Taakiritia te Tuakiri

I am unsure where to start, but I feel that I need to get some scrambled thoughts out of my head and onto paper.  When I heard that the ‘big hui’ at Tuurangawaewae was going to take place, I was determined that I would go. Tuurangawaewae is just down the road, I have stayed there before, and I wanted to stand as an ally and an accomplice to listen to the kōrero and learn. Then the date was announced and I realised there was something familiar about it. I checked my calendar – bugger it! The same day as a trail running event I had entered and trained for. Should I pull out of the event and go to the hui instead?  I was conflicted but decided in the end that I should honour the previous commitment, but that I would still be able to read the post-hui commentary, watch the live stream (after the fact), and listen to any other kōrero that was recorded in social media. 

As I have sat here over the last few days and read the articles written in the aftermath of the hui this weekend, as I have scanned the snippets of the kōrero on the Kingitanga FB page, and scrolled through the Twitter feeds, inspired by the kōrero of the rangatahi and jotting down key sentences and ideas by the main speakers, I have maybe confused my thinking even more! There is so much to take in!  So, I am going to come back to what I know best, my comfort zone – and that is language to try to organise some thoughts.  I am not a fluent speaker of te reo Māori – far, far from it. In fact, I know only a very little, but I am learning slowly and as someone who is ‘language curious’ (I speak French fluently and have more than passable Spanish) I love exploring language and making sense of it.  

The hui used these phrases or mantras throughout;

Taakiri tuu te Kotahitanga

Taakiri tuu te mana motuhake 

Taakiri tuu te tuakiri 

Nowhere were these phrases translated as far as I can find. I am confident in the meanings of ‘kotahitanga’, and ‘tuakiri’ , sort of confident with ‘mana motuhake’, but far less confident with ‘taakiri’. So I turned to te Aka Māori Dictionary to see what I could find; 
Taakiri = to unfurl; to open; to strike – deeply affect emotions, to move; to flick (as a whip); to snare, to dawn;  to fly back (as a spring)

The complexity of te reo Māori and the richness of the nuances and contexts for the use of words is one of the things I find beautiful about the language but is equally, something that frustrates me no end! How am I supposed to know which meaning to choose? 

Unfurl’ gives me a sense that this hui is the opportunity to launch awareness about coming together as one, self-determination, and identity as a people.

The idea of ‘deeply affecting emotions’ also works – how powerful are the feelings when we come together as one, when we have self-determination, and when we feel strength and pride in our own identity? 

And then ‘dawn’, this is a bit like ‘unfurl’ in a way, but more poetic. This is the dawning of the strength as a unified people who are controlling their own destiny and who are confident in who they are. 

So, I have decided not to get hung up on the actual translation – I know well that it is often impossible to translate the deep meanings of concepts from another language simply by looking at the words. It really is all about trying to see the world from different perspectives and being open to the richness of cultures. I am an English woman, I have been in Aotearoa for 16 years this week. I have lived in France and Spain and travelled widely. I can see a little bit of the essence of other cultures through the windows of their languages as I have learnt them, but my outlook and my understanding of the world will always be predominantly from an English, western perspective.

And so,  I have decided to take some ideas, words, soundbites that have stood out to me from what I have read and try to make sense of them. I have tried to group them around those three key concepts of tuakiri, mana motuhake and kotahitanga but they sort of leech into each other – the edges are blurred.

Tuakiri – Identity

“The most contested piece of raupatu is the paa tuuwatawata of our childrens’ minds.”

Dayle Takitimu

A ‘paa tuuwatawata’ is fortified paa. An intended consequence of the raupatu o te whenua by Crown forces as they fought their way through the Waikato, was the loss of language, culture, tikanga, economic independence, and identity. This has had ongoing traumatic impacts on the lives of Māori ever since. Children grew up not knowing their language, their history, their culture and without those they lost their sense of identity. As well as the colonisation of the country, there was a colonisation of the minds and hearts of tamariki and mokopuna. The only way of reversing this is to immerse them in te ao Māori. For me as an educator, one way of supporting this is through education – providing opportunities for kaiako to ‘unlearn’ and ‘relearn’ the history of Aotearoa New Zealand so they can pass it on to their tamariki. Dayle Takitimu also said, 

“Education is kryptonite to racism; if you teach people the facts, if they can understand things from the perspectives of the other, the hate and the mistrust ebbs away.”

“The power and revolution for change belongs to the hapuu. Conscientise the people to take responsibility for their own change.” 

Mereana Pitman

I think this follows on from what Dayle Takitimu said about education and the impacts of colonisation of minds and hearts. For 150 years, Māori had limited or no access to their histories, or it was so traumatic that they buried it deep in the recesses of their minds. They were persuaded that it was detrimental to speak their own language and that English was the only way forward. Through the legislation that followed the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the New Zealand Wars, Māori were disenfranchised, treated as second-class citizens, and became dependent on the State.  It is essential that to exercise mana motuhake, they become conscious of what happened, are informed and can use that knowledge to bring about change. I know I have a responsibility as Tangata Tiriti to support that conscientisation, be there as an ally,  provide space to listen, for kaiako Māori and other Māori friends to develop a critical awareness of their social reality through reflection and action. I need to be critically aware myself too – who am I and what part have I played in that history, what part can I play, how can I reflect and take action without appropriating or taking over?

