Unveiling at Petone
The unveiling of a tombstone in memory of Puti Tipene Watene was held at Te Puni Street cemetery, Petone, on the weekend of June 14 to 16. It was an occasion that prompted the attendance of between 1,500 and 2,000 people, Pakeha and Maori, some of importance, the majority of humble status, who came to pay a final tribute to a man they respected and loved.
The Watene family received their guests at the Ati Awa meeting house in Petone—Te Tatou-o-te-Po—and to people who are familiar with this marae, they will appreciate the difficulties which must have confronted the organising committee in conducting a hui on this great scale. The first of the many manuhiri to enter the marae was a party of very young and self-conscious Maori and Pakeha students of the Department of Anthropology, Victoria University of Wellington. They were led by Pakaka Tawhai, a student of Maori language, and Koro Dewes, lecturer in Maori studies. The university group was followed by Ngaiterangi of Tauranga, the home tribe of the present Eastern Maori member of parliament, Mr P. Reweti. Then came a contingent from the East Coast and Gisborne districts.
Te Tatou-o-te-Po is situated in the main road to Lower Hutt, and the movement of traffic on this highway was constant throughout the entire weekend as cars, buses, vans and motor-scooters halted to unload and pickup their cargo of visitors. Simply by observing the traffic that called at Te Tatou-o-te-Po, the different tribal districts attending the tangi could be identified if the people themselves were not always recognisable. They came from Ngapuhi, Tuhoe, Whanau-a-Apanui, Te Aitangia - a - Mahaki, Te Whakatohea, Te Arawa, Ngati-Whatua, Ngati-Awa, Maniapoto, Raukawa, and Kahungunu to name but a few. Among the official party were Te Atairangikaahu, Queen of the Waikato tribes, the Minister of Maori Affairs, Mr Hanan, the American Ambassador, Mr Henning, Sir Turi Carroll, Chairman of the New Zealand Maori Council and Mr P. Reweti, M.P. for Eastern Maori.
There were too, many notable kaumatua such as Mr Arnold Reedy of Ngati-Porou, Mr Henare Tuwhangai and Mr Paraire
Herewini of Waikato, Mr Pei te Hurinui Jones of Te Kuiti and perhaps the oldest of them all Ngakohu Pera of Waioeka-Te Whakatohea who puts his age at 90 years. Attending the unveiling were the leader of the Opposition, Mr Kirk, and others of the Labour Party, all the delegates of the New Zealand Maori Council who were currently meeting in Wellington, and all the Wellington Maori district committees. Finally there were many Pakeha friends and relatives from Wellington and outside who called on the Watene family to tangi with them.
To house the huge crowd of visitors, the two maraes Te Tatou-o-te-Po and Arohanuiki-te-tangata of Waiwhetu were filled to bursting point. Bishop Watkins of the Commonwealth Covenant Church opened up the Church Hall at Woburn to accommodate the Tuhoe people, and the boys of the Gear Meat Co. Hostel gave up their beds for the ‘old people’ while they ‘stomped’ away Saturday night at the town hall social. Many Maori Wellington residents converted the living room into the traditional sleeping house pattern and everyone bunked down on the floor, and for the more affluent the hotels, motels and guest houses of Wellington were kept busy.
Te Atairangikaahu was specially invited to perform the unveiling; she was supported by about 200 followers of the King movement. With their arrival at Te Tatou-o-te-Po at approximately 8.45 a.m. Saturday June 15, the rest of the morning was spent in tangi, whai-korero and waiata in accordance with custom and tradition. A memorial service was conducted after lunch by Bishop Watkins of the Comonwealth Covenant Church, and Canon Taepa of the Church of England. George Tuau, a Minister of the Latter Day Saints, officiated at the unveiling, where Turaro Kohi of Tauranga delivered an eulogy and Albert Wanoa, a Church of England Jayman, read the closing prayer.
At the Lower Hutt Town Hall the guests were received by Mr Apa Watene, oldest son of Tipene Watene, where altogether 100 workers had been busy all morning preparing the hakari. The organiser of the reception, Mr Jim Watene, made provision for about twelve to fifteen hundred visitors, and with the exception of the main tables which were set aside for official guests and kaumatua with proper seating, he settled for service on buffet lines in order to cope with the large numbers. During the feast a concert programme was arranged in which the clubs of Wellington were invited to contribute items. The clubs also were responsible for a table each, their duties being to prepare the food and tables, serve and wait upon the guests, clear old dishes and reset, and then pack away the tables. The clubs participating were Mawai Hakona, Ngati - Muturangi, Papararangi, Wainuiomata and Maori Anglican.
The town hall reception was conducted on what seems to be emerging as the modern New Zealand style, compounded of
many modifications of Maori-Pakeha customary practices. This was exemplified in the way one speaker would communicate in the two languages of New Zealand, and this speaker was not in every case a Maori. Both the Rt. Hon. Mr Hanan, and the Ambassador for the United States of America, Mr J. F. Henning, opened their mihi with greetings expressed in the Maori language. Speeches were followed by a ‘relish’ which took the form of action songs and poi dances. The sight of the black-garbed kuia eating alongside tailor-suited Pakeha men and women is becoming ever more frequent.
When the formal programme ended, the official party took their leave, the elders retired and simultaneously a five-piece band moved onto the stage with steel guitars, amplifiers, several microphones and their own very good version of Engelbert Humperdink. Tables were whisked out of sight, the floor was cleared, mini-skirts and mods appeared from somewhere and the beautifully groomed musicians, looking as poised over their instruments as are their elders when springing into a powerful oration, swung easily into the big sound of Tom Jones and company.