The Tribes Exchange Opinions
The two paramount topics among the Maori people this year are the Maori Affairs Bill and the Royal visit. Te Ao Hou was quickly able to get an understanding of Maori views on the Royal Visit when its correspondent was invited to listen in to a meeting of the Aotea District Welfare Council. Unfortunately, the discussion of the Bill was less precise, as certain reports by experts were not yet to hand, and without these the very businesslike chairman felt that detailed discussions would only waste the time of the meeting.
It is unfortunate that Te Ao Hou cannot attend all District Council meetings. The minutes on departmental files are not enough — lively reports of the meetings for Te Ao Hou are needed, and help in this direction would be warmly appreciated.
It seemed to Te Ao Hou that a district welfare council is a miniature Maori Parliament. It is attended only by the select — you have to be sent by a tribal committee to be able to take part in discussions. At the Wanganui meeting at the end of June attended by Te Ao Hou, English was spoken and business was brisk and efficient. Although some fifty tribal committees were represented, various important motions were passed and all business ended within the scheduled two days. The meeting opened punctually at 9 a.m. Mr Jack Asher, as chairman, kept the speakers to the point right through.
Modern though the atmosphere was, it did not seem un-Maori. When controversial topics came up, where deep tribal feeling was involved, the discussions switched easily into Maori, to return to English when the meeting had passed to a less involved subject.
The meeting was held at Putiki, just out of Wanganui. The hosts certainly had excellent organisation. The speed with which the conference hall was turned into a dining-hall and back again was an outstanding example of this.
The meeting was opened by Judge O'Malley of the Maori Land Court. Welcoming the discussion on the Maori Affairs Bill, which was on the agenda, the Judge said he would be sorry to see the Bill passed without the fullest consultation with the Maori people.
A very detailed discussion followed on the Royal Visit arrangements. Mr P. Hura and Mrs Ratana, who were present, had both taken part in deputations to the Hon. Mr Webb on Royal Tour matters, and they gave the meeting a careful account of proceedings. Of course much has changed in the Royal Tour arrangements since those deputations approached the Minister.
Mr Pei Jones objected to the use of Maori ceremonial at civic receptions during the Royal Tour. He was strongly opposed to hakas in the streets. This would not be fitting, he said. Such ceremonial must have the proper background and atmosphere.
Mr Hare Larkins supported him, stressing the tapu character of such welcomes. At civic receptions they would only be a show.
One delegate had been requested by a local body to put on precisely such a welcome. His people had been inclined to accept the offer, and in fact felt quite pleased to be able to do homage to the Queen in this way. What did the meeting think he should do?
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The chairman suggested that under these circumstances perhaps the people should have their way, and put on their haka.
Most of the delegates, however, were much concerned about the matter. After much discussion, Mr Pei Jones put a motion to the meeting, setting out a code of conduct for all tribal bodies under the Aotea District Welfare Council. The code was:
Maoris may take part in civic receptions.
They may wear traditional dress at these receptions.
They may speak if called upon, or take any other part usual at such receptions.
They should not, however, carry out any Maori ceremonial that is appropriate only on the sacred ground of the marae.
This motion was carried unanimously, and was acceptable to the delegate who had asked for the meeting's opinion. He would try to persuade his people, he said.
A sub-committee was appointed to work out plans for the representation of the Aotea people at the Maori reception at Rotorua. A resolution was also passed to appeal to the Government to fit in a short visit by the Queen to Ngaruawahia.
Te Ao Hou records with gratitude that the Aotea Council resolved at this same meeting to support our magazine by encouraging the taking of subscriptions and the sending in of articles and news items.