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  • Māori Issues
  • Margaret Mutu (bio)

It was a year of some highs, which included a number of Māori athletes competing in the Olympic Games and their medal haul, as well as two important victories in the courts. But the battle for justice, equity, and recognition of Māori rights continued unabated in the face of increasingly harsh socioeconomic conditions and an uncaring government. Before we consider a selection of these successes and struggles, we pause to consider some of the many Māori leaders we lost over the past year.

Ngāpō Wehi of Ngāi Tūhoe, Whakatōhea, Ngāpuhi, Te Whānau a Apanui, and Ngāti Kahu—kapa haka exponent, composer, choreographer, and teacher—passed away in July 2016. He and his late wife Pīmia had been involved in kapa haka (traditional Māori performing arts) for more than fifty years. They earned respect and recognition as two of the great leaders of the art, leading their kapa haka teams to win prestigious national competitions six times (Haami 2013, 7; Mane 2016a).

Another kapa haka exponent, orator, musician, and gifted saxophonist, the Reverend Te Napi Tūtewehiwehi Waaka, passed away in November. He was Tainui and Ngāti Pikiao and was well known for his charismatic charm and his ability to send crowds into fits of laughter (Māori Television 2016b). Within a fortnight, his relation Mita Mohi of Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Rangiwewehi, and Ngāti Tūwharetoa also left us. As an exponent of the art of mau rākau (Māori weaponry), he had set up programs to train young men, including thousands who were at risk, in traditional weaponry skills (Makiha 2016).

The loss of Awanuiārangi Black at the age of forty-eight soon after was keenly felt. A leader of Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāti Pukenga, and Ngāti Raukawa ki Ōtaki, he served on a number of bodies including the National Iwi Chairs Forum, the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, and Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo (the Māori Language Commission). He also led the campaign for formal commemorations of the British invasion of Tauranga Moana in the 1860s (Cairns and others 2016). A fortnight later, singer Bunny Te Kōkiri Miha Waahi Walters (Ngāi Te Rangi) passed away. He recorded a number of hits in the 1970s (Māori Television 2016a).

In January 2017, it was Ngāpuhi's Iwi Puihi (Percy) Tīpene, founding member and chairperson of Waka Kai Ora (Māori Organics Aotearoa). Percy had extensive knowledge of primary industries, having been a government auditor, advisor, and technician. He combined this experience with a deep knowledge of tikanga (Māori law) to establish the world's first indigenous [End Page 174] organic verification system, Hua Parakore (Hutchings and others 2012; Organics Aotearoa New Zealand 2017). We also lost Tama Nikora in January. Tama was a former chairman of the Tūhoe Waikaremoana Trust Board and their spokesperson throughout the Urewera inquiry in the Waitangi Tribunal. He strongly criticized and opposed both the Tūhoe settlement and the Central North Island settlement, which extinguished the claims that he had fought so hard for (Te Kani Williams [Tūhoe], pers comm, 14 July 2017). Tainui's Tokoroa Pompey passed away in February. Another gifted saxophonist, as well as a singer, comedian, and all-around entertainer, he was a member of several of the Māori showbands that toured nationally and internationally in the 1960s and 1970s. He was a strong supporter of Tainui's Kīngitanga movement and acted as spokesperson for both the queen, Dame Te Atairangikaahu, and her son, King Tūheitia (Gardiner-Hoskins 2014). In May, it was lawyer John Te Manihera Chadwick (Ngāti Tūwharetoa and Ngāti Kahungunu), the founder of the New Zealand Māori Law Society. He mentored generations of young Māori lawyers, saw each of the three partners in his Rotorua legal firm become judges, and made huge contributions to the community, especially young people (Adlam 2017). Then, in June, we lost one of the most outstanding and formidable advocates for the recognition...