The 150th anniversary of the siege of Waerenga-a-Hika, 17-22 November 1865, was recently marked by Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki and other Turanga (Gisborne district ) iwi. Vincent O’Malley was also there, giving a well-attended public talk at the Tairawhiti Museum on 17 November that opened the official commemorations. That was followed by a ceremony held at Waerenga-a-Hika the following day at which a specially-commissioned memorial was unveiled.
Vincent has a long association with the Turanga claims. His first sole-authored research report, completed early in 1994, examined the East Coast confiscation legislation and its implementation at Turanga, Waikaremona and elsewhere. The following year he became directly involved with the Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki claim, overseeing the completion of various research reports and at the same time undertaking more detailed research into events at Turanga between 1840 and 1873, including the Waerenga-a-Hika siege of 1865.
In 2001 he presented evidence to the Waitangi Tribunal’s Turanga inquiry on behalf of Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki. Since the release of the Tribunal’s Turanga Report in 2004 he has worked with a number of the Turanga groups to help with negotiations concerning the historical aspects of their claims.
As Vincent told the audience at his recent talk, what happened at Waerenga-a-Hika in 1865, when Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki and their kin were attacked by government forces, resulting in the deaths of at least 71 occupants of the pā, marked the start of a four or five year period at Turanga that included some of the darkest episodes in New Zealand history.