As Rātana celebrations continue into their second day today, representatives of a decades-old Te Tiriti o Waitangi claim are preparing to bring fresh awareness to their cause for both attendees and politicians.
Rātana celebrations mark the birthday of the Rātana Church's founder, Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana. This year, he would have turned 150.
For decades, politicians have descended on Rātana Pā about 21 kilometres south of Whanganui for the event - and at Rātana's return after a two-year hiatus due to Covid, they'll be joined by claimants from Wai 262.
"The aspiration of the claim firmly asserts 'Māori control over things Māori'," the Wai 262 website explains.
"The claim essentially seeks to restore 'tino rangatiratanga'...of the whānau, hapū and iwi of Aotearoa over our 'taonga'."
Wai 262 representative Hema Wihongi, whose mother was among those to originally lodge the claim with the Waitangi Tribunal in 1991, told Breakfast this morning that mātauranga Māori was the most important part of the claim for her mother.
"It clashed with the more binary, two-dimensional colonial thinking around how you view taonga species and how you view the environment, and so this was more of an atua or an environment-centred kaupapa," Wihongi explained.
"The more the taonga species go into extinction, the more likely that DNA that goes to create Māori and our cultural heritage is lost."
Specifically, the claim seeks tino rangatiratanga over and effective Crown recognition and protection of:
- A range of indigenous species including Harakeke, Pīngao, Kiekie, more than 9 varieties of Kūmara, Pōhutukawa, Koromiko, Puawānanga, Mānuka, Tuatara, Kūkūpā, Kererū, Kuaka, and Pūpū Harakeke
- Mātauranga Māori including language, science, technology, laws, history, systems of property and value exchange, rituals and ceremonies, art and forms of expression (weaving, carving, tāmoko, haka and whaikōrero) and Māori cultural values
"So it's more than just 'OK, this is the political stance of this particular government'.
"It's more the spiritual and cultural dimensions, which are multi-dimensional," Wihongi said.
"It's about connecting our whānau, people at Rātana to the claim and to have that understanding about the whakapapa, that connection to our environment, and to our cultural heritage.
"We're not there fighting against the Crown, we're there to try to reconnect our people."