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Maori Party celebrates 145 years of the Maori seats

Te Ururoa Flavell
MP for Waiariki

4 July 2013

Maori Party celebrates 145 years of the Maori seats

MP for Waiariki, Te Ururoa Flavell, has spoken of his pride in being a Māori Party MP 145 years to the day that the first four Māori MPs took up their seats in Parliament.

On 4 July, 1868, Hone Paratene Tamanui a Rangi (Southern Māori) took up his place in Parliament joining Takarangi Metekingi Te Rangi Paetahi (Western Māori); Tareha Te Moananui (Eastern Māori) and Frederick Nene Russell (Northern).

“It is appropriate in te wiki o te reo Māori, to recall that the first words spoken by a Māori MP were in te reo Māori. Tareha Te Moananui urged the government to enact wise laws to promote good, and for Māori and Pākehā to work together”.

“It was a noble message but an interpreter was organised at the last minute, meaning not everyone got to understand the kōrero. This was a pattern which reoccurred – leading to the early Māori MPs constantly struggling to make a difference. In addition, bills and other parliamentary papers affecting Māori were seldom translated into te reo.

“Over successive years, many Māori MPs advocated for seamless interpretation of te reo Māori but it wasn’t until February 2010 that this was finally achieved. One of my proudest memories is that at the very first meeting I attended of the Parliament Business Committee on 15 November 2005, the Maori Party presented a case to ask the Speaker to undertake a feasibility study for the installation of a simultaneous English-Maori translation service within the debating chamber. It took over four years of advocacy and concerted action across the parliament, but eventually the simultaneous interpretation service was launched.

“It is appropriate to also acknowledge the masterful action of Hon Dr Pita Sharples in negotiating for our Government to sign the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which he announced on 20 April 2010, appearing before the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues”.

“Prior to our intervention, successive Labour Governments had failed to support the call of tangata whenua, to sign up to the UN Declaration; but again this was a challenge that the Maori Party took up”.

“This Declaration, specifically articles 13 and 14, endorses and promotes the right for indigenous peoples to ‘designate and retain their own names’ (the theme of the 2013 Māori Language Week) and ‘be understood in political, legal and administrative proceedings’.”

“Only one party in Parliament takes its guiding instructions from the expression of kaupapa tuku iho – and that is the Māori Party. We believe there is no greater task than building nationhood, through progressing the values represented in these kaupapa – to promote te reo rangatira; to give value to our unique cultural heritage and to uphold the legacy of those first Māori MPs, to enact wise laws to promote good”.

“Finally, I can’t help but compare the situation for Maori MPs speaking in te reo rangatira in 2013 with that of our esteemed peers back in 1868. In that time, when our first Maori MPs took up their seats, they spoke exclusively in te reo, and as a result they were often ridiculed, and belittled for their inability to speak English. Today that landscape has changed so much, we are powerful in an MMP environment, but we are powerful also because of our unique culture and language. Our language is now in the whare – and it is a sign that although slowly, we are moving forward and creating change”.

Background : United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People

Article 13
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons.

2. States shall take effective measures to ensure that this right is protected and also to ensure that indigenous peoples can understand and be understood in political, legal and administrative proceedings, where necessary through the provision of interpretation or by other appropriate means.

Article 14
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.

2. Indigenous individuals, particularly children, have the right to all levels and forms of education of the State without discrimination.

3. States shall, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, take effective measures, in order for indigenous individuals, particularly children, including those living outside their communities, to have access, when possible, to an education in their own culture and provided in their own language.

ENDS

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