Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei reflects on ‘momentous’ Obama visit

By Leo Horgan

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei have expressed their pleasure at performing a pōwhiri formally welcoming former United States president, Barack Obama, to Tāmaki Makaurau ‘on behalf of all iwi’.

The pōwhiri took place at Government House yesterday.  Obama also met with members of the Wahine Toa network over brunch this morning before flying to Australia.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust Chairman Marama Royal says it was an honour and privilege to perform the pōwhiri and welcome Mr Obama to Tāmaki Makaurau.

 “We recognise Mr Obama as one of the great leaders of our generation,” Mrs Royal says.

 “Despite huge odds, he rose to the highest office in the United States, and his story is one that has inspired people not just in America but also in Aotearoa and across the globe.” 

 Yesterday’s pōwhiri recognised the role of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei as mana whenua in central Auckland.

“Our iwi feels a special connection to Mr Obama, as many other indigenous people across the world do, and to be able to officially welcome him to our rohe and speak with him is a huge honour for Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei.”

 Royal also highlighted Obama’s importance to rangatahi.

“We know President Obama has a special interest in the youth of the world, so it was important for some of our rangatahi to share in this experience, which they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei presented Mr Obama two Rei Puta – carved whale’s teeth – which are reserved for great orators who use their skills to help others.

“We offered one to Mr Obama and one to his wife Michelle, who we hope to see on our shores in future too.”