Hundreds of people are expected to gather at a marae in eastern Taranaki today to hear the Crown deliver a long-awaited apology to the people of Ngāti Maru.
They had heard the call from Ngāti Maru for people to come home to Te Upoko o te Whenua marae at Tarata, to hear Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little apologise for the Crown.
"We put out the call to whānau to come home to witness the reading of the apology to Ngāti Maru," lead negotiator Anaru Marshall told RNZ.
"There's been a huge response, nearly 800 people RSVP'd and indicated they'll be coming home."
The deed of settlement was signed in February 2021, but an apology has been held off because Ngāti Maru wants it delivered on their marae.
"It's that whole kanohi kitea thing I think," said Marshall. "We're going onto land that was confiscated, it was raupatu land and so that's, I guess, the starting point for our settlement.
"It is important that the minister is there and he fronts it, and he speaks to the people directly. It's an acknowledgement of the Crown of those past breaches that they've imposed on Ngāti Maru.
"It's very important that it's done at home."
Ngāti Maru is centred on the inland Waitara Valley, its rohe extending east from Taranaki Maunga across rolling and isolated hill country to the upper reaches of the Whanganui River.
They had limited contact with Europeans in the early days of settlement, and its people were not involved in the Taranaki Wars of the 1860s.
But that didn't stop the Crown from confiscating about half of Ngāti Maru's land after the wars, punishing its people as so-called "rebels" as the settler government set about its rapacious land grab.
Over the next decades, the rest of the land was whittled away via dodgy deals of cession or through the Native Land Court, leaving Ngāti Maru virtually landless.
Today, Little will arrive at Tarata to apologise. The settlement also included $30 million, a range of cultural redress and the return of some land titles, including a Crown forest.
Little is to apologise for the Crown's "destructive and demoralising" war and "indiscriminate and unwarranted" confiscation, followed by decades of inaction.
Anaru Marshall said it had been a long time coming.
"Ngāti Maru is essentially a landless iwi because of raupatu, deeds of cession and other mechanisms, and so the minister will be handing back title to the value of 4500 hectares."
From there, Marshall said Ngāti Maru is looking to the future. It has already invested in a training enterprise, and is hoping to branch into education and jobs for its rangatahi, to ultimately come home.
But the settlement was only one part of the journey, with the hard work still to come.
"It was made clear to us that we've been here close to a thousand years already, you know this is just a step in our journey," Marshall said of hui held with whānau in the lead-up to settlement.
"We'll be here another thousand years for sure. Let's just set ourselves up for a brighter future."