Taane Rakuraku grew up surrounded by the Urewera mountains and immersed in stories of the Crown's misdeeds against his people.
Today, the Tuhoe kaumatua will be among the thousands expected to turn out to hear Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson apologise for those wrongs - part of the iwi's Treaty of Waitangi settlement which also resulted in redress worth $170 million last month.
The apology covers Crown actions, described by Finlayson as some of the worst Treaty breaches "in the story of our nation", including land confiscations, the burning of villages and the execution of children during "a brutal military campaign" in the 19th century.
"What it means to me and my whanau is at last it's acknowledgement by the Government of what they did to us 150-odd years ago," Rakuraku said.
The stories of murder, seizure and the trampling of Tuhoe mana had been passed down through the generations, he said.
These included the use of scorched-earth tactics and the execution of non-combatants as the Crown sought to smoke Te Kooti out of Te Urewera in the late 1860s.
"Of course, they couldn't catch them, the Ureweras is a place of mystery, a place where you can be just 2 metres away and you can't see the person . . . They never had a chance of catching these guys."
Rakuraku recalled stories of Tuhoe children thrown into the air where they were impaled on bayonets by Crown soldiers.
The prophet Rua Kenana was also arrested there in 1916 when 70 armed police entered the village to seize him, killing two Tuhoe men in the process.
"That's very hard to forget."
Huka Irene Williams said they had been trying to settle their grievances for 174 years and many who had fought for it would not witness the apology.
It was a step in the right direction, though the relationship between Tuhoe and the Crown would remain a work in progress.
"Tuhoe people are not used to an apology . . . It won't be something that will be sincere to them but the attempt was made and I think the generation after us will tell if the apology actually succeeded."
Williams said the settlement put them on the path to self-determination which was the ultimate goal for Tuhoe, who wanted to be able to run their own schools and build their own infrastructure.
As many as 4000 people are expected in Taneatua.
Political leaders including Labour's David Cunliffe, the Maori Party's Te Ururoa Flavell and Mana's Hone Harawira are all expected to attend.
- Waikato Times
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