THE SKY WEPT AT WAITANGI
The holding of the first women's league meeting in a carved Maori hall, the unveiling of an important monument closely linked with the treaty of Waitangi and the unveiling of a memorial tablet at Waitangi Hall, Te Tii, all added special interest to the celebration of the 116th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty at Waitangi last Feburary. The government was represented at the celebration by the Hon E. B. Corbett. Minister of Maori Affairs. It was the first important public function he attended after his fortunate recovery from a serious illness. Part of the Waitangi meeting was attended by Mr Stanhope Andrews of Whangarei who wrote and photographed this story for Te Ao Hou.
We arrived in the rain on Friday morning, on February 5, and the formal proceedings closed, still in the rain, at 6.45 on Saturday. No elders sat and reminisced on the marae; they huddled in gumboots and oilskins in the rather leaky shelter of the cookhouse and in the eating place. No hangi were prepared, but the food, in enormous quantities, was cooked in coppers under a tarpaulin. Even their main sleeping quarters in the hall were drenched. Of an expected 1000 to 1500 visitors only 200 arrived because of the weather and floods.
However, as was shown at the roll call at the big meeting, every single one of the nominated delegates was present, and it would have taken more than a mere storm to shift them from their purpose. Sam Maioha, with Tamatera Rameka, was in charge of a team of men and women (and boys and girls) who laboured through several days for incredibly long hours to make everybody comfortable and at home. It was a performance under sodden and miserable conditions which could only have been brought off by volunteers with a sense of mission.
Between times, informal meetings in the proper Maori style went on continuously in the dining hall and in the Waitangi hall.
There were problems of the local marae to be thrashed out, and some of the speaking was old fashioned Maori oratory of a high order. Most interesting item of these informal meetings was the discussion of the propriety of shifting the Conference from the Waitangi Maori Hall to the great carved meeting house. The decision was by no means unanimous, quite a number claiming that it was not proper to hold a women's conference there. But the attitudes of Te Ao Hou prevailed, and the meeting opened in the historic house.
ABOUT 400 yards from the Waitangi Maori Hall, towards Paihia there are two mounds, the larger one, nearer the hall, about four feet above the level of the surrounding paddock, and the smaller not quite so high. The larger, now capped by a stone seat, is called Tou Rangatira, and the smaller, now topped by a cairn is called Pou Kupu. In olden times, when chiefs spoke in public on this marae, they conferred together—discussed the agenda, so to speak—on te Pou Kupu, and then advanced in turn to te Tou Rangatira to address the assembled people. It was here and in this way that the pros and cons of signing the Treaty of Waitangi were debated; and from here that the chiefs left to cross the river to sign. In modern times the site has fallen into disuse.
Te Kiri Mihaka, who was secretary to the marae committee at the age of 18, fifty-six years ago, states that the last occasion on which the site was used in the traditional manner was during the Kotahitanga movement, fully seventy years ago. Hone Heke, M.P., was asked by the northern tribes to secure the unification of all the Maori tribes by appealing to the British Government. Subsequently he visited the Maori King, in the Waikato, and Tawhiao in turn spoke from the Tou Rangatira at Waitangi, and according to Mr Mihaka, he made an unsuccessful attempt to persuade the northerners to unite under the Waikato King.
On Sunday, 5th February, 1956 the ceremony of dedication and unveiling was conducted by the Rev Mr K. Porter, the Rey Mr Brown, the Rev Mr Waha Tauhara and the Rev Mr Rakena. The actual unveiling of the site was done by the elderly Mrs Mereana Hauraki, chairman of the marae committee. As the ceremony concluded all present filed past te Pou Kupu, each to place a hand on the dedicated cairn.
Immediately after this ceremony the tablet on the front of the hall was also dedicated, and an open air service was held conducted by the Rev Mr Brown.
Te Ao Hou's photograph is the only one taken at this unique and historic ceremony at te Tou Rangatira.