Topic: The Battle of Pukehinahina... what it means to me by Kalais Going

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Tauranga Girls' College student, 12-year-old Kalais Going, won the junior section of the Battle of Gate Pā Essay Competition (2014). It was published in New Zealand Memories magazine in 2015.

I am a 12 year old girl of Maori descent. I have never experienced war or had a loved one killed in a battle for land. The only battle I know of is on a sports field. I cannot imagine what was going through our ancestors’ minds the night before 29 April, 1864. I believe in my heart of hears I would have done all I could back then to protect my family and their land. People from this century have no idea and take so many things in life for granted. Some believe life is tough. But what is a tough life?

In 1864 our leaders came together and set the rules in true whanau style. The wounded would be spared. So, Too, would the women and children. Unfortunately, family, women and children did not have the same meaning for Pakeha back in 1864. I have mixed emotions as I am a mix of both Maori and Pakeha. However I was so proud of our Maori ancestors to read that it was they who formed the code of conduct for the battle and it was they who stuck to the code of battle It was Maori who gave the wounded British waster. The more I read about my Maori ancestors and how they behaved, the more proud I am of my Maori heritage. I cannot say the same of my Pakeha heritage.

A part of me is sickened that in 1864 Pakeha thought that they could just take the land and discard the people with little regard to where they might live or how they might survive.

Pene Taka Tuaia (Pa designer) was a man of true talent and the Pa he designed for this battle was very impressive. This outstanding design saved many warriors lives. It was truly a masterpiece. The British underestimated Maori. They thought their 1700 men would out battle Maori, but I thing they underestimated the intelligence of Maori. This has taught me that it’s not the size of your “army” or “team”, it is how smart you approach the “battle” or “play the game.”

Pene’s mazes and traps and the flag 200 metres away from the actual Pa, was the winning of the battle for me. Maori had no fancy muskets or cannon, but they knew their Pa and had a winning strategy.

The day of the battle was an “awful misty day”. I believe this played a part in the victory and the British could not easily see the Pa. The assault started at first light and was the heaviest gun battle of all the New Zealand wars. Visiting the site at first light, you can almost imagine the battle. If only the Pa site could talk or play back the audio of that day back in 1864.

The 29th April, 1864 was one giant step for Maori. What would have happened if this battle had not been a victory to Maori? I guess we will never know.

To those unlucky Maori warriors who died as a result of the war, you served Tauranga Moana well, and will forever be told in the stories of the Battle of Gate Pa.

I am a 12 year old girl of Ngapuhi descent, who is proud of the victorious battle of the Maori ancestors over the British that day. Even thought I have never experienced war, and I hope I never will, the battles I fight today are those of self belief and self confidence of who I am, as Maori.

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