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Cook Islanders join event to honour Māori Pioneer Battalion tunnellers

Wednesday 19 April 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Local, National


Cook Islanders join event to honour Māori Pioneer Battalion tunnellers
Rosie Blake (left), the mayor of Arras, Frédéric Leturque and Pa Marie Ariki at Te Papaiouru Marae in Rotorua to honour the Māori Pioneer Battalion tunnellers. SUPPLIED/23041804

Cook Islands was represented at the hosting of Arras mayor Frédéric Leturque and his delegation at Te Papaiouru Marae in Rotorua, Aotearoa New Zealand this week.

Arras, a town in Northern France, is where members of the 43 Māori Pioneer Battalion – including Cook Islanders Angene (Rarotonga), Solomon Itaaka/Isaac (Aitutaki) and Tau Kopungaiti (Mangaia) – helped build a system of underground tunnels during World War I.

Pa Marie Ariki, the Cook Islands consul-general Keutekarakia Mataroa and former Cook Islands consul-general Rosie Blake were among the guests at the special ceremony to honour the tunnellers in Rotorua this week.

The descendants of the tunnellers received certificates for their ancestors’ sacrifice and duties in the line of war.

“We are here to say ‘Merci’ (thank you) from the population for the young people who engaged in the war in France. From their efforts we were liberated,” Leturque said.

The French delegation arrived in Rarotonga yesterday and will meet government officials, tribal leaders, and descendants of the three Cook Islands soldiers.

Leturque and his delegation will visit the Returned Services Association (RSA) today at 9.30am. They will be received by Thomas Annas, president of the RSA, and his officials.

Tonight at 6pm, a get-together with the French delegation and the descendants of the three Cook Islands soldiers – Minister George “Maggie” Angene, Isaac Solomon and Numangatini Tangi Ariki – will be held at the National Auditorium. Everyone is welcome to attend this event.

  • Melina Etches/Te Ao Māori News