A little book containing so much: a novella, history, eyewitness reports, Māori translation, verse and images.
Both fiction and fact, this fascinating book is a kaleidoscopic exploration of the Battle of Ōrākau.
During three days in 1864, 300 Māori men, women and children fought an Imperial army and captured the imagination of the world. The battle marked the end of the Land Wars in the Waikato and resulted in vast tracts of land being confiscated for European settlement. Instead of following the usual standpoint of the victors, this book takes a Māori perspective. It is centred around Witi Ihimaera’s moving novella, Sleeps Standing, which views the battle through the eyes of a 16-year-old boy named Moetū.
Alongside the novella are non-fiction narratives from Māori eyewitnesses, together with images and a Māori translation by Hēmi Kelly, further giving voice to and illuminating the people who tried to protect their culture and land.
It is estimated that, at the height of the battle, 1700 immensely superior troops, well-armed and amply resourced, laid siege to the hastily constructed pa at Ōrākau. The defenders were heavily outnumbered with few supplies or weapons but, when told to submit, they replied:
‘E hoa, ka whawhai tonu mātou, Āke, Āke, Āke!’
‘Friend, I shall fight against you for ever, for ever!’