Fresh from the seminars of Edinburgh University, Dr. Maharaia Winiata, speaking to Maori churchmen at Otiria, made the pronouncement that the two most important recent developments in Maori leadership were the Maori Women's Welfare League and the Maori Section of the New Zealand National Council of Churches.
It was quite an important remark to make, and of course Dr Winiata meant all he said, even though he was speaking to the Maori Section using for a platform the imposing Otiria Pa dining hall where the seventh and latest annual conference of the Maori Section was held last February.
In many ways it was the Maori Section's most crucial conference so far. To a certain extent, the opening by the Hon. E. B. Corbett was indication that the organization has gone a long way to becoming firmly established. Equally significant was that Otiria provided firm policies on many matters that had been discussed by the Maori churchmen for years. Among these, the temperance and race relations questions were perhaps of the greatest public interest, while the announcement that the Maori Section's Rotorua Hostel (Whanaungatanga Hostel) would be opened on April 1, was also a sign of progress. This hostel, built by the government, and the first in the country to be managed by three church denominations in common, will hold thirty apprentices and public service cadets.
Mr Corbett said, in opening the conference on the night of February 15th:
“Some people think that New Zealand can advance as two separate entities—Maori and pakeha. There are some who believe that the destiny of the Maori is back in the customs and traditions of a hundred years ago.”
In the Minister's view, unity between Maori and pakeha could be achieved just by both races getting together, in the same way, as various denominations got together in the National Council of Churches. The younger Maori farmers wanted tractors to cultivate their land—not horses like their fathers or wooden hoes like their ancestors. Similarly they wanted a Maori policy that was up to date.
Mr Corbett emphasised that in saying these things he was speaking as a practical administrator working in the material world. For instance, he had the task of ensuring the rights of Maoris to retain ownership of their land. With the rapid increase of population in New Zealand, and the ever-increasing land-hunger, there was the danger that the last heritage of the Maori people would be gradually usurped. The only way of safeguarding the land was to ensure that the Maori people use it productively. With that in mind, said Mr Corbett, the land legislation of 1953 had been introduced.
He hoped it would keep the Maori people in proud possession of their land.
Listening to the Minister were near to a hundred Maori clergy and an equal number of laymen from all parts of New Zealand.
This was the first Maori Section conference to be held in Tokerau and it attracted a record audience; people from all parts of the North, previously prevented by the long distances from attending the conferences, showed great interest and edification.
Among those attending the conference were the Rt. Rev. J. T. Holland, Bishop of Waikato; the Rt. Rev. W. J. Simkin, Bishop of Auckland and the Rt. Rev. W. N. Panapa, Bishop of Aotearoa; the Very Rev. J. G. Laughton, Superintendent of the Presbyterian Maori Mission; the Very Rev. G. I. Laurenson, Superintendent of the Methodist Maori Mission; the Secretary of Maori Affairs, Mr T. T. Ropiha, I.S.O.; and Mr J. te Herekiekie Grace, Secretary to the Minister of Maori Affairs.
The first full day of Conference (Wednesday, February 16) was devoted to reports and to general addresses by Bishop Holland and Dr Winiata; the day ended in a film lecture on the Evanston meeting of the World Council of Churches.
An instructive talk was also given by Rev. Eru Te Tuhi who had visited the Maori boys at Invercargill Borstal on behalf of the Maori Section. On that visit, lasting a week, he had interviewed some sixty youths and had been much impressed with the excellence of occupational training at the borstal and the sympathetic attitude of the staff. He had talked to the boys about their home and family and asked them what they intended to do when they came out. Many were too ashamed to want to go home, and Rev. Te Tuhi thought this most regrettable. He thought the boys needed more visitation. The Maori Section had asked the government to transfer the boys to an institution in the North Island where visits from relations were easier to arrange. The Justice Department was unable to do this, but offered to pay the expenses of Maori clergymen to visit Invercargill.
The Maori Section resolved to organize four such visits each year, two from the Anglican Church and one each from the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches.
Dr. Winiata's address dwelt largely on the benefit of overseas study for Maoris. As a result, a motion was passed recommending that some Maori clergy should be temporarily released from parish duties for study overseas.
Thursday started with plenty of excitement. An address by Miss Joan Metge, lecturer in Geography at Auckland University College, on Maori life in Auckland started off a fierce debate mainly about the influence enjoyed by the Auckland tribal committees and Community Centre, and about the rather vague question whether any Maoris are “negative”. There was general agreement that Miss Metge had provided a most penetrating and illuminating survey of a crucial subject.
After a discussion on evangelism, the meeting settled down to the two subjects on which it was to make firm policy statements; race relations and temperance. It is especially here that, as Dr. Winiata said, the Maori Section is seeking to give the Maori people a new type of leadership. We think that the discussion on both race relations and temperance have produced some valuable ideas and that these ideas, reached by a representative group of Maori people all over the country, ought to carry weight. It is too early to say just how successful the Maori Section's lead will be,
The Bishop of Aotearoa, the Rt Rev W. N. Panapa, chaired the meeting at Otiria. (Northern Advocate Photograph.)
