Monday, 21 October 2013

Ngati Hikairo Waitangi Tribunal Hearing: Waipapa.

                         Ngati Hikairo Waitangi Tribunal Hearing
6th October 2013

     Shortly before Mac left us he charged me to attend the Waitangi Tribunal meeting at Waipapa Marae near Kawhia on Monday 6th of October, 2013. He was a speaker at the first Tribunal meeting a month before, giving the speech that was published earlier on this blog. This was a follow-up meeting to hear more evidence from speakers on why Ngati Hikairo should be recognized as an independent, stand-alone tribe. It was also about settling concerns about the Rohe Potae (traditional Ngati Hikairo lands) that those representing the tribe believe was taken illegally by the Crown in the 1860’s.  I was glad I attended because I learned a lot more about what’s going on out there and how concerned and energetic so many Hikairo people are about this cause. The whole hui (meeting, or in this case, conference) was an all week affair but I only attended on the Monday which was the time scheduled for the Hikairo issue. The rest of the week was about other Waitangi Tribunal matters. This, then, is a summary on the meeting for those in our whanau who are interested.
Observations on Meeting Organisation and Procedure
The meeting started right on time and it looked like over 300 people in attendance; I was surprised at the momentum this drive for recognition has gathered. There seems to be a resurgence of Hikairo Pride.
It was held in the Waipapa Marae meeting house which is big enough to seat at least 300 people as well as the places for the tribunal panel, a witness stand and numerous desks for reporters, tribunal officials, recorders and so on. The tribunal panel consisted of some pretty sharp and learned individuals presided over by a Judge. The Pakeha judge spoke perfect Maori; it was clear he knew his stuff.
The speakers took the stand and spoke to the tribunal and audience putting their reasons why Ngati Hikairo should be considered an individual tribe and why it should get control over the Rohe Potae.
The speakers were then questioned and cross examined by those on the panel who represented the crown. The first speaker spoke for about 45 minutes in Maori so I didn’t know what he was talking about but it must have been OK because the panel didn’t cross examine very hard.
The second speaker was Frank Kingi Thorne, undoubtedly the face for the Ngati Hikairo cause. He has done a major study on the history of the tribe and written a lengthy treatise entitled, Te Maru O Hikairo,  for the purpose of convincing the Waitangi Tribunal that the tribe’s cause is a just one. He gave a clear and easy to understand speech and it was clear he had done his research. After Thorne’s speech the judges took a lot of time questioning and cross examining him but he was well prepared and well researched so he handled himself very well.
Because of the time, not all the remaining speakers were heard. The two that got the chance to speak were interesting. The first one spoke on how the crown and Pakeha in general were largely responsible for the demise of traditional Maori religious belief. He was careful to point out that the introduction of Christianity into Maori culture was not a bad thing but he regretted how the Pakeha ways weakened the old beliefs over time; particularly the concept of taniwha as guardians over nature, the status of the tohunga, and the Maori idea of tapu. His purpose was to show that Ngati Hikairo was traditionally a tribe with a special mandate to be spiritual, social and intellectual leaders among Maori and that by losing its lands the tribe was broken up and fragmented and lost its identity and thus its ability to carry out its role. I listened to the questioning that followed and I think his case was shown to have a few weaknesses, even though the cross examiners were respectful and polite. I could see the point of his argument but I think he could have used a better approach, one that focused more on human rights and religious freedom rather than mythical beliefs.

The other speaker talked on Maori health, particularly tobacco and alcohol addiction and how these were introduced by the Pakeha and used to weaken tribal affiliation and to grab land. I felt she had a good point as the Maori took a liking to alcohol and tobacco and these substances were certainly useful tools in getting land from them, but she was, in my opinion, a little too enthusiastic in laying complete blame on the Pakeha. Under cross examination she stated flatly that the government should prohibit Maori from smoking as it was a major Maori health issue caused by the introduction of addictive substances into Maori society. I think she weakened her case at that point. However, she was presenting something that is typical of what we as Ngati Hikairo should be all about; tinana…health and well-being. In the following segment I’ll explain why.  

