Te Tīmatanga o Te Kerēme WAI 27

Nā Dr Te Maire Tau

In 1986 my father, Rakiihia Tau, filed the Ngāi Tahu Claim to the Waitangi Tribunal. The hearings began at Tuahiwi in August 1987, initially at Rangiora High School, and then, as the grind of hearings began and tribal members returned to work, they were held on the Tuahiwi Marae itself.

The following paper is my father’s account of the events of this time. It bears reflection because it describes a world that has slowly been eroded and is fast disappearing. What is strongly evident is his “ture-wairua” and his faith. Today, there is a constant call for a return to traditional karakia and rituals. Rangatahi feel nervous about Christian beliefs, as if it’s possible to understand the natural world of atua while living in an urban environment. Yet what is forgotten is the notion of faith, and that in Tuahiwi, Te Muka, and Moeraki, the community leadership was geared around the church. By my father’s time and certainly in my childhood, the only regular place that the Treaty and Kemp’s Deed were spoken of was during church at our marae. Those discussions were held and led by our Āpotoro, Poia Manahi, and Upoko, Pani Manawatu. Outside of our marae and church, very few spoke about the Ngāi Tahu Claim and the Treaty of Waitangi. In fact, in our time there weren’t too many Ngāi Tahu.
In the pā, whether it was Rāpaki or Te Muka, Tuahiwi or Port Levy, everything started and ended with whakamoemiti. Pōwhiri consisted of the tangi, the speech of welcome, and whakamoemiti, followed by hīmene and then kai. Whakamoemiti simply “cleared the way”, and simplified the process to manaaki. Two hours of whakamoemiti were not unusual.

Re-reading my father’s paper brings to mind the fact that when Dad filed his claim, some of our key elders had passed away. The loss of Poia Manahi, our Āpotoro, was a devastating blow for Tuahiwi and the South Island. The tangi was at the end of winter, and it was cold and wet. Our loss was coupled with the ill health of our Upoko, Pani Manawatu. Likewise, the backbone of our cookhouse, Tasman Pitama, had died the year before. And, as Dad explains, old Jim Tau had passed away and many more were to follow over the next decade. If Tuahiwi was to move on any major issue, this was not the time. But as the saying goes, tai-timu, tai-pari – the tide goes in and the tide goes out; and a new generation of leaders followed with John and Ruahine Crofts surrounded by a host of elders.

I think Dad would want me to give thanks for the help he had from the ringawera of that time. Alamein Scholtens headed the wharekai, with Patricia Anglem as the matriarch at the back. Joy Bond, Ngawini Hack, and Tokomaru Hammond kept the back going along with Joe Crofts, Bull Tau, Hoani Pitama, and Makarini Pitama, who worked the cook house. Marsden and Janet Reuben were there to help, and so too was Colleen Pitama.

Dad mentions Jimo Te Aika, Henry Jacobs, and Rima Bell. Aunty Rima was one of the few surviving elders who could recall the Ngāi Tahu Claim, its history, and the issues that surrounded the establishment of the Ngāi Tahu Māori Trust Board. What we forget is that the Ngāi Tahu Māori Trust Board was not popular amongst our people, and that its creation under the Labour Government had created a division within the tribe and in Tuahiwi. There had been two embezzlement scandals in its history, and in the 1970s our Upoko, Pani Manawatu, went with other Ngāi Tahu elders to support the Frank Winter submission for a perpetual payment of $20,000 because the 1944 Ngāi Tahu Māori Trust Board Act did not take into account interest and inflation. The economist Professor John Ward estimated that in 1986 the Trust Board’s $1 received was worth less than 6 cents in relation to its 1944 purchasing power. The accumulated loss of wealth from 1944 was $2,759,200.

Aunty Rima’s advice to Dad at that time was that he needed to make sure that James (Jimo) Te Aika and Here Korako were there to support him. Both men were seen as mātāmua and as holding senior lines within our pā. Here gave Dad his support, but he wanted to spend his twilight years enjoying life, as he had spent much of his time raising his children as a sole parent. Jimo actively supported my father during these years. So too did Hilary Te Aika. Dad’s brother-in-law, Henry Jacobs, regularly supplied sheep and beef for the ringawera at the back in the kāuta. Again, the lesson here was that the men of the marae understood their roles, and it was their job to supply the meat, kaimoana, and wood; and to be able to butcher and prepare the food in the kāuta for the hāngī or pots. The actual kitchen and dining room was left to the women, although the younger men would help when needed.

Although Dad called Aunty Rima a kaikaranga, she was really his taua and advisor. Aunty Rima did karanga when she had to, but she tended to avoid this duty as she had asthma, and it was also seen as an omen if a kaikaranga broke. Aunty Rima was able to fill in key gaps for the Ngāi Tahu Claim, such as the role of her ancestor Teoti Metahau, who filed the first Ngāi Tahu claim to Queen Victoria in 1848. She could explain the background to the argument between her Uncle Te Ruapohatu (Stone) Pitama with Rangitāne and Ngāti Toa, and the 1925 Ngāi Tahu hui, which established the Ngāi Tahu whakapapa file base and the Ngāi Tahu Trust Board. Aunty Rima’s grandfather, Ihakara Karaitiana, had written a booklet on the Ngāi Tahu Claim which he gave to Harry Evison, who used it as the basis for his thesis and the eventual evidence he presented to the Waitangi Tribunal. The kaikaranga during this period were Jane Manahi, Ruahine Crofts, and Aroha Reriti-Crofts. Again, the church was the common bond.

My recollection of this period is of the grinding work that Dad, Tā Tipene, and others undertook. They all worked long hours and into the night. Weekends didn’t really exist, and if they did, they were a rare luxury. I think Dad was most at ease when he went muttonbirding, eeling, and whitebaiting – which were really long, drawn-out days of labouring – but at least it was physical. I remember when Dad came to Port Levy to help us shift into the bach and he spent most of his time on his on his hands and knees weeding the gardens late into the night. He just worked. I do wonder now whether he regretted the time he missed with his family, and if this was his way of apologising. I regret that our time together was always about the Claim, and not on proper matters that fathers and sons should have enjoyed. Our meetings were always a matter of “This is what we have to do next, Te Maire”.

There are messages in this recollection and lessons to be learnt. Faith stands at the centre of Dad’s account; faith and belief in ourselves and our people. Also, our people understood their roles, responsibilities, and obligations to their ancestors, to each other, and to their community. The lessons not learnt were about whānau.