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Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei privileged to lead pōwhiri for Obama

23 March 2018

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei privileged to lead pōwhiri for former President Barack Obama

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei is honoured to have led a pōwhiri formally welcoming the 44th President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, to Tāmaki Makaurau.

The pōwhiri took place at Government House yesterday, and recognised the role of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei as mana whenua in central Auckland.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust Chairman Marama Royal says it was an honour and privilege to perform the pōwhiri on behalf of all iwi, 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.”

Mrs Royal says Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei likened Mr Obama to “He Kotuku Rerenga Tahi” – the native white heron rarely seen and the mark of a leader.

“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.”

Mrs Royal says the occasion of Mr Obama’s welcome was momentous for Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei kaumātua (elders) and rangatahi (young people).

“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.”

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