Last year, Tūhoe leader Tāmati Kruger delivered the annual Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture at the University of Auckland on 31 October.

Tāmati Kruger was Tūhoe’s chief negotiator leading up to the iwi’s 2013 settlement with the Crown, and the landmark Te Urewera Act 2014 — world-leading legislation which declared the Tūhoe homeland a legal entity in its own right. Not owned by anyone, but “with its own mana and mauri”, and “an identity, in and of itself, inspiring people to commit to its care”.

In the lecture, Tāmati talks about the path to that settlement, the Tūhoe philosophy of mana motuhake (self-determination), what it means to be Tūhoe in 2017 and the challenge of recovering and living up to the principles and values of being Tūhoe.


Lecture Transcript:

We’ve spent around about 20 years — many, many Tūhoe people — just to get our claims settlement done by 2014. And apparently that is fast-track, according to the government, to do it within a 20-year period.

There are some iwi who are stuck in that whole process, and many have had to start again. And generations have come and gone and they’re hoping for some result.

So, while we can say we’ve settled our claims in 2014, we remain an unsettled iwi.

In terms of an overview, there’s something like around 40,000 Tūhoe. The average age is about 17, so most of the statistics that are gathered go under the radar, because most of these Tūhoe people are not officially registered as having a good, mature opinion.

Around about 7,000 Tūhoe reside in Te Urewera, our homeland, and while it will be true to say that Tūhoe are a global people — we’re diverse, and we are disrupted.

We have been disrupted by 177 years of colonisation. We remain unsettled because of colonisation.

So, if I was to fill this room up with Tūhoe people, it would probably be true to say that we’ve probably married into every ethnic group that the world can offer. We will bring together all religions, languages, beliefs, traditions, customs.

We will probably be located across the social spectrum, the political spectrum, and the interesting part, of course, is: Which part of them is the Tūhoe part? How does one locate that, and how do we use that to talk with each other and find some unity and find a direction forward?

These are the difficulties which I believe all iwi have.

So, because I couldn’t bring the 40,000 with me, I thought I’d bring them in picture-form, so you can see their faces and see where they live, and see some of the things that they do, and read some of the things, proverbs and the truths, that they want and wish to live by, and they [use to] pray for their children as they wait for an age of better ethics and better justice.

So, after settlement then, we thought that when the Crown came to Taneatua [in] 2014, they gave their apology, we decided to call that the surrender of the Crown to the Tūhoe nation.

We accepted their apology, but as far as peace and goodwill is concerned, we’ll have to wait perhaps a couple of generations to see how that pans out.

Having then shifted the Crown from front and centre of our focus, we were met by the reality that we all had suspicion that we are not who we should be as Tūhoe people.

We felt a great dis-ease with where we are now. Many of us felt not appropriate to be where we are, and not appropriate that we were falling short of the ideals of mana motuhake, tino rangatiratanga, and so we found our new struggle was with ourselves. And we have given ourselves around about 40 years, or two generations, to do something about that.

So, as Annabelle [Lee] said, Tūhoe recite their whakapapa as a place where the mist maiden married the mountain and from that came Pōtiki, and many, many generations later, the Tūhoe people.

The mist marrying the mountain is a metaphor for us saying we did not come from anywhere else. So, if we were to find out where the mist comes from and how long the mountains have been here, then you would answer your questions about who Tūhoe are and where they come from.

So, we know that to be true. That we are attached to nature, we are attached to Te Urewera. But there has been great damage to that whakapapa, to that link, over 177 years.

Words that are usual to ourselves, like being native, and being tangata whenua, and calling Te Urewera our iwi whenua, the place of our birth, using words like mana whenua — we have studied those words, those ideas, those terms now, because they mean a completely different thing today.

And we look at ourselves, sometimes in horror, that maybe we are not living up to those things.

Where tangata whenua is a person of the land, who lives with the land, who cares for the land, and understands that people must temper their behaviour so it is good for the land, and that self-interest has no place, and cannot overwhelm the interest and the benefit of the many.

