May 18, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Dead koro’s bushcraft saves boys

3 min read

Inia Kiel

(Mike Watson, Two boys kept an agonising eight-hour vigil beside their grandfather’s body after he collapsed and died while hunting in the Ureweras.

Eleven-year-old cousins Mikaere Kiel and Rico Apihai then walked nearly three hours through torrential rain and darkness to raise the alarm.

When police and rescuers arrived, Mikaere led them back into the dense bush to find the body.

“I cried and cried,” Mikaere said yesterday of Inia Kiel’s death. “I was just hoping there would be a miracle and he would wake up again, but he didn’t.”

The boys, from Te Teko, near Whakatane, and their koro, 52, from Rotorua, were deer hunting on Saturday morning near Ruatahuna in the heart of Te Urewera National Park when Mr Kiel collapsed from a heart attack as he was driving a quad bike up a steep-sided ridge.

The bike lurched forward, knocking Mikaere to the ground, as Rico grabbed the controls to stop it from toppling over the edge of the track.

“He had been telling us to be quiet so not to scare the deer, and then he started coughing really hard just before he collapsed,” Mikaere said.

“I wanted to help him. He could hear me but he couldn’t talk to me.”

The boys dragged him over on his side so he wouldn’t swallow his tongue. As they turned him, Mr Kiel closed his eyes.

The boys sat distraught beside him for eight hours, yelling for help, and with only a few snacks to eat.

As it began raining, and darkness approached, they covered Mr Kiel with spare clothes. They could see vehicle headlights on the road below and waved their hi-vis jackets from the summit, but nobody saw them.

By late afternoon, with heavy rain starting to pelt down and the temperature dropping, they decided to go for help.

“He had always told us not to separate if we got lost, and always try and get back home before it got dark,” Mikaere said.

So, armed with their grandfather’s rifle and knife, and with the bush skills he had taught them, they set off down the steep track with only a torch to guide them through dense bush.

“Koro had taught us to look for landmarks and footprints on the track so we could find our way out if we were lost. I think we went off the track a bit, because we didn’t come out where we had gone in during the morning.

“It was like a maze, with tracks going everywhere. We were lucky we came out where there were people.”

After 2 hours, with the torch battery slowly going flat, they came to a house about two kilometres from Ruatahuna. They were taken to their grandmother’s house, where they told her what had happened.

Family members, including Mr Kiel’s brother-in-law George Cairns, police and rescue volunteers arrived at the house about 8pm. A party of six set off with Mikaere at 11pm and found the body at 1am.

After a karakia, Mr Cairns and Mikaere then headed back to Ruatahuna, leaving three LandSAR volunteers with the body overnight.

It was brought back to Ruatahuna on Sunday afternoon.

Mr Cairns said the whanau were in awe of the boys’ temperament during an emotional 24 hours.

“It’s unbelievable how they managed to stay calm while they sat with the body and then decided to walk out and raise the alarm.

“Inia taught them the bush skills which they used to survive and then help searchers find his body.

“It’s tragic what happened to Inia, but at the same time he would be proud, like we all are, of the decisions they made themselves at a crucial time.”

Mikaere said he would really miss his koro, who had taught him everything about hunting. He had shot his first deer with his grandfather in the roar this year.

“He taught us how to be safe with a rifle, and lots of things about stalking deer.”

Rotorua LandSAR co-ordinator Detective Sergeant John Wilson said he was not surprised the boys acted so sensibly.

“Boys who live out near the Ureweras are taught how to survive in the bush. It comes naturally to them.”

17 thoughts on “Dead koro’s bushcraft saves boys

  1. That is an awesome and true testament of a peoples teaching their traditional hunting skills to their young…Their Koro taught them and saved them with what they were taught…survival skills & hunting <3

    We too, have taught our Son how to hunt Caribou when he was 9 years old, then again at 10…we teach him about firearm's safety and he has gotten geese with a .410 and 12 gauge…and he has learned to make dryfish…this year he shot his first rabbit with the .410 we bought him…

    We always tell him, "These traditional hunting skills we teach you will some day save your life…learn to respect everyone, cause one day you might need their help, or one day they may need yours."

    We are Inuvialuit from Northern Canada… sending condolences to these families…and awesome job to the boys. <3

  2. Dear Cousin Rona and Whanau,

    So sorry to hear of the Bro’s passing, Our thoughts with you and the Whanau at this sad time…Love,Light and Aroha Cousin Donna xox..

    Inia….how proud you are my friend of your two Moko’s Mikaere and Rico,
    Your teachings a testiment in itself…
    Inspiring,ataahua,spiritually uplifting reading about their quest to get you home…We are all so proud of them and you on this side of the world…

    You will me missed by all brother…. May your spiritual journey back home be awesome bro and I am sure Gonk,Mike,Steve and the bro’s will be there to guide you….

    Arohanui Donna Hunter-Nepia & Whanau

    Perth WA

  3. Mikaere and Rico, for as long as I have known your koro, he was made for the bush, so you 2 boys were taught by the BEST.

    He will be so proud of you both and may his spirit guide you through the rest of your days of hunting.

    Thinking of you and nana Rona always…xxx

  4. both you young boys are a living testament to your koro,such a blessing for koro with you both at his side. arohatinonui

  5. so sad..awsum young fallahs yup ur koro wud be very proud.. such a shame 2 see him go in front of his mokos but in a sense he died doin wat he like doin and wid his mokos.. aroha mai to the keil whanau..

  6. Nga mihi ki te Whanau. To the two boys you are so blessed to have such a wonderful Koro and to know that you took note of his teachings that will be withyou both for life as will your koro forever be with you. A real beautiful yet sad story of survival how very precious you are.
    You are a true example to others.
    Kia Kaha whanau.

  7. ohh such a loving story. Yr koro will be so proud of you boys! kia kaha korua! great and so true. the boys knew what they were doing because they were taught on their whenua bu their koro!

  8. Nga mihi ki te whanau pani, moe mai i to moengaroa matua.Too much to the young mokopuna.You guys are the light in this dark and sad story

  9. No doubt about your koro, he did taught you two boys well.Like me, i’m a koro too, i have taught all my mokopuna the things you need to survive in the bush, or hunting for games and looking for vegetation that are eddible also the sea and rivers can produce kai moana as well, if they are near by.How to skin and gut your kill then prepare them for cooking is another thing they enjoyed doing.Now all my mokopuna are grown up and have children of their own.I know your koro is very proud of you two, just like me.

  10. what a gallantry act boys your koro would be very proud of yous may his spirit guide yous always till yous all meet again.

  11. My condolences to the whanau, after reading this I feel so proud as if you were my boys.Goes to show that you did take notice of what your koro taught you fulla’s, too much alright.
    All our youth need to be taught these important life skills, I take my hat off to you boys and to your koro as well for teaching you these important things in the first place.
    Kia kaha

    Barbara Takiari

  12. Paora/Tawhai whanau send our sincerest condolences to the Kiel whanau on the passing of a wonderful husband, father, brother, uncle, cuzn, papa, koro…Moe mai moe mai ra matua…To the two most bravest boyz Mikaere Kiel and Rico Apihai know that the love between uz will live on for ever…

  13. Moe mai e Koro, okioki i to moengaroa….Na te whanau o Te Kohanga Reo ki Ngongotaha me te Kura o Ngongotaha Primary.

  14. Inia, you will be missed so very much by so many people who loved you. Your mokopuna will carry on your legacy my cousin.


  15. what an awesome koro………you full’as are awesome too..!! aro ki te ha!! sincere thoughts

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