The 13th of October marks the fortieth anniversary of the arrival of the ‘Not One Acre More’ hīkoi (land march) on the steps of New Zealand Parliament. The hīkoi, accompanied by vehicles in support, left Te Hāpua at the top of the North Island on the 14 September 1975, and wound its way down to Wellington, collecting more marchers on the way. By the time it arrived at Parliament, it had an estimated 5, 000 people in its ranks.
To commemorate the anniversary of the famous 1975 protest march, Te Papa has digitised a collection of Ans Westra photographs of the marchers and their supporters, who walked on Parliament to raise consciousness, and to protest about the alienation of Māori land.
The title of this blog comes from a poem that Hone Tuwhare wrote on the eve of his own participation in the march. A beautiful poem that captures the energy of the march, an excerpt is reproduced here which describes the masses of different people that came together:
“…it won’t be a lonely walk,
People all around, and mostly young.
From blue, brown, with bits more added,
Right on up to off-white.
Jesus. How self-conscious can you get?
Like man, I only want to walk the last distance right.
Yeah. And all the different people worrying differently, separately about the decision and the action of commitment.
They each have taken to grab the burning but elusive star together.
And together, not knowing what lies at the end of the star’s reach.
Together, not knowing if they will get a punch in the face at the end of the road,
with much pain, learned it is just the beginning.”
Poem written by Hone Tuwhare on the eve of the 1975 Māori Land, 1975
View video of Tuwhare’s poem
It is the different people Tuwhare describes, momentarily united in the forward movement of a hīkoi, that are captured here in the Westra images. These pictures give you a privileged view into the intimacies of life on a hīkoi. Children playing, young and old, Pākehā and Māori (and other bits added), and the amusements that kept people entertained as they walked. Growing up as a child in the 1980s and taken on multiple hīkoi by my parents, these images are much closer to my own memories of being on protest marches – families, young people, elders, children in prams, and young warriors.
The hīkoi, famously led by Dame Whina Cooper (1895-1994, Te Rarawa), was organised in response to a call by organising group, Te Matakite, with a number of different age groups, ideologies, and backgrounds. In Aroha Harris’ excellent book, Hīkoi: Forty Years of Māori Protest, she describes the collective of different groups and varied ideologies uniting for a time during the hīkoi:
“Setting up Te Matakite was practically as great a feat as the march itself. It was a synergy of old and new ideologies and methods, which unified a range of groups and interests: kuia, kaumātua and rangatahi, young urban activists and older conservative traditionalists. In the six months leading up to the hui, alliances were cultivated with iwi, the Kīngitanga, the Māori council, Ngā Tamatoa, the league, trade unions, socialist organisations, churches and the anti-apartheid movement. The considerable support of Pākehā sent the message that Māori were not the only ones who were fed up with racial discrimination and unjust laws in Aotearoa.” (Harris, 2004, pp. 70-72)
The hikoi is one of the most recognisable forms of active protest action in New Zealand Aotearoa, especially for the expression of Māori political and social challenges to the state. While this hikoi was followed by numerous other protest marches in the following decades, especially the Foreshore and Seabed march (2004), the iconic nature of the protest march was laid down by those marches in the 1970s and especially the 1975 protest. It is the images collected by photographers such as Westra, that ensure we remember the diversity of the protest, of those groups that unified for a time and reached for that burning and elusive star of Hone Tuwhare’s words.
Please click here to see the rest of the newly digitised Westra images.
Harris, A. (2004). Hikoi: Forty Years of Maori Protest. Wellington: Huia Publishers.
Steven, G. (Director). (1975). Te Matakite o Aotearoa – The Māori Land March [Motion Picture]. New Zealand.