But the tribe is now ready to move forward and settle its Treaty of Waitangi claims, having signed an Agreement in Principal with the Crown on Saturday.
Dubbed bush warfare, in 1867 Crown forces pursued Ngati Hinerangi descendants through the Kaimai Ranges, and iwi negotiator Morehu McDonald said it has had lasting effects.
"Our people were subjected to the scorched earth tactics of being chased through our whenua and expelled from our lands at the barrell of the gun."
He said villages and crops were destroyed along with the tribes means to support itself.
"It had a devastating effect on our people and our psyche which has taken all this time, 150 odd years, to recover from," he said.
The Crown has acknowledged its past wrongs in an agreement signed at Hinerangi-Tawhaki marae in Matamata, before 150 iwi members.
The signing marks the beginning of negotiations towards a Deed of Settlement.
The broad terms of the settlement show iwi can expect $8 million in compensation, the first opportunity to buy four schools and other properties in Matamata, the return of cultural sites and guardianship over landmarks including the Kaimai's.
Mr McDonald said it was a huge milestone for the iwi.
"The sense of being able to move towards recovery, of reconnecting with our whenua, with the footprints left by our ancestors within our rohe, within our tribal territory. It is a great step for our people."
Ngati Hinerangi Trust estimated it had up to 8000 descendants who hailed from the tribe's eight hapu.
One of those descendants, Harrison Smith, attended the event and said it was great to see a lot of the whanau out.
"Definitely a lot of yarns about where we have come from and what it used to be like back in the day, and also good yarns about the future and what we're going to do after it is all done and dusted."
Mr Smith said there was a feeling among the younger generation that they carried some responsibility for how the future played out but said they were prepared.
"There's not really that much fear about it because we all know what we have to do and it's just sort of get there and get the job done. And we've got good role models. "
Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said Ngati Hinerangi was keen to have the bush warfare during the land wars specially recognised.
But he said the recent drive for a public holiday to mark the conflicts was unnecessary.
"I don't think one should ever think that the apology is a pro forma thing at all. It is a very carefully drawn up and negotiated part of settlement redress. A lot of people mistakenly say 'Oh well it's just over the money and the commercial redress'. Well actually, it's not. Not at all."
From here, the Minister and Ngati Hinerangi will work towards a Deed of Settlement, which can then be made law.