'We aren’t protestors, we’re protectors' Wikatana Popata

By Regan Paranihi

Wikatana Popata has been the unapologetic face of activism in the far north and across the country for many years.

His anger and distrust of the government made clear at numerous Waitangi celebrations.

He first drew the lenses of mainstream media cameras when he and his brother attempted to prevent former Prime Minister John Key from entering Te Tii Marae in 2009.

Throughout the years Wikatana has centred his passion and focus purely on empowering his people.

While many throughout the country attached activist labels to this descendant of Ngāpuhi. Those who truly know him have always seen him as a leader.

Wikātana Pōpata told Te Ao, “We aren’t protestors, we’re protectors, it’s my job to protect and develop a strong benchmark for my students to follow in regards to Te Ao Māori. We think Māori we protect our elders and our environment. It’s not about protesting to make a noise, it’s about protection and making sure our voices are heard.”

Although his voice on national platforms isn’t as prevalent as previous years, he has made it clear the anger at the crown is still burning.

“The waterways back home are still polluted, the Government are still mistreating us so there is no doubt that that anger still lays within me” says Pōpata.

In 2009 Popata caught the attention of many when he manhandled John Key.

The real perpetrator is this thing we call capitalism that is America, England, France therefore if we really want to follow our sovereignty we really need to think about authority

With recent launch of a kura ā iwi Popata says, “The waters have calmed and the tides have changed on protesting, but more so we are re-directing our energy to create pathways to build homesteads, strengthening our families, speaking Māori to our children and there’s leadership in that realm as well.’

Popata will continue to fight the good fight through developing the next generation of leaders.