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February 2010

Boyd Remembrance chance to move beyond tragic past

Methodists on hand for the Boyd Remembrance (from left) vice president Lana Lazarus,
Keita Hotere, Te Rito Peyroux, Maata Harris, Marama Hotere and president Alan Upson.

An initiative to reunite the descendents of those involved in tragic historical event is being described as a significant milestone in the relations between Maori and Pakeha.

The ‘Boyd Remembrance’ was held in Whangaroa, Northland on December 4th-6th. People gathered from as far away as Australia to remember those were part of the Boyd story and their ancestors.

In 1809 the ship Boyd was anchored in the Whangaroa harbour. It was attacked by Maori and nearly all its crew were killed. Subsequently Pakeha retaliated in March the following year. These events claimed the lives of more than 200 people.

A delegation of Methodists including MCNZ president Rev Alan Upson and vice president Lana Lazarus attended the remembrance. Others present were Te Rito Peyroux, Maata Harris, and Keita and Marama Hotere.

Keita says Far North District mayor Wayne Brown, and MPs John Carter and Kelvin Davis offered greetings and warm words of support to those gathered.

"Kaumatua acknowledged the importance of the remembrance without glorifying or trivialising the Boyd and the history it embodied. Speeches were often sombre and reflective. Waka rowing on the harbour and a cannon salute forced us to recall a confrontational and violent past of long ago," Keita says.

"During Saturday’s hakari feast, we heard from the Human Rights Commission and Race Relations advisor Samuelu Sefuiva, who reflected on present day race relations in this country.

"Moana Wood spoke passionately about wanting to clear the name of her tupuna ancestor Te Pahi who had been wrongly accused of sacking of the Boyd. She said Te Pahi was a trader, a friend of the missionaries, a great man, and a peacemaker."

Ever since Rev Samuel Leigh set up the Wesleyan Mission station in Whangaroa in 1823, there has been a Methodist presence there.

Therefore, it was appropriate that Alan and Lana and others representing the Church took part in the interdenominational and inter-faith church service that was held on the final day of the remembrance.

Lana says the whole event was a time of sharing stories and understanding. It was especially important that descendents of a European person who survived the attack came from Australia to be present.

Alan says he was impressed with the courage it took the Whangaroa community and marae to organise and carryout the remembrance.

"It was not so much an effort at reconciliation as it was a chance to meet and listen to one another’s point of view. It was very moving, particularly when the karanga was given after the cannons were fired. It let us recall the violent past and lay it to rest."

In March another remembrance event takes place in the Bay of Islands to acknowledge Te Pahi and his people who were attacked and killed for their supposed involvement in the Boyd incident.