The Crown has delivered its long-awaited apology to Tuhoe for historic grievances dubbed among the worst in New Zealand's history.
Thousands of people including Tuhoe from across the country, former prime minister Jim Bolger, Police Commissioner Mike Bush and MPs from across the spectrum were in Taneatua in the Bay of Plenty for the event today.
It follows last month's Treaty of Waitangi settlement between the iwi and the Crown.
As part of that settlement, the Crown agreed to apologise for historic misdeeds including land confiscations, indiscriminate killings, including of women and children, and scorched-earth warfare.
Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson delivered the apology, saying: "Ngai Tuhoe, it's your day."
"The relationship between Tuhoe as the Crown, which should have been defined by honour and respect, was instead disgraced by many injustices including indiscriminate raupatu, wrongful killings, and years of scorched-earth warfare," Finlayson said.
"The Crown apologises for its unjust and excessive behaviour and the burden carried by generations of Tuhoe who suffer greatly and carry the pain of their ancestors."
Finlayson, whose speech also laid out specific historic incidents such as the killing of 25 Tuhoe in
Waikaremoana while Crown forces were warring with East Coast Maori in 1866, apologised for the failure of previous governments to honour agreements with Tuhoe.
"Let these words guide our way to a greenstone door - tatau pounamu - which looks back on the past and closes it, which looks forward to the future and opens it."
Tuhoe spokesman Tamati Kruger said in a statement today "was a day to be remembered - a day to celebrate peace and a forward looking future'.
Several Tuhoe kaumatua also spoke during the pohiri, which featured warriors painted red and black and covered in mud. The kaumatua told the Crown that Tuhoe were lucky to have them in Taneatua today but that the Crown should also feel lucky.
The misdeeds would never be forgotten.
In a well-received speech, Labour leader David Cunliffe told the crowd one of his ancestors was among the Crown forces who chased Te Kooti into the Urewera mountains, a chase which led to some of the incidents apologised for today.
"I come with a grieving heart to acknowledge what was wrong and to lay to rest with the Crown ... the ghosts of those days," Cunliffe said.
Also in Taneatua today were descendants of long-serving prime minister Richard Seddon. They presented Tuhoe with a taiaha that the tribe had given to him at Te Urewera in 1894.
A historic flag that flew at Tuhoe prophet Rua Kenana's Maungapohatu community, which was confiscated when Kenana was arrested by the Crown in 1916, was also returned.
- Waikato Times