Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In Memory of Rewi's Last Stand

It was a cold winter day, pouring with rain when I pulled into the small South Waikato town of Kihikihi during my recent North Island travels. This is where I discovered the memorial to Rewi Manga Maniapoto (c 1815-1894) - a memorial that he in fact supervised during its construction before his death.

Rewi Maniapoto was born to the Ngati Paretekawa hapu of Ngati Maniapoto in the early 19th century. He was educated at the Wesleyan Mission Station, Te Kopua and much later, he was widely respected for his knowledge, oratory, leadership and military skills. During the British Invasion of the Waikato in 1863-64, around 1,100 British troops attacked Rewi Maniapoto's base at Orakau Pa and he and around 300 followers, resisted any form of surrender for three days. Despite being surrounded by british, manymaori escaped into the bush. This event became known as Rewi's last stand.

After the siege, Rewi's prestige rose among Pakeha and several years later (1879), he was given a hero's welcome in Auckland, followed by the construction of this public monument in Kihikihi, which he himself supervised. A plaque on the monument states that Governor George Grey proposed that "Warrior Chief Rewi Maniapoto live at Kihikihi as a gesture of Maori and Pakeha unity. "Rewi, let us plant our tree of peace at Kihikihi in the midst of our children and when this tree bears fruit our children, both Maori and Pakeha, can help themselves," Grey said at Waitara in 1878.
The monument honouring Rewi Maniapoto was unveiled at Kihikihi in April 1894 and he died two months later. After a great tangi (funeral), he was buried at the foot of the memorial.

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