E hoa, ka whawhai tonu mātou, Āke! Āke! Āke!

 

The echoing of men at war and gun shots rang out in the imagination of the Year 12 history students as they explored the battle fields of the Waikato region, where the bloody wars of the Waikato conflicts once occurred.

The students are studying the significance of the Waikato war for a level two history assessment, and on Friday got the chance to be immersed in the interesting and controversial elements told in the narrative of the wars.

Their day consisted of visiting the battle sites such as the Queen’s Redoubt in Pokeno, which was one of the largest attacks by Imperial troops in New Zealand. Following this, the students attended a mini lecture session at the University of Waikato lead by a Maori professor on the Waikato Wars. This experience provoked much excitement and interest in the students, as the learning environment was an inspiring place for thoughts and discussion to be conveyed. There were also a few snack and lunch breaks in between these trips to boost their creative historian juices!

The group then proceeded to the Rangiriri battle ground, where the students had the chance to walk through the trenches and sacred ground once fought on by Maori and British ancestors. One student expressed how “it was interesting” for her “to see the remains of the trenches still left in the landscape as well as the large red commemorative poles with traditional Maori faces painted and carved into them.”

Their last stop was at Orakau, said to be the most significant battles of the Waikato wars and where the well-known statement by Maori chief Rewi Maniapoto was exclaimed; “E hoa, ka whawhai tonu mātou, Āke! Āke! Āke! Friend, we will fight on forever, forever and forever!”

The site was a great eye opener for the Year 12 students and to their wider interests in the wars. As their own interpretations of the site had been largely based upon workbooks used at school. However, once physically standing in the place where these Maori men, women and children fought against the British imperial troops, everyone was taken aback by a sense of awe as they saw it through their own eyes, and felt the great emotions that once swept through the uneven trenches.

Overall the Year 12 history trip was an inspiring and moving experience for our students. It allowed them students to gain a greater knowledge and understanding of the Waikato Wars, and especially the significances they have for New Zealand as a whole. These sites will remain as pivotal narratives for future generations to learn and understand about, just as our Year 12 students did on this day.

Francesca Adams