15 Sep 2017

Māori Parliament's 100 year anniversary celebrated

5:16 pm on 15 September 2017

Iwi and officials from across the country gathered yesterday to honour the 100 year anniversary of the Kiingitanga Māori Parliament.

The Māhuta monument at Te Kauwhanganui.

The Māhuta monument at Te Kauwhanganui. Photo: RNZ / John Boynton

A selection of archival manuscripts and photographs created by members of the Māori Parliament were also exhibited for the first time to mark the centennial milestone.

On 14 September 1917, the Kiingitanga opened their Māori Parliament at Rukumoana Marae on the outskirts of Morrinsville.

After Tainui was devastated by large scale land confiscation, the second Māori king, Kingi Tāwhiao, proposed a separate Māori Parliament and asked the crown for an independent commission of inquiry into land confiscation.

A display inside Te Kauwhanganui.

The permanent display inside Te Kauwhanganui. Photo: RNZ / John Boynton

The base for the parliament, the Kauwhanganui, was first established at Maungakawa in 1891 until it moved to Rukumoana Marae 26 years later.

A permanent exhibition of old photos, letters and documents has now been established at the fully restored Kauwhanganui building.

Anthropologist and historian Ngapare Hopa said the values of Māori parliament have stood the test of time.

"It's a magnificent expression both philosophically and materially of the ambition of our people to maintain their own autonomy."

Dr Hopa said the Māori parliament should be put in context with other political movements around the world.

"If you look around this house by itself it's symbolic of the leadership of the time and the foresight the leaders had and of their attempt to prepare for a world that was moving and changing."

She said the archival information was a taonga and needed to be acknowledged as New Zealand history.

"My fear is that it hasn't had the emphasis as part of New Zealand history as it ought to have, but maybe we're onto it now."

A copy of the Kawenata for Kiingi Te rata at Te Kauwhanganui.

A copy of the Kawenata for Kiingi Te rata at Te Kauwhanganui. Photo: RNZ / John Boynton

Gary Thompson said the 100 year anniversary was a symbolic moment in Ngati Haua history.

Mr Thompson has held wananaga for Ngati Haua whānau to help them learn more about the archival information now on display.

He said he hoped to be able to display more archival material.

"I'm looking forward to the day when we're able to fully bring out the documentation that's stored in this building, so that people can start to analyse the korero and the issues that were being talked about over the years that the whare was open."

Te Ao Marama Maaka said restoring the building has taken more than 30 years.

Ms Maaka said a visit from the Māori queen, Dame Te Atairangikaahu, in 2002 was pivotal.

"Te Arikinui came and we gave her a cup of tea in here ... it just gave Ngati Haua the encouragement to put this place in order, renovate it and use it."

She said the anniversary celebrations reminded her of her tupuna and the history of the Kauwhanganui, and she was pleased with the turnout from around the country.

The long-term goal for Ngati Haua is to establish a centre of excellence in indigenous archival management at the kauwhanganui.