Ruapekapeka battle remembered

By Te Ao - Māori News

This week marks the 174th anniversary of the battle of Ruapekapeka and to this day the pain, authority, lifeforce and sacredness of the place remain in the land and the descendants of the ancestors involved. 

Chief Kawiti's words to his people were recited at Ruapekapeka this morning in memory of the 174 years since the battle of this pā. 

Tohe Ashby (Ngāti Te Tarawa) says, "We've come to honour Kawiti and his generals Mataroria, Te Aho and Tauramoko. They are the chiefs who fought alongside him for us. They fought for the future generations."

Others also emphasised the significance of the occasion.

"It's important to know that our people shed their blood for our sovereignty, for our independence, for our customs and our customs are beautiful.  And if we can enliven our customs again, that will give us mana across this whole country," Tio Faulkner (Ngāi Te Rangi) says.

Fifteen hundred soldiers, sailors and Māori who sided with the redcoats attacked Ruapekapeka.

Pita Tipene says, "After two weeks of being bombarded, the warriors in the pā were missing their families. So their wives, elders and children, all in hiding from the Pākehā on the hills beyond, were able to signal their men by all turning their cloaks inside out giving of a bright white colour.  This signalled to their men in the pā that they were alive and well.  That hill was named Okaroro, likening their cloaks to the wings of the seagull."

"One can feel the pain, the authority, lifeforce and sacredness of this place that had passed down the generations and remains in the descendants," Hone Taimona (Ngāti Korokoro) says. "It's a new year, continue looking to the horizon of the sea and hold firmly to this authority."

Only in recent years were the graves of the Pākehā soldiers killed in battle found here, while the majority of the Māori warriors inside Ruapekapeka who were killed are said to have been hidden in caves by their relatives. But some are still thought to lie in this area.   

"We want to build a memorial in memory of them all because the people of this area nowadays are descendants of both the Māori chiefs who defended Ruapekapeka and the Pākehā soldiers who were outside," Tipene says.  

"The battle of Ruapekapeka and other land wars in Northland and across the nation should never be forgotten because our ancestors spilled their blood for one thing and that is the authority over this land."

Of utmost importance is that this history is shared by all.  

Report by Dean Nathan for Te Ao.