Maori spirits standing guard over Parramatta grave sites

Maori spirits standing guard over Parramatta grave sites

ITS history isn't immediately obvious but Rangihou Reserve in Parramatta has been claimed as a sacred Maori burial ground.

The spirits of a Maori community that lived on the site in the early 1800s still guard it, their ancestors believe, protecting the graves of four children.

The existence and location of the burial site was lost in history after their patron, Samuel Marsden, died in 1838.

Jennifer Holt-Alexander is a direct descendant of the sons of Maori chiefs buried in the reserve, she said.

"The deaths of the children were horrific," she said, "it was European diseases".

"Sixteen children went to school here and 13 of them died.

"Four of them remain here."

Ms Holt-Alexander said the children had been sent by their fathers to Australia from the northern tribes of New Zealand to build a relationship with the NSW colony.

By 1819, 16 Maori boys were attending a seminary where Rangihou Reserve now sits by the Parramatta River.

Ms Holt-Alexander said Maori had not claimed the land as their property but as a site with scared significance.

Parramatta Council has commissioned archaeologists to find the remains. Ms Holt-Alexander said once that was completed a Maori burial ceremony "Tangi" could be performed.

"We're not here to do anything in particular other than bring the children up (from the ground), protect them and respect the site," Ms Holt-Alexander said.

"Then all the descendants will come from everywhere once they find out the children are up."

This story Maori spirits standing guard over Parramatta grave sites first appeared on Parramatta Sun.