Ngā Tamatoa come together to mark 50 years of the movement

By Whatitiri Te Wake

Ngā Tamatoa members sitting on Parliament steps in 1972. Image credit: Te Ara Encyclopedia. 

They have been described as the most instrumental group of activists to affect change in Aotearoa and this weekend in Tauranga, they mark 50 years by coming together.

They began at Auckland University under the guidance of the late Dr Ranginui Walker in the 1970s to fight injustices, racial discrimination, confront injustices pertaining to breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Rauangi Ohia is the daughter of two Ngā Tamatoa members, John ‘Ringo’ Ohia and Orewa Barrett Ohia. She is now a part of the organising committee tasked with bringing the members back together this weekend. She says that ensuring the integrity of the members is pertinent to the kaupapa.

“Nā ō mātou mātua kē te whakatau ahakoa ngā whakahaere, me noho etahi o ngā tamariki o ngā tamatoa hei tiaki i ngā āhuatanga me te mana o Ngā Tamatoa.”

“Our parents decided that although the organising of the event, the children of members have to be a part of all aspects of the event, to ensure the dignity of the kaupapa is upheld.”

“Ko te mea nui kia whai wāhi ngā mema o Ngā Tamatoa ki te kōrero i a rātou anō kōrero e pā ana ki a rātou anō.”

"The main aim is for members to have a platform to speak on issues that affect them," she said.

In 1972 Ngā Tamatoa lead the petition to have Te Reo Māori taught in schools to Parliament. They assisted with organisation of the 1975 Māori Land March, led by Dame Whina Cooper, and initiated the protests at Waitangi in 1973.

Ohia says that throughout their history, their story has often been misrepresented.

“Ko te nuinga o ngā kōrero i puta mo Ngā Tamatoa no waha kē, no tangata kē.”

“The majority of stories about Ngā Tamatoa are from other places, told by other people.”

“I roto i tēnei kaupapa kua whai wāhi ngā mema ki te tuku i ā rātou ake kōrero e pā ana ki a rātou wheako me ngā mahi i oti i a rātou.”

"This weekend's event will see them speak on their experiences and the work that they achieved."

A common goal

“I whawhai rātou i runga i te aro kotahi, ko te oranga o te Iwi Māori.”

“Their fight had one goal, the overall wellbeing of Māori.”

Rauangi recalls her memories of being raised in the movement. Going to sleep in one part of the country and waking up in another – dependant on the kaupapa and the region. She adds that although sometimes protests became intense, their safety was always paramount.

“I ngā porotēhi, ā ka āhua raru, mōhio mātou ngā tamariki, haere ki waenganui. Nā o mātou mātua mātou i tāwharau.”

“At protests, sometimes there were difficulties, as children, we knew to go back to the middle. Our parents always protected us.”