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No. 59 (June 1967)
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Timoti Samuel Karetu

One of the first people that all Maori visitors to London, and a great many Pakeha ones seek out is Timoti Samuel Karetu, Information Officer for the New Zealand High Commission in England. In his office on the third floor of the huge new modern building in London that is New Zealand House, Sam sits and answers hundreds of questions about New Zealand every day: the price of wool, the population of Christchurch, the prospects for a surveyor in Hamilton and where he could send his children to school, how New Zealanders overseas can record their votes in a general election. The ‘phone rings and he answers and begins to talk in German. There is a knock on the door and in walks perhaps Canon Rangiihu on an exchange visit to London to celebrate the centenary of Marsden's visit to New Zealand, or perhaps Steve Watene on a visit to London during the New Zealand Parliament recess. Mihis are exchanged and the conversation goes on in Maori. The ‘phone rings again and it is the High Commissioner asking Sam to go to Brussels to act as a German and French interpreter at the World Food Fair. Another knock on the door and it might be a Maori merchant seaman like Bob Dawson of Lyttelton whose ship has berthed in London for a few days and who has come in to say hello.

This is Sam's life now, and it is a long way from Kokako Native School (as it was known then) in Waikaremoana where the small Ngati Kahungunu boy adopted into the Tuhoe tribe couldn't speak English until he was seven. Sam is the adopted son of the late Tamati and Mauwhare Karetu of Tuhoe. After Kokako he continued his primary education at Huiarau and Waimarama Maori Schools and then became a boarder at Wellington Boys' College where his interest in other languages as well as English and Maori began. Then, after two years at Wellington Teachers' Training College (where he was leader of the Maori Club) he was awarded a third year's study at Victoria University (where he was also leader of the Maori Club.) He has a B.A. degree in French, German and Maori and his first job was at Taumarunui High School where he taught all these three languages. In Taumarunui, as well as forming a Maori club in the school, he formed one among the Ngati Tuwharetoa and Ngati Haua of Taumarunui, and sitting at his desk in London he talks with great affection of these people who made him feel one of themselves, and of their Rangatahi Maori Club.

In January 1962 Sam came to England, and soon after he arrived he was appointed to the job he is holding today in the New Zealand High Commission. It is a very demanding job that keeps him extremely busy—but he couldn't live in London without once more leading a Maori Club! There are a number of Maoris in London and most weeks they meet at Sam's place for practice for the concerts they give in and around London. As anyone who has been in any other Maori Club with Sam will know well, he is a hard taskmaster! He works the members hard, he teaches them new action songs, some of which he composes himself, and he is very critical and hard to please. It is almost entirely thanks to him that the Maori Club in London flourishes, and of course the Club has been a means of Maoris in London getting to meet each other.

Timoti Samuel Karetu is an extremely valuable member of the staff of the New Zealand High Commission, but he is also an invaluable member of the Maori population. He travels and is at home all over Europe and he could spend the rest of his life this way—but his Maoritanga has a strong hold on him and his roots have not yet left his Tuhoe childhood, and here on the other side of the world his spirit seems often to reach out to his homeland. He doesn't always admit this himself, but it is obvious to those who know him well—who can only hope that the call of his heritage will one day be strong enough for him to pack up his bags and his life in England, and return to his people.