Mana motuhake – Tino rangatiratanga

“We’re at that point in history where the decision isn’t tino rangatiratanga or not, it’s tino rangatiratanga or nothing.” 

Donna Awatere Huata

I have to confess that this is another of those concepts that I am not entirely clear about. When I am asked, I say self-determination autonomy, the ability to have control over what is ours. Te Aka dictionary defines it thus; 

self-determination, sovereignty, autonomy, self-government, domination, rule, control, power.

But how is it different to Mana motuhake?  Te Aka dictionary defines it thus;

separate identity, autonomy, self-government, self-determination, independence, sovereignty, authority – mana through self-determination and control over one’s own destiny.

Very similar definitions so how do you differentiate?  Natalie Coates said,

“Tino Rangatiratanga is born in the whenua, it’s not something Tauiwi have, it belongs to us.” 

Why as Tauiwi don’t I/can’t I have self-determination or independence or control over my destiny?  One of the commenters suggested an explanation that I think helps me. They said that tino rangatiratanga is about us extending our absolute power and authority over that which has been handed down to us by our tupuna. It is something that is inextricably linked to the whenua and Māori connection to the whenua. Being Māori is about whakapapa, it is about whose waters you descend from (Nō wai au). 

Tino Rangatiratanga is a core tenet of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and one of the most contentious concepts, partly because, like me, the Missionaries in 1840 didn’t understand the concept – there was no one English word that explained it, so it has been poorly interpreted ever since the Treaty was drafted. Ever since then politicians and most other Pākehā really can’t get their collective heads around what it means and strive to interpret it based on their worldview, their experience and their knowledge (or lack of) history. People find it a threatening concept because when we don’t really understand something we feel like whatever it is, is taking away our power. The tino rangatiratanga of hapuu existed well before Te Tiriti o Waitangi.  It is not a right created by Te Tiriti but it is affirmed as part of it. 

So, where am I going here?  Maybe I’ll move on to the next concept to help continue the kōrero…


One of the whaikōrero that really touched me was one from Te Atamihi Whanga Papa, one of the rangatahi. When you hear young wahine speaking with such eloquence, passion and strength, you know that there is hope for the future. Ka mau te wehi! He momo ia! 

The kaupapa for her kōrero was around Kotahitanga. She talked about how rangatahi need to be able to flourish in two worlds; te ao Māori and te ao Pākehā. They need to be adept in the dining rooms of their marae as well as the boardrooms of the nation. They must be vocal speakers on the paepae as well as across the globe. They need to have the skills to be stewards of their culture, their whenua, and their whanau. 

“We need to be ‘decision-makers’ not ‘decision-takers”. 

How powerful is that? But wait, there is more, and this blew me away…. 

“We need to move from the unimaginable to the inevitable.” 

But how do we do this? she asked. Through kotahitanga. Together we can build the skills for mana motuhake – living in our own way, on our own terms. We need to come from a position of strength – we will be stronger together.  There has been plenty of kōrero in some of the social media strands about who speaks for who – who does the Kingitanga represent? Some questioned what right he had to call the hui. He doesn’t represent all hapuu and iwi. There are historical differences between iwi and hapuu regarding the Kingitanga. But the message that came through strongly was that hapuu and iwi from across the motu should be united in the face of the threat from this government and put aside historic differences. Why?

Tina Ngata, in her recent blogpost says this about why so many people turned up at Tuurangawaewae this weekend both physically and following on the live stream;

“I want to acknowledge and centre what drove thousands to meet at Tūrangawaewae:

That there is a specific and increased threat upon Te Ao Māori from this government and their proposed actions.

There are issues that arise out of our enduring colonialism, which we discuss every year, but thousands showed up because this government represents a new level of threat, one that needs a stronger response.”

So what is my role as Tangata Tiriti? How do I support the move for Māori to regain tino rangatiratanga, to find strength in their identity, to work together? Many Pākehā turned up at the weekend, many like me couldn’t make it, but we still tautoko the kaupapa wholeheartedly. We are here as allies, we stand together, alongside Māori with integrity, humility and honesty and the courage to listen and act when needed. I need to be a good treaty partner. What does that even mean? I’ll send you back to Tina Ngata to inform you on that!  What’s required of Tangata Tiriti? She explains it far more eloquently than I can. I need to read it again too, keep on reading it so the ideas become embedded in my being. In the meantime, I will read as much as I can, listen carefully and actively to those wiser and more experienced than I am, and be there when needed. An ally and an accomplice.

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