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Reflections On The Seabed & Foreshore Hikoi

Reflections On The Seabed & Foreshore Hikoi

By Nathan Hoturoa Gray

“The hikoi towards parliament is about many things. For some it is a chance to get out and see the country. For others it is to be hanging with friends. For 12 that I met on route, it is about trying their best to relay run from Cape Reinga to the Cook Strait on a once in a lifetime experience tackling the elements and themselves. (One is a gritty bearded Pakeha called Alistair, who runs in bare feet.) For some it is to protest a government that has curbed a people’s rights, in particular recourse to their courts. For others it seeks to stall potential overseas sale of our foreshore assets and exorbitant rental or land purchase price rise. For some it is environmental/ kaitiaki, for others it’s a chance to learn how to help. For everyone it’s a chance to embrace Aotearoa’s culture, meet a few Joe’s you normally wouldn’t, and have some exercise out in the sun.

The government has made some funny rule that if you work at a certain level in the State Sector – you’re not allowed to go out on Wednesday for a stroll.

I suppose then, for me, this walk is simply about being free.”

- Nathan Hoturoa Gray

Mereana Pitman stands at the marae atea talking to the group of 400 that have gathered at Clive marae, Napier. In a strong but nurturing voice she issues out directions for the next day’s hikoi to Waipukurau. “Be here at 8 o’clock tommorow morning. If you’re late and are left behind that is not my fault.” She laughs before continuing. “We’re all about peace and tribal unity on this hikoi. If someone reacts to what we’re doing just ‘kia ora’ them back and smile. They’ll soon learn to respect their new landlords - especially when 20,000 of us arrive in Wellington.” Everyone laughs, the spirit of the hikoi is good as it gradually makes its way down te ika a maui. The gathering grows as the positive wairua attracts more and more supporters with each township visited.

I’ve joined the Kahungungu hikoi at Napier, te matau a maui, and I’m hooked. With just a sleeping bag, a change of clothes and my camera I too have no ride to Wellington. Annette Sykes approaches. She speaks with Tame Iti. “Tame, whatever happens make sure you get this pakeha boy a ride.” I laugh at the way my white Ngai Tahu face is automatically perceived, yet am excited at the prospect of meeting the renowned Tuhoe activist. “Ko wai koe? Tame asks. “Ko au te tangata i hikoi te pakitara o Hainamana. – Another hikoi member listens, mouth agasp. “E tama, you put me to shame. Your Maori is better than mine! Lucky for you though bro, with your skinny pakeha frame, Tame would have eaten you up in seconds.” The group of so called ‘wreckers and haters’ laugh hysterically. I feel instantly accepted. This hikoi is certainly not about the distinction between white and black.

The atmosphere is full of aroha and excitement. It feels real, as if the country is on the cusp of something big. Necessary changes that need to take place in light of the volatile political environment since Don Brash’s speech at Orewa and Helen Clark’s ill-advised and uncharacteristically hasty response - (not to mention her infatuation for Shrek.) It reminds me a little bit of what Mao’s walk through China must have been like. Gathering support at each village, passing on their message and developing a manifesto that was to rule China for the next 50 years. Where will Maori take it from here I wonder?

The final march through Wellington during a typically blustery day was a torrent of unified Maoridom. A showing of strength as wave after wave of the 42 tribes filed slowly through Lambton Quay packing out Parliament grounds like never before. The fact that there were no recorded incidents or arrests, simply a street filled with chanting and song is a credit to the movement and its awesome feat of organisation.

Probably the most powerful moment was watching Moana Jackson and Mereana Pittman walk into Parliament grounds leading Kahungungu, the instigators of the whole hikoi. Holding their heads up high, their eyes leveled out in humbled awe as they realised the sense of history they had just created.

The major disappointment?

Well that would have to be Helen Clark, for not walking the 400 metres it must have been to face her people who had come from all over the land to be heard.


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