Native Affairs Summer Series - Healing the past

One hundred years ago in April, police invaded the village of Maungapōhatu in the heart of Tūhoe country.  Tom Stephenson, a descendant of one of the policemen who arrested Prophet Rua Kenana fronted up to face locals in an emotional ceremony and to make his peace.

"My great-grandfather was Constable Bill Neil who came up to Maungapōhatu a hundred years ago and assisted with the arrest of Rua,” Stephenson explains. “He had a very good relationship with Rua. He always told his children that Rua was not a criminal, but that he was a vagabond."

Stephenson  had been hunting in the Te Urewera, in the heart of Ngāi Tūhoe, for more than 50 years. But he was never able to cross an invisible boundary into the valley of Maungapōhatu – until now.

"I've always wanted to come and have a look and maybe hunt the general area. But, I've never been able to start coming down the hill because of too many kēhua there for me.  It’s just too spiritual. I don't know what it is but I had to make the connection with the people of Ruatāhuna before I could actually drive down the road."

And that’s what Stephenson did, making those tight connections and bringing with him a koha of kaimoana.  Stephenson is the very first descendant of the police expedition to return here in 100 years.

"Everybody here has made me feel welcome and being a part of everything.”