I witnessed something quite remarkable yesterday that I’ve rarely seen during my travels within te ao Māori. I saw two Māori leaders go at it during the pōwhiri for Te Matatini. Basically the issue was who is mana whenua in Tamaki Mākaurau.
I’m not getting into that because that’s not my place or business but to see Tainui’s Tukuroirangi Morgan and Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei Te Kura Taiaho Kapea each go at it on behalf of their people was a privilege for me. Not in the sense that I saw a real stoush occurring but because these two leaders were very clear and frank (sometimes brutal) about where their people stood.
In comparison just before this happened there was another kaumātua who stood to put down a similar take from a different region of Te Ika a Maui, but it was relatively safe for him to do so because the group he was having a go at weren’t really present and they probably would have expected these kinds of wero to be put down on their marae in the hau kāinga.
When Tuku laid down his kaupapa, he knew he would get an angry response because it was directed at the hosts Ngāti Whātua. There were moments of disbelief from the large national gathering and at times some may have cringed at what they were hearing. The ensuing waiata tautoko from his people was clear and simply amazing.
It was amazing in the sense that it resonated with Tuku’s kōrero and Tainui and the Kingitanga were 100 per cent behind him.
His final gesture was to place the koha down. Te Kura’s response was next level, he began by telling his pae not to pick up the koha, to leave it on the ground. Then he responded. I won’t go into detail but he was clear, concise and in no uncertain terms reinforced the position and views of his people.
There were also moments of disbelief and cringing when Te Kura spoke. The waiata/haka tautoko from Ngāti Whātua had the same effect as the Tainui tautoko. It just resonated, was raw, not rehearsed but had one clear message.
The honesty, the clarity and the delivery from both speakers is something that I believe has been lost to us within this setting.
Usually we save this for the courts and our lawyers. Usually its the crown who are the recipients of these kinds of challenges. On the marae we are fixated with kia tau te rangimarie which was something handed down to us by our tūpuna, which in turn was heavily influenced by Christianity.
The problem with that thinking is things are never usually resolved on the marae or we just don’t talk about them in an attempt to seek resolution. Instead when end up in the courts. Which was one of the things that Tuku was saying.
Actually the only time I’ve seen this kind of honesty and courage was at Parihaka thirty-something years ago when Te Miringa challenged and had a go at one of our kuia who had gifted the raukura to the National government when they were rolling out their Fiscal Envelope kaupapa.
Basically Te Miringa said “(name with-held) who are you to give the Raukura away to the crown...”Her response was quick and clear.
Obviously the debate will continue about mana whenua in Tamaki Mākaurau. Its been going on for centuries and it will continue to do so.
What I saw yesterday was mana on display in its rawness. But I couldn’t help but feel that despite the brutal frankness and honesty as both leaders spoke their truth(s) on behalf of their people, there was this overriding feel of manaakitanga and respect for each other.
Just in closing I have lived most of my 60 years here in Tamaki Makaurau as an urban Māori away from Taranaki. I have spent many years reconciling this so my mokopuna will have a strong sense of their identity, within both iwi and urban Māori contexts. As an urban Māori I’d like to think I have a good relationship with both Tainui whānui and Ngāti Whātua (maybe not after this post lol).
My point is that in Tamaki Makaurau I know who I am, but most importantly I know who I’m not! But I still belong here. This helps me when I’m building relationships here.
Once again I would like to acknowledge both rōpu for allowing us the privilege of seeing strong, tūturu Māori leadership in action.
Kia kaha whānau.
Bernie O’Donnell is the chair of the Manukau Urban Māori Authority, a director of the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency, and an academic and cultural adviser to Auckland University.