Tangata whenua is now used by some people to mean it’s mine and not yours. Or that I’m first and you’re somewhere else down the queue. Mana whenua no longer means my responsibilities and obligations to the land, but it means I own it.

These new meanings and these new translations are not what we had in mind, and are not at all what we aspire to be.

Yet, seven or eight generations of Tūhoe people have now been affected by that belief, and by that view, and by that understanding. That is really a lot of things to unlearn, and a lot more things to be relearned.

Let me take you back to Crown-Tūhoe relations, where the result of that has been a feeling for Tūhoe that they were besieged, and that the Crown, the old foe, is a machine that we still have to deal with and understand, even in our post-settlement world. And we have found, like many of you, that nobody is driving the machine.

But there are many, many people that have got a hand on the lever, or button, but they’re totally uncoordinated and they don’t talk with each other, and it’s the machine that tells them what to do, and how to do it.

We have no choice but to have a hand and see if we can temper this machine. Because the instinct of this machine is to control and dominate, irrespective of what you have written in your settlement, irrespective of what you have in your legislation.

This machine has an instinct to control, and to boot, it has no memory of what it promised you last week. So, that is the caution that all Tūhoe face and we understand.

The Crown and Tūhoe took an immediate disliking to each other, which rapidly turned into hatred and military war. And so, for many Tūhoe in 2017, they are disappointed that we have a settlement with the Crown, and they do not believe that the fighting is over, and there is not much that I can do about that.

The hurt is so grievous and so deep that there are no words left to be used to describe that, and you and I have no cure for that.

I’m very sorry and sad about that, because these are your friends, and these are my kin, and I see them daily. And their memory, unlike the machine, is very, very fresh.

So, how does one unlearn despair, distrust, fatalism? How does one re-learn responsibility, humility, and settling yourself as a Tūhoe person?

As I said, we’ve given ourselves two generations. I kind of think we have to live forever to do this. So — so far, so good.

The hard part, I want to say to you, is protecting ourselves, perhaps, from our own dishonesty.

What I mean by that is, that we may misrepresent where we are at. Our dishonesty may be that we are underestimating the hurt and the damage and the loss that we have suffered. And we’ve got to be very, very honest, if we want to make a good go of repairing and fixing ourselves.

You see the Crown is not in the business of justice, because we all know they do injustice really well — so they can’t be in the business of justice. You’re in the business of justice. You and I are in the business of that. Tūhoe must deliver justice to themselves. They must free themselves, and in that process, hopefully free Aotearoa.

So here we are working on realising the distance between our current reality and our ideal. Here we are wanting to understand what the standards are we have to meet, and the conditions that we aspire to.

Our reo is damaged, our customs, our beliefs, our traditions, our attitude — all of this has been hurt. Of course, we will fight ourselves. It will be very, very disruptive as we try and heal and cure ourselves.

I believe all indigenous people, all iwi of Aotearoa, are in a state of recovery. They are wanting to mend themselves.

There’s no manual to help you do this, but the default position is, that if it gets too hard and you lose your way, the only thing left is to make money.

By making more money than last year and the year before, you may be seen as a successful iwi, as a good iwi, that has found their way. Because last year you only had $10, and this year at your AGM, you announced that you had $1,000 — aren’t you really good? Wonderful!


No. Tūhoe view is that we must never ever be measured by our bank account, and that it is unlikely that whatever monies that we make, very little of that will be spent outside of Te Urewera and Tūhoe people.

We need all of the resources to help ourselves.

You know, during the negotiations, not only did I get some advice from John Key around engineering bridges, but we found ourselves struggling with opposing ideas where John Key was very, very concerned about ownership of things. And he felt that, however the Crown got to own Te Urewera was irrelevant, it was now public land and all New Zealanders owned it, and loved it and admired it. Even more so perhaps than Tūhoe people.

The engineering advice to me was we couldn’t build a bridge over that — and something else had to happen. So our mission was to delete ownership from the negotiations.

