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FIRESIDE chats with family members about extended whanau provided
the spark for Otorohanga born and raised author Tom Roa to write books
based on those stories.
Having written many works of literature since 1985, Mr Roa, who is
a senior lecturer at the University of Waikato, felt the stories
being passed down from his uncles and aunties about his
tribe Maniapoto needed to be documented for future
It was one of those fireside chats that inspired
him, in collaboration with Hamilton researcher
Maehe Paki, to produce his latest book – Maiea
te Tupua ‘Satisfying the Spirit’.
Maiea te Tupua is a series of poignant and
revealing interviews with whanau which pieces
together the story of six Maniapoto/Waikato vol-
unteers and one conscriptee who fought in World
War I (1914-1918) together.
It tells the men’s stories through the eyes of their
descendants. The men are: Te Rauangaanga Mahuta, Wil-
liam Takoro Kohi (both from Huntly) Kohatu Hari Hemara
Wahanui, Tuheka Taonui Hetet (both from Otorohanga), Te Rehe
Amohanga (Te Kuiti), Rotohiko Michael Jones (Poro-o -Tarao, near Ben-
neydale) and Joseph Ormsby (Pirongia).
When researching for the project, Mr Roa was aware of a common
belief that Maniapoto/Waikato Maori refused to serve in WWI, when in
fact many young men signed up.
“You only have to read through the 78 names on the memorial at the
Te Kuiti marae to see the Maori who gave up their lives for the Empire,”
says Mr Roa.
But, he says it was the events that took place prior to the war that shaped
the stance Waikato-Maniapoto took towards participating in the war.
“A lack of Maori signing up to fight was a result of a call to boycott vol-
unteering led by Princess Te Puea. It resulted in the Government targeting
Waikato Maori with a conscription drive in 1917. She, with many others,
was following King Tawhiao’s call never to raise weapons again after the
land wars between Maori and British Forces in the 1880s.
“So my question when I was writing this latest book was . . . why did so
many [Maori] stand alongside the same Empire that just 50 years earlier
was responsible for the loss of so many of their descendants’ lives, liveli-
hoods and communities?” he says.
“I started talking with members of my whanau whose
uncles had been to The Great War. I continually asked
the families – why did these boys they go to war?”
The answer came last year when he was ap-
proached after the book was published in English
by a member of his whanau.
“He said ‘Grandad talked about the treaty, and
said when the Maniapoto tupuna (ancestors) signed
the treaty [of Waitangi], he felt that as a citizen of
New Zealand he should go’, ” says Mr Roa.
“He felt that in signing the treaty we [Maori] signed
up for both benefits and responsibility of citizenship.
“I find that so fascinating as often today we use the Treaty of
Waitangi as a right to this and that. And many of the claims made are
about how the Crown did not fulfil its obligations to the treaty and here’s this
young fella saying back in 1914 his Maori grandfather felt a responsibility
to it [the treaty] so he joined up, under an English name.
“There is a perception that we [Maori] continually make claims the
Crown did not live up to its obligations, and yet this man, was prepared
to lay down his life because of it.”
Co-author Mrs Paki hopes that the publication honours the verbal ac-
counts the whanau gave.
“We just hope that we have done justice to the korero (stories), but more
importantly, to the wairua (spirit),” she says.
Since Maiea te Tupua was launched on ANZAC Day last year, at
Purekireki Marae, Pirongia, Mr Roa has been approached by many tribal
members with more information about the men he’s written about. He will
include this in a revised version due to be published next year.
The book has been produced in both English and Maori and is available
through the Learning4 Store in Hamilton at a cost $59.95.
A COMMON belief that Waikato and Maniapoto
iwi members did not readily volunteer to fight
in World War I are dispelled in the latest book
written by Waikato University senior lecturer
Tom Roa. FILE PIC
Fireside chats inspire book
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