Tuesday, November 24, 2009

peacemaking: three local (Canterbury) bi-cultural peace stories

Sermon from Sunday evening Grow, part of a three week series on Grow in peace.

In Romans 12: 18, we are told “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Which leaves the question: what might this look like? A few weeks ago visiting speaker, Mark Grace, speaking about Parihaka (a North Island story), challenged us to look for local peace stories

So I went to the library. It’s a very Pakeha thing to do. If you were Maori, you might talk to your elders. But I’m a Pakaha, so I went to the library, to the New Zealand archives section.

This was what I found out, the story of three local peacemakers, and some bi-cultural mission history here in New Zealand
If you drive north out of Christchurch, past Woodend, before you get to Waiuku, if you look to your right, you see a dirt road, called Preeces Road.

Drive down Preeces Road, you come to what was once the most powerful pa, Maori settlement, in South Island.

All you see is a monument and empty paddocks, but it is the sight of Kaiapo pa, which was built in what was the third wave of Maori migration.

Based on archeological evidence and whakapapa records, Maori came to the South Island in three waves: First the Waitaha, second the Kati Mamoe, third Kai Tahu.

The Kai Tahu came from the Wellington area and they brought with them a new vegetable: the kumara. At the Kaiapoi pa this vegetable was put to best use, providing a steady food supply and thus helping to ensure a stable settlement. Yes, the South Island is colder than the North Island.

But at the Kaipoi pa, the Kai Tahu crafted shelter belts, using twigs, about a foot high, to increase ground temperatures. And the manipulated soil, digging in gravel, which helped with drainage and warmth.

Kaipoi pa was built in a highly strategic place. Three sides were protected by water. To the north and east was lagoon of the Rakihuri (Ashley River). To the West was a swamp (which was also a great source of fish and birds).

Today, it’s just a paddock and a monument. But in 1830’s it was “not only the pantry of the Kai Tahu empire but it was also the tribe’s university, spiritual centre and the seat of government.” (Pauline Wood, Kaiapoi. A Search for Identity. Waimakariri District Council, 1993, 4).

The Pa asted 200 years. It survived Bbased on it’s location, it’s food supply and it’s desire for peace, the relationships it cultivated with surrounding tribes.

Until it was sacked by Te Rauparaha. He attacked Kaiapoi once and failed. He returned and attacked again. The Pa survived.

He came a third time. This time he tried a new trick. Te Rauparaha piled up brushwood against the walls of the pa, reading to burn the pa.

When the easterly wind got up, those inside pa, decided to lit the fire themselves, knowing that the wind carry the fire onto Te Rauparaha. But after the Easterly comes the Nor’wester. Often sudden, strong, dry and gusty.

And it blew the fire back onto the pa. Which burnt the walls and allowed Te Rauparaha to enter. Many were killed. So many were killed that the bodies were left unburied. Pa was abandoned.

That is the story of the Kaipoi pa. Having set the scene, let me tell you three local peace stories that revolve around the pa.

1st peace story: Maori man, Tamihana.
The first English missionary (Bishop Selwyn) to the South Island arrived in 1844. When he had finished, Maori told him they’d heard it all before.

That was because Christianity had already come, to the South Island in the shape of Tamihana Te Rauparaha.

Tamihana was son of Te Rauparaha, the Maori chief who had sacked Kaipoi Pa, killing many. Tamihana heard about Jesus from a missionary named James Hadfield and was baptised in 1841.

In 1842, he went to South Island, visited his father’s enemies with the words: “I have indeed come hither to you to bring an end to warfare, and to bind firmly peace by virtue of the words of the Gospel of the Lord.”

We will hear from Tamihana again soon, but he is our first local, Canterbury, peacemaker. The gospel arriving in Canterbury brought not by missionaries, but by the Maori. By a man who shows us we don’t always have to end up a chip of the old block.

2nd peace story: James Stack
James Stack was born in New Zealand, in Thames, in 1835. He is parents were missionaries and he grew up catching and learning to speak Maori.

James returned to England when he was 14, determined not to be a missionary. Instead, he trained to be an accountant. His mind was changed by a number of events.

The first was the death of his mother. The second is a guess. But it is based on the fact that in 1850, a Maori man visited London, staying for two years.

And his name was Tamihana Te Rauparaha, the same man who had preached in South Island. And when he returned, Stack came back with him. Surely these two talked in Maori over a cold London winter. Surely Tamihana shared of his visit to the South Island.

Then in 1859, James Stack was appointed the first ever Maori missioner to South Island. Stack had a dream, of a Maori church.

He was welcomed by the Maori at Kaipoi, who offered him land to build a church and start a school. It was close the Pa, at a place called Tuahiwi.

Stack built a church, called St Stephens. These were hard years. A school opened, then closed, while the original church was burnt down in 1870.

Stack dedicated his life to speaking on behalf of Maori. “At this time one Pakeha was seen by his fellows as speaking for the Maori. He was the Reverend James Stack.” (Pauline Wood, Kaiapoi. A Search for Identity. Waimakariri District Council, 1993, 69).

Buddy Mikaere (e Maihora and the promised land, Reed 1998) tells the wonderful story of the time James Stack going to visit a local “tohunga” (witchdoctor-type figure), a man named Te Muru. He was sick and because he was a tohunga, the tribe were to afraid to visit him. Stack visited and found him suffering from ingrown fingers and toenails. Despite the pus and pain, Stack clipped them. As a result of this care, Te Muru converted. Stack served local Maori for 40 years, in the shadow of the Kaipoi Pa.

So that’s a 2nd local peace story. Of hearing a missionary call, probably through Tamihana. Of having a dream, of a Maori church for Maori people. Of being willing to learn the language, listen, speak out on behalf of injustice. Of willing to engage in acts of compassion, cutting ingrown toenails.

Third peace story: John Raven
This story also involves Kaipoi pa. I said in my introduction that it was sacked by Te Rauparaha. Many died, so many, that no-one buried them. So for years, the Pa site lay desolate.

Until 1860. A local farmer, John Raven, was also a church minister, first anglican priest in North Canterbury. Reading the story of South Island Maori, it mentioned “a respectful Pakeha minister” (Buddy Mikaere, Te Maihora and the promised land, Reed 1998, 13) Which intrigued me. Why was he respected by South Island Maori?

The answer is that John Raven was respected because he collected the human bones from Kaipoi pa and buried them. It took two whole wagonloads, but that was his act of love, which earned the respect of local Maori.

So that is a third peacemaking story. All three are local, Canterbury stories, all connected in and around Kaipoi. May they be an inspiration to us today: that we can step out of the shadow of our fathers like Tamihana, that we can learn Maori and speak for justice like James Stack, that we can care for the dead like John Raven

Posted by steve at 08:28 PM


  1. Great summary of our very local stories in Kaiapoi – I had heard some and have one of those books in my one day pile – but now have a great summary – thanks 🙂

    Comment by Jo Wall — November 24, 2009 @ 9:36 pm

  2. Let me again plug the book by Alistair Reese – Naboths Vineyard Towards Truth and Reconciliation in Aotearoa New Zealand.

    The book description

    “This book is a theological and historical exploration of social reconciliation. Specifically it examines some of the factors that have contri buted to the fissure of the relationship between the Christian church and Maaori, the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand.It argues that the church has been a complicit partner in the alienation of Maaori land over a 150 year period, both in its silence towards the governments of the day and by its own involvement in land accumulation. A theological model of social reconciliation is offered, which argues that truth recovery and repentance are necessary components of any steps towards reconciliation. Within the New Zealand context this means that the church needs to begin by acknowledging its complicity in the alienation of Maori land – a betrayal of its prophetic and pastoral mandate. This acknowledgment is a necessary step towards a healing of the land.”

    While I don’t agree with all of his conclusions some of the history of the Tauranga reigion was quite startling and has resulted in a working group of Tauranga ministers looking to bring reconciliation with local iwi.

    Comment by Aaron — November 24, 2009 @ 9:49 pm

  3. Beautiful stuff. Stories such as these litter history but are trampled by other accounts of armies and wars, thus relegating them to the status of “oddities” The reality is this kind of stuff has happened countless times, over and over again, by individuals since the time of Christ, because of Christ.

    We need people to keep recounting these accounts because they are true, because they are courageous, and because they are actually more common then advocates of war would have the world believe. Peace works.

    Comment by jstainer — November 25, 2009 @ 5:17 am

  4. lovely comment thanks jstainer.

    aaron, ta for plugging away and glad to see reconciliation underway in your context, there’s a lot of pain in the Tauranga story, including the Volkner incident.


    Comment by steve — November 25, 2009 @ 11:55 am

  5. Joy Cowley has just written a children’s book called “Tarore and her book” – a story of New Zealand history and of peace and reconciliation and a story of faith. I purchase some copies of her book to give away – and had one more copy than I had a plan for – so offered it to our local state school for their library. It was gratefully received. A subtle way of introduce an important story to a new group of children.

    Comment by KSW — November 27, 2009 @ 8:24 am

  6. Thanks KSW, Tarore and that book will be this Sunday’s focus. My daughter is currently reviewing the book for Methodist Touchstone magazine


    Comment by steve — November 27, 2009 @ 8:33 am

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