The historic Fort Rangiriri was the site of a major engagement in the invasion of Waikato during the New Zealand land wars.
It was a poignant performance to honour ancestors.
Brad Totorewa from Ngāti Naho told Te Kāea, “Today is spiritual. We reflect back to our ancestors who died here, and now we've achieved what they set out to do in 1863. To keep hold of our land, today is the fulfilment of that.”
Today, the titles of their two ancestral war sites of Rangiriri Pā and Te Wheoro Redoubt were returned. Fostering relationships among their tribal relations has been an important focus.
“To re-connect the descendants of this land at Rangiriri, and it's a sign to the government that war sites should be returned to other iwi outside of Waikato,” says Moko Tauariki from Ngāti Naho
“I didn't know anything about my heritage here as a child. But my cousin called me to return to the land, to my resting place and to learn who I am and where I come from,” says Beez Ngarino Te Waati.
The priority now is to look ahead to ensure the knowledge of what their ancestors did remains known.
Totorewa says, “We must prepare a strategy that teaches the knowledge to the next generation. My message to them is to come back home.”
Next week, Waikato-Tainui will meet with DOC to begin discussions for the return of land, within the fenced area and beyond, to be returned to them by the end of the year.