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Ōrākau descendants continue the fight with the tongue and the heart

Dean Taylor, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 14 Jul 2022, 2:16pm

Ōrākau descendants continue the fight with the tongue and the heart

Dean Taylor, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 14 Jul 2022, 2:16pm

In 2015 four students from Ōtorohanga College lead hundreds of students to Parliament with a petition signed by more than 11,000 calling for a commemoration day for those killed in the New Zealand Wars.

Leah Bell and Waimarama Anderson started the petition after attending 150th Battle of Ōrākau Commemorations and realised they knew very little of their own history - and it wasn't being taught in schools or recognised.

At the time teacher Lynda Campbell said the students were told kaumātua and kuia had tried to find a way to commemorate the land wars for some time without success.

In the explanation of the petition, Leah and Waimarama said New Zealand marked Anzac Day in honour of those who died in overseas wars, and they supported that commemoration.

"In our country we do not commemorate those who lost their lives here in New Zealand, both Māori and colonial.''

That petition started a wave of change.

Firstly, in 2019, we had the first Te Pūtake o te Riri, He Rā Maumahara – the Commemoration of the New Zealand Wars and Conflicts, held each year on October 28.

The date was chosen as it was the date that He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tirene/1835 Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand was signed.

In 2019 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced New Zealand history will be taught in all schools and kura by 2022.

She said the Government had listened to the people, and responded.

So much has changed since 2014 – and last week we were back at Ōtorohanga College to celebrate another significant step forward, the launch of the book Ōrākau: E Whawhai Tonu Ana Tātou We Continue The Fight and accompanying documentary intended as an educational resource to support the history curriculum.

It is the second book published by Te Kōmiti Marae o Taarewaanga, following on from Ka Aowhia Te Rangi: A Rich History Poorly Known which records the atrocities at Rangiaowhia.

Unveiling of the new book 'Orakau - E Whawhai Tonu Ana Tatou (We Continue The Fight) by Corey Wilson, watched by Dr Tom Roa. Photo / Dean Taylor

Both are written by Dr Tom Roa, Corey Wilson and Robbie Neha.

Ōrākau - E Whawhai Tonu Ana Tātou (We Continue The Fight).
Ōrākau - E Whawhai Tonu Ana Tātou (We Continue The Fight).

Taarewaanga Marae is in Ōtorohanga, the primary marae of Ngāti Hinewai, one of the hapū of Ngāti Maniapoto and associated with Ngāti Apakura and Ngāti Paretekawa.
Speaking at the launch event, Tom said Ōrākau was not a battle, but a war crime.

"We have seen the evidence," he said.

"It should never have taken place."

Tom described an attack by 1700 trained soldiers from the mightiest military nation of its time against 300 men, women and children in a hurriedly constructed and poorly defensible pā.

It is the battle where Rewi Maniapoto shouted the famous words "Ehoa, ka whawhai tonu mātou I a koe, ake, ake, ake!" ("Friend, I will fight you forever and ever and ever!")

"We are proud to be descendants of the 300 Māori heroes of Ōrākau," said Tom.

"It was a hopeless situation, so while they refused to surrender, they also realised it was pointless to stay and die, so they attempted to escape to fight another day."

"And we still fight today," he said.

"We don't fight with the sword or gun, but with the tongue and the heart."

Tom paid tribute to the students of Ōtorohanga College who began this latest fight, with their tongues and their hearts, and with enthusiasm and commitment earned victory.

He said the book and documentary were the latest tools to continue the fight to bring truth and understanding to the people of New Zealand.

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