Rā Maumahara: Q&A Tom Roa
This is the first of several posts at Scoop Review of Books to help mark Aotearoa New Zealand’s first official Rā Maumahara  (28 October) to remember the New Zealand Land Wars. In the second, Vaughan Rapatahana reviews Sleeps Standing/Moetū , by Witi Ihimaera with Hēmi Kelly, a novel about the battle at Ōrākau.
In May of this year, a talk and panel discussion with author Vincent O’Malley about his book The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800 – 2000 was held in Te Awamutu, the Waikato town that sits amid several battle sites of the New Zealand Wars. One of the panelists, Tom Roa (Ngāti Apakura) spoke with Alison McCulloch in te Reo Māori and English after the event about O’Malley’s book:
Q. He aha ngā kōrero i puta mai ai ngā iwi o Waikato, (o Ngāti Maniapoto) mō te pukapuka nei?
A. Mīharo. Kei te nui te mihi ki a Vincent te take nā te arotau o ana rangahau i puta mai ai te pono, te tika o ngā kōrero a ngā tūpuna, ngā kōrero i tuku iho ki a mātou, engari kāore i te kōrerotia, kāore i te wānangatia e te ao Pākehā. Nā reira kei te nui te mihi ki tēnei Pākehā e whai nei i te pono i te tika o ngā kōrero i tuku iho.
Q. The sources are mostly Pākehā, and you mentioned the kōrero i tuku iho — the stories that have been passed down — so is there anything missing from this book?
A. Of course. Vincent’s examination of the documentation is without peer, and in that examination the world that produced that documentation damns itself. So for us, we celebrate the fact that there is an honesty in that documentation from the scholarly examination by Vincent, so that’s number one. Number two: in any history, in any story there are always going to be differences. You get it in a court case, two witnesses witnessing the same incident will have different recollections of that incident so there’s always going to be something missing. But for me and for Waikato-Maniapoto, Vincent’s treatment of the story has been fair and proper, and in that treatment the truth that we have always maintained has been told, so we celebrate that, knowing that there are other stories to be told. Hopefully those who have those stories to tell will have an audience to hear them, firstly, and secondly an ability to carry those stories on into the future.
Q. He aha ngā mea hou, ngā mea whakaohorere ki a koe, ki ō iwi rānei i roto i tēnei pukapuka?
A. Ko ētehi o ngā whakamārama: hei tauria, kua kitea e Vincent tētehi reta i tuhia e tētehi o ngā hōia i Rangiaowhia me te whākīnga e taua hōia nā ngā hoia te ahi i tahu. I roto i ngā tau ko te kupu a ō tātou, a ō mātou tūpuna, a ō mātou mātua nā ngā hoia te whare rā i tahu ki te ahi. Engari i roto i ngā pukapuka, i roto i nga hītori tērā ētehi e mea ana nā te Māori rā anō te whare rā i tahu ki te ahi — he hauata – an accident, nē?! — engari ko te nui o te whakapae a ngā mātua, ngā tūpuna nā ngā hōia te whare rā i tahu. Kua kitea e Vincent tētehi reta mai I tētehi hōia o reira ki tētehi atu e mea ana nā ngā hōia te whare rā i tahu ki te ahi. Nō reira, mīharo! Āhua ohorere au i te rongo mai i tana pukapuka ki taua reta, he pepa Pākehā e mea ana nā te Pākehā te hē. Kei reira rā ano ētehi atu tauira mai i ngā pepamāna Pākehā. Me te whai mai me te tautoko mai i ngā kōrero a ngā tūpuna, ngā kōrero i tuku iho.
Q. He whakaaro anō āu?
A. Tonight has been what I would call a mature discussion about very challenging perspectives of our history. I congratulate our audience and our panel on the maturity of that discussion in that there’s a clear wish to know the truth, there’s a clear desire to carry that truth further than this space. I am reminded and I take pride in Rovina’s [Rovina Maniapoto-Anderson, Ngāti Paretekawa] recollection of Rewi’s words at Ōrākau ‘I will fight this forever and ever and ever’, and it’s clear that from much of the discussion tonight and from other discussions that I’ve attended with Vincent in various other places including Auckland that there are more “soldiers” stepping up to join the “fight”. Now, it’s not a physical fight. It’s not a fight with weapons to kill another human being but it’s a fight, it’s a struggle of ideas and that struggle is without end.
‘We’re doing this together, we’re moving forward we’re moving onward we’re moving upward’.
I take note, too, of some of the comments around the government and I agree whole-heartedly again with the same assertion of Rewi, that we don’t have to wait for the Crown, we don’t have to wait for money, we don’t have to wait for somebody of a position to tell us that we can do this. We can do it. And this is, I think, a very important message, from my mother, when I was younger, when she said to me, ‘Don’t waste too much time on that stuff. Protesting and breaking the law and all that. Don’t waste too much time on that, boy. We have been here forever and we’re going to be here forever’. I took that to mean from her, ‘Just do it, do what’s right’.
So tonight, nobody’s paying me for being here, nobody’s saying to me I can be here; it’s right to be here to support Vincent and to just be a part of this. … I’m reminded of a Black Panthers message that I heard when I was a younger fellow, where the leader spoke to a gathering and he said to the gathering, ‘I am a revolutionary, we are revolutionaries, say it!’ And the whole assembly, said, ‘We are revolutionaries, we are revolutionaries, we are revolutionaries’. And I get that same sort of spirit of revolution from this gathering.
Rovina said earlier, ‘We’re doing this together, we’re moving forward we’re moving onward we’re moving upward’.
Editor’s Note: A review by Vaughan Rapatahana of O’Malley’s The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800 – 2000 is forthcoming at Scoop Review of Books.