5 Jul 2017

Plans under way to pardon Rua Kēnana

11:06 am on 5 July 2017

Plans are under way to pardon Tuhoe prophet and healer Rua Kēnana, who was imprisoned for resisting arrest after troops stormed his Te Urewera settlement in 1916.

A re-enactment of the arrest of Rua Kēnana at Maungapōhatu

A re-enactment of the arrest and shooting was held during a commemoration at Maungapōhatu in April 2016 to mark 100 years since the raid. Photo: RNZ / Edward Gay

A brigade of 70 police trekked through rugged bush to reach Maungapōhatu, Rua Kēnana's home.

The government had banned Māori healing and there were suggestions that Rua Kēnana opposed his men enlisting for World War I.

They had come to arrest him for sedition but, despite standing unarmed in front of the marae with his son Toko and one other man, an exchange of gunfire broke out.

Rua Kēnana (circa 1907 - photographer and location unknown)

Rua Kēnana Photo: Alexander Turnbull Library / https://natlib.govt.nz/records/22692037

Toko and the other man, Te Maipi, were killed and several others injured.

After a lengthy trial, Rua was found not guilty of sedition but guilty of resisting arrest. He was sentenced to one year of hard labour followed by 18 months imprisonment.

On his return to Maungapōhatu, he discovered the village - which once had about 1000 residents - largely abandoned and overgrown.

Kirituia Tumarae's father was one of Kenana's followers, and he told her the story of the arrest time and time again.

"He was 14 years old at that time, would have been about 50m away but hidden, and he saw everything that went down," she said.

"He said Rua told him to stay out of sight, do not get involved because they are coming for him."

Ms Tumarae said her people have lived with the pain of these events for over a generation.

"Three days and three nights they were held up, the women and children, in a house, they weren't allowed to go out to get clothing.

"In that time the police were actually raping, not just Rua's daughter, there were some others too."

Maungapōhatu marae, in the heart of the Urewera.

Maungapōhatu Marae Photo: RNZ / Edward Gay

Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell said he has been working with whānau on ways to address the wrongful imprisonment, the deaths and the destruction of the Maungapōhatu community.

"We've got things such as a statutory pardon, got [the] Royal Prerogative of Mercy.

"And we've been working with them to try to see where they want to land on, which pathway."

Recently Mr Flavell was part of a Crown contingent that apologised to the people of Parihaka for atrocities committed by government troops in 1881.

Mr Flavell said Parihaka and Maungapōhatu were different - but similar in the way whānau have suffered.

"It's not necessarily an apology per se but certainly the notion of a statutory pardon that can bring certain things with it.

"There's the elements of forgiveness, of reconciliation, restoration of mana."

Ms Tumarae said forgetting the past was not an option.

Following the storming of Maungapōhatu, Rua Kēnana changed her father's name to Rongokino, which represented the bad intentions of the police.

"So we could remember what happened at Maungapōhatu."

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