Whanganui iwi celebrates Pakaitore

By Laurel Stowell

Flash programme, budget programme or no programme at all - Whanganui Maori must go to Pakaitore/Moutoa Gardens on February 28 every year, to mark the anniversary of the first day of the occupation, MC Piri Cribb says.

As she made her way to the dawn karakia (prayers) yesterday by the Whanganui River her mind went back to the occupation of the gardens in 1995. When people of the iwi (tribe) left there after 79 days, not all of them wanted to go. Kaumatua John Maihi stayed at the gardens and talked to them until they could all leave together.

He was like the captain of the Titanic, she said, and not like the captain who failed to stay aboard the cruise ship Costa Concordia when it wrecked off the coast of Italy last year.

Mr Maihi stayed to talk on the last day of the occupation, so that the iwi could say it had moved collectively.

The first day, February 28, has been remembered at the gardens every year since then. "You just come back to Pakaitore every year on the 28th because that's where you belong, and you encourage your children to come back, too, because that's where they belong," Ms Cribb said.

Ken Mair said the day was about children and "celebrating Whanganui and ourselves". Mr Mair has been variously titled an activist, a terrorist, a leader or a spokesman for the tribe.

"Today is about remembering what our people have done in the past and ensuring that we are as one with the river and our land and celebrating that," Mr Mair said.

Yesterday hundreds of people passed through the park, which is bounded by Somme Pde, Bates St and Market Place.

Schools came and performed, there was a mini-triathlon and entertainment and stalls through the day.

Te Oranganui Iwi Health Authority was there with advice, members could register with the Whanganui iwi and brochures about the Maori electoral roll option were given out.

There was free food on offer and food to buy.

Young people took the opportunity to have a dip in the river at lunch time and about 20 people stayed over on Wednesday night.

Yesterday was just the start of the four-day Raukotahi 2013.

Today a youth summit was to be held with speakers at Putiki Marae, followed by a dinner for about 200, marking 25 years of the annual Tira Hoe Waka canoe journey.

Tomorrow will be the Whanganui Marae Waka Ama Sprint Challenge and on Sunday there will be activities for children at Kowhai Park.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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