This year, for the first time in the 150-year saga of Parihaka, the government is preparing to apologise for one of New Zealand history’s most deplorable acts: the invasion and sacking of a Māori pacifist community and the imprisonment without trial of its leaders, Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi. Yet for many New Zealanders, the word “Parihaka” still draws a blank. On hearing the story for the first time, they ask: why wasn't I told?
In 1834, the Englishman William Swainson was at the height of his scientific career. Aged 45, loaded with honours from the scientific academies and institutions of Paris, Quebec, South Africa, Philadelphia and Bermuda, a fellow of the British Royal Society and the prestigious Linnean Society and vice-president of the London Zoo and the British Ornithological Society, Swainson confidently looked forward to extending his reputation as one of the world's leading naturalists. Then his fortunes took a turn for the worse, and he ended up in New Zealand, living out the latter part of his life in hardship, toil and frustration in a society that set little store by his skills.