According to Corporal Willy Apiata's Ngapuhi people, the humble soldier who was recently awarded the Victoria Cross, will always belong to Tai Tokerau.
Corporal Apiata, whose heroism in Afghanistan earned him the VC - the first to be awarded to a Kiwi since World War 2 - has strong Northland roots. Although Northland-born Corporal Apiata grew up in the eastern Bay of Plenty and East Coast, his father's family is Ngapuhi and his whakapapa carries many honourable names from the north.
Those links will be strengthened when the quiet hero is welcomed home next Saturday at a ceremony at the Waitangi Treaty grounds.
A large crowd is expected at the event, designed to honour the quiet man who was catapulted to fame after an extraordinary - and formerly top secret - act of bravery during a tour of duty with New Zealand's elite SAS corps in Afghanistan. The world now knows that Corporal Apiata raced across hostile ground under fire and carried a wounded comrade to safety.
The soldier struck a chord with the nation because here was an ordinary bloke, who remained as supremely dignified as he was humble.
It is those qualities, as much as his courage, that make Corporal Apiata a hero and a leader, say Northland kaumatua.
Bay of Islands kaumatua Wiremu Wiremu has been training a group of youngsters to perform kapa haka and other duties at Waitangi next week.
"All these kids are related to Willie and one of his nephews is taking a big leadership role in it," said Mr Wiremu, himself a former sergeant major in the army.
Every school in the district has been invited and a crowd of wellwishers are expected at the event which is open to the public.
The venue is symbolic. Waitangi is a meeting place that belongs to all people of New Zealand, and was chosen by local rangatira to serve that purpose even before the treaty's signing in 1840.
Iwi, the army, the Waitangi Trust, dignitaries and the public will all play a role at the occasion planned long before Corporal Apiata this week gifted his medal to the SAS.
In gifting his VC, Corporal Apiata is honouring his comrades, all of whom he said would have done what he did - "Just looking out for their mates."
He has said he did not earn the medal on his own.
"I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do with the medal ... It will never be sold, there will never be quarrels about it," he said.
His gesture has earned high praise.
Northland MP Shane Jones said: "Willy will always occupy an esteemed position because, one, he's modest; two, his deeds have spoken for him; and, three, his selfless gesture in offering his Victoria Cross to the nation."
Corporal Apiata was a fine role model for the young people of Northland, Mr Jones said.
The act that earned him the medal, and the place of distinction he would always occupy because of it, were inspirational.
"In the end, it's what our tamariki learn from people like Willy that is most important. His achievements tell them what's possible for themselves," Mr Jones said.
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