Election 2017: A mantle of diplomacy

This is a series on five major election issues seen through the eyes of the national museum.

In the lead-up to the 2017 General Election, we have linked each of these issues to objects from the collection, or education programmes run by Te Papa. In this post, Acting Head of Mātauranga Māori Puawai Cairns writes about Immigration.

In one of the large drawers in Te Whare Pora o Hineteiwaiwa, the Māori textiles store, here at Te Papa, lies a beautiful kahu kiwi, a brown kiwi feather fine cloak. It is fringed with brilliant orange kākā feathers, deep blue black feathers of the tūī, and brightly coloured Berlin yarn (a fine worsted wool used for Berlin work). At the lower border is the intricate finger twining weaving called tāniko, precise in its geometry.

Kahu kiwi (kiwi feather cloak) named Piata, 1840-1855, Hawke's Bay, maker unknown. Gift of Judy La Marsh, 1967. Te Papa (ME011807)

Kahu kiwi (kiwi feather cloak) named Piata, 1840-1855, Hawke’s Bay, maker unknown. Gift of Judy La Marsh, 1967. Te Papa (ME011807)

This beautiful kahu kiwi, named Piata (meaning bright, to shine) is the taonga I have selected to talk about the theme immigration, as part of a series leading up to the 2017 General Election.

Why choose this particular taonga to talk about immigration?

This exquisite cloak once belonged to a woman of very high status called Rāwinia Ngāwaka Tūkeke (-1898), of Ngāti Kere, Ngāti Hinetewai (Pōrangahau). A person of chiefly whakapapa (genealogy), Rāwinia was the leader of her community of Pōrangahau, in the Hawke’s Bay, which deliberately invited and embraced Pākehā settlers into their area, and has been remembered by Rāwinia’s descendants as a recorded case where tāngata whenua effectively took local control of immigration processes into their community, to the benefit of all.

One of these descendants of Rāwinia Tūkeke, Professor Piri Sciascia, writes:

“Rāwinia is renowned for the embrace of the Pākehā settlers who came to Pōrangahau. She ‘adopted’ the first European baby to be seen by her people of Ngāti Kere and Ngāti Hinetewai.”[i]

A detailed image of this cloak is on the cover of the book, Whatu Kākahu | Māori Cloaks (ed. Awhina Tamarapa, 2011), where you can see the blocks of bright kākā and black tūī feathers.

Whatu Kākahu | Māori Cloaks. (Awhina Tamarapa, editor), Wellington, Te Papa Press.

Whatu Kākahu | Māori Cloaks. (Awhina Tamarapa, editor), Wellington, Te Papa Press.

The cloak was presented to the Dominion Museum (a predecessor of Te Papa) in 1967 by Miss Judy La Marsh, the then Canadian Secretary of State, as a token of thanks for the manaaki (courtesy for visitors) that she received on her 1966 visit to New Zealand.

In Whatu Kākahu, you can read about the history of the kahu kiwi, but it is worth quoting at length here:

“Miss La Marsh had bought the cloak for around £100 from a Mrs D.S. Carmichael, who appears to have inherited it from her great-aunt, who in turn was given it by the widow of the Hon. James Henry St Hill, a resident magistrate for Wellington. Rāwinia Ngāwaka Tūkeke, a wahine rangatira (female chief) of Ngāti Kere and Ngāti Hinetewai of Pōrangahau, is thought to have presented the cloak to St Hill between 1854 and 1856, when he was a member of the Legislative Council of New Zealand. Rāwinia was a woman of importance, living in her community at a time of rapid cultural, social and political change. She is also known to have been a weaver. According to Mrs Carmichael, Rāwinia threw the kahu kiwi at St Hill’s feet, although the significance is not known.”[ii]

From its history, we can see how and why the kākahu is a tohu (symbol) of diplomacy, and of relationships, initiated by Rāwinia in that first act of gifting the kākahu. It is a legacy of which her descendants are very aware and which they continue to honour. The families of Pōrangahau maintain their connection with the kākahu, and the descendants of the St Hill family have also come to the museum to visit and reconnect with this beautiful piece of their history.

Rāwinia’s gesture to invite Pākehā settlers in Pōrangahau, and the subsequent protection that she extended to them is explained by Professor Sciascia:

“Literally the invitation was to ‘noho rangatira’, to live on the land which she would provide, and did. And under her protection, which she gave.”[iii]

The invitation by Rāwinia was a common situation across the country, with autonomous tribal communities controlling the borders of their lands – effectively ‘little countries’ within the islands of Aotearoa. Director Ngā Manu Atarau Atarau at Te Papa, Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, comments that invitations to Pākehā by rangatira (chiefs) and their communities, was “an expression of tino rangatiratanga, an expression of established sovereignty with the understanding that new relationships with settlers would be built and maintained under the mantle of the authority of the chief and the people.”[iv]

As we head into an election where immigration is a theme debated by politicians, and recent research showing New Zealanders have a positive attitude to immigration, Rāwinia, her kākahu, and the legacy of her actions, remind us about the importance of forging new relationships/partnerships, and honouring those which have been built over a long time. The rangatiratanga exemplified by Rāwinia did not end with the initial invitation and first wave of settlement in her lands, it continued on and was complemented with principles of aroha ki te tangata (generosity), and manaakitanga (altruistic care for visitors).

Much of the information that is here in this blog owes a debt to the work of former Te Papa curator and now Honorary Research Associate, Awhina Tamarapa and Professor Piri Sciascia.

For more information about the families of Pōrangahau, these titles are recommended reading:

  • Pedersen, H., & Sciascia, M. (2007). Tuāhine: Sisters of Porangahau. Waipukurau, N.Z.: APN Print.
  • Sciascia, M., Pedersen, H., & Pedersen, H. (2004). Hakui: Mothers of Porangahau. Waipukurau, N.Z.: Te Hanganui Partnership.
  • Sciascia, M., Pedersen, H., & Morris, B. (2011). Matatoa: Fathers & sons. Porangahau, N.Z.: Te Hanganui Partnership.

Works cited

  • Rawinia’s cloak – continuing connections. (n.d.). Retrieved from Te Papa Collections Online.
  • Royal, C. (2017, September). Interview. (P. Cairns, Interviewer)
  • Sciascia, P. (2007). Foreword. In M. Sciascia, & H. Pedersen, Tuāhine: Sisters of Porangahau (p. 4). Waipukurau: APN Print.
  • Sciascia, P. (2017, September). Email correspondence. (P. Cairns, Interviewer)
  • Tamarapa, A. (2011). Whatu Kākahu. (A. Tamarapa, Ed.) Wellington: Te Papa Press.
  • Rawinia’s cloak – continuing connections. (n.d.). Retrieved from Te Papa Collections Online.
  • Royal, D. T. (2017, September). Interview. (P. Cairns, Interviewer)
  • Sciascia, P. (2007). Foreword. In M. Sciascia, & H. Pedersen, Tuāhine: Sisters of Porangahau (p. 4). Waipukurau: APN Print.
  • Sciascia, P. (2017, September). Email correspondence. (P. Cairns, Interviewer)
  • Tamarapa, A. (2011). Whatu Kākahu. (A. Tamarapa, Ed.) Wellington: Te Papa Press.

_____
[i] (Sciascia, Email correspondence, 2017)
[ii] (Tamarapa, 2011, p. 131)
[iii] (Sciascia, Email correspondence, 2017)
[iv] (Royal, 2017)

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