175 year commemoration of the first battle of the Northern Wars

By Jessica Tyson

A commemoration was held today to mark 175 years since the Battle of Kororāreka, the first battle of the Northern Wars.

During the battle in 1845, Ngāpuhi chief Hōne Heke led an attack on the British settlers in Kororāreka, Russell, to show his dissatisfaction following the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Heke wanted the Māori-language version of the Treaty of Waitangi to be honoured. He also wanted to preserve Māori independence and chiefly authority in the face of what he saw as increasing interference by the government.

This morning Government ministers and tāngata whenua gathered at the commemoration, including kaumatua Arapeta Hamilton of Ngāti Manu.

“He rā whakahirahira tēnei, kia maumahara ake tātou ki ō tātou mātua tūpuna, me ō rātou kaha ki te pupuri i te rangatiratanga ō tēnei whenua,” Hamilton says.

“Today is an important day to remember them, our ancestors, and their strength to stand up for the sovereignty of this land.”

During the battle in 1845, Heke cut down the flagstaff on Te Maiki hill, which represented a potent symbol of British sovereignty. The battle was won by Māori, but around 13 Māori and 20 Britons were killed. The bloodshed spread across Northland and eventually further south for similar reasons. Battles ended up involving much of the country.

Commemoration on Te Maiki. Source: File.

Ngāti Hine leader, Pita Tipene, also attended the commemoration.

“Ko te mea nui mō te kaupapa, ko te mahara ake i ngā tāngata i mate, ā, he aha te take i whawhai ai rātou. Engari me titiro tātou, me anga whakamua i runga anō i ngā tino kōrero, kia kaua tātou e wareware ki ngā tino ngako.”

“The most important part of today’s commemoration is to remember the people who passed away and the reason why they fought. But we all have to look forward by acknowledging the story and never forgot it.”

Both Pākeha and Māori who had fallen were acknowledged today. Navy, Army and Police personnel and the NZ Cadet Corps also took part in the commemoration.

Tipene says, “I tēnei whakatipuranga, he kōrero tonu ana mō te mana Māori. Arā ko te Whakaputanga me te Tiriti o Waitanga. Nā reira mō te toto i pātere ko te kaupapa e rite tonu ana,”

“In this generation, there is continued discussion around the strength of Māori. Namely, the Declaration of Independence and The Treaty of Waitangi. Therefore, for the blood that was shed, the message is still the same.”

Commemoration at Christ Church. Source: File.

The government has ensured all schools will teach students about the New Zealand Wars by 2022.

Minister of Māori Crown Relations Kelvin Davis says, “He mea nui kia maumaharatia ngā mahi i mahingia ō tātou tūpuna kia whakaakongia o tātou tamarikiriki kei roto i ngā kura i ēnei mahi. Nā rātou i mahingia i te mea ki te kore rātou i mahi i ō rātou mahi kore tātou i tū ki konei i tēnei rangi.”

“It’s most important to remember the work of our ancestors, to teach it to our children in schools. It was because of their work. If they didn’t stand up for us we wouldn’t stand where we are today.”

Despite this  battle being over, conflicts in relation to the treaty still exist today.

Tipene says, “Kāore kē, ētahi tāngata, te Pākehā, e hiahia ana ki te rongo i ngā tino hītori o tēnei o ēnei whenua o te motu nei. Nā reiria i whakarapaina te ingoa, "Te Pūtake o te Riri" kia mahara ake tātou he aha te tino take i pakanga ai ngā tūpuna Māori ki ngā iwi Pākeha.”

“Some non-Māori don’t want to hear about the history of the land in this country. Therefore, we have taken the name"The Source of our Struggle" so that everyone remembers the real reasons that our Māori ancestors fought with the Pākehā.