by Sally Blundell
Calls are growing for us to take a more honest look at our past, particularly the wars over land and power that shaped the country.
It began with a single musket shot, fired perhaps by accident, in Wairau, near Nelson, in 1843. It ended with desultory gunfire in a steep and sodden gorge south of Waikaremoana in 1873.
Still, says Wellington historian Vincent O’Malley, we barely talk about it. Commemorations are few, many of the war sites are degraded and unmarked, the myth of a chivalrous and noble battle, sowing the seeds for the “best race relations in the world”, has been shattered. Today, students can go through school without learning any New Zealand history.
“Which is staggering to me,” says O’Malley. “This is our story, our history. It happened here, in this place, relatively recently, and it had profound consequences for what New Zealand would become. These were defining conflicts of New Zealand history and, as a nation, we need to take ownership of them.”
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