In 1843 – (174 years ago) — a land dispute led to a violent clash between British settlers and indigenous Maori people on the South Island of New Zealand. Officials of the British New Zealand Company, claiming to have made a land purchase deal with the Maori, had sent surveyors into the Wairau Valley to mark out parcels. But the Maori, angry at not having been paid for the land, had chased the surveyors away and destroyed their equipment. When a party of armed British men returned to the valley, they were met by some ninety Maori warriors accompanied by women and children. Twenty-two British were killed, along with four Maori, including the wives of two chiefs. White settlers elsewhere in New Zealand were outraged. But an inquiry led by governor Robert FitzRoy later ruled that the settlers had been at fault for trying to settle on land they had no legal right to possess.
In 1953 – (64 years ago) — Soviet tanks rolled into East Berlin to crush a day-old uprising and general strike against the Soviet-backed East German goverment, which had raised work quotas and threatened wage cuts. Sensing the government’s insecurity in the wake of Joseph Stalin’s recent death, workers had taken to the streets, calling for democracy and German reunification, and bringing the country to a standstill. The Soviet Union responded by sending in sixteen army divisions to assist eight thousand East German military police in quashing the revolt. Hundreds of East Germans either died in the ensuing violence or were executed afterward. Several thousand more were injured or arrested, and a dozen or more Soviet soldiers were executed for refusing to shoot protesters. The violence across East Germany continued for more than a week — a dark precursor to the Soviet suppression of the Hungarian revolt of 1956 and the crushing of the Prague Spring in 1968.
In 1987 – (30 years ago) — an elderly sparrow was found dead in his food dish, inside a protected enclosure at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida. He was the last dusky seaside sparrow, and the last survivor of a failed attempt at breeding enough of the sparrows to repopulate their original habitat along Florida’s Atlantic Coast, in the swamps around Merritt Island just south of Cape Canaveral, and along the upper St. John’s River. In the early 1960s, when Merritt Island was chosen as the site for launching Apollo flights to the moon, the swamps had been flooded to lower the area’s mosquito population, thus devastating the birds’ food source and nesting grounds. Highway construction and pesticides finished the job, and the establishment of a nearby wildlife refuge came too late. In 1990 the dusky seaside sparrow was officially declared extinct.
Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi