Māori Harvard graduate using his skills to help First Nations

By Moana Makapelu Lee

Kingi Snelgar from Northland is using his skills to help First Nation peoples. The young lawyer and Harvard graduate recently spoke at the United Nations and is imparting words of wisdom to other aspiring Māori lawyers.

Just recently Māori lawyer, Snelgar spoke at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to discuss how the UN could better facilitate relations between states and indigenous peoples.

Last year, Kingi and partner Kiri Toki were awarded the Fulbright Scholarship to study at Harvard Law School to complete their Masters of Laws.

Snelgar says, “Even better is that Kiri and I did it together, you know we were a team basically so it's never just me doing these things it’s us and it's Kiri's mum as well who is a member of the UN forum that I spoke in.”

After a year in the states, the graduates are using their skill sets in the Tribal Court systems of South Dakota and the Navaho Nation. 

“The whole kaupapa for why I wanna go there is because it seems like it's a place that's really struggling with their issues and I want to see how our iwi can deal with sovereignty where it's not perfect and basically if I can help cause they seem like they need the help then that's a bonus too”, says Snelgar.

The former Ngā Tauira Māori President at Auckland University says that Harvard is no pipeline dream for Māori law students.

Snelgar says, “After a year at Harvard we definitely have the skills and the unique worldview that's really valuable at a place like Harvard. Being Tangata Whenua and issues like climate change, you know we have such a valuable perspective to share.”

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