Read an extract of Mana Whakatipu on E-Tangata


Big day out

In the beginning, I was tongue-tied and terrified. I had been a member of the Ngāi Tahu council — what we call “the table” — for three years, but here I was, in September 1998, newly elected as kaiwhakahaere or chair of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and I had to front up on one of our biggest days in 150 years: the third and final reading in Parliament of the Ngāi Tahu Claims Settlement Bill.

This settlement has been hailed as one of the pioneering negotiations of the modern Treaty of Waitangi settlement process and set precedents for all negotiations that have followed.

For Ngāi Tahu, who occupy the major part of Te Waipounamu, the South Island, it was seen as some level of justice and redress for the wrongs that had been committed against us, even if it was too little and too late.

In the nineteenth century, our ancestors, who had long had contact with Europeans and intermarried with them, had sold land to the Crown — 80 per cent of Te Waipounamu, in fact — but the Crown had not honoured the deal. Ngāi Tahu was ripped off. The tribe had been fighting to overturn that wrong for seven generations.

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