Missing Tuwharetoa chief's descendant continues search for closure

By Harata Brown

A chief from Tūwharetoa went missing from his Waitetoko home near Taupo almost a century ago. Now, one of his descendants hopes to find closure after an unsuccessful attempt to exhume his remains. 

Rayna Fleming Browne traveled all the way from Sydney, in the hope of finding her ancestor Paora Tokoahu.

"I feel that we owe it to our koro to find him. It's like me loosing a child and not going to look for him," says Browne.

After a dispute in Rotorua in the early 1900's, Fleming Browne's ancestor was forcibly taken to Auckland Mental Hospital at age 90. He survived another 16 years there before dying in 1931.

Records show that he was buried at Waikumete Cemetery, Glen Eden in an unmarked grave, but attempts to exhume his remains on Friday were unsuccessful.   

Browne says, "I have an obligation to find out where he is and when I heard he wasn't buried at the urupā, I was actually quite shocked. I knew about him through my dad and what my mother told me, but discovering that his body wasn't physically there came as a shock to me."

It was hoped that Tokoahu’s descendants would bring back their ancestor to his ancestral lands in Waitetoko.

"That's where he belongs, in our marae, in our urupa. His family is there, his cousins are there. That's where he needs to be, he shouldn't be anywhere else," added Browne.

Browne's father and brother currently reside on Tokoahu's land in Waitetoko and she hopes bringing him home will provide closure for her dad who is very unwell.