Minister for Māori Development, Willie Jackson, has acknowledged the passing of Titewhai Harawira, 90, who he described as a great wahine Māori, a leader, an activist, a mother, a matriarch – a change agent.
Ms Harawira’s son, former MP, Hone Harawira, announced the sad news today, sharing that his mother had passed away in the early hours of this morning.
The mother of eight was also reportedly a grandmother to 70 mokopuna and 25 great-grandchildren.
He said Ms Harawira “came to signify the essence of the Māori renaissance period, an awakening of Māoridom to not only the wrongs of our collective past, but just as importantly in setting in place a framework for the collective progression of our country through honouring the commitments of our forebearers to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the promises it holds for all”.
“Our whaea never took a backwards step in fighting for what she thought was ‘tika’ in promoting the rights of Māori,” said Minister Jackson.
Ms Harawira was at the forefront of many seminal moments in New Zealand’s recent history, from the early protests of the 1960’s through to the formation of Ngā Tamatoa in the 70’s, where she was involved in the Te Petihana Mō Te Reo Māori, the Māori land march.
“…And of course her biding presence at Waitangi as a sometimes guiding hand for Prime Ministers – and at other times unashamedly voicing her discourse over their actions,” he said.
She was also a staunch supporter of urban Māori, and during the 70’s and 80’s whaea was part of a dynamic team led by Dr Rangi Walker and Dr Pat Hohepa who continually fought for Maori rights in the city. She eventually became the Auckland Maori council chair and was the leading figure for council in advocating for Maori who were struggling and particularly the Maori Wardens, Mr Jackson said.
“Whaea Titewhai had no qualms in calling out leadership, whether it be the government of the day or Māori leadership if she saw failings. There is no doubt that her challenges to government at Waitangi gave her national recognition and she was unfairly characterised as a Waitangi troublemaker, but the truth of course was much different,” he said.
“Many a Prime Minister, Minister, MP, Mayor, iwi or community leader have not only felt the sharp barb of her tongue, but also the comforting touch of her reassurances and knowing that she will be there to manaaki them in their journey.
“Importantly, Whaea Titewhai has ensured her legacy will live on in the words and actions of her tamariki, mokopuna and uri whakaheke. She has instilled in every one of them the fighting spirit she herself become known for.”
He said it was only fitting that Whaea Titewhai commence her final journey at home with her whānau tonight before being taken to Hoani Waititi marae to lay in state.
“The final part of her journey will see her returned to her beloved Te Taitokerau where she will lay in peace with her whānau,” he said.