Former Pacific minister ‘lights fire of spirit’ supporting Māori at unity hui

Former Pacific Peoples Minister Aupito William Sio
Former Pacific Peoples Minister Aupito William Sio . . . "the right time to have a conversation on nationhood and identity." Image: Pacific Media Network

By Ruci Farrell of Pacific Media Network

Pacific peoples joined with tangata whenua at the weekend, calling on the Aotearoa New Zealand government to uphold indigenous principles and language.

Twelve thousand people attended the unity hui at Tuurangawaewae Marae on Saturday, called by the Kiingitanga to discuss what is being seen as anti-Māori actions by the new coalition government.

Former Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio was a panel speaker, saying it was “an absolute privilege to support and participate in this vital work”.

“It is right for Maori to lead this conversation and not politicians, as the political timeline is short-term while Maori perspectives are long-term and intergenerational.”

Aupito said these conversations were not just limited to Māori peoples, but needed to be held within strong leadership structures.

“This is the right time to have a conversation on nationhood and identity, and using indigenous knowledge and cultural intelligence and frameworks is better than using Pakeha frameworks that have often been the source of pain, harm and colonisation.”

Aupito was also asked to light one of the fires representing the mauri, or spirit of the words shared — the wind then carrying the message across the country.

‘Privilege to light fire’
“It was a privilege to be asked to light a fire as a symbol of Pacific people’s support and for the spirit of the event to now spread among the Pacific communities throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.”

In his speech, Kiingi Tuheitia Pootatau said the political message had been heard around the world.

“We’ve sent a strong message, and that message has been heard around the world . . .  our time is now, kotahitanga (unity) is the way.”

Auckland union organiser Teisa Unga said Pacific communities needed to look back on the shared history with New Zealand to understand shared ties with tangata whenua.

“We’ve grown up, and because we haven’t been taught our history, we actually don’t know the road map of where we are right now and we have this sense of amnesia.

“We need to look back and actually remember who we are, where we come from, and then that’ll start igniting a fire that we need to take it back to the culture and Te Tiriti, remembering that that was there first.”

Tongan community leader Pakilau Manase Lua said it was disappointing that Prime Minister Christopher Luxon was not there to hear the concerns of Māori iwi.

‘Unfortunate that PM’s not here’
“It’s unfortunate that he’s not here — in saying that, we’ve got Waitangi coming up, and what was said here probably will be repeated at Waitangi.

“The atmosphere here was still a little bit charged, with some quite heavy topics that are being discussed, but it’s been amazing.”

Mana Moana programme director Dr Karlo Mila said she was impressed by the clear intentions laid out by different cross sections of iwi.

“What was quite amazing for me, was to see different hapu and iwi come forth with really, really clear resolutions about what they wanted to put forward so that they could get some kind of unity around it, there was a lot of coherency in their messages.

“It felt like a real moment in history for all the provocations that are coming from the new government.”

This week, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon will aim to reassure Māori leaders about the coalition government’s actions at the annual Ratana gathering, where both he and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters are expected to speak.

Republished with permission.

The Hui-ā-Iwi at Tūrangawaewae marae
The Hui-ā-Iwi at Tūrangawaewae marae . . . a strong message that has been heard around the world. Image: RNZ
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