So, after proving the point that the state was not a conservationist, that the state really could not and would not be able to look after the environment of Te Urewera, and that the access of New Zealanders would be unimpeded — then the Crown wanted to sell us ideas and models from overseas.

We spent around about five years going through all that. I sent some Tūhoe people as far as the Arctic Circle to have a look at one model that they were selling us, and asked some Tūhoe people to go to the Northern Territory to view another model that was being sold to us.

Those indigenous people gave us the advice that “please do not do what we’ve done. This does not work”. And this was new news to the Crown, that these models that they were selling us did not work.

We got down to chairs around the table, and positions around a conference table, and after all of that dissolved and disappeared, only then was the Crown ready for some local solutions.

Many of you here are aware that the local solution that we put up is an ancient one, which is: the land is our mother. I don’t know of people who do not understand that. That our greatest duty is to care for our parents.

So, giving Te Urewera a legal personality is not a new thing. It’s an old belief, isn’t it, that comes from you and I, and it talks about our whakapapa to the land, our kinship to the land. Something that I believe many, many New Zealanders are proud of, and aware of, and easily grasp — that philosophy and that belief.

And so, all that has happened is the law has agreed with a tradition. That’s all that has happened. The law did not create anything. The law just agreed that that is a really damn good idea that nobody should own the land, that the land owns itself. And that people should mend their behaviour and their way so it benefits the land.

Why? Because our very survival depends on it.

What a good idea.

So, you then have this legislation that you and I came up with, that is now being praised and copied all over the world. The Ganges River in India. In South America. In America and Canada and elsewhere.

And people quote you from Aotearoa, as having brought to the world something that many people call “fresh”, but we call it “right”. It’s just right.

So, there we are. It’s something that we have done together. The government was afraid that there would be an outcry of marches down Queen St, against this wild and crazy idea, and none of that has happened.

Tūhoe people believe that this thing called Tūhoetanga, and being Tūhoe, should be permanent. And our tradition is that we need mana motuhake to make that happen.

Our truth today for Tūhoe is we need to recover. We need to restore Tūhoetanga, and we really need to have faith, trust and confidence in ourselves.

We are sad that over 250 Tūhoe children are in state care, that over 900 Tūhoe people are with the Corrections department and with prisons. We’re sad that 14,000 children are on watch to Oranga Tamariki — CYFs.

See, we have to do the right thing, Tūhoe. We put up our hands and we say: “Crown, you are not in the love business, you don’t know what that is, but we are. We are in the love business. We are in the care-for-Tūhoe business. We are responsible, we will be responsible, we wish to be responsible, for these people.

So, one of the things that we want to do is repatriate our world to be responsible — you see that’s what mana motuhake is. It’s not talking about more money from the Crown, but it’s merely saying that, if you are Tūhoe, you care for each other, you care about each other, and you will do whatever you wish you can do to raise each other to be Tūhoe people.

Iwi in my view is not really a racial term. Iwi is a lifestyle. My iwi is a kinship organisation. My friend Jane would know that as an iwi we have governmental purposes. But you see, the government just sees us as a charitable trust.

But, we’ve been in government longer than the government. That is the purpose of iwi. We are there to dispense justice and there to enable justice. That’s our value system.

We are not a corporation and we are not a business. We happen to be connected to those things, but our nature as an iwi is not business. That is one of the enemies we have to fight, is the inclination and the pressure to become a business, so we have the approval of all New Zealanders. So all New Zealanders can say: “What a great iwi that is — they have plenty of money to invest in Auckland now. Perhaps they’ll be interested in our rail system that they can put shares in?”

An iwi declines self-interest, and we accentuate belonging and being connected to each other, connected to the land, connected by culture and by identity.

Mana motuhake — and I believe there are lots of rules around mana motuhake — Tūhoe understand mana motuhake to be, one: the abandonment of dependency, and, two: embracing interdependence.

We can’t get there unless we appreciate and experience independence. That is how we leave behind dependency and we embrace interdependence.

