Historical shackles nearly sold off at auction

By Wepiha Te Kanawa
  • South Island

A prominent Taranaki historian is outraged at the mere prospect that historical artefacts connected with his ancestors could have potentially been auctioned off to the highest bidder today in Dunedin.

Ruakere Hond says of the ensuing ramafications by the near sale “they are not thinking about the negative effects, to how wrong selling this type of thing is. These have been stolen, these have been taken and it is an injustice”

The leg-irons shown in pictures that were circulating on social media sites today were hand-sawed from a cave nearly 30 years ago and were meant to be up for sale by auction today at a house in Dunedin.

Kaumatua of Te Rūnanga o Ōtākou, Edward Ellison says he “was suprised it was put up for auction without any communication with the iwi who may have a historic connection to those items, to validate or ascertain interest because there is a high emotional attachment for iwi, in particular Taranaki iwi whose tupuna were held here in Dunedin, and were housed in caves around the city.”

The leg-iron was found by in a Dunedin cave near Portobello Road and Otakau elder Edward Ellison said it was a historic area where Māori prisoners taken from Taranaki were kept and forced into labour.

Ruakere adds “there were numerous occasions where people were taken unjustly from Parihaka, however, this remains one place where they were bought. At this point in time, I am still unsure whether the allegations are true, or fictional because of the fact that some say that this make and model of shackle was not prevalent, or did not have similiarities to others of that time”

Te Kāea reporter, Wepiha Te Kanawa spoke to the owner of the auction house today and he said the leg-irons were removed from the auction because of iwi intervention, and will, rightfully so be returned back to the owners.

Mr. Hond says, “it is not right that these shackles are sold. Furthermore, they should never have been taken in the first place. These tāonga need to be returned to their rightful owners to protect their māuri”

Kaumatua, Edward Ellison adds, “Parihaka people are pretty upset i think about the turn of events that the items were being put up for sale in an auction, I think they were equally surprised how that could happen given the sensitivity around those events involving the people of the pā.”

It's unsure what the future of the leg-iron will be however the hope is if they are connected to Māori prisoners they will be returned to iwi for future safe keeping.