My Impressions from the meeting as to where Ngati Hikairo’s focus should be:

It is evident that during the troubled 1860’s Ngati Hikairo as a tribe found itself in peculiar circumstances. The tribe as a whole were in support of the Kīngitanga, the Kingitanga being in response to the alarming loss of Maori land to settlers. It was also believed that by having their own sovereign Maori would be better able to negotiate with their British counterpart. They saw the Maori royalty idea as a benefit to peace rather than an act of war. There was the belief that it would unite the two peoples by them having a royal institution to work in alliance with the British crown. The Government saw it differently. They saw Kingitanga as a threat and an act of dissent and sought to destroy it and war broke out.  

As the Maori-Pakeha war intensified and it became obvious the British had too much firepower, other members of the tribe sought peaceful ways and tried to negotiate and compromise with the government in order to better protect the tribal lands. This caused a bit of internal conflict within the tribe between those Hikairo who wanted to fight the British and those who saw negotiation as the best ways to hang on to their lands. To make things tougher, the tribes in full support of Kingitanga saw Hikairo as a two-minded outfit. On a few occasions the British rewarded the more cooperative of Ngati Hikairo for their peaceful stance by gifting them blocks of land; Whatiwhatihoe being one. This would have further alienated them from the tribes more determined to fight. They even got the derogatory nickname, kūpapa, thrust upon them; it means fat pigeons, on account they were seen as collaborators.

When the war ended with Maori on the receiving end, the government then confiscated huge tracts of prime land in the Waikato and King Country. It was punishment for their rebellion against the crown. Waikato especially copped it because it was the seat of the king movement. Hikairo lost about 68,000 acres through confiscation.

In the latter part of the 1860’s some lands were handed back to Ngati Hikairo, but they were the poorer, less valuable lands. Then, in 1870 the government set about surveying a small block of Hikairo land with the intent that each member of the tribe has a section each. The Hikairo chief at the time was not in agreement with this government idea as he believed it would further fragment and weaken Ngati Hikairo and asked that the surveying stop until there was more discussion. The government ignored his request and the surveyor continued his work. Unfortunately, someone murdered him and because it was Ngati Hikairo who wanted halt the surveying, and because the killing happened on Hikairo land, both the crown and the other Rohe Potae tribes blamed Ngati Hikairo. While it shown that Hikairo was not guilty of the murder, the finger, nevertheless, was pointed at the tribe and they were accused of causing it to happen. This put huge pressures on Ngati Hikairo and had a long-lasting effect on the tribe as a whole. The government reaction was stern and threatening and Hikairo’s mana among the other tribes suffered.  

The upshot of all this (of which only a small part is reviewed here) is that Ngati Hikairo fragmented as a tribe and pretty much lost all its traditional lands. The meeting on Monday 6th October, 2013, was to seek redress for the injustices done to Ngati Hikairo, for Ngati Hikairo to be recognised as a true tribe, and to retrieve the lands lost through confiscation; the land being essential to the tinana (well-being of the people of Ngati Hikairo.

At this point let me review what I gathered from the meeting to be our mandate as a tribe. I will do it in bullet points.

