On display at MTG, in the Rongonui – Taonga mai ngā tāngata, ngā wāhi, me ngā takahanga: Treasured taonga from people, places and events exhibition, is a profile on Sir Āpirana Ngata.
He was a leader of people, a politician and an educator.
Ngata was born in 1874 in Kawakawa mai Tawhiti, Te Araroa, on the East Cape of the North Island and is from the Ngāti Porou iwi.
He was raised by his mother's sister Hārata, the wife of Major Rōpata Wahawaha. Wahawaha worked closely with Pākehā to expel Hauhau (a rebel group of the peaceful Pai Mārire order, that had turned violent) from Tūranganui-a-Kiwa, Poverty Bay, and also helped the government chase Te Kooti Ārikirangi Te Turuki.
Ngata received his early education at Waiomatatini Māori School and went to Te Aute College in Central Hawkes Bay. He enrolled at Canterbury University, graduating in 1893 with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in political science.
In 1894, he attended Auckland University and studied for his law degree (L.L.B) which he gained in 1897.
He was the first Māori to graduate from a New Zealand university and one of the earliest New Zealanders to hold degrees of B.A. and L.L.B. In 1948 he received an honorary Doctorate of Literature (Litt.D).
Travelling the country, Ngata promoted the Young Māori Party whose role it was to foster legislation directly beneficial to Māori.
He entered parliament in 1905 and served until 1943, initiating the Māori Land Development Scheme. This scheme provided government funding to Māori landowners to develop the physical infrastructure of their farms and to encourage the amalgamation of land titles into single administrative structures. This led to raising health standards of iwi and providing equal opportunity in higher education.
Ngata was part of the contingent committee who formed the Māori Pioneer Battalion in World War I and was responsible for the 28th Māori Battalion in World War II. He noted: "We are of one house, and if our Pākehā brothers fall, we fall with them."
He was a driving force in attempting to revive Māori language, history and traditions. Ngata chaired the New Zealand Geographic Board, was president of the Polynesian Society, and a member of the Board of Trustees for the Dominion Museum (the original national museum of New Zealand - predating Te Papa Tongarewa).
Ngata encouraged the resurgence of carving, instigated the construction of Te Whare Rūnanga (House of Assembly) at Waitangi, as well as other wharenui, meeting houses, around the country.
In 1888, as a young teenager, Ngata started recording oral histories and waiata (songs) about events both predating the migration of Māori to Aotearoa and up to the present day. Published in 1929, the Ngā Mōteatea volumes are a significant and valuable repository of Māori knowledge.