Mana motuhake is our need for maximum autonomy. We need maximum autonomy in order to call ourselves rangatira, in order for us to take full responsibility and obligations for the land, for our past and present and our future.

So much to unlearn, because for centuries now we have been taught we cannot trust ourselves, our judgement is poor, that the best thing is for us to give over leadership of ourselves to somebody else.

It’s a bit like room service. All you need to do is pick up the phone and call in, and somebody will give you service. You know, that’s an addiction that’s bigger than P dependency.

So, we’ve declared war on it. And there are some very, very unhappy people, many Tūhoe that are unhappy with it, because they’ve become comfortable with it.

That’s our 40-year journey, our two-generations journey, is to have a fight about that. We do not want to avoid the battle. We should not avoid it.

As I said before, because the default position is just to make money, and to be a business — we are not that.

We want to be tangata whenua. People who live with the land, and respect the land, and understand that our future and our survival comes from the land and from Te Urewera. That mana whenua is being responsible for the land and everything about the land. That the word Māori is not really a racial term, but it means beautiful, it means natural, it means usual, commonplace.

And Tūhoe, we need to find out what that means. What that means in 2017, in 2090. And we are desperate to live up to the principles, the virtues and the values of being Tūhoe. Now that we are a diverse and global people, we have our work cut out for us.

Principles — aren’t they just fundamental truths and beliefs? Many of us have them. And virtues are just the habits and the behaviours that we need in order to find our truth. And the values that we claim we have are the standards that we need to enact the truths.

As human beings, we always fall short, we falter, we trip. But as good human beings, we stand up and do not blame the principles, virtues and failings. We stand up and continue the pursuit of those things.

Forty years, two generations for Tūhoe — it’s going to be frightening and distressing. We need to be distressed, because we are at war for our own survival. Things are not sweet — 177 years has left some deep scars that we have to confront and work at.

And when we take this journey to find out about our culture and our language, and our identity, these are the gifts that we will give to all New Zealanders. New Zealanders who are not too sure whether they’re Kiwis or New Zealanders. Māori people are not too sure if they’re Māori or iwi. There’s a vagary about that.

Some friends of mine who call themselves New Zealanders don’t like Kiwis.

They see Kiwis as people who say they are Kiwi-as, not having any roots in this country.

New Zealanders are people who are connected to the Treaty of Waitangi somehow, whose ancestors had fought for this land, going back to the Land Wars and all of the wars. They’re buried here, they’ve died here, they know a little bit about this country. New Zealanders apparently are people who have nowhere else to go. This is it.

And my New Zealand friends tell me, Kiwis are not really that type of person. Kiwis have come here to find security, peace, and if they don’t find it here, they will move on and become something else. Their roots will not go deep. They know something about the Treaty, but they know more about the All Blacks. They know something about the Land Wars, and all of the other wars — they’ve come across it, but they don’t have a strong opinion on it.

So, here we are as a country, we’re kind of awkwardly fudging, searching, wanting to know who we are.

Some Tūhoe think that in the distant future, there may no longer be Europeans living in Aotearoa, because Europeans live in Europe. That, maybe, in a long distance, the only people you find in Aotearoa are tangata whenua, you and I tangata whenua — because we love the land equally. We have a commitment to it. We believe we are from the land, we will live with it, and we don’t really think that we need to own it.

So Tūhoe’s view is that one day, all of us in this room are going to be tangata whenua, and we’ll all sit down and talk about those Europeans in Europe, and how they’re mucking up the world, and they need our advice.

Maybe this difficult journey that Tūhoe is making, and that you will witness over the next 40 years, this difficulty that we will undergo, this pain that we will undergo, will produce a liberation for you, and for Aotearoa.

That we come to understand that culture and identity are just other words for what we share in common. That’s all it is, it’s just another word for that. And that is what we’re struggling with — understanding what it is we share in common.

And when we do not share in common, philosophy and ideology, and our kinship to each other and to this land — we dare not go into details like hokey pokey, and gumboots, singlets, football, and harbour bridges, or any kind of bridge would work. Maybe we should start thinking about these things. And let’s help each other reflect with that struggle and that disruption. And let’s not try and avoid it.

