March 30, 2014
Harrowing battle remembered
Descendants of those who fought and died there are remembering the Battle of Orakau 150 years ago, the last major set piece of the Waikato war.
Mythologised in film and fiction as Rewi’s Last Stand, it was fought in a peach grove 4 kilometres south of Kihikihi where Rewi Maniapoto’s Ngati Raukawa and Tuhoe allies chose to build a fortification.
Between March 31 and April 2, 1864 the pa was besieged by more than 1400 British troops.
When the defenders broke out more than 160 were killed as they tried to escape across open ground to the safety of the Puniu River.
Waikato University academic Robert Joseph has written a commemorative booklet about the battle with another descendant, Paul Meredith.
He says while Orakau has become a symbol of resistance against overwhelming odds, many New Zealanders are unaware of the story.
"It’s important that we acknowledge those stories of Maori and Pakeha who fought in this area and other parts of the motu and their struggles, what they went through, why they were fighting there and the aftermath, which obviously contributes to where we are today," Dr Joseph says.
The battle will be marked by a day of commemoration on the site tomorrow.
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