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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 7 (November 1, 1929)

Bright Maori Banners

Bright Maori Banners.

Some day, when Wellington rejoices in the sight of its new Dominion Museum, erected on the commanding site of the present gaol-like military barracks, there should be space to display the numerous Maori war flags that now lie packed away in long cases in a lumber shed. They are wonderfully picturesque some of these relics of the days when Maori nationalism tried in vain to sweep back the pakeha tide. There is one with a quite romantic history, Te Kooti's “fighting whip,” as he called it, a long tapering flag, not unlike a Royal Navy paying-off pennant. It was made by the nuns of a Roman Catholic convent in Hawke's Bay more than sixty years ago for the Government Maoris, the Queenites—as opposed to the adherents of the Maori King—but the rebels captured it, and whenever Te Kooti announced to his wild riflemen a raid on the pakeha, not Blue Peter but “Te Whiu” to the masthead flew.

That gallant colonial soldier, Captain Gilbert Mair, recaptured it for the Government side in 1870, when he shot its bearer in a long running fight near Rotorua. It is “a banner with a page 31 strange device,” a streamer of red silk, with emblems worked on it in white—the crescent moon, a conical mountain, representing Aotea-roa, or New Zealand, a cross, a heart and a star.

Among the historical treasures of this kind in the Auckland municipal buildings is a captured fighting-flag twenty feet in length by six feet in width, bearing a blood-red defiant figure representing Tu-mata-uenga—“Tu of the Angry Face”—the god of war. But a still more remarkable war-colour is one that has gone a-missing; I would like to hear of its recovery for exhibition. It is the flag captured in 1860 by the bluejackets of H.M.S. Niger at the battle of Waireka, on the Taranaki coast. It bore a representation of a peaked mountain—Mt. Egmont—and the Sugarloaf Rock at New Plymouth (these symbolising the land of the Maori), a heart, and a rayed sun, both emblems full of meaning. This token of patriotic sentiment was presented to the Governor of the day, Gore-Brown, at Auckland, and I believe was sent to England. Some of us in New Zealand would like to hear of its whereabouts, if it still exists.