The Museum was approached by the Minister for Treaty Negotiations, on behalf of Tūhoe, to request the return of the Maungapōhatu flag. The Maungapōhatu flag was returned to Tūhoe on Friday 22 August, as part of the Tūhoe-Crown Settlement ceremony.
The Museum, and the Taumata-ā-Iwi, supported its return, and are pleased to have played a part in the reconciliation. It represents the Museums’ commitment to addressing historic ownership issues associated with taonga.
History of the Maungapōhatu flag
Tutakangahau, an elderly Tūhoe chief (Rua Kenana’s grandfather) requested the flag from the government following Premier Seddon’s visit to Te Urewera in 1894. The flag was wanted as a sign of a peaceful relationship with the Crown. At Tutakangahau’s request the words “Kotahi Te Ture/Mo Nga Iwi E Rua/ Maungapōhatu” (One law/ for both peoples/ Maungapōhatu) were stitched onto the Union Jack. Judith Binney explains that for Tutakangahau the words chosen “affirmed the important principle that the dominant culture should not pass laws discriminating against Māori.” (Encircled Lands, 2009, page 427).
The flag was acquired by the marae at Maungapōhatu and was flying there by 1897. In 1908 Rua Kenana met with Prime Minister Joseph Ward to agree the principle of shared law. Following this “Ceremony of the Union” Rua adopted Tutakangahau’s flag.
Rua Kenana was arrested in 1916 and charged with offences of sedition, counselling others to murder or disable the Police and resisting arrest. Police Commissioner Cullen, who led the Crown party, took the flag as evidence of sedition when Rua Kenana was arrested.
Rua Kenana was acquitted of sedition but he was found guilty of “moral resistance” and sentenced to 12 months hard labour to be followed by 18 months imprisonment. He was released in 1918 and died in 1937.
The flag was retained by the Police and at some point passed to Police Commissioner Cullen. Cullen resigned from his position as Police Commissioner in 1916 but retained possession of the flag until 1930 when he presented it to the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
A karakia for the Maungapōhatu flag
Members of the Auckland Museum staff, Trust Board and Taumata-ā-Iwi team after the blessing of the Maungapōhatu flag before its journey back to Tūhoe.
Rua's flag returns home
Tūhoe are the original kaitiaki (guardians) of the flag. The iwi has strong association to the flag, and a sense of responsibility for its care. This is also reflected in the modern taonga care specifications of the new facility in Taneatua where the flag will be held.
The Maungapōhatu flag is unfurled for the crowds at Taneatua as the Hon. Christopher Finlayson makes his address to Tūhoe.
To read the original Auckland Museum blog story, click here.