Friday 21 February represents 150 years since an attack on the village of Rangiaowhia in the Waikato War (1863–1864). The events that unfolded at the small settlement near TeAwamutu are still debated by historians and the descendants of Ngāti Apakura.
At daybreak on 21 February 1864, the advance guard of General Duncan Cameron’s 1000-strong force of cavalry and foot soldiers attacked the largely undefended Rangiaowhia. Twelve Māori were killed, including women, children and the elderly. Several houses were burned down, with villagers incinerated inside. Five British soldiers died.
Tom Roa, Ngāti Apakura elder and Chair of Ngā Pae oMaumahara, the group established to commemorate and raise awareness of the war says this day will be remembered with much pain and grief for the local Iwi of Ngāti Apakura.
“I pāhuatia ō mātou tūpuna i Rangiaowhia – our ancestors were killed unguarded and defenceless at Rangiaowhia but I hope this commemoration will help to heal the grief, appease the anger and bring peace for Ngāti Apakura”.
To mark this day, the local Iwi will unveil a plaque at dawn on the site they believe the houses stood before they were burned down. At 8.30am, a silent hīkoi will make its way to the Catholic Cemetery and dignitaries will join the hīkoi en route. During the procession, local kuia will be situated at significant points along the way to lead the hīkoi with theirkaranga, a wailing lament to those victims whose lives were lost on that tragic day.
Speeches will be made at 9am by both a Māori and a Pākehāhistorian. A pōwhiri will take place once the hīkoi returns to the Hairini Hall at 10.15am, with further speeches in memory of those who died at Rangiaowhia.
“We will never forget the atrocity that occurred at Rangiaowhia, however, this will be a commemoration whereNgāti Apakura will be given the opportunity to commemorate their ancestors with oratory and traditional chants,” says Roa.
The Waikato War was the key campaign in a long conflict which is known today as the New Zealand Wars. The New Zealand Wars were in large part fought over land. In the decades after 1840, the European population grew rapidly.Māori land ownership was recognised by the Treaty ofWaitangi, and many Māori had no wish to sell their land so newcomers could settle on it.
The Kīngitanga (King Movement) was founded in the 1850s to unify those opposed to land sales, and to assert Māoriauthority and mana over their land. From 1860 there was open warfare as British and colonial forces fought to open up the North Island for settlement by Europeans.
The Waikato War began in July 1863. Over the following months British forces fought their way south towards theKīngitanga’s agricultural base around Rangiaowhia and TeAwamutu. On the way they outflanked formidable modern pāat Meremere and Pāterangi, and captured the pā at Rangiriri. In April 1864 Kīngitanga warriors under Rewi Maniapoto were heavily defeated at Ōrākau in the last battle in Waikato. By mid-1864, 400,000 hectares of Waikato land had passed under Crown control.
Up to 3000 people died during the New Zealand Wars – the majority of them Māori. And for many Māori the wars were only a prelude to the loss of their land through confiscation or the operations of the Native Land Court.
This loss of land had particularly devastating economic, social, environmental and cultural consequences for Waikato–Tainui. But the iwi always upheld its mana and asserted its right to compensation in the face of official indifference.
Since the 1990s, the Crown has negotiated Treaty Settlements to redress the historical grievances in the Waikato region and New Zealand as a whole.
In 1995 the first major settlement of an historical confiscation, or raupatu, claim was agreed between the Crown and Waikato-Tainui. The claim was settled for a package worth $170 million, in a mixture of money and Crown-owned land.
The settlement was accompanied by a formal apology, delivered by Queen Elizabeth II in person during her 1995 visit to New Zealand. The Crown apologised for the invasion of the Waikato and the subsequent indiscriminate confiscation of land.
Header Image : Chart from the medical and surgical journal of A B Messer, Assistant Surgeon aboard HMS Curacoa. The map shows the area of New Zealand in which his brigade was employed in putting down a Maori uprising in the summer of 1863. This assault is sometimes called the Waikato invasion and was the largest conflict between European migrants and the Maori in the mid-19th century New Zealand Wars.
Contributing Source : Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture