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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Maori Queen dies

Tainui and the motu have started a week of mourning for Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu.

The Maori queen died at 5.32 yesterday evening at Turangawaewae Marae in Ngaruawahia, surrounded by family and supporters.

Under Kingitanga protocol, Dame Te Ata will lie in state at Turangawaewae for a week before she is buried with her ancestors on the sacred mountain Taupiri.

The former Princess Piki was 35 when she became head of the Kingitanga in 1966, on the death of her father Koroki.

She was patron to dozens of organisations, and no major Maori intitiative went ahead without her support being sought.

Dame Te Ata cultivated friendly relations with successive Prime Ministers and governments, but she was also prepared to challenge the Crown to uphold Maori rights.

Sir Graham Latimer, the chair of the New Zealand Maori Council, says the support of Dame Te Ata was a critical factor in the council's battles.

IN: It helped up to for instance take the Crown to court over State Owned Enterprises, over forestry. That support came without hesitation. Every time I rang her, she said 'Graham, do what is right for the people,' and she never lagged in supporting anyone," Sir Graham said.

Prime Minister Helen Clark says Dame Te Ata will be missed by the nation.

Ms Clark says there were few major intitiatives in Maoridom she was not associated with, and she showed and courage in her leadership.

"Dame Te Ata was very much a unifying fiogure and she used the mana of her high office to bring people together. It is significant that her people were the very first to entrer a major treaty setlement with the crown. That took courage, but she put her weight behind it. It was to the benefit of her people, and many others have been able to follow in their wake," Clark said.

Helen Clark says Dame Te Ata had enormous dignity, a lot of humility, a good sense of humour and a lot of warmth.

Dame Te Ata was also known for tying together the threads of whakapapa, not just among the tribes of Aotearoa but throughout the Pacific.

Pa Ariki, the queen of Takitimu or Rarotonga, says her family had a close relationship with the Kaahui Ariki, with her sister Mahinerangi being adopted by Te Puia and being brought up with Princess Piki.

Pa Ariki says Dame Te Ata reached out to traditional leaders throughout what Maori call Te Moananui a Kiwa.

"She's wonderful, she's beautiful she's lovely, gentle, kind, and she had a great relationship with myself and the rest of the Pacific leaders, kings and queens," Pa Ariki said.

Tribes are now preparing to head for Ngaruawahia, with the first days of the tangi being for Waikato-Tainui.

A successor will be chosen before the end of the tangi by the 22 tribes who chose the first king, Potatau Te Wherowhero, in 1858.


Tributes are flowing around the motu for Te Arikinui Dame te Atairangikaahu, who died yesterday aged 75 after a long illness.

Dame Te Ata was the sixth head of the Kingitanga, and held the throne for 40 years.

Her Tangihanga at Turangawaewae Marae in Ngaruawahia will last seven days, in accordance with custom.

The Prime Minister, Helen Clark, says Dame Te Ata was a quiet but effective leader.

"She was always very discreet, she was always looking for a way to facilitate things. She was never aggressive in her style. She had enormous dignity and a lot of humility. She also had a good sense of humour and a lot of warmth. We're going to miss her a lot," Clark said.


Ngati Porou leader Sir Henare Ngata says Dame Te Ata approached her role in a way which benefited all of Maoridom.

Sir Henare says while previous leaders of the Kingitanga had largely confined themselves to Waikato-Tainui, Dame Te Ata reached out across the motu.

He says that had a major impact.

"She made an enormous contribution to the profile of our people, raised the profile not only of Tainui but our whole race during the time she occupied the position she did in Tainui, Enormously gracious lady," Sir Henare said.


Entertainer Sir Howard Morrison from Te Arawa says it's a sad day for the country.

He says Dame Te Ata was a true leader for everyone.

"He rangatira and yet the humilty of the lady, her graciousness. She deserved more time for herself, but the reign of queen just didn't stay in Tainui, because she had a bigger role to play for the whole motu. It's a sad day for the motu, for the country," Sir Howard said.


Among the many organisations Dame Te Ata supported as patron was the Maori Women's Welfare League.

The league is due to hold its annual hui at Turangawaewae next month.

Past president Dame Georgina Kirby says Dame Te Ata often travelled with the eight past presidents, and was a huge influence on the league.

"It's a very sad time for us," Dame Georgina said.


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