Knowing Your Tātai: Jade Kake on hapū rangatiratanga, whakapapa and Ihumātao

Jade Kake on Ihumātao and the complexities of the Crown-led settlement process.

Jade Kake on Ihumātao and the complexities of the Crown-led settlement process.

Ko Jade Kake tōku ingoa. He uri ahau nō Ngāpuhi, Te Whakatōhea, Te Arawa. Kāhore ōku whakapapa ki a Ihumātao.

Before I offer some thoughts, I want to start by recognising hapū rangatiratanga first and foremost, and acknowledge that, at least from my perspective, those who are not mana whenua do not have the right to a view on the take at Ihumātao. Notwithstanding that, given the scale of the occupation and significant media coverage, Ihumātao has become emblematic of wider Māori and Indigenous struggles. Without trivialising the specific experiences and perspectives of the whānau and hapū directly affected, those who whakapapa to the whenua and maintain ahi kā, Ihumātao has come to symbolise something beyond the initial take itself. These are the things that I – as a wāhine Māori who has worked as a designer on papakāinga projects and as an advocate for Māori housing – may be qualified to comment on.

Entering into dialogue around Ihumātao is an uncomfortable space for me. I resisted forming a view for a long time, mostly because I understand the complexities of intra- and inter-hapū dynamics and have experienced first-hand the unhelpful repercussions of interference by well-meaning (and sometimes, not-so-well-meaning) outsiders. I’ve watched Pākehā activists centre themselves and hijack hapū kaupapa, often in solidarity, but also, sometimes in service of their own agenda. With these thoughts in mind, I’ve chosen to wade into the fray, albeit with some trepidation.

“It’s good to know your tātai,” I told him, “but this is a wānanga for another day.”

When I spoke with one of my whanaunga about the occupation, I told him I didn’t think I was entitled to have a view, because I am not from Ihumātao. In response he asked, “Who says you’re not from there?” He then proceeded to share our (to my mind long-distant) whakapapa to the whenua. “It’s good to know your tātai,” I told him, “but this is a wānanga for another day.” One of our kuia told me that, in her view, “Ihumātao is an issue of tīkanga, and when our kaumātua make decisions, we must not takahī on their mana. But [and there is a caveat] our rangatira [our leaders – formally mandated or otherwise] must also talk to their people, and this must include tai tamariki.” Another uncle told me he was thinking of travelling to Ihumātao in support because he could relate first-hand to the experience of an iwi authority speaking over mana whenua. As demonstrated by the huge numbers of people who have turned out in support of Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL) and mana whenua of Ihumātao, there’s a lot to relate to.

It must have been sometime around mid-2014 when Te Warena Taua called me. As an advocate and organiser, I was part of a rōpū bringing a housing kaupapa to Makaurau Marae, located in Ihumātao village. As the rūnanga chairperson, Te Warena wanted to be sure that my rōpū wasn’t presuming to speak on behalf of Te Kawerau ā Maki or interfere in iwi business. I listened as he explained the challenge ahead of them. I felt pōuri for the whānau there, having lost so much and now being caught up in a seemingly impossible situation.

I met Pania Newton later (perhaps in 2017), at Te Puni Kōkiri offices in Manukau where I was attending a meeting for another housing kaupapa, and was intensely moved by her focus and sustained commitment to her whānau and her whenua.

In a recent interview, Te Warena Taua drew a comparison between the disagreements amongst mana whenua at Ihumātao and the tensions and disagreements within Ngāpuhi, an iwi he also has whakapapa to: “You show me one iwi in this country that’s stuck together and isn’t split. Look at Ngāpuhi – how many years down the track, they still haven’t come together for their own settlement yet, and [there are] many of them that are coming here.” I believe he hit on a key issue facing our hapū and iwi: as Māori we make decisions by consensus, as a collective. This is severely compromised by Crown processes, which pick winners and losers and pit us against one another. On this matter, there are lessons at Ihumātao that are relevant to us all, ngā hapū kātoa.

We voted as a block – a decisive kāhore.

Last year, our hapū within Whangārei collectively mobilised to respond to the ‘evolution’ of the Tūhoronuku mandate, a Crown-led proposition that was supposed to end the stalemate and allow Ngāpuhi to progress to a united settlement. As hapū kaimahi we worked hard, under immense time pressure and with no financial resources, to understand the complexities (and omissions) of the Crown’s proposal, and to present the information in a way that would support informed hapū decision-making. The outcome was that 70 of the 110 hapū of Ngāpuhi voted against the evolved mandate proposal. As Whangārei hapū (defined for the purposes of this process as Te Orewai, Ngāti Hau, Ngāti Kahu o Torongare, Te Parawhau, Ngāti Takapari, Ngāti Kororā, Te Waiariki, Te Uriroroi, and Patuharakeke) we voted as a block – a decisive kāhore. Through it all, our main principle was to protect our whanaungatanga from what was a divisive process, which we largely did. At our Ngāti Hau Hui-ā-Hapū, for example, the room burst into song at the end of the vote.

