It is frequently said that Anzac Day and the remembrance of the most horrific of wartime massacres of New Zealanders and Australians at Gallipoli was "nation building" as we shook off the yoke of tragedy, despair and defeat to rise from the mud and ashes and unite for the common good of all mankind.
In that regard New Zealand Aotearoa punches well above our weight in many global endeavours. Paraire Tomoana, my grandfather, wrote E Pari Ra as a tribute to the loss of all those that fell in those battles In Chunuk Bair, Passchendaele and Egypt from marae and communities all around this country.
He likened the ebb and flow of the tides in the Dardanelles to the tears flowing from son to mother in New Zealand and mother back to the sons lying in the mud, blood and fields of death.
A beautiful song depicting a shocking event. The beat of the waves on the shore matching the mournful sobs of despair.
In his discussion on the song Paraire infers the waves also portray the waves of fresh faced soldiers in their first engagement mowed down in the surf so that the sea bubbled red with blood mirrored by the crimson sky.
The song ends with the inevitable acceptance of war with the mother saying "Well my son return to me in spirit as you lay in an alien land for I will love you always and you me eternally." E Pari Ra was adopted as the formal Navy march song.
Another of Paraire's songs I Runga o Nga Puke was adopted by the 1st Native Contingent of the New Zealand Regiment as their marching song and they sang this song as they marched on to the troop carrier from Lambton Quay in 1915. Taranaki Te Ua from Waipatu was in this Contingent.
He was 1.9m tall but was one of the shortest in this regiment of giants. He was previously in the Boer War. He returned home, thank goodness, with about five others from Waipatu.
Tragedy seems to be a hallmark of nationhood.
Ngāti Kahungunu iwi was formed in the 1820s following mass slaughters at Pakake Pa, Ahuriri by invading forces armed with muskets from Waikato, Tuwharetoa, and Maniapoto.
In Wellington and Wairarapa, Te Rauparaha and his Taranaki musket-bearing allies smashed and devastated Ngāti Kahungunu communities there, killing most or forcing them to flee.
In Wairoa, Pomare of Ngapuhi was pressing down the East Coast killing and wasting Tairawhiti communities in an endeavour to colonise those parts.
At Te Roto A Tara, Te Aute, Tuwharetoa also smashed and massacred their way to take control of that area. During that time many of our women and children took refuge on the eastern side of Te Mata but were eventually slaughtered, seized or marched off to be slaves at Maungatautari, Cambridge.
Some refused to be taken and threw themselves onto the rocks below. Others slashed themselves with flint so their blood soaked into the land, a legacy they left for their descendants.
A devastated Ngāti Kahungunu and associated hapu, numbering a few thousand sought refuge in Mahia at Okurarenga, under Pareihe from Patangata and Te Wera Hauraki from Ngapuhi.
Over time, they cultivated enough flax to purchase and have for the first time, muskets and somewhat restore some balance of power with the new weaponry.
Not without being held to siege though over 2-3 months at Okurarenga where they were reduced to sucking clay for nutrition and moisture. The place was renamed Kaiuku, the Clay Eaters.
Now armed with 100s of muskets Ngāti Kahungunu forces under Pareihe and his allies gradually took back control of this region from Wairoa to Wairarapa marching the others backward to their original areas, however, conceding that the greater Wellington region was now under control of others through a peace agreement.
Thousands of lives, men, women and children were lost over this 5-10 year period in our region. And because of this Ngāti Kahungunu iwi was born from Wairoa to Wairarapa. This was our nationhood building, our Gallipoli, our Passchendaele.
We are an Iwi with very strong hapu, who express their independence in all forms. Some of our hapu are bigger than many other iwi. But when we need to defend ourselves we present a solid wall as we did 200 years ago.
And in united fashion we will all join Anzac ceremonies everywhere for we have paid in blood, flesh and bone in all the theatres of war where New Zealand has planted its sword and we have stood tall.
Gallipoli was 100 years ago. Ngāti Kahungunu's "Gallipoli", Kaiuku, the Clay Eaters was 200 years ago.
Lest We Forget!
* Ngahiwi Tomoana is Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Inc chairman.