"We can't sit back and let that be a shallow statement"

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

After 250 years, the British High Commissioner to New Zealand has issued a formal expression of regret to the iwi of Tūranganui a Kiwa for the deaths of at least five Māori at the hands of Captain Cook and the crew of the Endeavour.

The expression of regret was made on behalf of the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

It comes days before the Tuia Encouters 250 commemorations, that mark the first on-shore encounters between Māori and Pākehā.

Speaking on behalf of Tūranga iwi Ngāti Oneone, Nick Tupara says, “We also hope that her statement stands for a voice for our community being able to come together in our traditional places and share our kōrero and feel safe to do so and start to rebuild and develop our community going forward.

One of the nine Māori shot in the first two days of the Endeavour's visit to Tūranga in 1769, was local chief Te Maro of Ngāti Oneone.

Although monuments to Captain Cook have been erected around the country, the story of Te Maro has only national attention in recent years.

Tupara says that “Te Maro's job was to grow kai and feed his people that was his purpose, and that's a chiefly endeavour. and to ensure that his people's well-being was being cared for and through his action, they had a way forward, they had a future for their mokopuna and I feel we're trying to emulate that.”

Tupara says, one generation ago, the social politics of the region would not have allowed such an event to take place.

“It's hard to hold all of our tipuna kōrero when you live in a place where your culture is suppressed and today we feel a bit more free we feel a bit safer we feel that our mokopuna have an opportunity to feel safe in their place now too.”

Upon receiving the statement, Ngāti Oneone say they will not let the community step backwards anymore.

We can't sit back and let that be a shallow statement, it's already not up to her to give it meaning it's up to us now to say okay you've invited us into that space, and with you we'll carry it through”, says Tupara.

Following the expression of regret to Ngāti Oneone, the British High Commissioner continued to deliver a formal expression of regret to Rongowhakaata, Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki and Ngai Tāmanuhiri.