Ancestors remembered

Women famously fought alongside men at O-Rākau. Many, if not most of the whānau at Tuesday’s commemorations were remembering lost tūpuna wāhine as well as tāne.

Among them were cousins Aroha and Mikaela Tapsell, who recalled the memory of their tūpuna Hineīturama and her teenaged daughter Ewa.

Aroha Tapsell and her cousin Mikaela Tapsell, together with baby Whakaio. Photo Sigrid Christiansen.

Aroha wore a hoodie with their names printed on the front, to acknowledge their memory.

“Our ancestor, my great great great grandmother was Hineīturama and her daughter was Ewa,” she said.

“They got bayonetted here. Stabbed in the breast.”

That was because Cameron had told the soldiers, ‘Don’t waste your bullets,’ Aroha said.

Hineīturama had been part of negotiations in another battle at Maketū, decades previously. At the time of O-Rākau, she was 46.

“She negotiated a peace in that battle when she was 25.

“I think she came here with her daughter not expecting to die, but to negotiate her way through like she had done before.

“She told her three sons to go back to Rotorua, and her daughter stayed. She would never have done that if she’d known what was to come.”

“She had six kids by then. If she hadn’t had her children, we wouldn’t be here today.

Hineīturama had worked alongside Gilbert Mair, Aroha said.

“Her sons were in Te Arawa Flying column – a force which had famously worn kilts in pursuit of Te Kooti.

It was the cousins’ first time at O-Rākau.

 

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