Hinerangi Cooper-Puru - daughter of “mother of the nation” Dame Whina Cooper - says her mother would have urged Ngāpuhi to never give up the struggle for justice.
Cooper-Puru took part in Saturday’s handover of a massive Waitangi Tribunal report detailing land loss, military action and Treaty breaches suffered by the Northland iwi from 1840 to 1900.
She said the report, and its recommendation to return Crown-owned land, could signal a new beginning for Northland Māori - but the new Government’s targeting of Māori gave her doubts.
Cooper-Puru said it was sad Māori had to keep justifying their Treaty rights, almost 50 years after her mother’s famous land march from Te Hāpua, in the Far North, to Wellington.
“I think my mum would support Ngāpuhi with the struggles, and she would say to them: ‘Ka whawhai tonu mātou’ [We will fight forever]. And that’s what’s going to happen to Ngāpuhi now.
“I think the hapū of Ngāpuhi have a lot of work to do. I mean, hapū will work hard, I know they will. They worked hard for 10 years [on the report], and now will it take another 10 years? What’s made it so difficult is the new Government we have. That’s where my doubt is.”
If the situation for Ngāpuhi did not improve, another big march could be needed, she said.
A pouwhenua that had been carried all the way to Wellington during the land march, and had been carved by her late husband, was on display at Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi.
“We may have to have that pouwhenua do some work again,” Cooper-Puru said.
If Crown-owned land was to be returned to Northland Māori, she wanted the priority to be the maunga tapu (sacred mountains) of Ngāpuhi.
The mountain where she lived, at Panguru in North Hokianga, was owned by Māori, but most of the others were in Crown hands.
But first of all she wanted the coalition Government’s three leaders to meet with Ngāpuhi.
“The Crown now has to listen, whakarongo, and those three people need to talk to our leaders and work out some way so we can move forward together.”
As well as the return of all Crown-owned land within the inquiry area, the Waitangi Tribunal report called for an apology, “substantial further compensation” to restore the economic base of hapū and make up for losses caused by Treaty breaches, and discussions with Northern Māori to “determine appropriate constitutional processes and institutions at national, iwi and hapū levels” to give effect to Treaty rights.