We kind of think that that might be a long view of our contribution to Aotearoa and to all New Zealanders.

We worry a lot about being imposters, you know, Tūhoe people. That we must live up to what we preach, that we must live up to our standard, and to our principles, and to our values. We judge ourselves all the time.

We do not want to be ventriloquists either, where we are using somebody else’s words and we’re just moving our lips. We don’t want to be sceptical as well. Optimism is our friend. We have to be optimistic in order to save ourselves.

So that is where we are. We’re quite proud of the start we’ve made, remembering we’re only three minutes old from the 2014 settlement. But, we do not want to be too harsh on ourselves — but sometimes, a lot of the time, we are pretty harsh on ourselves.

But we’re only three minutes old, and so far, we have a settlement and a Te Urewera Act — which will work — and this has changed entirely our relationship with the Crown, with government departments. And when we sit down and work out with the Crown our future work together, we have advised the Crown that they need to come to the room and understand that we’re not asking them for solutions. Because their solutions so far have not worked.

The things that they have that may be quite useful to Tūhoe are that they can create legislation. Two, they can delete bad legislation. And three, they have some resources.

So, that is the basis of their invitation to the room.

I’m pleased to say to you that the government machines that we’re working with at the moment all accept those terms. They don’t come with solutions because that’s our part. We will come with the solutions and we will be the ones that will take full responsibility.

It’s not that we’re letting the Crown off the hook. The alternative [is] that, if we don’t take responsibility for them, they will continue to do a bad job, and we want to relieve them and you of that burden, and they just do those three things.

So, our relationship with the Department of Conservation — to start there. The Department of Conservation woke up the next day after settlement and could not believe a national park had disappeared, and they believed the magic trick was entirely illegal, and they were not consulted, and it had to be reversed as quickly as possible.

When they found it could not be reversed, they came to the idea then that it must be that Tūhoe wants the Department of Conservation to come in and run Te Urewera and continue to run it: it’s just a name change. So, after we cleared that misunderstanding up, they then thought, oh, they get it, we [Tūhoe] want to be like DOC. They advised us they were open to training us, and to tutoring us, and to supervising us.

So, we said no thank you, we will do this our own way, and we’re finding out in our own time how we do that.

And just a few months ago, some of you may have read that we composed Te Kawa o Te Urewera, which is our version of a management plan for Te Urewera. The first thing we did when we launched this document was we took everybody around Te Urewera, because we were saying that Te Urewera was so joyous about the right way of doing things that Te Urewera wanted to greet everybody.

We took everybody around Te Urewera for around about two or three hours. The launching of the book took about five minutes. And then the meal, the hākari afterwards, took an hour. And that’s how it should be.

Now, we have a much-improved relationship with the Department of Conservation where we’re quite gentle with each other — well, on Mondays and Thursdays. And they’ve asked us to help the machine understand that this is a new world, that indeed a national park has disappeared, and there is this place that is of itself.

It cannot be owned by anyone else, and the machine is having difficulty understanding what that is. And the machine does not want to give resources to something that it doesn’t own and something that it doesn’t control.

So that’s where we are at, at this operational level, and the Department of Conservation accepts that it has no governance role, it has no management role, it is a contributor to operations, but its contribution is half of what Tūhoe contributes as well.

So, it’s not a significant contribution, but nevertheless it’s a contribution so that my friend Barry can bring all of his friends to Te Urewera. Because without the Crown contribution, you’ll have to ask my permission — because then [it will] revert to private land, wouldn’t it?

Oh, I kind of think it already is in one way — not that it’s not public land.

But the money that the Crown gives to help operate things in Te Urewera is how all non-Tūhoe people access Te Urewera. And if tomorrow the Crown said: “Sorry, we can’t afford it, we’re spending all our money on Auckland again”, then all you good folk will have to do something else — I can’t imagine what that will be — in order to access Te Urewera.

