Rongowhakaata remember ancestors killed at Ōweta

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

150 years since the killing of five Rongowhakaata chiefs by Te Kooti and his followers at Ōweta Pā in Manutuke, Te Tairāwhiti, descendants have gathered to unveil a memorial stone to honour their ancestors.

Tapunga Nepe of Rongowhaata says, “There are five ancestors that we know of who were killed by Te Kooti and his followers, so this initiative is remembering those ancestors, they were chiefs from within Rongowhakaata.”

Paratene Tūranga, Iraia Riki and Ihimaera Hokopū were killed in November, 1868.  Hira Te Kai was fatally wounded and died in December.

Despite the deaths inflicted upon Rongowhakaata by Te Kooti, Nepe says the bloodlines are one.

"It cannot be separated.  On one side our lineage ties us directly to Te Kooti, another thread ties us to those ancestors who were killed," says Nepe.

The Ringatū faith founded by Te Kooti is still practised by descendants of Rongowhakaata.

"Through to today- I'm not saying the faith is strong here but Whakatō Marae still carries the banners of Ringatū and the prayers of 'the mortal father'," says Nepe. 

The traditional pā site of Ōweta is currently held by a Pākehā farmer who has allowed Rongowhakaata to lay the memorial stone.

“He has agreed to open his land to the descendants of Rongowhakaata who wish to view it,” says Nepe.

Moving forward, Nepe says the descendants of today are the 'tatau pounamu' or everlasting peace after the events at Ōweta 150 years ago.