Flying Sunday and Monday, July 5-6, 2009.

Today and tomorrow I am flying the Maori Flag of Tino Rangatiratanga.

Some months ago my sister-in-law, in Wellington NZ, very kindly sent me a gift of a flag of Tino Rangatiratanga for my collection. I have flown it a couple of times, but not being tuned in to Maori culture and events and anniversaries etc, I was reprimanded by her for not having flown it recently on the annual Maori cultural festival of Matariki which commenced in June. Sorry Deborah ! I have now done my research.

This is the Maori Independence (Tino Rangatiratanga) movement’s flag. The symbolism of the flag is said to be as follows:

BLACK represents Te Korekore (the realm of potential being). It thus symbolises the long darkness from which the earth emerged, as well as signifying Rangi - the heavens, a male, formless, floating, passive force.

RED represents Te Whei Ao (coming into being). It symbolises Papatuanuku, the earth-mother, the sustainer of all living things, and thus both the land and active forces.

WHITE represents Te Ao Marama (the realm of being and light). It symbolises the physical world, purity, harmony, enlightenment and balance.

The spiral-like KORU, symbolic of a curling fern frond, represents the unfolding of new life, hope for the future and the process of renewal.

Matariki, Maori festival, May to July.

In the Māori language Matariki is the name of the Pleiades star cluster, which was important for agriculture in establishing the correct time to plant crops.

The first rising of the Pleiades and of Rigel (another star) occurs just prior to sunrise in late May or early June, and this indicates that the old year has ended and the new year has begun. The actual time for celebrating Matariki varies, depending on the iwi (tribe or clan). Some iwi celebrate it immediately. Others wait until the rising of the next full moon, or alternatively the dawn of the next new moon. It has become common practice for various private and public institutions to celebrate Matariki over the period of a week or month anywhere from early June to late July. Other iwi used the rising of Rigel in a similar way.

In traditional times, Matariki was a season to celebrate and to prepare the ground for the coming year. Offerings of the produce of the land were made to the gods, including Rongo, god of cultivated food. This time of the year was also a good time to instruct young people in the lore of the land and the forest. In addition, certain birds and fish were especially easy to harvest at this time. Matariki is now celebrated as a cultural festival of many local events over a number of weeks in June and July.

Some other Maori History

Yesterday I was chatting on line with Brett Payne in Tauranga, NZ. He has an excellent blog Photo-Sleuth which I follow, and also a web site Derbyshire Photographers. Brett had actually been to The Auckland War Memorial Museum (or simply the Auckland Museum) one of New Zealand's most important museums and war memorials. He had photographed a flag there, and he sent me an image as a challenge for me to solve:

My first thoughts were that, with the juxtaposition of the new moon, star and cross, (southern cross I wondered?), I would give my first guess as a Matariki festival flag. I was wrong. A little more searching, and I found this image below, which appeared to be a closely related flag:

(Aotearoa, a Maori name for the lands that comprise New Zealand.)

This image was of a Maori woman, Heni Te Kirikaramu also known as Heni Pore or Jane Foley, and discovering her led me to a story of warfare, the story of the battle of Gate Pā.

Gate Pā

Gate Pā was the name of a Māori Pā or fortress built in 1864 (3 miles from the main British base of Camp Te Papa at Tauranga, during the Tauranga Campaign of the New Zealand Land Wars. The name pā comes from its appearance, the palisade looked like a picket fence while a higher part in the middle resembled a gate.

The pā was built at the instigation of Chief Rawiri Puhirake of Ngai Te Rangi, on the edge of land owned by Māori, where missionaries had erected a gate between the Māori and colonial settlers. Puhirake believed British reprisal for his support of the King Movement during the Waikato War was inevitable, so he constructed Gate Pa for protection. This failed to rouse the British so he began sending taunts, declaring he had built a road from the British camp to the pā, "so that the British would not be too tired to fight".

General Duncan Cameron, whose Invasion of the Waikato had ground to a halt, determined to attack the pā with the majority of his forces to destroy the King Movement's allies. By the end of April the British were ready to attack, with 1,700 men, opposed by 230 Māori. British troops included the 68th Durham Light Infantry and 43rd Monmouth Light Infantry.

A heavy bombardment was begun at daybreak on 29 April 1864 and continued for eight hours. The British had 15 artillery pieces including one of 110 pounds (50 kg). By mid afternoon the pā looked as if it had been demolished and there was a large breach in the center of the palisade. At 4 pm the barrage was lifted and 300 troops were sent up to capture and secure the position.

The British forces suffered severe losses and retreated. There was no second assault. During the night the Māori gave assistance to the wounded and collected their weapons, and by day break they had abandoned the position. Gate Pā was the single most devastating defeat suffered by the British military in the whole of the New Zealand land wars, with 111 casualities and deaths.

Gate Pā was not quite what it appeared to be. From the British positions it looked like fairly large strongpoint occupying the entire hill top. In fact it was much smaller being two low redoubts on either side of the ridge joined by a deep trench about 40 m long and the whole shielded by a strong wooden palisade. It seems likely that British concentrated their barrage towards the centre, where the palisade collapsed and where the assault was made. Meanwhile the two redoubts had been built very strongly with deep and effective bomb proof shelters. The Māori may have been deafened by the bombardment but as soon as it ended they were able to ambush the British troops.

Jane Foley and Gate Pā

An often retold tale of the battle concerns that night. The wounded, including Lieutenant Colonel Henry Booth of the 43rd Monmouth Light Infantry, lay in the pa calling for water. And water was indeed given to them, not by the soldiers, but, so the story goes, by a young Maori woman, Heni Te Kirikaramu also known as Heni Pore or Jane Foley, whose compassion is remembered to this day. It must, however, be acknowledged that although Colonel Booth is said before he died to have told of a Maori woman who spoke English gave him water, and she too, made this claim some 30 years later, there are those who believe that it may have been Henare Taratoa who took pity on the wounded. It is he who is depicted on the monument to the dead of Gate Pa in the mission cemetery, and also in the window of Bishop Selwyn’s Lichfield Cathedral in Staffordshire, England. (The Right Reverend George Augustus Selwyn (1809–1878) was the first Anglican Bishop of New Zealand. On his return to the UK he governed Lichfield. He died at the bishop's palace, Lichfield, and was buried in the grounds of Lichfield Cathedral.)


Whilst chatting on line to Brett Payne, informing him that I had by then solved the puzzle of the flag image he had sent me, we diverged at a tangent as we often do, when I mentioned that during the period of the Korean war my father in law, then a recently qualified medical student from Edinburgh, received a commission on the Royal New Zealand Navy, and was posted as medical officer aboard HMNZS Taupo, and he was based and sailed from Devonport, Auckland. Brett quickly came up with an extraordinary coincidence. Firstly a quick Googling of “Taupo” had turned up the fact that the RNZN had just taken delivery of a new HMNZS Taupo:

HMNZS TAUPO was accepted into the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) on 29 May 2009. Taupo will be used to operate around New Zealand's 200 Nautical Mile EEZ (Economic Exclusion Zone). It's secondary role will be sea training for members of the RNZN. Taupo will be based at Devonport Naval Base.

The second coincidence is that whilst he was visiting the Aukland Museum where he had photographed the flag he had sent to me, he had photographed a naval craft in the channel. He quickly downloaded it from his camera, and it seems almost certain that he had, just by luck, caught the new HMNZS Taupo:

I think my father-in-law is going to be delighted to receive these images as I doubt the news of this new ship has reached his County Durham , UK, home.

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