Hui Aranga at Wanganui
Tribute must be given to the tangata whenua, for the effort and organisation of the hui. For me the concept of tangata whenua has wide implications and meanings. To include priests and laymen, people of all races, Catholic and non-Catholic people — in summary, those of Wanganui who built the stage on which the essence
Since the advent of Pope John, the ecumenical movement has grown. Maoritanga and Christianity have been, and will be, the mainstay of Maori society. Differences in Church affiliation have never been a barrier to the performance and loyalty of our Maori way of life. This hui and similar Maori gatherings are proof to the world that ecumenism is no stranger to the Maori.
The aged and the young who attended the Hui Aranga seemed to differ in one respect, and the comparison is made in the knowledge that my statement could be challenged. From my observations the aged participated far more in the religious ceremonies. However, I had the feeling that many of the young who did attend religious functions, were having their first real taste and meaningful experience of the modern church. Hence the importance of endeavours to ensure the permanency of the Hui Aranga ideal, and the opportunity, therefore, of religious participation for youth in an era that has little or no time for religion generally.
Maoridom received its accolade from the Church with the presentation for the first time of the Mass in the Maori language. This innovation is highly significant of what is happening in the Maori world where the preservation of our language is concerned. To illustrate, at the Correspondence School of the Education Department, because of the dramatic rise in enrolments for the Maori langauge course, there are now five teachers of the Maori langauge. Obviously ‘te reo Maori’ lives on.
When a group of our elders are seen together or often enough in numbers, they seem to possess an influence that deeply touches the younger generations. Their bearing, dignity, and manner seem to generate respect in a world where many nations have forsaken their aged. In the near future our old people will no longer be with us. The Hui Aranga, through the elders, made me reflect on the past and reinforced the continuing need for us all to help our old people in every way possible.
Scenes of joy and glad tears were commonplace at the hui, as relatives met, childhood friendships were renewed, and yesterdays were relived.
Competitions, both recreational and cultural, held intense interest. For me the highlight of the group activities was the haka performance by Waipatu. This haka had
the best ingredients of leadership, tradition, experience and discipline — facets and skills of Maoridom therefore that demand utmost respect. Excitement reached the pitch of a test match when the two Wanganui teams fought out the final of the basketball tourney. Above all, admiration is expressed for the kuia and her four very inexperienced youngsters who rightly deserved the award of the gamest losers.
‘Children make a nation’. The midget section was surely the tonic of the hui. In general these children indicated to me how little and restricted was my knowledge of the retention of our culture and the degree to which it is being encouraged at the grass roots of present-day Maori society. Having witnessed these youngsters, particularly those from Whangarei, many of us may well have left the Hui Aranga with the conviction E kore e mate te Maori — Maoridom will never be vanquished. My heart goes to those leaders who devoted much time and personal dedication in the Maori instruction of the juniors.
Pakeha participation and presence at the hui invites conjecture. A Maori professional artist of national renown claims that many Europeans are being won over to our way of life. The Hui Aranga confirms this artist's view. Racism, integration and apartheid are world issues. Perhaps the introduction of Maori studies to the school curriculum may be the way to make us one people, in the way that those Pakehas must have felt at the hui.
In a social analysis of any gathering of the proportion of the Hui Aranga we must expect some criticism. At some of the activities an admission charge was the practice. There is no argument with the practical necessity of huis having to pay for themselves, but it is my belief that one session should be free of charge. At the Hui Aranga, the dance on the final night may well have been the appropriate time to be generous. There is a type of charity — aroha — typical to Maoritanga and Christianity which can balance the scales of such great enterprises as this hui. Consideration for youth in a manner fitting such a great occasion is warranted, at a time when internationally there is a plague of riots, student protests, and such social problems as delinquency, illegitimacy and child beatings.
The Hui Aranga idea appears to have had a successful heart transplant. Its future is in the hands of people better qualified to foster it than I am. Perhaps our older citizens could be honoured with this suggestion. Let's face it — the members of our aged decrease rapidly year by year. They know our history and are the best qualified to teach us Maori etiquette and our life styles. Could some aspect of a future Hui Aranga be so organised that the old people are given a forum for the duration of the hui to teach those of us willing to learn basic Maoritanga in preference to action songs and rugby football?