Te Ao Māori mourns the loss of a great leader

By Harata Brown
  • Northland
  • Auckland

A great precious pillar and scholar of the Maori world has passed away, she was Merimeri Penfold of Ngāti Kuri. She was a devotee who helped pave the way for Te Reo Māori for the benefit of the world. Today, many gave their tributes of love to the great woman of the Māori paradigm who has now been silenced.

One of the leaders hailing from Pārengarenga Harbour, who grew up in the far northern township of Te Hāpua has sadly passed away.

A former student of Queen Victoria School, who fought hard to keep their doors open.

Kuni Jenkins of Ngāti Porou says that, she was undeniably “one of the women who stood up against the Anglican Church to keep their school open”

She was a champion of her native mother tongue, with a teaching career spanning 64 years, 30 of which saw her lecture Te Reo Māori at The University of Auckland.

Distinguished scholar, Dr. Ranginui Walker of Te Whakatōhea says, “Merimeri, Anne Salmond, Patu Hōhepa and Matiu Te Hau were all a part of the committee which fought hard to establish Waipapa Marae, Tānenuiārangi [meeting house] at the University.”

A former member of The Māori Education Foundation, executive member of the Broadcasting Commision. In 2000, the University of Auckland honoured Penfold with an Honorary Doctorate of Literature. She was also a co-editor who worked on the Williams Dictionary of the Māori Language, she was also one of the first to translate the works of William Shakespeare into Māori.

“Even through all of her great achievements, this elder never ever forgot to put her stamp of where she grew up, on everything” says Te Waihoroi Shortland, of Ngāti Hine and Te Aupōuri.

She is also a former Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission and was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Māori in 2001.

The family of the deceased said, although she fought a battle against cancer, she was happy and grateful that she witnessed the signing of the Deed of Settlement between Ngāti Kuri and the Crown, as well as the wedding of one of her grand-daughters before she passed.

Penfold will lay in the ancestral house of Tangirere, Waiora Marae in Ngātaki tonight.

She was 93 years old.

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