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Welcoming the soldiers home to the marae
Lottie Waetford shares her experience of what it felt like when the 28th Māori Battalion returned to her marae, Te Kotahitanga in Kaikohe.
When the soldiers returned, I was 17 or 18 years old. We went to prepare the marae. We were waiting for these people, the soldiers, to arrive. The only thing we heard was the tramping sound of their feet on the road. What was that noise? Then the aroha welled up in us, because some were coming home, others were not. That is my strongest memory now. At that time, we admired them for their deeds. They came down the road like a wave and stood in front of the marae, as they say, like a human wave as they flowed towards us. But once their haka started, they moved forward slowly, and as they got really near, we were overwhelmed with pain and grief and joy at the same time because they had arrived home. To me, I felt quite chilled with fright by the crunching of the boots and their gruff voices in the haka. The haka of that time was Ka Eke i te Wiwī. Then the tears flowed with the realisation that they had returned.