23 Aug 2023

Māori activist Te Ringa Mangu 'Dun' Mihaka dies, leaves legacy of challenging status quo

1:44 pm on 23 August 2023

A dawn ceremony held in 2018 to mark the 40th anniversary of the Bastion Point occupation. Te Ringa Mangu Mihaka spent his life campaigning for Māori rights including at the Bastion Point occupation. Photo:

The veteran Māori activist and author Te Ringa Mangu Mihaka, also known as Dun Mihaka, has died.

The 81-year-old spent his life campaigning for Māori rights including te reo Māori advocacy and the Bastion Point occupation.

His friend, former chair of Te Rarawa Runanga and iwi leader Haami Piripi told Morning Report that Mihaka was "a great challenger".

"He was brave enough to challenge boundaries and established protocols and he created opportunities really, for other people to follow up on.

"He often bore the brunt of the anger of the state, or the anger of the status quo if you like and because of that he often received the blunt end of what we call our justice system in Aotearoa."

In 1979, Mihaka challenged the legal status of te reo Māori, after the District Court refused to let him speak Māori in court.

Piripi said he was there in court that day.

"The judge said to him, 'But I know Mr Mihaka that you can speak English' and he said in Māori, 'But I choose not to speak English, I choose to speak my own language', and it was that, that ... forced the court to suppress him and bundle him off."

"I remember [when] he was jumped on by police ... and dragged out for that very thing and I look back and think we've come a very, very long way."

At the time, te reo Māori did not have legal status, but eventually Mihaka conceded that he had to defend himself in some way, Piripi said.

"He got Shane Jones to be his interpreter who was a student at the time.

"He wasn't alone but he was the only one who was prepared to stand up and take the hit as it were, for the actions."

Piripi said Mihaka was held up in high regard in te ao Māori, even though he had done some questionable things over the years - such as showing his buttocks to then Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana on their royal tour of New Zealand in 1983.

"That was a real insult and he knew just how insulting it would be and he knew what would be the result of it.

"He was pummelled over that and despised by much of the nation at the time ... now it seems a little bit of a ... lighter thing on reflection."

Mihaka wrote two books about the preservation and restoration of tikanga Māori, titled 'Whakapohane: I Na Tuohu Koe Me Mea Hei Maunga Tei Tei', released in 1984, and 'Te Hono Ki Riipia', released in 1989.

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