A small Hawke's Bay iwi is to receive compensation and has received an apology from the Crown for its losses that began in the 1800s.
Ngāti Hineuru, an iwi of the Te Haroto region on the Napier to Taupō Road, has today approved a Crown package to settle its historical Treaty of Waitangi claims.
In a moving ceremony at the Beehive, Ngāti Hineuru signed a deed of settlement that it said was a means of reviving its mana and reaffirmed its rights over its lands.
The tribe's negotiators described the settlement as a platform for it to rebuild culturally, environmentally and economically.
The tribe suffered a loss of land and mana after Crown attacks on the tribe at Ōmarunui and near Pētane in 1866, during which its rangatira (chief) Te Rangihīroa was killed.
Many of those who resisted the Crown's confiscations were banished or summarily executed.
Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Chris Finlayson delivered the Crown's formal apology and said the governments of the day had committed serious and repeated failures to live up to treaty obligations.
"What makes it a unique settlement for me is that their very existence was denied for a long time," he said.
"We talk about the loss of mana but it really does apply with special force in these circumstances."
The breaches that the Crown acknowledged and will redress are those made before September 1992.
Ngāti Hineuru iwi negotiators have been discussing the terms of the deed since 2012.
The tribe will receive compensation in the form of land, cultural and financial redress, amounting to about $50 million.
'We still have a long way to go'
After the formal apology, the iwi sang a waiata and remembered those who had struggled before them to regain confiscated land and achieve redress.
Ngāti Hineuru Iwi Incorporated chair Tuhuiao Kahukiwa said while the tribe had a long way to go, one big milestone had been achieved.
"For a small iwi of only 1500 registered members, this is a very large settlement ... Per capita, we understand that the value of our settlement is one of the highest. But let's not forget that no matter the cost paid in a settlement [that's] not the full cost of the loss.
"We still have a long way to go to rebuild our people, our culture, and our mana as a people," he said.
"One way towards healing the mamae [pain] that we suffered is the historical account which sets out our history with the Crown and sets on the record the injustices suffered by our people.
"We will never get everything back, but we got the best deal we could."
Mr Kahukiwa said he was relieved to have reached some closure.
"Very happy, very emotional, when I was doing my speech I had to stop myself from falling to bits."
David Jones, a lawyer who represented Ngāti Hineuru during negotiations, said it was a significant and heartfelt day for the tribe and represented the 25 years of hard work it took to get this point.
"Ngāti Hineuru have been tarnished and really pushed down by these continued actions of the Crown, so hearing those stories from the people [today] you really feel the heart and their pain, and that has now been completed, so I'm really happy about that."
Tirohia Bridger - a member of Te Kōpere o Hineuru, which has taken over from Ngati Hineuru Iwi Incorporated after the settlement - said she grew up feeling a sense of shame about being Māori and, even more so, Ngāti Hineuru.
But she said now there was an opportunity for the real history of Ngāti Hineuru to be told and it was thanks to her whānau that it had occurred.
"It feels great. I just wish my mum was here. There's all the old people that have been part of it and they're not here and I feel them here today and they'd just be so rapt."
Benedict Taylor, a senior historian at the Office of Treaty Settlements, said the tribe was virtually stripped of its lands.
"They were left with a tiny remnant of what they once held. This is an extremely significant settlement and I think that's reflected in the package that Hineuru have graciously accepted."
Mr Finlayson said the settlement was not the end of the Crown's involvement with Ngāti Hineuru so much as the end of the beginning, with much more work to be done over the next few years.