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How Charlottesville’s Echoes Forced New Zealand to Confront Its History

An 80-year-old Maori man walked up to a statue of a colonial-era British naval commander one winter morning in 2018, a can of paint and a claw hammer in his hands.

“The red paint was to change the way he looked, and the hammer was to break his nose,” said the man, Taitimu Maipi.

Mr. Maipi’s small act of vandalism in the city of Hamilton, New Zealand, was intended to be a reminder of the pain that white settlers inflicted on the Indigenous Maori people. It ended up forcing a national reckoning over historical memory and cultural identity that paralleled in many ways the upheaval a year before in Charlottesville, Va.

The attack in Hamilton drew extensive coverage in the local newspaper. Residents responded with letters denouncing the vandalism. And the conversation caught the eye of one longtime reader: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

In September, Ms. Ardern announced that the national school curriculum would be changed to require lessons on the 19th-century New Zealand Land Wars, in which British troops killed more than 2,000 Maori.

“I did not see that coming,” Mr. Maipi, a longtime activist, said recently as he stood beside the bronze statue of Capt. John Hamilton, which remains in the middle of Hamilton’s downtown square.

Read entire article at NY Times