A public lecture he attended this week on how Ngai Te Rangi Iwi fended off repeated invasion attempts during the 19th century musket wars, is resonating with iwi chairman Charlie Tawhaio.
Charlie says the same thing is happening today.
“We are still having to defend our very identity in same way our ancestors were in the 1820s, and 1830s when all the other iwi were coming in.”
Today the invasion is political. Hauraki iwi have gained the ear of Treaty Negotiations Minister Christopher Finlayson and are about to be granted rights to Tauranga Moana in their treaty settlement, says Charlie.
It resulted in Ngai Te Rangi's ‘blockade' protest at the harbour entrance on Thursday, which will be followed up with a larger protest on Saturday.
“It's part of their strategy where they are using dubious history to establish ownership rights in a whole range of places, and they're getting away with it because the Crown seems to have been enamored of them,” says Charlie.
“They have been trying it for some time, and we have been resisting.
“We've been in conversation and discussion with the crown to say, ‘we don't want you to proceed with a Hauraki settlement that includes you giving away rights in Tauranga that only belong to the three iwi here'.
“We are talking about rights to property, but also rights to provide iwi opinions to councils, those kinds of rights.”
It is a gambit that has succeeded for Hauraki in Auckland and Whangarei, with the result that Ngai Te Rangi's protest on Saturday will be much bigger, as members of other iwi affected by Hauraki settlement incursions arrive in support.
The Crown has translated Hauraki claims of ancestral interests directly into property rights, says Charlie. While not denying Hauraki may have interests in the Tauranga Moana, the three iwi are challenging the Crown decision to turn interests into rights.
“What we don't agree is that a fair and just settlement should be unjust to us. So what we are saying to the Crown is look, here is a way forward, and it is a way forward it's not a stalemate here,” says Charlie.
The offer is to park the redress offered to Hauraki to one side and allow the iwi of Tauranga Moana to talk directly with the iwi of Hauraki.
“Say, ‘tell us about why you think your interests should be reflected in rights within Tauranga when there is no other reason to support that claim'.
The claimed Hauraki interests are basically around shared histories, marriages, previous residences. But since 1840 there has been no presence on an iwi basis, says Charlie.
“There's been individuals married into the tribes here, and as a result of those marriages have acquired interests in land. They have got people buried here which we take very seriously.
“And when we were able to have a conversation with Hauraki we said look we understand your needs to protect those of your ancestors that are buried in Tauranga Moana, and here's the deal.
“We've got ancestors buried in Hauraki. We assume and expect that you are going to respect and look after them for us in the same way we are saying we will do that for you here.
“But of course this isn't just about protecting historical interests. In our view it's a cynical move to broaden their resource base by tapping into the economy of Tauranga.”
It's a distortion of tradition by negotiators from Hauraki, and a distortion of cultural values, says Charlie.
When they heard the settlement was about to be signed with Hauraki, Tauranga Moana iwi took out an urgent claim with the Waitangi Tribunal against the Crown.
The Tribunal hasn't signaled that it supports the need for urgency. When they heard the signing may be on June 23 or 24 they felt the need to start some more direct action.
“Once the crown signs this deed of settlement, the chances of changing things are almost zero,” says Charlie.
"Our people, being naturally suspicious, are saying; ‘Let's assume it's happening and take whatever action we need now to bring some greater attention to this'.
“It has certainly done that, and it has also unsettled a number of people and that is regrettable. I'm inviting them to ring the Minister's office and say, ‘sort this out'.
“The point of protest action is to create inconvenience and we don't want to inconvenience too many people, but there is no point in protesting if nobody notices.”
If the Crown's current method of dealing with overlapping treaty interests is perpetuated, it threatens the heartlands of every iwi, says Charlie. All iwi are watching the Ngai Te Rangi protest with interest and those most immediately affected, like Auckland's Nagti Whatua are already working with Ngai Te Rangi.
“The risk we take and the same with Ngati Whatua in Auckland is we look ungrateful for what we have been given. I think that's not true,” says Charlie.
“Notwithstanding the mess the Minster has made right now, we have previously taken our hats off to him for the number of claims he has settled since he took the job on.
“When he took the job on he said it would all be finished this year, but he didn't actually get there. But along the way he got a lot done. The problem is there has been a bit of collateral damage, a few casualties along the way which are now starting to jump out of the closet.
“One of the unfortunate things with speed is now and again you are going to run people over.
“On the one hand, good on you for getting these settlements done, but you guys need to be a bit more careful. There is no reason or need for this incident to have occurred today.”