The mountain is part of the Hakarimata Ranges, which were settled by explorers who pushed north after the landfall of the Tainui canoe at Kawhia Harbour many centuries ago. According to oral tradition, these settlers buried small carved mauri stones in the soil of the ranges, to ensure the fertility of the Waikato region. It was the quality of the soil and the success of Maori agriculture which prompted the invasion of the Waikato on July the 12th 1863 and the long resistance to occupation by the peoples who trace their lineage to the Tainui canoe.
One of the most extraordinary works in the permanent collection of the Auckland City Art Gallery is a massive, wildly colourful painting by Emily Karaka which evokes the waka journey from Ngaruawahia to Taupiri. Planning, Searching, Rising: Waikato is the River, Taupiri is the Mountain shows taniwha jumping out of a river which blazes red and gold. Above the river Karaka paints giant human figures in a 'hocker' style that echoes both the dendroglyphs of the Moriori people of the Chathams and the carvings of the Eastern Polynesian ancestors of the Tainui. I've often made a detour into the gallery to stare at her painting for a minute or two on my way between Queen Street and Auckland University.
Harry Holland, the first leader of the Labour Party, collapsed and died on Taupiri in 1933, after he had insisted on climbing the mountain to observe the burial of Te Rata, the King who had shared his anti-conscription views during World War One. It's the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Kingitanga this week, and the stout resistance Te Rata and Princess Te Puea led to the 'war to end all wars' is an important part of the history of the movement. In a comment under my recent post on the subject, Arihi suggests that this anti-war history is being forgotten:
My misgivings about the coverage of Anzac Day on Maori television were reinforced by the continual ads for the armed forces.
Most coverage on Maori TV would have been approved by Apirana Ngata himself. It took me back to my days of devouring endless war comics.
It was particulary depressing to hear Nanaia Mahuta (Tainui MP) praising all the children for attending the Anzac services, and remarking that many of their relations would have fought in the wars. She made no mention of the tradition of Waikato resistance to war, often led by her own ancestors.
I'm not surprised that Nanaia seems a little forgetful of history. I remember talking to her after a hui on the seabed and foreshore rip-off in April 2004, when she was still claiming to be opposed to Labour's legislation, and telling her about the plans of some trade unionists to raise the issue on May Day marches in Auckland and Wellington. 'What's May Day?', this Labour MP asked me. So much for the lineage of Harry Holland. Nanaia's ancestor Princess Te Puea not only knew what May Day was - she on several occasions addressed May Day celebrations organised by the Auckland trade unions. I tend to think that it's the likes of 'Waihopai Anzacs' supporter Christian Manu, and not Nanaia, who represent the spirit of Te Puea, and perhaps also of Harry Holland, today...