We might have made it through the latest challenge, but it wasn’t easy, and the fight is far from over. We are still working amongst ourselves to understand the implications of agreeing to a full and final settlement, and to form a shared position as Ngāpuhi. We have a Waitangi Tribunal finding from stage one of our hearings (He Whakaputanga me Te Tiriti: The Declaration and the Treaty) that demonstrates, unequivocally, that Ngāpuhi did not cede sovereignty upon the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, nor upon the signing of He Whakaputanga five years earlier. The constitutional conversation is yet to be had. The Crown would prefer we focus on quantum (a formula used to calculate redress based on tribal population) and cash, but for many of us, something much bigger is at stake – our sovereignty. For many of us, this was and is the bottom line. We cannot and will not accept any settlement that undermines our sovereignty.

There are no real winners in Treaty settlements.

Pre-colonisation, our iwi were loose confederations of hapū that only had formal status when travelling outside the rohe, and had no real economic function. Nowadays, the Crown preference for dealing with iwi is enshrined within legislation. Our resource management legislation sets out requirements whereby iwi must be consulted, whereas hapū consultation is optional. The preference of the Crown for dealing with iwi entities is a source of division, creating tensions amongst our hapū, marae and whānau, establishing unnatural hierarchies and undermining our tikanga. Although there have been gains experienced in rebuilding some parts of the tribal economic base and resetting some political relationships, as Margaret Mutu will no doubt attest, there are no real winners in Treaty settlements. There is always a compromise, and very often this is an unacceptable one.

SOUL have publicly stated that Ihumātao is a cultural heritage and social justice issue, not a Treaty settlement one. However, Ihumātao can be considered a national Māori issue (and an international Indigenous issue) because of what it represents in terms of colonisation, the broader historical and ongoing injustices, and the potential precedent a government response might set.

Peeni Henare publicly stated that the government cannot intervene at Ihumātao as this action has the potential to undermine the Treaty settlements finalised to date. Whatever the veracity of his statements, my response is, would that be such a bad thing? Treaty settlements have criminally underpaid, and hapū have been consistently sidelined. The return of land and sovereignty to any meaningful degree is yet to occur.

...the children of whom put candles in the skulls of our tūpuna and brought them into school

Our heritage legislation is biased in favour of colonial heritage, prioritising physical archaeology over cultural intangibles. Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard about the many historic injustices at Ihumātao. These included Maungataketake being quarried and flattened for the port, a sewerage line that was placed through their mahinga kai in the 1950s, and the 85 kōiwi unearthered during development of a new runway in 2008. For me, these hit close to home because of similar experiences within our own rohe. I’m reminded of Opau, our pā site mined to fill the port in Whangārei. I’m reminded of the horror of learning about the Pākehā who acquired the land that contained our burial caves, the children of whom put candles in the skulls of our tūpuna and brought them into school. The extensive raupatu of our land, including the 1907 legislation that stole all our land below the high tide mark. The horrific degradation of our harbour, the destruction of our māhinga kai. Te mea, te mea.

Closer to the present day, I’m reminded of Pūriri Park in Maunu, which was originally sold for the purposes of education, and which the Crown was then able to repurpose for housing (to be developed by Housing New Zealand) as a matter of right, without having to offer it back to the original owners. As a hapū, we chose to support and partner on the development, once it became clear that there would be no further legal recourse. Despite this, some whānau within our hapū were adamant and vocal in their opposition. They asked that the land not be developed for housing, but instead be protected as a reserve, for the benefit of all. Sound familiar? Local residents were opposed for vastly different reasons, resisting the changing demographic and perceived threat to their property values.

The structural change required here is that the government must stop selling Crown land to private developers. The Crown-led settlement process is divisive, and there are significant, unaddressed flaws in the way land is considered within this process.

We all know who can afford to hire their own experts, planners and lawyers to argue against development.

One of the arguments made in support of the proposed development at Ihumātao is the shortage of land for housing in Tāmaki Makaurau. In my view, this is a red herring argument. There are better (though more politically unpopular and challenging) sites for housing, such as the acres upon acres of low-density housing in the inner city (‘brownfield’ – previously developed), golf courses (‘greenfield’ – not previously developed) and other Crown land. Yes, Māori are overrepresented in terms of living in poor-quality housing or experiencing housing need, but developing a site steeped in controversy, poorly serviced by infrastructure and overshadowing an existing papakāinga is a lazy solution. In part, I believe this is because developing land of significance to Māori is seen as the path of least resistance. Compare this with attempts to intensify development of wealthy majority-Pākehā neighbourhoods. We all know who can afford to hire their own experts, planners and lawyers to argue against development.

Over the past week or so, many people have shared varying perspectives and analyses on the occupation at Ihumātao (one of the best pieces I have read is by Tina Ngata). I have seen many urban Māori and those who are not mana whenua post about Ihumātao on social media, make statements on television or radio, and write thinkpieces (much like this one) in online and print media. Some whānau from Ihumātao have publicly stated that the equivalency drawn with other occupation movements such as Bastion Point and Mauna Kea are false ones, that the issue isn’t a universal one, that those who are not from there should stop sticking their noses in the business of a hapū which is not their own.

My response is this – if you are Māori (non-mana whenua) supporting at Ihumātao, I would encourage you to also go back to your hapū and understand the issues within your rohe. If you are tauiwi, find ways to support mana whenua within your area. Usually, this starts by listening and building genuine relationships. Yes, Ihumātao is significant, but hapū and whānau are constantly being bombarded with similar issues, all around the motu. If you’re moved by Ihumātao, when the action is over, turn your attention to home. I guarantee you will find similar struggles.

Kia kaha e tātou mā.

Cover image republished courtesy of artist Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho.

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The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

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