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A little book containing so much: a novella, history, eyewitness reports, Maori translation, verse and images.

Both fiction and fact, this fascinating book is a kaleidoscopic exploration of the Battle of Orakau.

During three days in 1864, 300 Maori 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 Maori 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 Moetu.

Alongside the novella are non-fiction narratives from Maori eyewitnesses, together with images and a Maori translation by Hemi 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 Orakau. The defenders were heavily outnumbered with few supplies or weapons but, when told to submit, they replied:

‘E hoa, ka whawhai tonu matou, ake, ake, ake!’
‘Friend, I shall fight against you for ever, for ever!’


Moetu is a wonderful character, and vividly drawn. . . . The novella is printed in English on the right-hand page, and in Kelly's Maori translation on the left. It is followed by some other eyewitness testimonies from those involved in the battle. These are as vitally written as the novella, though the details vary - in the midst of a battle no-one will know exactly what's going on. . . . the value of the Maori translation is that it enables those whose grasp of the language is not yet strong to check their understanding of what they're reading from the opposite page. For non-Maori speakers, the book gives a different perspective on a battle that's not always been presented from the Maori side.

Mike Crow, Otago Daily Times

Selected as one of the '100 Best Books of 2017'.

Russell Baillie, NZ Listener

This small book, with its precious illustrations, is a treasure.

Linda Thompson, Horowhenua Chronicle

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Formats & editions

  • Hardback


    August 28, 2017

    RHNZ Vintage

    224 pages

    RRP $35.00

    Online retailers

    • Fishpond
    • Mighty Ape
    • Paper Plus
    • The Warehouse
    • Whitcoulls
    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at www.booksellers.co.nz/directory

  • EBook


    August 28, 2017

    Random House New Zealand

    224 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks NZ
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Google Play
    • Kobo
    • Booktopia NZ


Friend, we shall fight on for ever

Hemi Kelly

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Awards and Recognition

  • International Dublin Literary Award
    Dublin Literary Award