By Daily Post Maori Affairs reporter CHERIE TAYLOR in Ruatoki
Aggrieved tribe Tuhoe, who greeted Waitangi Tribunal members arriving at Ruatoki this week with a fiery blaze of burned out cars believe they have made their point.

As eight tribunal members and staff were carried by horse-drawn carriage across the 19th century land confiscation line in the iwi heartland of the Ureweras, they were greeted by naked protesters on horseback, raging bonfires and paintings on the main road of dead warriors with taiaha.

It looks more like a war zone than the entrance to a rural settlement.

A flag flutters, a symbol of resistance against colonisation and what the iwi says was the Crown-sponsored theft of indigenous lands.

As the final day of hearings into the iwi's claims gets underway, protest signs hang where they were nailed up a week ago, roads have been renamed Stolen Rd, the burned out wrecks of cars are littered along the main drag and unlit bonfires remain as a reminder of a past Tuhoe members will never forget.

Tribunal members have been hearing evidence concerning socio-economic issues, intellectual property rights and confiscation of about 181,000ha of land more than a century ago.

Tuhoe claimant Te Hue Rangi said the aggressiveness was not an act of violence towards tribunal members but a display of anger about grievances of the past.

"It's pent-up anger that has been there for more than 100 years," he said. "This was an enactment not an act of violence. We wanted the Crown and the tribunal to actually see the results of what has happened. I believe the stories that have been passed down for generations are true and many Tuhoe want [tribunal members] to feel just how our ancestors felt when our lands were taken.

"The written history by historians today does not reflect the truth of what happened during the land wars."

Once the land was taken the area was operated on "the scorched earth policy" that denied Maori their connection with the land and basic tools for survival, said Mr Rangi.

"The result of the policy was that our ancestors had no houses to live in, no food to eat and no clothes to wear," he said. "Our people were slaughtered, not only men but women and children."

Tuhoe would never forget the grievances they believe were inflicted on them by the Crown, said Mr Rangi.

"We will ensure generations to come will know the truth. It is remembered in chants, in songs and it's in these songs that we learn how our ancestors lived before the land was stolen from them," he said.

The tribe was now looking for the return of their land or compensation for the grievances they claim they experienced at the hands of the Crown.

"We cannot let this event just melt away and not remember. We are a people that still remembers the atrocities that happened. Our ancestors never ceded the land. We will not give up the struggle for the return of our land or money," he said.

Ngati Koura hapu claimant Te Weti Tihi addressed the tribunal at Tauarau Marae on colonisation of his people. Mr Tihi said the Government did not listen to his people more than 160 years ago and should now start putting right the wrongs it inflicted on Tuhoe.

"When have [the Government] ever listened to us?" he asked.

He makes no apologies for the fiery greeting tribunal members received at Ruatoki.

"Our people are oppressed. The issue is justice not resistance. Just justice, that's all we want," he said.

Tuhoe elders have apologised to tribunal members who experienced the protest.

The Tuhoe claims being heard by the Waitangi Tribunal relate to a vast area of the Central North Island, stretching to Hawke's Bay, including the area known as the Urewera National Inquiry.

This week's hearings are the latest in a series that have been conducted during the past year. The next hui will be in February at Maungapohatu.