By RICHARD KNIGHT
The peaceful Maori protesters of Parihaka who died last century because of Government policy will be honoured by descendants and representatives of Taranaki tribes.
In March, more than 300 people will place memorial stones at their graves at the pa site in the northern foothills of Mt Taranaki, and in Wellington, Hokitika and on Otago Harbour, where protesters died after being imprisoned, often without trial.
Parihaka represents a dark chapter in New Zealand history, and what happened there still angers and frustrates Maori.
Prophets Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi inspired a Maori peace movement and passive resistance to land occupation.
In 1874, under laws including the Public Works Act and the New Zealand Settlement Act, 44,500ha were taken.
In 1878, the Native Minister and 600 armed constabulary - without consulting Maori landowners - built a road to Parihaka, tearing down fences that penned in stock.
As the fences were pulled down, Maori followed behind repairing or replacing them.
When the constabulary arrested the Maori fencers, they quietly submitted and others took their place.
In all, 216 fencers were taken into custody and shipped to jails in the South Island.
Te Whiti and Tohu refused to sell their land, of which Parihaka, with a population of almost 1500, made up a large portion.
The prophets did not recognise the settlers' ownership of land, and sent their people to plough it, with instructions to turn the other cheek despite death threats.
On June 29, 1879, the Government began making arrests and by August, 200 ploughmen were in custody.
In all, 420 were imprisoned, with only about 40 ever going to trial.
Taranaki elder Tohe Pakanga Ngatai will be with the delegation making the journey.
"It will be a trip of immense sadness; one where we will pay our respects to our ancestors. It will also be a chance for us to say our farewells."
The trip begins in Wellington on the site of the old museum, which was once a jail. The delegation will then travel to Hokitika and to Dunedin, where some of those arrested were locked in caves along Otago Harbour.
"We will take memorial stones with us and lay them where our ancestors are," said Mr Ngatai.
"In Dunedin we will lay four stones because that's where the bulk of our tipuna are."
It was not only the ploughmen and fencers who lay buried, but members of families who followed their husbands, sons and brothers.
By RICHARD KNIGHT