The direct descendants of Chief Mokomoko were in Parliament today for the first reading of a bill that will give statutory recognition to a free pardon, granted to Mokomoko by the Governor-General in 1992.
Co-leader of the Maori Party, Dr Pita Sharples presented the bill before Parliament and said it would formally restore Mokomoko's character, mana and reputation.
"I acknowledge the burden and the shame and the stigma that they have carried in seeking justice for their ancestor Mokomoko."
Chief Mokomoko was one of five Maori tried and executed in 1886 for the murder of missionary Carl Sylvius Volkner in 1865.
As a result of the murder the Crown sent soldiers to Opotiki; the Mokomoko family were reduced to just 30 women and children and 70,000 hectares of land was taken from them.
The pardon was issued in 1992 without consulting Te whanau a Mokomoko, and they felt the terms of the pardon did not fully restore his character, mana or reputation.
The Mokomoko (restoration of character, mana and reputation) Bill 2011 directly sets out to restore the character, mana and reputation of Mokomoko.
In the bill, the Crown acknowledges the harm caused.
"The Crown expresses its regret for any ongoing shame or stigma that this has caused for his uri," (descendants) the bill text reads.
Dr Pita Sharples said the bill will give legal effect to the agreement to introduce legislation to give statutory recognition to the Mokomoko pardon.
It is signed by him on behalf of the Crown and the Te whanau a Mokomoko leadership group along with more family members.
"There are significant unresolved matters related to the form and content of the free pardon that this bill is intended to rectify."
"By providing statutory recognition of the free pardon, it represents the efforts of the leadership group to bring the issue to the Crown's attention to enable Te whanau a Mokomoko to start their healing process."
He said the bill was an important step in restoring the relationship between the family and the Crown.
National MP Hekia Parata said it was the Crown's responsibility to put right what has been a longstanding error on behalf of successive administrations.
"I want to pay tribute to the Maori Party and the Minister of Maori Affairs who ensured that this bill would be part of our coalition agreement.
"Getting the treaty partnership right is an ongoing process and one that we need to work on and be committed to," she said.
- APNZBy Kate Shuttleworth @K8Shuttleworth Email Kate