Our ties of solidarity prop collective goals

By Tariana Turia

His visit to England was invaluable and a vital thread in our history that we must never forget.E NGA tini marae huri noa i te motu, tena ra koutou katoa.

Last week I joined others at Ratana Pa, where every year for more than 80 years those of the Ratana faith, and many from other spiritual beliefs, celebrate the birthday of the founder of the Ratana Church, Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana (TW Ratana)

TW Ratana was a prophet and was said to have the gift of healing through prayer. His reputation spread rapidly, and a village grew, known as Ratana Pa. Thousands attended his meetings, and many became followers. In the 1920s he travelled New Zealand and overseas.

He was not only a spiritual leader but also a political leader. In 1924 he took a petition to London, signed by more than 30,000 Maori, calling for the return of confiscated lands and recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi. He sought an audience with King George V. It was a journey I know of well, as my own grandfather, father and two aunts accompanied him to London, seeking the commitment of the Crown to honour the Treaty.

Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana was not allowed to speak with King George V, nor was the petition able to be presented to the League of Nations in Geneva. But his actions did help persuade the New Zealand government, in 1926, to set up the Sim Commission of inquiry to investigate land confiscation, and it later upheld many Maori grievances over land.

His visit to England was invaluable and a vital thread in our history that we must never forget.

Maori and non-Maori continue to meet at Ratana every year in recognition of the movement and its place in the Maori world. Many come to rekindle ties, others are visiting for the first time. It was a time for morehu to celebrate Tahupotiki's birthday and their youth. For years the marae was flooded with rangatahi - music, sports and cultural activities.

Today it has become an opportunity for politicians to pontificate about what they will do for the future of Maori.

Among the crowds this year were manuhiri tuarangi - visitors from afar - the Ainu, indigenous people from Japan. They were brought on to the grounds by the Maori Party as part of their national tour to meet and network with Maori.

There is a wonderful connection between the Ainu and the Ratana people which was rekindled this year. In 1924 TW Ratana visited Japan, where he met Bishop Juji Nakada. And in 1927 the Ratana Temple was opened by Bishop Nakada (it is thought that he may have been of Ainu descent).

TW Ratana, who held strong political views, predicted that following the collapse of the American economy, the Asian economy would rise and would become a major influence in the Pacific region.

His visit to Japan came at a time when those of Asian descent faced much discrimination. His visit teaches us the importance of relationship building regardless that it might make us unpopular with others.

Maori have a lot in common with the Ainu. We are both indigenous peoples fighting to ensure our place in our homeland, including the survival of our language and culture.

We were able to witness some of Ainu culture at Ratana this year.

It was indeed a privilege to welcome them, and we were richer from their presence.

The Ainu will have the opportunity to network with other Maori groups around the country at Parihaka, the Waitangi celebrations and at Matatini. It is whakawhanaunga, the act of building ties, rekindling ties, forming networks and friendships with family and others. Ratana have been able to reciprocate the relationship formed by TW Ratana and Japan all those years ago, and now it is timely that the Ainu set about establishing new relationships and connections with other hapu and iwi around the country.

Indigenous peoples have always drawn strength from one another with our shared histories of colonisation and our collective goals of self-determination, independence and cultural revitalisation.

From the Koori people of Australia and the Kanaky people of New Caledonia, across the great Pacific Ocean to the Native Americans and First Nations peoples of North America and to the Sami of Norway.

Each year Maori around the country host other indigenous people here in Aotearoa or travel abroad to rekindle relationships, share our strategies and pathways for self-determination.

While indigenous peoples are at different phases of language revitalisation or economic independence, our ties with each other will continue to help establish a global network of indigenous peoples for all our future generations.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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