So, our relationship with the Department of Conservation has improved greatly over the last three years. We are there to settle this new set of behaviour, this new relationship, and we’re desperately trying to do that as quickly as we can, and future-proofing it. And we understand there are weaknesses in that, as people come and go in government departments.

We are doing the same with Oranga Tāmariki. We have advised them that we need to be in charge of repatriating Tūhoe children and therefore their care and protection. Oranga Tāmariki have agreed that they have no solutions and we’re working together on that.

As a side issue, we’re also experimenting with a green road. We looked at Te Urewera, the largest, native, indigenous forest left in the North Island of that immensity — technically it means we’re producing all of the air that you Aucklanders are using up, and we’re producing it for free at the moment.

We thought that there’s State Highway 38 that runs from around Murupara, Rotorua, through Te Urewera, and goes out at Wairoa. It’s made out of waste-oil and waste products, and we thought — this can’t be good. It’s a bit of an irony and contradiction.

So, we’re spending some of our money on looking at a green road, an alternative to bitumen, made out of wood sap. We’re trialling this out in November, and if it works, we’ve got the recipe and you people might be interested in it once your waste-oil runs out, and your fossil fuel runs out.

We’ve got plenty of trees, and it’s an alternative.

The other thing that we’ve got an obsession about now is living buildings. Some of you may have already visited Te Kura Whare, Aoteroa’s first living building at Taneatua.

Tūhoe were heavily criticised initially for the fact that one of the first things they did was build a building. Why weren’t they investing their money? Why were they using $15 million to build a building?

It was so weird that our friend Sarah from Germany came and filmed us fighting with each other and building this green building, and there you have it. Aotearoa’s living building — the only one outside of the United States. The only building ever built by indigenous people.

It produces all its own power, it’s not connected up to the mains, it’s zero waste, and it enhances its environment. So, in three years, people, I haven’t paid $1 of my money for electricity and when the cyclones came and all of the electricity was cut, people came to the kura whare because we could still give them a cup of tea and a meal.

We’ve decided to build more of these buildings. So we built another one at Lake Waikaremoana. We opened that in December, and we’re building a hub in Ruatāhuna — all sorts of buildings based on the Living Building Challenge standards. And now we’re investigating building villages.

So, we’re not stopping at affordable houses. We’ve decided we want to build beautiful houses, and beautiful villages, not just affordable houses.

These are some of the things that we’re up to, which means that we’re unlikely to own a casino in 10 years, or a hotel or shares in Auckland Airport, you’ll be glad to know.

We are looking at a whole lot of priorities that other iwi are. But we have to control our enthusiasm and not say things that we cannot meet, that we cannot deliver our people.

So, the very nature of how we construct ourselves, the systems that we have, the infrastructure we have, is based around Tūhoe hapū, Tūhoe families, and an iwi structure that has held us together for over 170 years.

And so, we have built the way that we connect with each other around that. And that is the job we have. It’s to get the new generation of Tūhoe people to understand what that is, and how they are part of that.

This is all too unfamiliar to many young Tūhoe people. Many of them are unfamiliar with a hapū or an iwi, and that is where we’re starting from. That is the honesty that we must have in order to understand what our problem is and how we will go about working out solutions for ourselves.

So it was, in 1867, when the Crown decided it did not like Tūhoe, and the Crown policy was not to defeat Tūhoe, but to exterminate them.

We’ve come a long way. And so it is. I’ve described for you what it is we have to do, our reality today, and the things that we have to unlearn, and the things we have to relearn and understand the new world that we live in, and the faith that we hold on to.

That being Tūhoe and Tūhoetanga is permanent, and mana motuhake is right.

It is good. It is not a protest, it is not a war against anyone else. But it is a fight for our rangatiratanga, for our survival. So it is. That is our world today.

Koia mārika, which is the title of tonight’s lecture, is So Shall It Be.

Kia ora koutou.

This transcript was republished with permission from E-Tangata and was originally published on the E-Tangata site. link here.

Disclaimer: The ideas expressed in this lecture reflect the views of the lecturer and not necessarily the views of The Big Q.