WELFARE LEAGUE ACTIVITIES
About 150 visitors attended the annual regional conference of the Maori Women's Welfare League, which was held in Wairoa on 12 and 13 March. They came mainly from the East Coast and represented some 19 branches.
Takitimu, Wairoa's impressive meeting house with its fine carving and panelling, provided a perfect setting for the conference.
Speaking at the conference, Mrs R. Sage, of Hamilton, the Dominion President, said that although the League was now an independent body, it was not progressing as quickly as she would have wished.
As an incentive to greater efforts she stressed the importance of the League and said that it was one of the few Maori organisations whose voices were heeded by the Government.
Saturday 12 March was Progress Day and began with a welcome at the Takitimu marae. The afternoon was given to a stimulating panel discussion at which questions on Maoritanga, Maori health and education and Maori welfare matters were put to an all-male panel.
Panel members were Canon Rangiihu, Dr
League members photographed at Waitangi with Bishop Panapa are Mrs W. Karena (Te Kao), Mrs Pare Shelford (Whangarei), Mrs R. Sage (Hamilton), Bishop Panapa, and Mrs J. Witana (Te Kao)
Canon Rangiihu gave an interesting answer to the question, “What is a Maori?” It was not, he said, simply a matter of blood, language or tradition, but was mainly a matter of emotional attitude. He himself felt that he was a Maori. Some people with only a small percentage of pakeha blood considered themselves pakehas, while others with a larger percentage of pakeha blood considered themselves still to be Maori.
Some interesting work was exhibited at the Taihoa marae, where many visitors were accommodated overnight. Various competition sections testified to the high standards of craftsmanship attained by League members. In the Maori art and craft section, taniko coin purses and kiekie hats were judged by experts Meneana Wairea and Here Mete, and the autumn suit or ensemble section, in which the makers modelled their own entries, was judged by Mrs Enid Harker.
Mr R. H. Adsett judged the water-colour paintings, and knitted articles and artificial shoulder sprays were judged by Mrs P. Mayo.
The Dominion President, Mrs Sage, was also present at the Tainui Regional Council's annual conference, which was held in Huntly last March.
Delegates from as far as Tauranga, Paeroa and Pokeno joined those from surrounding districts on the marae, where they were welcomed by centenarian Mr Hori Paki. Mrs E. Paki presided.
The conference was opened by Mrs Carter wife of the M.P. for Raglan, Mr D. J. Carter, who later spoke at the ceremony. He paid tribute to the great part Maori women were playing in retaining the traditions of their race as well as assisting in the progress of the Maori people.
Particular interest was shown at the conference in the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Laws Affecting Maori Land and Powers of the Maori Land Court, especially in the clause relating to the rights of inheritance. This clause recommends that the law on Maori inheritance be brought into line with European law. As it now stands the Maori widow has no right of inheritance and can be left destitute if her husband dies without leaving a will. The child inherits everything and theoretically the widow can then be turned out of her home.
Mrs S. Murray, area representative, spoke of her work. She reported visits to Wellington and to outlying branches and the formation of new branches in Tuakau, Pokeno, and Mercer. She urged members to a greater understanding of the aims and objectives of the league and its constitution.
The conference congratulated the regional president, Mrs Paki, on her appointment as a Justice of the Peace.
Mrs Sage spoke to members of the Turanganui, Kaiti and Te Hapara branches of the League. She pointed out that the League had been fostered and financed by the Department of Maori Affairs on the understanding that it would eventually become self-supporting. While in its 13 years of existence the League had won considerable status and was recognised by the Government, it was still financially dependent on the support of the Department.
Over past years, said Mrs Sage, income from the branches had been low, but so far
“The strength of our organisation must come from each one of you,” said Mrs Sage, “and we must work as one big family.”
Mrs Sage appealed for an increase in membership and said that from the probable 52,000 Maori women in the country only 3,000 were members of the League.
She emphasised that financial independence from the Department of Maori Affairs would not mean an abandoning of the advice and guidance of Departmental officers.
The first meeting of the Tauranga East District Council for this year was held at Whetu Pa, Waitao.
The ‘Mauao Cup’, donated two years ago for branch quarterly reports by Mrs R. A. Harris, Mayoress of Mt. Maunganui, was presented to its latest winner, the Waitao branch. The presentation was made by Mrs H. Te Kani on behalf of the previous holders, the Tukairangi branch.
After the presentation the election of officers took place. Mrs Mabel Gear was re-elected as president, Mesdames H. Te Kani and M. Karauria were elected 1st and 2nd vice-presidents, Mrs G. Walker was elected secretary and Mrs W. E. Paraire treasurer.
At the March meeting, presided over by Mrs P. Pitmans, Poutaka members decided to foster the learning of Maori arts and crafts. The first lesson is to be on the boiling and preparation of flax to be used in making mats and baskets.
Mrs Myra Berghan was hostess for the first meeting of the Awanui branch last February.
Discussion was based mainly on the subject of artificial resuscitation and it was decided to hold a demonstration of techniques the following month.