Ngāpuhi must unite under the authority of its forebears. That's the wish from prominent Ngāpuhi elder Titewhai Harawira on the eve of the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi by her ancestors.
A long-time activist herself, she has her own perspective on the arrival of the march to Waitangi this year.
Harawira says, “They are being moved by that wairua of our tūpuna. They carry that wairua and let them express it as they see the need to do it today. You can’t compare those things. We did it differently, loud mouth, afraid of nobody, absolutely fearless and we're fearless today.”
It's the ninth year this Ngāpuhi elder has lead Prime Minister John Key onto Waitangi.
“People might say wow you're the most fearless activist and in more recent years you’re leading the Prime Minister on. Well, you know I was asked by the kaumātua and kuia. This is a job that we want you to do and I said to them at that time years ago, I'm the last person to do that, I'll be having big scraps with them. They said, no you won’t. You will do this and the wairua of your tūpuna will move to allow you. It’s about the mana of Ngāpuhi,” says Harawira.
It's now 20 years since Titewhai was appointed by her elders to have this special role and since then she has grown accustomed to leading a number of Prime Ministers, and now she is urging Ngāpuhi to unite under the authority of its forebears.
Harawira says, “When they come and lay that kōrero in the marae, it’s for us to pick it up and do something about it. If we're really concerned and committed to changes and tino rangatiratanga for Ngāpuhi, what are we going to do about it?”
Whether it's the Prime Minister or the hīkoi group, the view of this elder charged with leading visitors onto Waitangi doesn't change.
Harawira says, “They’re as important as the Prime Minister and anybody else and I will take them on and I think it’s wonderful that our young people continue the kaupapa.”