Hans visits Ōrākau 1 April and 2 April 2014

Hans has been in the Waikato during the past couple of days to attend the commemoration events surrounding the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Ōrākau, that was fought between 31 March and 2 April 1864.   Hans was invited to the dawn ceremony on 1 April, and a hikoi that followed the route taken by Māori when escaping the pā.

Ōrākau is the site of a significant battle carried out towards the end of the Waikato wars that left many Māori who fought buried within its defensive trenches.  A contingent of approximately 300 Māori from varying Iwi, including women and children, fought against the overwhelming odds of 1700 British and colonial troops, in what has later been described as “Rewi’s last stand”, named so for Rewi Manga Maniopoto, who led the Māori tribes against the British forces.   It is thought that less than 50 Māori escaped, the remainder being either killed, wounded, missing or taken prisoner (Belich 1988: 172-173; Joseph and Meredith 2014: 7).  The Historic Places Trust registration of the site as a Wahi Tapu describes the battle as being “fought as much with innovation and ingenuity as with traditional weaponry and guns”.  You can read the registration report here.

Hans’ invitation to the ceremonies came about through his archaeological work on the site of Ōrākau.  In 2012 he conducted a geomagnetic survey on the site.  The purpose of this survey was to find an area suitable for the position of a temporary carpark during the commemorations.   You can read his report here.

Hans was interviewed by Maori TV on 2 April, and this screened later that evening.  The link is here, and the segment on Ōrākau is featured at 14:20 minutes.

This event was hugely significant for Iwi and one which raised many emotions. Hans felt privileged to have been involved and remarked how moving the events were, particularly the large haka consisting of a few hundred people.

The site is still in private ownership today, but it is hoped the land will be purchased by the Crown and returned to the people in the near future, something Prime Minister John Key said the government was considering.  Here’s hoping this happens soon.

Some photos from the day taken by Hans Bader and Amy Hobbs from NZHPT:

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For further reading see:

Belich, James 1988.  The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian Interpretation of Racial Conflict.  Auckland, Penguin.

Cowan, James 1922. The New Zealand Wars and the Pioneering Period, Vol. 1. Wellington: Government Printer,  p. 365 available at  http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-Cow01NewZ-c38.html#n365

‘The Battle of Ōrākau – war in Waikato’, URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/war-in-waikato/battle-of-orakau , (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 18-Mar-2014

Heritage New Zealand (NZ Historic Places Trust) registration record: http://www.historic.org.nz/the-register/details?id=9615

Joseph, R. and P. Meredith 2014.  The Battle of Ōrākau: Māori Veterans’ Accounts Commemorating the 150th Anniversary 1864-2014.  Ōrākau Heritage Society and the Maniapoto Māori Trust Board.