Editorial: Takamore saga is just so sad

By Greg Taipari

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James Takamore's grave in Kutarere. Photo / Stephen Parker
James Takamore's grave in Kutarere. Photo / Stephen Parker

During my time as a reporter, I've had to cover the James Takamore saga.

There is no better example of blurred lines than Mr Takamore's story. A Tuhoe descendant, he died seven years ago in Christchurch, where he had lived for 20 years with his partner, Denise Clarke, and their family. According to them, it was his final request to be buried in Christchurch.

My wife and children whakapapa to Tuhoe, so I've been immersed in their tikanga and learned te reo Maori at Anamata Wananga in Whakatane, although I don't claim to be an expert in Maori tikanga (custom). Often when someone dies, their remains are returned to their whenua (land), to rest beside their tipuna (ancestors).

When Mr Takamore's whanau from the small Bay of Plenty settlement of Kutarere travelled down to Christchurch to mourn Mr Takamore's passing, they found him lying in state by himself in a funeral parlour. For Tuhoe, there is no greater slight against tikanga than to leave the tupapaku (body) unattended and with that they simply uplifted Mr Takamore and took him home.

These ingredients created a volatile concoction - a clash between state, iwi and an individual's rights. The issue has sparked huge debate on the rights and wrongs of both parties. While there is a huge grey area, one thing which is certain is one side will be hurt, no matter what the outcome.

Personally, I find it hard to take a side and hope a peaceful resolution can be found. Interestingly, the recent attempt to exhume Mr Takamore's body was unsuccessful because his whanau kept a vigil at his grave site. I wonder, would we be having this discussion if Mr Takamore's Christchurch family had been aware of the Tuhoe custom seven years ago?

- Hawkes Bay Today

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