Whakahokinga Kōiwi

On Wednesday 28th November about 140 whānau of Ngāti Hikairo came back to Waipapa Marae to welcome home our kōiwi tūpuna that had been in The United States of America for 59 years. The kōiwi had been taken from Ōpārau in 1953, and were residing at Stanford University, San Francisco.

The kōiwi and the ope returning them were welcomed with a haka pōwhiri that was followed with whaikōrero and mōteatea. A large hākari was laid out for all the people that came near and far to support the return of our kōiwi tūpuna to there final resting place.

Once the hākari was concluded our kōiwi tūpuna were returned to Ōpārau, and buried at Pekanīkau Urupā, at Kaiewe (Tai’s Flat) on Pirongia West Road. The kōiwi were removed from their original burial site, in the Ōkupata Valley, a tributary of Ōpārau, because it had been destroyed. The destruction of that urupā, and alienation of the land, determined that another more suitable site be identified. Pekanīkau was set aside as an urupā Reservation in 1966 and is reserved for the Māori Community of Ōpārau. It stands at Kaiewe deep in the Ōpārau Valley, a once heavily populated and cultivated area, it is known as a important location within Ngāti Hikairo. It was considered an ideal location to bury the kōiwi, as it brought them back to the heart of Ōpārau, it is a central and important location, and the urupā is regularly maintained. Ngāti Hikairo kaumātua, Mere Gilmore, Jack Cunningham, Meto Hopa, with the support of Nick Tūwhāngai, and Kīngi Pōrima agreed that Pekanīkau was appropriate as the resting place for the kōiwi.

A large group of the whānau and manuwhiri were there for the nehunga. And the tūpuna were finally laid down to rest.

The Hikairo Claims Team would like to acknowledge the awesome turn out from the iwi, the motu (as we saw representatives from Ngāti Manuwhiri and Te Kawerau-ā-Maki in attendance acknowleding there whakapapa roots to Kāwhia) Kāwhia community, Kāwhia School and the local Police supporting a wonderful kaupapa. It was also wonderful to see both Mōkai Kāinga and Waipapa whānau working together as tangata whenua on this historical day.

The Hikairo Claims Team wishes to acknowledge the efforts of Te Papa Tongarewa and the Tainui Waka Allaince for safely returning our treasured kōiwi tūpuna to Waipapa Marae.