Regional | Ōrākau

Ōrākau anniversary reopens war wounds

Descendants of those who fought in Ōrākau in 1864 have returned to the site south of Kihikihi this morning to mark the 160th anniversary of the battle.

The defending group drawn from Tūhoe, Ngāti Raukawa, Waikato and Maniapoto were greatly outnumbered by British forces during the three-day battle, and more than 150 Māori men, women and children died during the retreat from the pā south to the Pūniu River.

Kaawhia Muraahi says in the past decade the Crown bought the 9.7 ha property where the battle took place and signed an agreement to return the land to iwi.

Legislation to vest the whenua in the names of the tūpuna who fought and fell at Ōrākau will be introduced in the coming weeks.

He says the commemoration is a way to remember the war that was waged upon Māori by the settler government.

“They had an alternative but they failed to pursue the alternative and that resulted in a huge dispossesison of lands for our people, disconnection to whenua for our people, cultural ethnocide and I would go to say almost on the brink of genocidal activity and campaign against our peopple,” he says.

Kaawhia Muraahi says knowing what happened makes going on to the site an emotional experience.

Public Interest Journalism