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The New Zealand Wars and the School Curriculum

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By Joanna Kidman and Vincent O'Malley

The New Zealand Wars (1845-72) had a decisive influence over the course of the nation’s history. Yet Pākehā have not always cared to remember them in anything approaching a robust manner, engaging at different times either in elaborate myth-making that painted the wars as chivalrous and noble or, when that was no longer tenable, actively choosing to ignore them altogether. More recently there are signs of a greater willingness to face up to the bitter and bloody realities of these conflicts. For many Māori, that is not before time.

If a turning point in Pākehā remembrance could be identified, then perhaps it might be the petition organised by students from Ōtorohanga College that led to a national day of commemoration for the New Zealand Wars (Rā Maumahara). In 2014, students from the school, some as young as 15, visited nearby Ōrākau and Rangiaowhia. The group was led by kaumātua who were descendants of the survivors. At each si…