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  • Māori Issues
  • Margaret Mutu (bio)

White supremacy first arrived in Aotearoa, the home of Māori for more than one and a half millennia, in 1769 when a group of Englishmen set foot on a beach at Tūranganui-ā-Kiwa on the East Coast and promptly shot the rangatira (leader) dead. The next day they shot fifteen more tangata whenua (people of the land). For these and many other Europeans, they wrongly believed that their whiteness and their Christianity authorized them to travel the world and exterminate, enslave, and dispossess nonwhite non-Christians (ecosoc 2010). Whites renamed the country to New Zealand and redefined it for themselves. Two hundred fifty years later, white supremacy is the norm in New Zealand and continues to be used to terrorize Māori and other nonwhites. The victims of this ongoing terrorism were shocked but not surprised at the horrific mass murders that took place in Christchurch on 15 March 2019 (Burton 2019). A white supremacist went to two mosques and shot at hundreds of Muslims while they were at prayer, killing fifty-one and injuring forty-nine (rnz 2019a; New Zealand Herald 2019a).

Muslims in particular had been warning of the likelihood of such an attack, but, like warnings and condemnations Māori have issued over the past 250 years, their cautions were ignored. Initial denials that this country could have been nurturing such behavior lost credibility as more and more nonwhites recounted their experiences of racism. The United Nations had repeatedly warned that racism is a serious problem in New Zealand and in more than one report had recommended constitutional transformation (Mutu 2019, 207). However, anything that could be perceived as a possible threat to the affluence, privilege, and power that whites enjoy (Borell, Barnes, and McCreanor 2018) is deemed politically unacceptable. Even a prime minister who is relatively sympathetic to Māori and has five Māori ministers in her cabinet has been unable to make any measurable change to that attitude. That has not stopped Māori from continuing to pursue our rights—with increasing support from the United Nations.

In this year's review, I will consider the ongoing battle between Māori and the government over our human rights in the areas of health; justice; our children; our lands, waters, and seas and the treaty claims settlements; protection of our Mother Earth, Papatūānuku; protection of our wāhi tapu (sacred sites); and our right to be free from discrimination. On the bright side, there was an encouraging appointment to the country's highest court. There were also ongoing sporting successes and awards in the world of performing arts. Before I consider these, I will acknowledge some of the leaders we lost in the past year.

The act of terrorism in Christchurch left the country stunned as Ngāi Tahu, the iwi (nation) of most of the South Island, assumed their responsibility to look after the bereaved and draw the Christchurch community together in its immediate aftermath. Māori communities have continued to acknowledge the pain and grief of the Muslim community [End Page 240] and to provide support for them in the full knowledge and understanding of the great spiritual and physical strength required to survive such devastation. Those of ours who passed away this year will accompany those who were taken in Christchurch as they make their way back to their ancestors.

Among them were a number of our leaders. Ruruarau Heitia Hīhā of Ngāti Kahungunu, a former Māori All Black and educationalist, left us in August 2018. He spent his life working for his people, including leading the claims to the Waitangi Tribunal for the Ahuriri lands in and around present-day Napier. Heitia gave evidence in five hearings between 1996 and 1998. As with the great majority of Tiriti o Waitangi claims, the government had still not addressed them when Heitia passed away twenty years later (Sharpe 2018; Waitangi Tribunal 2004).

In December, another Māori All Black and educationalist, former Race Relations Conciliator Hiwi Tauroa of Ngāti Kahu and Ngāpuhi, passed away. He was the headmaster at Wesley College and then at Tuakau College—the first M...