Political, iwi and community leaders gathered at Hoani Waititi Marae in West Auckland today to reflect and pay homage to revered Māori rights activist Titewhai Harawira.
The 90-year-old matriarch of Ngāti Hau, Ngāti Wai and Ngāti Hine descent died early yesterday morning, Māori rights activist and former politician Hone Harawira confirmed in a Facebook post.
Former police inspector and Te Puea marae chairperson Hurimoana Dennis spoke on the marae of when he clashed with Titewhai during Waitangi Day celebrations.
"Kei reira rā ki Waitangi... aue, hika mā (That time at Waitangi, my gosh)," he remarked.
“Pēnei ana tō mahi ringaringa ki ahau... kei te pukana, hakahaka kē ana ki ahau (Your hand was like this... you were going off at me),” he said while doing a ‘directing’ hand gesture, the crowd bursting into laughter.
Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi was also on the pae, likening her leadership to other great rangatira Māori of her generation who have since died.
"I whawhai te whawhai nui kia mōhio tēnei whenua he tangata whenua tātou (They fought a long, hard fight so that the people of this land knew, this is our land)."
During his speech, Waititi challenged the current generation to build upon the legacy made by trailblazers like Titewhai.
"Kua whakatakotoria te mānuka... whāia, tīkarohia... kia whawhai tonu te whawhai mō rātou (The leaves of the mānuka tree have been laid down... follow it and pick up the fight from those who’ve left us)."
Speaking to Te Karere after the pōwhiri, Māori Party president John Tamihere, who grew up with the Harawira whānau, said she was at times a "caring and affectionate woman".
"Of course, she could be hard, but that was her outer personality when she had to be," he said.
Later in the afternoon, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, alongside members of the Labour and Green parties, were welcomed onto the marae. Although Hipkins never had the chance to speak with Titewhai, he knew her as a strong-hearted woman with integrity.
"She strived for the betterment of Māori... I know New Zealand would not be the same without her."
He later passed on a message on behalf of former prime minister Jacinda Ardern, passing on her apologies for not being there in person.
"I first met Titewhai at Te Tii Marae as a young opposition member of Parliament... but our relationship only really took place at my first Waitangi as Prime Minister," he said, reading Ardern's note aloud.
"I knew Titewhai had my hand and I knew that it would be all right."
Titewhai is set to lie in state at Hoani Waititi Marae until Saturday, where she will be taken to her home in Northland to be buried.