Editorial: Challenging legacy left by brave truth-teller

Ranginui Walker walked in two worlds. Photo / Ted Baghurst
Ranginui Walker walked in two worlds. Photo / Ted Baghurst

Ranginui Walker walked in two worlds. A brave truth-teller, Dr Walker devoted his career to presenting historical events from a Maori perspective in a way that could be blunt and confronting but which unquestionably helped to change the views of many non-Maori New Zealanders.

At his Orakei Marae tangi this past few days, he was cherished as a courageous scholar who shone a light into areas that some preferred would remain buried.

An author, educator and activist, he forged a path that offered leadership and a public voice for Maori. He was a father and husband too, who married a Pakeha and who held the view that the relics of the country's colonial past were being laid to rest in the bedrooms of the nation.

It is illuminating to reread some of the columns he wrote over two decades for the Listener.

He could be blunt, persuasive and discomforting. He wrote of injustice, of the impact of a settler community on an indigenous people, and of the enduring influence of the Treaty of Waitangi.

After the then National Party leader Don Brash lit a race relations bonfire with his Orewa address in 2004, Dr Walker derided him as a Rip Van Winkle who had concocted a recipe for cultural genocide.

When the foreshore and seabed issue surfaced, Dr Walker wrote to New Zealand's political leaders saying: "I have been here a thousand years. You arrived only yesterday."

Dr Walker, who was 83, has left New Zealand a powerful and challenging legacy.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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