The events around the non-violent protests at Parihaka took place mainly from 1860 to 1900 and have not only affected Taranaki culturally, but the whole country politically and spiritually as well.
At the end of the second Taranaki war in 1866, Parihaka was created as a Maori settlement after the Government had taken away almost all Maori land in Taranaki as a way of punishing “rebel” Maori. The settlement was founded by Maori Chief Te Whiti o Rongomai, who had already fought in the previous Taranaki wars. He did this to not only distance himself and his people from European contact, but also to distance himself from warlike Maori tribes. Fellow chief Tohu Kakahi and Te Whiti also joined Rongomai. The pa was stationed between the sight of Mt Taranaki and the sea, in a clearing that was surrounded by hollow hills and a stream. In late 1866, Maori King Tawhiao (leader of the Waikato tribes and second Maori King) sent 12 ‘apostles’ to live at Parihaka to build a bond between the two tribes. By 1871, there was a reported 300 people living in Parihaka. Taranaki’s Medical Officer had said that Parihaka was the cleanest, best-kept pa he had ever visited.
Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi were both committed to non-violent actions in order to resist invasion and protect Maori independence. The both believe in ancestral and Christian spiritual ways, which build on their non-violent views and political leadership. Throughout the wars of the 1860’s, Rongomai and Kakahi forbade the use of arms and violence. Parihaka was a neutral party throughout. They challenged the Government over the illegality of the wars, the confiscation of the land and the policies set against Maori.
They developed monthly meetings at Parihaka, which were to take place on the 18th day of each month; both Maori and Pakeha leaders were invited to discuss and strategies for resistance to the Government taking the land. When Europeans intruded on Maori land and caused a threat to all Maori settlements, Te Whiti sent out his people to block the surveys and to plough the confiscated land. The men who were sent to plough were arrested, but they offered no resistance, even when treated harshly. In 1880, the Parihaka people created barricades, removed survey pegs and escorted road builder and surveyors out of the district. After this, Parliament passed a bill that let the government holding the protesters without trial. By September 1880, hundreds of men and children were exiled to the South Island prisons where they were forced to build the structure of cities. In 1881, resistance and imprisonments continued.
On November 5 1881, an invasion force entered Parihaka. More than 2000 people sat quietly on the marae while children met the army. An hour later, Te Whiti and Tohu were led away to the South Island. The destruction of Parihaka began straight after and women and girls were raped.