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The Spurned Maori Delegation
3 July 2000
Te Karere Ipurangi Fiji Coup Supplement
Ko Huiarau and Tame Iti
by Ross Nepia Himona
Much has been made of the Maori delegation that tried to enter Fiji, and was refused entry.
According to the media, it was led by Tame Iti and intended to visit George Speight. They got it wrong again. Apparently Tame Iti has said that he intended to visit Speight, and the media and politicians then assumed that he was speaking for the whole group.
The ten or so people in this group came together to take advantage of group travel discounts. Tame Iti was one person in the group, and according to kaumatua/elder Bruce Gregory, did not "lead" it, or speak for it. I myself received an email a few days before they went, to let me know that if I wanted to travel to Fiji I should contact the organisers.
What has not been reported, and what Bruce Gregory has not told the media, is that the organisation that most members of the group belonged to is the cult-like Te Runanga Ko Huiarau, the so-called Maori Parliament. To my knowledge, Tame Iti is not a member of Ko Huiarau. A former member of the mainstream parliament in Wellington, the somewhat eccentric Hon Bruce Gregory, was the actual spokesman for the Ko Huiarau delegation.
The origins of Ko Huiarau are clouded in secrecy, and it seems to have been a small secret society formed some time after colonisation, given to performing good works, quietly and relatively anonymously. It went into abeyance decades ago, and was apparently revived by one of its members, James Ngatoa, who was the younger brother of the the last official leader. I have reliable evidence that his family, and the surviving members of the original Ko Huiarau, do not support James Ngatoa and what he has done with the organisation.
Ngatoa has since used it as a vehicle to fraudulently validate and promote himself as the Taiopuru Ko Huiarau, a king-like figure who claims to be the paramount chief over all Maori tribes. To stake this claim he has concocted an entirely false Maori history of post-colonial Aotearoa New Zealand, based only loosely on fact. In this history he has invented a paramount chief or Taiopuru, and has invented a whakapapa/genealogy through which the mantle of Taiopuru has been inherited by himself.
James Ngatoa is a shadowy figure who is reported to be arrogant, abusive and overbearing, with strong sociopathic tendencies. He is a convicted pedophile who has spent time in prison. He was not apparently with the Ko Huiarau delegation to Fiji. Recently Bruce Gregory seems to have taken over some of his role in presenting the public face of the Ko Huiarau kaumatua or elders.
One of Ngatoa's claims is about the existence of a Ko Huiarau Maori Parliament from the early 1800s until about 1947. This false claim builds on an actual Maori Parliament that was established towards the end of the 19th century, and was dissolved early in the 20th century. Ngatoa claims to have revived this previously non-existent Ko Huiarau parliament.
In recent years the movement has been effectively run by Mary Mahinarangi Forbes and her non-Maori husband Robin Edwards. Forbes is a charismatic figure of considerable beauty, and under her the movement has received new impetus. Earlier this year they formally set up a Maori Parliament with elected representatives. It claims to represent a number of hapu/tribes from around the country. However it does not appear to be actively supported by more than a few hundred followers, and a few hundred more curious onlookers.
Some of the bizarre claims of Ko Huiarau revolve around assertions that the Taiopuru has an official and direct relationship with the Queen of England, and refers decisions made by Ko Huiarau to her, so that she may direct her Parliament in Aotearoa New Zealand to comply. Other fraudulent claims assert the existence of direct trading relationships and treaties with over fifty countries around the world. Some of those countries didn't exist at the time Ko Huiarau claims they entered into treaties with them.
Nevertheless they see themselves as representing Maori to foreign nations, and we have had many reports about previous delegations by them to offshore destinations. The trip to Fiji should be seen in that context.
For a full treatment of Ko Huiarau go to the MaoriNews.com Ko Huiarau File at http://maorinews.com/scams/kohuiarau.htm
Tame Iti deserves a lot more respect from the media, which along with the politicians, tries to demonise him, and to discredit whatever he says. Tame is actually a tireless worker on behalf of Maori people, particularly his own Ngai Tuhoe tribe. He is certainly a political activist, and is usually described as a Maori activist. However that activist label, when applied to Maori, is always used in a derogatory way. Non-Maori political activists are rarely labelled as Pakeha activists.
Tame is courageous and innovative in his activism, and rarely fails to touch the raw and often racist nerves of the targets of his brand of activism.
In my experience he commands considerable respect in the Maori world, and whilst his methods may not always be widely supported, most of his causes are supported, and his commitment and courage have earned him much admiration.
For a more complete biograhical article go to http://aotearoa.wellington.net.nz/he/tame.html
I suppose it is understandable that the New Zealand media has got it wrong. Nothing much changes in their understanding of the Maori world.