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Ruapekapeka remembrance brings vision for future
Photo: Radio Waatea Image Database.

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Tribes involved in the Battle of Ruapekapeka have marked the 175th anniversary of the conflict the Northern War by both remembering the past looking forward.

Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Hau, Ngāti Manu, Te Kapotai and other gathered at the remote Northland ridgetop near Kawakawa on Sunday morning to raise their flags.

The commemoration was part of a multi-year effort by Te Ruapekapeka Trust in partnership with the Department of Conservation to preserve the site, which for many years lay under a blanket of scrub and Kikuyu grass.

Speakers acknowledged the efforts of former trust chair Allan Halliday from Ngāti Hau, who died in December.

Northland MP Willow Jean Prime says for her people in Te Kapotai, the event was a reminder Aotearoa was not settled peacefully.

The results of that can be seen not just in battle sites but in marginalisation, assimilation and oppression.

However, the country was also on a journey to turn that around, including through the truth and reconciliation process of the Waitangi Tribunal.

She said what could be taken out of the history, and in the country’s response to the Christchurch mosque attacks, was that there could be unity through diversity.

Ngāti Hine chair Waihoroi Shortland also argued that groups like Hobson’s Pledge had misinterpreted what Governor Hobson had attempted to say when he told signatories to the Treaty of Waitangi “He iwi kōtahi tātou.”

Rather than says we are all the same, he was saying there was unity but not conformity.

Mr Shortland said conflict and was a short-run thing, and what matters is what is done with the peace - and there have now been 175 years of peace in the north.

The lesson of Ruapekapeka was his forebears never conceded their mana.

After the battle ended in a stalemate, Governor George Grey met Te Ruki Kawiti at Kororāreka.

Grey asked: “Have you had enough of the fighting?” and Kawiti replied: “If you have had enough, then I have had enough. But if you have not had enough, then I have not had enough either.”

To which the Governor replied: “I have finished. Kua mutu ahau,” and peace was made.

Former MP Shane Jones said the battle shaped relations not just with the crown but within Ngāpuhi for decades after.

A decade later Waka Nene challenged Te Ruki’s son Maihi Paraone Kawiti to restore the flagpole at Maiki Hill at Kororāreka, saying “that which you turned into a corpse, only you can bring back to life.”

So in 1858 Maihi and 400 of his people returned to Maiki to reerect the pou, watched by those Ngāpuhi who did not stand with Kawiti at Ruapekapeka.

When Tawhiao came north to Waiomio to invite Ngāpuhi to join the Kiingitanga, that flagpole was cited by Kawiti as a sign of Ngāpuhi’s independence.

Mr Jones said in the history of the north lies an indication of the future for Māori as a distinctive feature of New Zealand identity.

“It’s the Māori strain that roots us as a part of the Pacific. It’s the history and the coping with the ebb and flow of colonisation and globalisation that gives us a distinctive feature.

“It won’t always be like that and nothing is static, but looking forward, when the koroua Kawiti says ‘look beyond the horizon of the ocean’ he is evoking in my mind an image that requires us to be extraordinarily vigilant, that if we want to treasure and we want to continue bequeathing down to the next generation that which makes us quintessentially Māori or essentially of New Zealand then we must cling to those roots that reflect our indigeneity.

“We are not Australians, we are not Europeans, we are not Americans, we are not from Asia. We are the indigenous people of Aotearoa. We have shared and melted into mainstream society but as today shows, we have never ever given up on what distinguishes us.” Mr Jones said.


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