Ngāti Manu reaffirm their right to Taumārere

By Dean Nathan
  • Northland

Nearly 170 years have passed since the Ngāti Manu chief Pomare II was arrested on the shores of Ōtuihu Pā on the Taumārere River and jailed, with the Crown taking over all of his people’s lands and prized possessions.  To this day his descendants still maintain their authority over these sacred possessions.

A sweet saying of his was that the wind will blow away the gunpowder, the iron pots will break and the red blankets will wear out, but the land remains.  He was referring to the many possessions of settlers that did not amount to much in comparison to our ancestral lands which are a real treasure.

In the early 1800s, Pomare II and his people enjoyed a time of prosperity on the arrival of American ships to the Bay of Islands under the American Consul Clendon.

As a result, Ngāti Manu began trading all things to the American boats and during that time Pomare became very wealthy.  He said to Hobson, "It's easy for you to say that I'm your friend because Pomare is wealthy at the moment.  In days to come should I become poor will you maintain that I am your friend?  Should I turn up naked at your doorstep, will you give me food if I'm hungry or a blanket if I'm cold.  It's easy for you to say that I'm your friend."  That's what our ancestor said to Hobson.

Arapeta Hamilton of Ngāti Manu says, “Our ancestor was like that.  If he didn't support any initiatives that were happening in Ngāpuhi, he wouldn't front up.  He would stand on his own authority and that's why he signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi in good faith to maintain the authority of his tribe of all his people and their possessions.  But after signing Te Tiriti he realised that the Crown were cheating him and his people.”

“After the signing in 1845 the Crown's ship Manuao arrived in Ōpua with a direction to give up arms and if not, they would set the palisaded pā on fire.  Our ancestor came down to the shore carrying a white flag before him.  A boat was sent to collect him and take him back on board the Manuao where he was jailed.”

The Crown forced Ngāti Manu to flee their lands and today their ancestral lands on the edge are all occupied by foreigners.

“Ngāti Manu fled their pā, and the soldiers moved in, set it alight and stole all the treasured possessions of the Ngāti Manu people who ran away into the forest.  It was some time after that they arrived where our ancestors settled at this pā site known as Puketohunoa,” says Hamilton.

Last year, Ngāti Manu finally presented their claims before the Waitangi Tribunal.  Only recently did the said tribunal present its report and findings for stage one of Te Paparahi o Te Raki claims in regards to the 1835 Declaration of Chiefs and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

According to Hamilton, “It confirmed what we've always known that our ancestors did not cede their sovereignty to the Queen of England.  They always maintained they were equals to the Queen and definitely not subordinates to her, but equal.  So we maintain our sovereign authority over our lands, our people and all the possessions of our ancestors, despite government claim that they have the power we have always known it is with us.”

Neither ancestors, Pomare I or Pomare II, or their descendants sold the sacred river, Taumārere.

Hamilton says, “We have the authority over our lands, our waters and the sea.  That thought hasn't changed from our ancestors down to us to this day.  What I see these days are the foreigners are looking at us like we are visitors in our own house.  That is concerning, because it means our fight will continue until we reassert the authorities our ancestors held over our fresh water and our lands.  We must cling to and retain our culture for our own future benefit.”

“The wind will blow away the gunpowder, the iron pots will break, and the red blankets will wear out, but the land remains.  That's why the people of Ngāti Manu, the descendants of Pomare maintain that our land is our treasure, not the silver or gold but our ancestral lands.”