‘Freedom? People are dying worldwide’

updated By Taroi Black

Tūhoe activist Tame Iti is taking aim at Māori who have used words like mana motuhake on social media to exercise their right of not getting vaccinated.

Iti recently got his second Covid-19 vaccine shot from Te Puna Ora o Mataatua, as he has done with other foreign illnesses, he says.

“This is to protect me - as you know, our people suffer from many underlying health conditions,” Iti said.

Only 47 percent of Māori have had their second shot, despite Māori making up more than half of Covid-19 cases over the past week.

Social media users have used online platforms to openly share their views of mana motuhake to not vaccinate.

“People shouldn't be using mana motuhake as an excuse. We need to observe what's happening in the world. This is a foreign virus.”

Iti's message is still today based on mana motuhake – which is part of the new feature film Muru, which documents the New Zealand Police unlawfully raiding homes in the small town of Rūātoki on October 15th in 2007, and arresting him for domestic terrorism.

“I was in Rotorua yesterday and I saw people protesting outside McDonalds, most of whom were our own and they held up signs calling for 'freedom'. I thought they were acting foolish.”

“I have read what people are saying and it reminds me of those Donald Trump supporters,” Iti said.

The official Coronavirus death toll has reached 4.92 million globally in 18 months. Experts believe the real toll could be four times that due to underreporting in authoritarian states and failure to diagnose coronavirus related deaths in regions with poor medical systems.

“There are millions of people dying around the world, people need to take responsibility.”

Mana motuhake to Iti is an act of leadership and responsibility to yourself and to your whānau.

For instance, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui made the call to close its borders in New Zealand’s first lockdown, and became one of the first iwi to fully vaccinate 80 percent of its people, based on a community vision by preventing history from repeating itself, such as with the flu pandemic. 

Whakatāne district local board member Toni Boynton sympathises with him.

“This freedom movement that's originated from the far right is mainly Pākehā and in usage of Pākehā privileges and looks at individual's type of 'me, me, me' kind of self. Where mana motuhake is all about self-determination but as we know in te ao Māori, we are a collective," she says.

“I think it’s really difficult because of the social media companies. They actually make money out of the algorithm and the amount of people who get sucked into this rabbit hole that has all this propaganda.”