My first comment is that Ngati Hikairo has historically sought peace over conflict. Hikairo II, the eponymous ancestor of our tribe was himself a tohunga (priestly scholar), and while he lived and functioned in an era of inter-tribal conflict and saw and engaged in violent events, he was also known for his negotiating skills and peace-making endeavours.
During the times of trouble Ngati Hikairo, as a tribe, had to do some tricky politics to keep the peace between themselves, the crown and other Rohe Potae iwi. This often meant supporting some crown initiatives that went against the wishes of the other iwi. They did this to ensure the tribe was not an enemy to the crown and also an attempt to control its own destiny and affairs in such a swiftly changing environment. In other words the tribe was striving to use diplomacy, negotiation and compromise to keep the peace and keep the whenua (land).
 A pivotal point arrived in 1884 when the Maori King, Tawhiao, went to England to meet with Queen Victoria. According to Ngati Hikairo history, upon his departure, Tawhiao gave one of our high ranking ancestors three symbolic taonga (treasures): Te Aka…the ark, Te Kawenata…the covenant, and Te Paipera…The Bible. The person to whom he entrusted these symbolic treasures was a woman named Te Atakohu.  These three treasures represented wairuatanga (spirituality) of the Kingitanga. In essence Tawhiao was giving her the charge to look after everything while he was away; to keep Kawhia and the Rohe Potae from being carved open. However, it was always going to be a problem for Te Atakohu because of Ngati Hikairo’s support of so many crown issues; one of them being to allow the surveying and opening up of the Rohe Potae.
Upon his return, she informed Tawhiao of situation and he was distraught at the events that saw the Rohe Potae slipping from the grasp of the Kingitanga. She was distressed that she had let the Kingitanga down but Tawhiao reassured her with the words; “I have two treasures in my hands – the symbol of peace and the symbol of the supreme tohunga. I will keep the symbol of peace and you hold the symbol of supreme tohunga. This was taken to mean that Tawhiao and his tribal affiliates would take the political responsibility of keeping the people united in the cause of the Kingitanga, and Te Atakohu, representing Ngati Hikairo, would uphold the spirituality of the Kingitanga.
Te Atakohu immediately established the Poukai, an institution to feed the widowed, orphaned and destitute.   It seems, then, that Ngati Hikairo’s role was to give spiritual support to the Kingitanga by taking the leading role in the well-being of the people; this I take to be in the areas of spiritual, mental, social, and physical health. Ngati Hikairo has the role of tohunga to their people.

Concluding Thoughts

1.    Our tribe has always preferred peaceful means over conflict.
2.     During the times when settlers were taking up large areas of land and the times of the land wars between Maori and the crown, Ngati Hikairo found themselves in a difficult situation because of their attempts to find peaceful solutions…they were in the proverbial rock and hard place.
3.     The Maori King, Tawhiao, recognised Hikairo’s role as tohunga and gave the tribe the charge to continue it for the benefit of the people.
4.     Today, as children of Ngati Hikairo, we still have this responsibility. I can’t speak for everyone in the tribe but as for me and my own immediate whanau I would hope we all take up this challenge and embrace the concept of having the spirit of the tohunga, the tohunga being concerned for the spiritual and temporal well-being of the people. I take that to mean that in our modern times as fathers and mothers we point our children towards those things that enhance the tinana of whanau and others. We  should encourage and enable our children to become educated and qualified as teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers, nutritionists, spiritual leaders, scientists, lawyers, ecologists; anything that promotes knowledge, learning and assisting in the health and well-being of whanau and others. To me that’s the spirit of Ngati Hikairo. While it is worthwhile to strive and negotiate for the return of the Rohe Potae, it should not distract us from what I believe is our true role.
 I want to end with a profound insight shared by Denise at her father’s (Mac’s) funeral.  Before he left us, Mac must have been considering the things discussed in this article. In Denise’s own words:

A couple of months ago I found this saying on a piece of paper in Dad’s room. ‘Our Tupuna knew the way forward should be in gentleness; the peaceful way. Strengths like these sit with:  1) Hinengaro ~ thoughts, feelings, emotions and mental health.  2) Ngakau-whanau~ the heart and family health.  3) Wairua ~ spiritual health.’

I always meant to ask him what he knew about it but as we got busier looking after Dad, I never did. What puzzled me was that the fourth dimension, the tinana or physical health of our being was missing from his piece of paper.

As time went by I realised that at some stage, whether by accident or injury at a young age, or by the natural ageing process that comes to us all, we will all lose that physical dimension. It must be very important, therefore, to have the other dimensions nurtured, cared for, and in order so that when called upon they put adversity in perspective so we can move forward peacefully.

Dad had those things in order, calling on the hinengaro, ngakau-whanau and wairua to ease his transition into the next step on his journey, a journey we all take in one form or another.

I hope we can grasp the wisdom and underpinning message in those few words of Denise.

Written by David Bell
1.     Frank Kingi Thorne, Brief of Evidence, 4th. December 2012 at Waitangi Tribunal Hearing.
2.     Thomas John Moke, Brief of Evidence, 3rd December 2012 at Waitangi Tribunal Hearing.
3.     Waitangi Tribunal Hearing, Waipapa Marae, 6th October, 2013.

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