What does a Treaty settlement mean to your average iwi member? To find out Taranaki Daily News reporter Deena Coster joined a group from Ngaruahine who travelled from Hawera to Wellington this week for the iwi's initialling ceremony.
Many people might think the Treaty settlement process is all about the money. But, for the people of Ngaruahine at least, that only forms part of the story.
As the formal settlement draws near, following an initialling ceremony at Parliament this week, the opportunities and financial certainty it offers the iwi will be felt for years to come. But the chance to have its story heard and hurts acknowledged by the Crown was seen as just as important.
And, although the road to repair the damage caused over the years will be a long one, and has included healing relationships between Ngaruahine's own members, getting to this point was an achievement in itself.
Tama Eynon is one who sees the potential the Treaty settlement could offer to his iwi. "I am optimistic in terms of our future."
Raised by his grandparents, Eynon is acutely aware of the many generations affected by the actions of the Crown.
He says settlement needs to happen so the iwi can move on.
"I can't wait for it to be settled," says Eynon, who fulfils various roles within the iwi.
If the settlement deal is ratified, the 25-year-old says the focus then needs to shift to how relationships within the iwi can be mended.
"We have to fix that," he says.
As a member of Ngati Hawe hapu, Te Rau Oriwa Davis supports Eynon's call. She says that, although money is a tangible outcome of any settlement, without good relationships things won't necessarily improve for Ngaruahine.
"You can't get by with dollars alone, it's relationships," she says.
She says that, as settlement got closer, it was not only a chance to reflect on the past but look to the future and the opportunity for the 3000-strong iwi to grow.
"It's not a big iwi but it's a significant one," she says.
And the future is not something Ngaruahine is leaving to chance. A strategy has already been developed based around political, economic social and cultural goals for the iwi, now and for generations to come.
For Te Pahunga Davis, settlement marks the point where the real work needs to start.
"I think there are still big, big, big challenges," he says.
A veteran of two other Treaty deals, he says that, while any progress will be incremental, the focus needs to be on how to grow the iwi in all aspects, including financially.
He recognises the achievement as a "marker point" in the iwi's history and being on the cusp of settlement has re-energised some within the iwi.
"Our people seem to be buoyed by this," he says.
At 13, Keonte Ngatai is the youngest on the trip. He says his grandfather told him to come along.
"He sent me here to learn about this stuff," says the Opunake High School student.
Keonte says he learned a bit about the Treaty of Waitangi at school too.
"There was a fight over Maori land," he says.
He was excited about seeing Parliament but also knows the ceremony was a big deal for his iwi and wants to find more about it.
He says he hopes some of the money might be used to build a "bigger and better" Hawera, including a shopping mall and museum.
Another one motivated by a desire to find out more is Manaia's Lorna Katene.
"You don't know until you go," she quips about her decision to join the trip.
She says she got regular updates about what was happening with the settlement but she wanted to be in Wellington for the special day.
"I've never been to a hui like this," the 74-year-old said.
She even brought a piece of her own history along for the ride.
In her hair, she wore white feathers that her mother had passed down to her.
"She taught me to wear them whenever I am outside of Taranaki," she says.
Not unlike Katene's feathers, the settlement now symbolises an end point of a journey that was kick- started by iwi elders, including kaumatua Ron "Rocky" Hudson.
Now living in Palmerston North, Hudson has represented Ngaruahine for decades and the role he played was acknowledged by chief negotiator Daisy Noble during her speech in Parliament this week.
For Hudson, the chance to witness the initialling of the iwi's Treaty deal is not only something to celebrate but, after years of toil and hard work, it also provides some relief.
"At last, it's been a long haul," he says.
- Taranaki Daily News
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