual respect felt tangible. Our grief for all the violence in our world and the painful awareness of Pākehā privilege was transformed into a sense of community and peace. Thank you Taranaki, thank you Parihaka, and thank you Andrew for political leadership that really helps make a better country.