it’s our backbones you walk across
By Precious Clark
OPINION: In the 1800s, my seven-times great grandfather Apihai Te Kawau was a bridge between our people and the newly arrived Pākehā. He was one of the forefathers of Auckland City, yet you've probably never heard of him. I invite you to ask yourself, why that is so?
He cultivated a relationship with William Hobson, making large areas of Tāmaki Makaurau available for settlement on the understanding that the Government would be established in Auckland, thereby assuring the survival and prosperity of our people, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei.
Things didn't quite work out that way. A few years after the agreements were made, Parliament was moved to Wellington, and my tupuna spent the rest of his life securing title over the remaining 700 acres of our ancestral land. By 1952, our people were landless after our remaining homes in our village at Ōrākei were torched to the ground by the Auckland City Council. My mum, then a child, can still recall the wailing of her nannies on that fateful day.
In the name of partnership, Apihai Te Kawau gifted our inheritance. Although his manaakitanga may be interpreted in a western context as an error in judgement, his intentions in being a bridge were welcoming, inclusive and peaceful. Notwithstanding the disastrous results for our people, I grew up understanding that Apihai Te Kawau was an important, strategic, and generous man whose mana is respected to this day. As an Iwi, we have since risen from the ashes.