Turi-Deaf mourn respected Māori leader - Michael Wi

By Aroha Mane

The Turi Māori community is mourning the death of one of their most treasured stalwarts, Michael Wi. The 60-year-old Kaumātua from Ngāti Maniapoto was a staunch advocate for Turi Māori community.

There were tears of appreciation, sadness and heartbreak, as one of the Turi Māori leaders took his last journey to his final resting place.

Michael was passionate about ensuring that Turi-Deaf Māori youth has access to their Māoritanga.

“I miss Michael but he's in my heart, he passed away recently on Wednesday. It makes me really sad, I've cried so much. He was my favourite teacher,” says Holden Tangiwai (Ngāi Tūhoe).

“I did everything with Michael and he would always tease me. We would chat in sign language and teach us te reo Māori, waiata, kapa haha and mau rākau,” says Callan Waters (Tainui).

“He taught me how to stand up and become a leader. He taught me taiaha and how to set the marae up. I'm just sad that he's passed away,” says Rikihana Turner (Ngāpuhi).

“Michael taught me lots when I worked here. Every time we'd video chat and talk for a long time about Māori students and what was best for them. We had such a connection and I'm just so grateful to Michael for everything. His aroha and the smooth way he would get his teachings across. I'll never forget him,” says Rachael Turner (Ngāti Māhuta).

Earlier this year at the opening of the first Turi-Deaf Marae, Michael described how the marae got its name.

“When Ruaūmoko was in his mother's belly made quite a commotion. When he was born they found out why, it was because he was deaf. He was using his body to let everyone know he was deaf, hence the name Ruaumoko,” said the late Michael Wi.

The Ngāti Maniapoto descendant was farewelled today at Te Ihingarangi marae in Waimiha. He was put to rest at Ongarue beside his parents.

He is survived by his brothers and sisters and many nieces and nephews. He leaves behind his partner Janey-Mei Cherrington and their children Hemi, Hine, Mei, Rangi and Te Paea.

Long-awaited upgrade welcomed at Deaf community hub 

Turi Māori open their very own marae 

Turi Māori reclaiming their reo birthright