Rua Kenana Pardon Bill passes first reading in parliament

By James Perry

The Rua Kēnana Pardon Bill was read for the first time in parliament today. The bill, if passed, will see the Crown issue an apology to the Tūhoe prophet's descendants, as well as pardon him for the crimes he was convicted of more than a century ago.

While presenting the bill to the house, Minister for Māori Affairs Nanaia Mahuta stated the bill "acknowledges that Ngā Toenga o Ngā Tamariki o Iharaira, including the descendants of Rua Kēnana, have suffered ongoing hurt, shame, stigma as a result of the Maungapōhatu invasion”. 

"The Crown will, through this legislation, apologise to the descendants of Rua Kēnana, and Ngā Toenga o Ngā Tamariki o Iharaira for the lasting damage, the character, the mana, the reputation of Rua Kēnana, and his uri".

Last century officers acting under orders of the Crown carted Rua Kēnana away from Maungapōhatu in chains. Professor Taiarahia Black says the bill begins the process where those chains will be removed, and by the third reading, Maungapōhatu will be finally freed.

Many of Rua Kenana's descendants and followers of his prophecies gathered at parliament to hear today's reading. Tūhoe kaumātua Poipoi Te Kaawa said they've been waiting for over 100 years for the Crown to take responsibility for their actions that saw Rua Kenana’s blood drawn on Maungapōhatu.  

While Nanaia Mahuta took the bill to parliament today, she said the Māori Party, and in particular her ministerial predecessor Te Ururoa Flavell deserved credit as well, as they raised the issue in the house during their last term.

The contingent of Tūhoe sang a song at the conclusion of the reading composed by Rua Kenana during his time of incarceration. One of the lines of that song contained the phrase kāore te whakamā i ahau. Professor Black translated that as "great is my indignity”, and that what this bill does is restore that lost dignity.

The bill passed it first reading today unanimously and will now be sent to the Māori Affairs select committee for further consideration before the second reading at a later date.