Opotiki's Karen Mokomoko fought back tears when she said her Whakatohea whanau could finally stand proud after a Crown pardon.
Ms Mokomoko, a direct descendant of Chief Mokomoko, who was hanged for the murder of German missionary Reverend Carl Volkner in 1866, described the Crown pardon yesterday as long overdue.
"However, as always, it is better late than never," Ms Mokomoko said.
"It is an awesome day, an emotional day. To hear Minister Pita Sharples right a wrong before our whanau is overwhelming."
She said the pardon, while not putting the family where they were before 1866, took away the shame long associated with their ancestor.
"The whanau can finally stand up and be proud of who we are."
Held under a brilliant blue sky at Waiaua Marae near Opotiki and with the ocean and White Island as a backdrop, Maori Affairs Minister Dr Sharples apologised on behalf of the Crown.
He also signed an agreement committing the Crown to legislation, in consultation with the Mokomoko family, to give statutory recognition to the pardon granted to Mokomoko in 1992.
Before he went on to the marae, Dr Sharples said it was an important day for the Mokomoko whanau because, soon after the killing of Reverend Volkner, the raupatu (land confiscation) of Whakatohea began.
As a result of the murder, the Government sent military troops to Opotiki; the Mokomoko family were reduced to just 30 women and children and 70,000 hectares of land was taken from them. The Mokomoko family have since carried the shame of bringing raupatu to Opotiki.
"In 1992 a pardon overturned the 1866 conviction for the murder of Reverend Volkner for which Mokomoko and three others were hanged in prison," Dr Sharples said.
Mokomoko's co-accused were from Ngati Awa and were pardoned in 1988 but Mokomoko was from Whakatohea iwi, and was not included in the pardon.
"In granting the pardon in 1992, the Crown did not consult with the Mokomoko whanau on the wording which implied the pardon was granted because of similar pardons for Mokomoko's co-accused," Dr Sharples said. "And so did not restore the character, mana and reputation of Mokomoko."
He said, through these actions, the Crown had perpetuated the shame and stigma carried by the whanau of Mokomoko.
"I want to apologise to the whanau and express sincere regret for the way the Crown has acted in the past."
Dr Sharples said he felt privileged to be at the pardon.
"Today I have felt the hurt and shame the Mokomoko whanau have carried with them for so many years," Dr Sharples said.
"And I am happy to have been able to play a part in helping to release these emotions and I will continue to work to have the legislation introduced to the House."
Kaumatua at Waiaua Marae agreed the spirit of Chief Mokomoko, said to have been present at yesterday's pardon, could be seen in the flowering pink rhododendron shadowing the minister and dignitaries during the powhiri.