Crown clears Rua Kēnana and says sorry for Maungapōhatu invasion

updated By Aroha Mane
Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy (centre) was among representatives welcomed onto Maungapōhatu Marae for the signing of the bill pardoning Rua Kēnana.  Photo/File

Hundreds were overcome with emotion at Maungapōhatu Marae for the signing of the Rua Kēnana Pardon Bill today.

For the descendants of Tamakaimoana and Ngāi Tūhoe, especially Ngā Tamariki a Iharaira and Ngā Uri o Maungapōhatu, today’s signing signifies the end of more than a century-long journey for justice. 

As proceedings took place, Maungapōhatu Marae resonated with the booming sound of “Te Puru”, a haka that tells of the iwi’s interactions with colonial forces.

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Spokesperson for Ngā Toenga o Ngā Tamariki a Iharaira me Ngā Uri o Maungapōhatu Charitable Trust Nika Rua says today has been a long time coming and well overdue.

“The event at Maungapōhatu had long-lasting effects on our people and to the Iharaira faith,” he says.

“This bill is just one way that validates the treatment of Rua Kēnana and the damage of our reputation as a whānau and as a community. We suffered greatly because of the invasion and illegal capture of Rua.”

 
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Crown representative Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy and Kēnana’s longest surviving mokopuna completed the ceremony with a heartfelt embrace and hongi.

"Today Rua Kenana's mana, reputation and character have been restored, along with his uri and ngā toengā o ngā tamariki a Iharaira," the Governor-General said.

Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta said the pardon is "a sign of our progress as a nation to be able to look at the ugly parts of our history and be mature enough to be able to correct historical wrongs."

“For ngā uri o Maungapōhatu they have long lived and suffered from the effects of the invasion of their sacred maunga and never truly recovered from these atrocities. They have shown great tenacity, resilience and courage over the century-long process to pursue a pardon and today is the end of this process for them,” Minister Mahuta said.

“There is no greater honour that you can give your tupuna, than vindication for an act that he did not commit, for an act he was incorrectly imprisoned for and the atrocities that took place at a site of cultural significance."

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Many other iwi and supporters were there to witness this momentous occasion, including Kīngi Tuheitia and his Waikato Tainui contingent, along with large groups of representatives of Te Arawa tribes, including Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao who all made the journey.

Poipoi Te Kaawa of Tamakaimoana says, "The words I would like the world to remember are the words that are written on that flag - one law but two people, not separate laws for different people. One law for our people living in Aotearoa." 

Rua Kenana was known to his people as a Tūhoe prophet, leader and pacifist who was wrongfully arrested during a raid at Maungapōhatu on 2 April 1916.

It has been recorded that 70 armed policemen invaded the small Te Urewera settlement, where they killed Rua Kenana’s son Toko Rua and his nephew Te Maipi Te Whiu during an exchange of gunfire, with other Māori and police also injured.

Kēnana was arrested and held in Mt Eden prison and charged with sedition but found not guilty after a 47-day trial. However, he was convicted of resisting arrest and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment with hard labour.

This is the sixth statutory pardon in Aotearoa and the fourth arising from Crown-Māori relations. It will clear the name of Kēnana from a criminal conviction but also importantly marks an historic milestone in relations between the Crown and Māori.

Earlier this week, 300 Tūhoe whānau attended parliament to listen to the second and third reading of the bill.

This article has been updated to include the remarks by Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta.