19 Aug 2016

Rangiriri Pā returned after 1863 invasion

9:10 am on 19 August 2016

Two sections of land in the Waikato settlement of Rangiriri will be returned to Waikato-Tainui and the Kiingitanga this morning.

Two section of land in the Waikato settlement of Rangiriri will be returned to Waikato-Tainui and the Kiingitanga later this morning.

Brad Totorewa of Ngāti Naho, left, and Moko Tauariki. Photo: RNZ / Shannon Haunui-Thompson

The titles to Rangiriri Pā and Te Wheoro Redoubt historical reserve will be handed back to iwi in a ceremony at Turangawaewae Marae in Ngaruawahia.

In 1863, a major battle in Rangiriri, in which Māori and colonial soldiers were killed, was one of many in the Waikato region that also led to millions of acres of land confiscation.

Moko Tauariki of Maurea Marae and the Waikato iwi disputed some of the historical records of the battle.

"It's often refered to as the Battle of Rangiriri but it was an invasion," he said.

"Rangiriri was invaded by the Crown despite the second Māori king, Kiingi Tawhiao, telling General Duncan Cameron they were a peaceful people.

The titles to Rangiriri Pā and Te Wheoro Redoubt historical reserve will be handed back to iwi in at ceremony to be held at Turangawaewae Marae in Ngaruawahia.

The titles to Rangiriri Pā and Te Wheoro Redoubt historical reserve will be handed back to iwi. Photo: RNZ / Shannon Haunui-Thompson

Iwi from around the country helped Kiingi Tawhiao and Mr Tauariki said that was one of the greatest things about the site.

"Its history doesn't just belong to Waikato or Tainui waka, its history belongs to the motu - and I guess that is one thing not many people know about."

The site not only has historical and cultural significance, but locals believe it was also a burial site.

"Our people weren't given an appropriate burial here," said Mr Tauariki.

"When State Highway 1 was built they were uncovered and so that's reason we need to place a lot of emphasis on this particular site.

"We could potentially be standing on tupuna right now so we don't want to dishonour them. That's why we need to treat this site with reverence and respect."

Brad Totorewa of Ngāti Naho, the local hapū, said the return of the titles may be unique, in that it was happening without a Treaty settlement.

"As we understand, it may be the only settlement outside any treaty settlement for any iwi across this nation."

He said getting the land back was important because it was the gateway to the Waikato.

Two section of land in the Waikato settlement of Rangiriri will be returned to Waikato-Tainui and the Kiingitanga later this morning.

The site of the Battle of Rangiriri which Mr Tauariki said was actually an invasion by the Crown. Photo: RNZ / Shannon Haunui-Thompson

In the ceremony at Turangawaewae Marae, Minister of Culture and Heritage Maggie Barry will hand over the title to the land to Kiingi Tuheitia.

But ceremonies preceeding the exchange started in the early hours.

They included the men undergoing a sacred ritual of bathing in the Waikato River and the lighting of seven fires at the pā site.

At 4am people were being welcomed onto the Rangiriri Pā site.

"We will receive our whānau here so our taua (war party) of 150 will do karakia, koha, and a little bit of haka," Mr Totorewa said.

They would then go back to Turangawaewae Marae for the powhiri for government officials.

Mr Totorewa said having a strategic plan for the future of this land is important.

"Do we just become the caretaker and mow the lawns? Or do we use it as a tool to educate the nation and the world? I think that where we are going to educate and empower our future generations."

Iwi from around the country will also gather at Turangawaewae to commemorate and celebrate with Waikato-Tainui.