The Art of Resistance
Frances Goulton talked of the Paraikete Whero (red blankets) and the weaving of stories of loss and grievance. The significance of the ‘paraikete whero’ took a while to emerge as I listened to the kōrero and as I have looked back at my notes and done some research, I am starting to piece together more knowledge. The ‘paraikete whero’ represents land for Ngāti Hine;
“During the 1800s the Ngati Hine rangatira Kawiti and then his son Maihi strategically led Ngati Hine through Te Wakaminenga, He Whakaputanga and Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the subsequent Northland wars particularly Ohaeawai and Ruapekapeka. [….] Kawiti soon after the battle of Ruapekapeka saw that colonisation was inevitable in Aotearoa and he moved Ngati Hine from the Bay of Islands, inland to Waiomio. His son Maihi, who was a native assessor for the Maori Land Court, during his reign for the same reason, to shield Ngati Hine from colonisation, moved Ngati Hine further inland to the land blocks Motatau Block Nos 1-5. He lay down the Ture (law) of the Paraikete Whero which states that Ngati Hine are not to sell our lands.”Taumarere, te Awa o nga Rangatira
“Ko enei paraikete – he paraikete kōrero”
A group of wāhine including Frances took up the concept of the ‘“paraikete whero’ as a symbol of resistance. At the Waitangi Treaty hearing in Whangaparoa they supported the kaupapa in the background by sewing blankets. The blankets tell the stories of the loss of land and the injustices that happened. Blankets are also significant because they were used as a form of currency or as sweeteners; land was sold for a couple of blankets and a musket; blankets were given to the rangatira who signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi on February 6th 1840.
Just as an aside, but an important one, Frances pointed out that the use of the word ‘loss’ when talking about land, sort of implied that there was a carelessness about land, that it hadn’t been valued and was misplaced, when in fact the land was either confiscated outright as punishment for not supporting the Crown (Waikato and other rohe) or it was ‘exchanged’ through fair means of foul. We should be honest in our language and talk about ‘whenua raupatu’ – land confiscated or taken by force.
As Frances talked and wove her story, other members of the panel held up stitched swatches with dates on them;
In 1823 the first land in the rohe was sold for 2 blankets and 3 muskets – the date and the images are embroidered on a blanket which was held up.
In 1835 34 northern rangatira signed He Whakaputanga
In 1840 every signatory to Te Tiriti o Waitangi received 2 blankets and a pouch of tobacco.
This seems very ironic today as the National Government seeks to overturn the ‘Smoke Free Aotearoa’ bill. The Crown were the first to give Māori tobacco which has become the cause of poor health for Maori more than any other group in Aotearoa and now they are exacerbating it by taking away measures that would have significantly benefited Māori in terms of health.
In 1940 some Ngāpuhi wore red blankets as a silent protest over land issues. The blankets represented land confiscated. 1940 marked the centenary of the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and in the midst of war the centenary celebrations were looked to to raise the spirits and provide a sense of identity for New Zealand.
“The governor general and prime minister focused on the “great century” that had been with “benefits to both races”. Many Māori, however, including leaders like Kiingi Korokī, boycotted the celebrations. Ngāpuhi attended, but displayed red blankets in protest at the taking of their land.”Ten of the most memorable Waitangi Days | The Spinoff
In 2017 red blankets that had been stitched at the tribunal were given to the negotiators in the hope that they would recognise that they were wearing the land that they had taken on their laps and consider what that meant. Maybe they would recall “I rire whenua atu, me hoki whenua mai” a catch phrase which means the land was taken, and so the land should be returned and which has been used over the years at occupations and disputes over land.
Today with all that is happening to undo all the progress that has been made over the last 50 years, the humble blanket is still a powerful symbol of resistance. It is a reminder that we can make a stand and make progress. Weaving the stories of loss and grievance one stitch at a time. It is time to mobilise our people.