Regarding the drink question, Maori clergy have two proposals. They are to send deputations to tribal committees to ask them to help in fighting intemperance. They have, furthermore, formed a temperance society whose members “for the welfare of the Maori race take a pledge of total abstinence from the beverage use of intoxicating liquors.”
The society will also aim at building up public conviction against the evils of intemperance. As the pledge does not apply to sacramental wine, people from every denomination are free to join it.
We can see that the society can attract two
kinds of members: first, clergy, social workers and others keen to bring temperance education to the people. They can do very important work. The existence of the society will give them added strength, and greater effectiveness. The other kind of people who may take the pledge are possibly those for whom drink is a personal problem. In the past, many such people took up voluntary prohibition orders with a magistrate. The pledge may sometimes be better than a legal document.
The Maori Section also resolved to ask the Government to make illegal the taking of liquor in the vicinity of a marae, in the same way as with dance halls.
The paper on “Race Relations in New Zealand” reached several conclusions about how relations can be perfected. Three main developments were said to be needed:
Raising standards of education among the Maori;
bringing about increased mutual tolerance and understanding by a religiously inspired goodwill;
“candidly” recognizing inherent racial and cultural differences which prevent a Maori from ever being finally satisfied with the things that are pakeha only.
The first two ideas will be generally applauded while the third is a little vague.
Under the heading “Recommendations” the Maori Section asks for action by parents, church-workers and teachers to see that Maori children make the fullest use of their opportunities at school; also suggests to develop closer Maori-Pakeha relations through fellowship-groups and educational broadcasts. None of the practical recommendations show any tendency to accentuate race or culture differences.
Four out of seven recommendations are concerned with the need to induce more Maori school children to finish at least secondary schooling. One asks for “an appeal to Maori parents” to keep their children at school as long as possible, another for action by “ministers and workers in all parishes” to address school children and impress them with the importance of carrying on with their education. The Maori Section also resolved to thank the government for its measures “to encourage the adequate secondary education of Maori youth” and for its help to Maori apprentices, particularly with hostels. Only on one matter did the conference decide to ask the government's help; it was thought secondary school teachers should know more and do more about the special difficulties faced by Maori youth in choosing courses of study and later jobs.
It is very interesting that the Maori Section should have laid so much stress on the raising of the Maori standard of education when discussing the race relations problem. It seemed to indicate that the Maori clergy is worried not so much about “racial” differences in this country as about the remaining educational differences. If that is so, what is often called the racial problem could be largely overcome by removing social and educational differences.
Needless to say, this is only one of many reasons why it is important for us all to be educated. At the same time, through the devious paths of a race relations discussion, the Maori churchmen started a very valuable idea when they asked for a concerted drive to improve the next generation's share of education—and of the labour market. If they manage to get their campaign among church workers, parents and teachers going, they will have given as good leadership as one could wish for today.
I WILL COME HOME
A unique ceremony was enacted at Whakarewarewa when the soil taken from the grave of a Maori airman shot down over Italy during World War II, was returned to his home last March. The young airman was Flight Sergeant Tionga Waaka, R.N.Z.A.F., a wireless operator.
The soil was brought back to New Zealand by Mrs Rora Fernandos (nee Iwikau), who travelled to Rome as one of the New Zealand representatives to the Roman Catholic Eucharistic Conference of 1950 (Holy Year). After she had been presented to His Holiness Pope Pius XII she was conducted to the Anzio Beach-head Cemetery where she had been advised lay the grave of the only Maori amongst the graves of other Allied forces who had fallen in this area.
It was there, in the company of a number of priests, after a short prayer, that she took soil from off the grave with the intention of returning it to the young man's family. For three years she searched in vain for the relatives until she ultimately located them in Rotorua. The soil, contained in an elaborate urn of engraved porcelain and placed in a raised velvet lined cabinet of dark mahogany was conveyed to Rotorua in full ceremony by a large party from the Ngati Raukawa and Ngati Tuwharetoa tribes.
On the Sunday morning, March 13, religious rites were performed over the cabinet containing the urn by the Rev. K. Paenga, of the Church of England and in the evening by Rev. Father McKenna of the Roman Catholic Church, in Wahiao. After the latter service, the cabinet was conveyed again by the visiting tribes to Tionga Waaka's birth place, the residence of the late Rev. W. A. Te Waaka the late airman's grandfather.
Mrs Fernandos is a Maori Welfare Officer in Auckland.
* * *
Building has started on a fully carved meeting house at Bulls. The Parewahawaha tribe (which belongs to Ngati Raukawa) has had two acres set aside for a marae and under the general leadership of the elder Kereama Tenako, a willing staff of voluntary workers, supervised by Mr Taylor Brown, are on the construction work.