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  • Māori Issues
  • Margaret Mutu (bio)

While political tension increased for Mäori during the year, there was also great sadness. Like our Tongan and Samoan relations we lost significant leaders. In August 2006 the Tainui confederation of tribes lost their arikinui (paramount chief) of forty years, Dame Te Atairangikähu. As the hereditary leader of Tainui's Kingitanga movement, she was their queen. Tainui established the Kingitanga in the 1850s in an attempt to stop the confiscation of their territories by European immigrants. They are the only tribal confederation in New Zealand to have established a British-style monarchy, and although the Kingitanga does not include most iwi (tribal groupings), it nevertheless enjoys widespread support and respect within Maoridom. Thus despite the fact that Dame Te Ata held no constitutional position in New Zealand law, she was often referred to as "the Mäori Queen." She was a strong figure in Mäori politics and a staunch supporter of Mäori sports and culture (Bennion 2006 [Aug], 1; [Oct], 1; Mana, Oct–Nov 2006).

In September 2006, Ngäti Whätua lost their paramount chief, Emeritus Professor Sir Hugh Käwharu. He was the chair of the Ngäti Whätua o Öräkei Mäori Trust Board for more than twenty years and was the major force behind the Ngäti Whätua Treaty of Waitangi claims to the Auckland area. His determination to break through government mean-spiritedness and intransigence in order to settle the claims saw him taking on a hugely punishing workload after he retired as professor and head of the Department of Mäori Studies at the University of Auckland in 1993. He signed an agreement in principle toward settlement of those claims shortly before his death (Bennion 2006 [Oct], 2).

In April 2007, veteran Mäori actor and filmmaker Don Selwyn, one of New Zealand's most outstanding television and film producers and directors, passed away. He was Ngäti Kurï, Te Aupöuri, and Ngäti Kahu of the Far North. His greatest masterpiece was Te Tangata Whai Rawa o Wëniti: The Mäori Merchant of Venice, the film version of Shakespeare's famous play, which had been translated into Mäori by Pei Te Hurinui Jones in 1945 (Mäori Party 2007a).

On the political scene over the past year, the racist attitudes toward Mäori that continue to dominate the New Zealand Parliament resulted in ongoing and increasing tension between Mäori and the government on many issues. Mäori have once again had to resort to protest actions, as the government repeatedly denied us our legal rights. This time, however, coordinated protests across the country in response to refusals to return stolen lands resulted in the government's backing down and calling a temporary truce on that particular issue. For apart from strong judicial backing, particularly from the Waitangi Tribunal, and international condemnation from the United Nations (Stavenhagen [End Page 232] 2006), the presence of the small but very effective independent Mäori voice in Parliament, the Mäori Party, is ensuring that Mäori issues are no longer determined solely according to the racist whim of the major parties in the House.

The area that continued to be the major source of the tension was the settlement of Treaty of Waitangi claims. British immigrants, who settled New Zealand in large numbers beginning in the 1850s, have long sought to get rid of the Treaty of Waitangi. For over a century they simply ignored the treaty, and the courts sanctioned their behavior. But in the aftermath of World War II, international agreements outlawing racial discrimination, along with highly visible and embarrassing Mäori protests, forced the New Zealand government to establish the Waitangi Tribunal in 1975. The brief of the tribunal is to inquire into Mäori claims of breaches of the treaty. Initially, the government of the day did not expect the tribunal to hear many claims, meet often, or cost much (Oliver 1991, 910). But by the 1990s the tribunal was building an extremely bleak and ever-expanding record of extensive and serious atrocities committed against Mäori. In an effort...


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