Following the death of the 28th Maori Battalion’s last member in 2016, the Hokonui Runanga is hoping to commemorate the group.
The late Nolan Raihania, formerly of Mataura, was among many soldiers who fought as part of the battalion who will be remembered in a service this Anzac Day at the runanga.
Hokonui Runanga kaumatua Rewi Anglem said the primary reason for hosting the service was to inform the public of the battalion, especially the younger generation.
“The Maori Battalion has not been actively seen as part of Anzac Day in previous years,” Mr Anglem said.
The battalion was an important part of Maori history in New Zealand.
Mr Anglem had been trying to introduce a commemoration for the battalion in the last year.
“It is only in the last year that I have become more aware of the need to participate.
“I have not heard of anything about the Maori Battalion’s contributions on Anzac Day,” he said.
Anzac celebrations had traditionally celebrated all veterans of war.
However, the 28th Maori Battalion had not received as much recognition, Mr Anglem said.
“If my generation doesn’t do something about it or to recognise it, it means the younger generation won’t know.”
Mr Anglem said the wider Maori community in the district had been supportive of the commemoration.
“Next year we hope to take it on to Invercargill.
“We have about 18 marae throughout the South Island. What we are hoping is that we can recognise the Maori Battalion on our marae after the Anzac Day dawn parade.”
While the service would be fairly informal, it would be about getting people together in the future for a service of recognition.
The commemoration was only happening in Gore at present.
He was inspired to do something following the death of Mr Raihania.
“I hardly knew Nolan. I knew more of him but it is basically because of him.
“I think he was looking to do something like this before he passed away,” he said.
Mr Anglem hoped the day could provide a service for families to learn more following other Anzac Day events.
Mr Raihania was one of 3600 soldiers involved in the Maori Battalion.
His son Na told The Ensign in 2013 he had been heavily influenced by his father.
“Dad served in the Maori Battalion C Company in 1944 and returned home determined to honour the service of his friends and whanau by devoting his life to the community. I have learnt from him that the people come first and foremost,” Mr Raihania said.
When his father moved south, he was one of the first Maori to settle in the area, he said.