As normality returns to my iwi and the many involved in the days leading up to and including the uplifting and inspiring - Te Matatini – it has allowed time to reflect on this powerful event and time for my people.
No event better captures the talent, diversity, beauty, pageantry and generosity of our Māori people, or allows us all to walk across a venue where we see the many faces of Māori everywhere - from coffee and food makers and sellers, to police and nurses, presenters, camera crews, cleaners, security, school teachers, judges to dish washers – at every stage of this wonderful event. Not to mention our kaihaka (performers) who are the beating heart of Te Matatini.
It is a chance for our tamariki to wander a venue and see themselves across our beautiful complex and proud culture displayed in people who look like them, in an environment that applauds the very best, which encourages innovation and resilience, dedication, and acceptance in the decision of a judge who can determine whether you experience the exhilaration of success, or of not quite making it to an award.
For myself and my Ngāti Whātua people, this was a chance to welcome many from across the motu to our whenua, for us to awhi and manaaki our guests to central Auckland. The pōwhiri for the event was held at a significant site for my people, Okahu Bay, where my grandparents were born and grew up beside the beach and Waitematā. It is a link to our past and demonstrates the importance of Te Matatini and the sanctity we feel in being allowed to host this wonderful event.
And welcome it did, bringing tens of thousands of visitors across the 5 days, and more than a million viewers to the performances. There were politicians, and dignitaries including Auckland mayor Wayne Brown, iwi leaders, movie stars, business leaders from across the spectrum. There were numerous whānau who often included koro and nan who came to support their own, and their iwi.
It was a celebration of te ao Māori, of our culture and of the incredible power of bringing Māori from across Aotearoa to one place to celebrate, to compete, to tautoko and manaaki, a wonderful occasion to direct our focus on those things which bind us and bring us all together.
For some there has been a focus on a certain TikTok video which distracted some of our men and inflated their egos for a day or so until our wives brought our feet back to earth. There has also been some attention to the pōwhiri and the activities by one iwi leader who used the occasion to make a public grab for the glistening jewels that are the whenua of my people. It is a behaviour and attitude that we have sadly become very accustomed to.
It is of course the right of a kaikōrero to use the paepae to say whatever they so wish. It is right to use this forum to do so and for there to be a reply. Of course, there is an expectation of greater respect when you are being welcomed by another iwi, as is the custom of my people.
This opinion is not to dwell on the actions of new Waikato-Tainui chairman Tuku Morgan - who was re-appointed chairman for his iwi last year. That will occur in the many forums and interactions that occur between our people, most of which will continue to be cordial and respectful – acknowledging that many of our people share whakapapa and a deep understanding that for many generations there have been incredibly powerful and reciprocal relationships between Ngāti Whātua and Waikato-Tainui.
We nurtured and supported each other during the incursions of Ngāpuhi through the musket wars. My people lived in the lands of Te Wherowhero for a brief time, but this did not give us the right to claim those lands when settlement negotiations began.
Ngāti Whātua had previously provided military assistance to Waikato at the epic battle of Hinga Kākā through our tupuna Te Kawau whilst his nephew Tūhaere supported his counterpart Tāwhiao to re-emerge out of the King Country and to jointly make the most of a post-war Niu Tīrini. Assistance received and given, balanced over time is the essence of whanaungatanga between respective Rangatira and Iwi.
Te Matatini was and remains ultimately about whānau and whanaungatanga, and I am glad that for the vast majority who shared in this incredible kaupapa, that those will be the glowing embers that warm them until Aotea Waka host the next one in New Plymouth.
To the many thousands who helped ensure Te Matatini was such an incredible success, my Ngāti Whātua people thank and salute you all.