Kōrero around the new history in schools curriculum is driving more people to better understand our nation’s history. 

Large crowds are visiting Rangiriri in the Waikato - the site of one of the most significant battles of the New Zealand Land Wars in Waikato.

The Waikato War was the catalyst for the confiscation of 1.2 million acres from Waikato-Tainui. You can read more about the Battle at Rangiriri here.

Large replica trenches used by Māori to defend the whenua have been re-built at Rangiriri - and were this month opened to the public. 

The iwi-led Rangiriri Historical and Cultural Heartland Project tourism venture is years in the making.

Brad Totorewa (Waikato, Ngāti Naho), whose tupuna is the original engineer of the site, is head of the group who spearheaded the project. 

Brad has spent decades educating people about the atrocities that happened at Rangiriri. Now his son Te Oko Horoi (Waikato, Ngāti Naho) is following his path and taking tours at the site.

“It’s important as the wairua physically felt here is different to what you’d feel if you were being taught this history in a classroom,” he told Re:’s reo Māori series Ohinga. 

Te Oko Horoi says many visitors can become emotional when they learn the truth about our history.

“The majority of visitors here are Pākehā,” he says. 

“Perhaps they descend from those who confiscated these lands? Perhaps they are unaware they are descendants of those people.”

When Re:’s reo Māori series Ohinga visited Rangiriri earlier this month, Brad and Te Oko Horoi were taking dozens of teachers from across the region on a tour of the area.

As part of this, there was a reenactment of sorts which saw the teachers confronted by some of the descendants of those who were killed during the Battle of Rangiriri in 1863.

“You’re standing on the remnants of the old battle site and under your feet is still buried some of our ancestors! Whakapapa is nothing, their language is nothing, steal their land!” Brad yells during the performance.

Morrinsville Intermediate School teacher Keryn Vette (Whakatōhea) says learning the history of the area brought her to tears.

It’s probably actually enlightening in the fact it’s opened me up to want to go off and learn more,” she says.

Asked why it was important for teachers to learn Aotearoa’s history, she said: “Because they’ve never known the truth - they’ve always known the Pākehā version”.

Te Oko Horoi says it’s especially important for teachers to visit historic sites across Aotearoa. 

“Then they’re able to take those learnings back to their students, so this history becomes well-known,” Te Oko Horoi says. 

“I believe it is a type of healing.”

To arrange historical tours of the new trenches at Rangiriri email: office@rangiriri.com

This is part of our reo Māori series, Ohinga, created by Mahi Tahi Media, with funding from Te Māngai Pāho and the NZ on Air Public Interest Journalism Fund.

Stay tuned for a new episode every week.

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