For the last 15 years Janene Allison has told the stories of the New Zealand Land Wars to secondary school students.

She discovered the passion at Te Kūiti High School where she was an English and social studies teacher.

Janene is now sharing those stories with schools from all around the North Island in her new job as Te Awamutu Museum educator.

Schools are flocking to the Waipā to embark on tours that visit Rangiaowhia, Ōrākau, Rewi Maniapoto's grave and the Pirongia Redoubt. The tours also cover the Treaty of Waitangi and the Kīngitanga.


Janene has taken full advantage of the objects stored at the museum that relate to the conflicts in the Waipā, such as items from the Battle of Ōrākau — a cavalry sword and scabbard, a grenade and handcuffs used to restrain Chief Wahanui's mother.

During her 15 years at Te Kūiti High School, many of Janene's students were of Ngāti Maniapoto descent and had close connections to the Waikato wars through Rewi Maniapoto, Chief Wahanui, iwi members and Kīngi Tāwhiao.

"I realised that these students needed to learn about their past and how vibrant it was," she says.

"Many of them had little or no understanding about the events that led up to The New Zealand Wars or the dire consequences of these conflicts."

Janene taught herself about the wars using texts from James Cowan and James Belich.

That was before Vincent O'Malley released The Great War for New Zealand, Waikato 1800-2000 and The New Zealand Wars Ngā Pakanga O Aotearoa — which she now uses.

The New Zealand Land Wars is not an easy topic to teach, according to Janene.

"It's filled with conflict, struggle and differing versions of stories."


That — paired with the fact teaching the land wars was never compulsory — is why Janene believed many teachers shied away from the topic.

"We taught about the genocides of other countries but left out the genocide of our own country."

Janene believes the Land Wars need to be taught to all New Zealand students.

She's made a good start since she started at the museum in January, running about five to six tours per month.

Janene has found in recent years that students have developed a thirst for learning about the wars.

"By learning about the history on their own back doorstep students can connect with their land and tīpuna (ancestors)."

Janene is excited to be a part of the Te Awamutu Museum's future as it looks forward to building Te Ara Wai.

The new discovery centre will document Waipā's history and the conflicts fought between tangata whenua and colonials.

Janene says Te Ara Wai will help to tell the story of New Zealand's journey to nationhood.

"Te Ara Wai will be a means to finally give voice to our unique heritage, and as an educator, I applaud the vision of this very worthwhile project.

"It will truly be a space about the people for the people."