A day of commemoration yesterday helped heal some of the wounds of a century-and-a-half of grieving.

It also marked the need for the full story of conflict in the land-war era in which almost 40 people died in Hawke's Bay on one day in the mid-19th century.

The commemoration started at Omarunui, on Tutaekuri River southbank-land where 23 Hau Hau/Pai Marire converts, many of Hawke's Bay iwi Ngati Hineuru, were killed and buried after being surrounded by militia and local natives at Omarunui Pa on October 12, 1866.

A report continued: "On our side there were one militia man and three friendly natives killed."

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According to the report, another 12 died when militia "fell in with another body of 22 Hau-Haus," a group other history records had ridden from the Te Haroto area and died near Herepoho (Eskdale), where a second commemoration was held yesterday.

Following the events, 84 prisoners were sent to the Chatham Islands, without trial, and the Crown embarked on land confiscations in what was later referred to in court and Waitangi Tribunal hearings as the "forgotten raupatu".

Following yesterday's services, near monuments put in place in 1916 to commemorate the events of 50 years earlier, Ngati Paarau, Ngati Hineuru, and Ngati Matepu descendants, representatives of Ratana and Ringatu faiths and others gathered at Te Haroto Marae to talk further of the history.

Among them was young Napier Ratana leader Hori Reti, who said he was there in his Ratana role, along with paying respect to ancestors, and the work of late grandfather Te O Tane Reti and recently-passed Uncle Fred Reti. Both were involved in the claims process which observers say has helped return the story of Hawke's Bay's "one-day war" to the public consciousness.