I have to confess that I have driven past the Rewi Maniapoto Memorial in Kihikihi thousands of times and never stopped to take a closer look. Thanks to the Waipa District Council I was taken on a tour of the significant land-war sites around Te Awamutu.
Its not difficult to see why Pakeha wanted this land; on a sunny early summer’s day it is beautiful – I’m struck by just how lovely this place is. Māori (Tainui) living in the area were doing incredibly well. They were very industrious, growing hundreds of acres of wheat, maize and potatoes as well as cultivating extensive peach and apple orchards. This was the food bowl, the source of food that settlers in Auckland were eating. In fact, flour milled here was exported as far as San Francisco – a bag was even sent to Queen Victoria. To say that Māori were doing well would be an understatement; they were driving the economy. But the new settlers in Auckland didn’t want to buy just the food that Māori had grown, they wanted the land the food was grown on. So began the orchestrated destruction and confiscation of over one million acres of Māori land.
I really had no idea of the extent of the tragedy; it was never mentioned in my history classes. I have shed many tears reading accounts of the appalling atrocities that occurred in order to take land from Māori. I cannot imagine the trauma for people losing their land, their livelihood, their homes, their family, and being relegated to lives of homelessness and destitution while watching the invaders prosper on their land.
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