Maniapoto Māori Trust Board Chairman, R.Tiwha Bell, asks for whānau to remain calm in relation to the kaitaka styled cloak purportedly associated with Rewi Manga Maniapoto, that was to be auctioned in England, now cancelled.
Members of the Maniapoto Māori Trust Board were made aware of the cloak and discussed it with tribal knowledge holders. “We concluded that there was just not enough evidence to establish the provenance of the cloak in terms of its association with Rewi Maniapoto” said Mr Bell.
“The only evidence we have is a note which reads ‘Māori mat worn by the chief Rewi when peace was declared between Māori and Europeans after the battle of Ōrākau”. However Mr Bell questions the historical accuracy of the statement. “Peace was not made after the Battle of Ōrākau. Rewi and the other survivors escaped and retreated across the Pūniu River into Maniapoto territory where they set up an aukati – a line that was not to be crossed by Europeans.” It was not until some twenty odd years later that the aukati was lifted and a peace negotiated.
Maniapoto Historian, Dr Tom Roa says that the Battle of Ōrākau was New Zealand’s Thermopylae: “It was quickly romanticised by colonial writers of the day as this heroic but futile last stand by Rewi and his followers.” Dr Roa notes that Rewi Maniapoto and the Battle of Ōrākau were retold in stories, poems and even a movie, and while Maniapoto celebrate him as one of their most important 19th century leaders, Pākehā also developed a fascination with this great Māori hero. “I’m sure it would have been pretty popular to have something purported to belong to Rewi. Whether it was authentic or not is another matter.” Dr Roa believes more investigation needs to be undertaken to establish the provenance of the cloak noting the tribe has some leading experts in the art of weaving such garments.