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Ngāi Tūhoe do things differently: Interview with Tāmati Kruger

Ngāi Tūhoe do things differently: Interview with Tāmati Kruger

The first major investment Tūhoe made as a regenerative symbol of their tribe, was the living systems, sustainable, design award winning building Te Kura Whare. Described on their website as:

Encouraging pride, unity and presence, Te Kura Whare mirrors Tūhoe values and Te Mana Motuhake o Tūhoe in a way that maintains the truth of our past, our present and our future. Te Kura Whare brings to life the idea that we must restore the spaces that we live in.

The administration hub of Tūhoe, the building designed by Ivan Mercep of Jasmax, is evocative, practical, and carries many stories. It is different, memorable but also a pleasure to visit. 

Te Kura Whare Image from Tūhoe website

Te Kura Whare Image from Tūhoe website

Tūhoe invited visitors and international experts to a conference at Te Kura Whare (and local marae) in February. Called Te Ohu, the working bee, this was the first time a conference such as this had been hosted by Tūhoe. The purpose of the working bee was a:

‘collaborative exploration of beliefs, philosophies, principles, purpose and concepts that will guide the design and development of future Tūhoe village communities, within the broader ecosystem. From this process of working together, participants and Tūhoe will each derive value.’

And they did. One participant commented on the last day: ‘I thought I was here to help Tūhoe design a village but I found I was immersed in professional development.’ The strength and passion of the Tuhoe community left a warm and indelible impression.

Tuhoe working bee learners

Tuhoe working bee learners

Working bee participants were divided into groups for accommodation and taken to four participating marae. There they shared meals with the hau kainga, their Ringatū religion, and their humour.

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Koro Kelly at Tauarau Marae

Koro Kelly at Tauarau Marae

In addition, site visits were made to marae including to Ruatāhuna where those lucky to take that bus trip saw a new development, Te Tii which is to be a regenerative hub for the isolated community, with such facilities as a laundry, service station, offices and chalets. As with Te Kura Whare, this building is beautifully designed, in the case of Te Tii by Hugh Tennant, of Tennant Brown architects, and sits modestly into its forest backdrop.

The Tūhoe treaty claim also achieved a different outcome. While it contained an historical account and Crown acknowledgement of injustices, it also provides for protection of Te Urewera, which had been a National Park. This is protected not as land owned by Tūhoe, but not owned at all, thus recognising Indigenous philosophy that the land is an entity. It is part of us and not subservient.

The Tūhoe Claims Settlement Act 2014 contains a summary of an historical account which makes grim reading, reflecting the injustices that Tūhoe have faced, but survived. Section 8 (1) of the Act commences:

Tūhoe did not sign the Treaty of Waitangi, and the Crown had no official presence in Te Urewera before the 1860s. Tūhoe remained in full control of their customary lands until 1865 when the Crown confiscated much of their most productive land, even though they were not in rebellion and the confiscation was not directed at Tūhoe.

The balance of this section is included at the end of the interview. The 40 clauses in Section 9, the acknowledgements from the Crown, also make stark reading and should be understood by New Zealanders, so that we are all aware of our history. It is easily found on google.

The new Tūhoe buildings are exemplars, the working bee was different, the Tūhoe settlement with the Crown provided for a new (but not new because it is fundamental to Indigenous philosophy) concept of land not owned by anyone, but maintained through guardianship, and the governance of Tūhoe is also notable. The board or Te Uru Taumatua lists people with a range of expertise including Dave Bamford (tourism management) and the Rt Honorable Jim Bolger (a previous prime minister). The website of Ngāi Tūhoe says:

Tāmati Kruger (Taneatua) is the Chairman of Tūhoe Te Uru Taumatua, and was the Tūhoe Chief Negotiator for the Treaty settlement. A recognised authority in Te Reo Māori and customary practices, Tāmati has worked in tribal research and development for many years.

Tāmati Kruger kindly gave time after the Te Ohu conference to respond to questions for Landscape Foundation.

What are the most important aspects for you as Tūhoe of living with landscape?
TK:  Recognising who we are comes from that landscape. The landscape helps to immortalise us as who we are.  The imprint of what people leave on the land, and landscape is the imprint of immortality. The landscape offers gifts and is expressed as people recognise those meanings. I belong to this land and it gives me sustenance, kinship and connection to landscape.

Have you thoughts on change in the landscape?
TK: People as people are part of a need for survival so we incur changes on landscape. Nature understands, I think. Nature allows this, and change should always be done respectfully and in a knowing manner. I accept responsibility for actions, change and consequences. Nature adapts and welcomes human interaction. The part that humans must remember is to take responsibility, to minimise damage that change may cause. Change comes from the human need to survive. Nature changes and adapts as well.

Te Urewera, the person. This was provided for in your Treaty Settlement: it was new for our law of the land.
TK: Te Urewera was recognition of who is there: helping the law to catch up. This was our history and the law agreed. The legal writers thought they had discovered this but it was known all along.

How can we recognise identity and belonging in cities?
TG: People have an innate urge, an instinct for belonging. It is in our nature and we don’t escape that urge for a sense of identity. We create new identities in the city and suburbs, and neighbourhoods. But the character of the urban area is provisional, temporary. There are competing influences in form, so when we create identities it is with a view that it may change. For instance, Ponsonby - it used to be very different and now Ponsonby is changing and the nature of the urban identity will change. Whereas cultural identity has a continuity and foreverness in it. We may interpret culture differently but parts are maintained. Cultural landscape and identity are an echo of the sound of the land, like art and music. Listening is done with mindfulness and sincerity.  Land and nature is necessary as our origin. Nature comes first. Nature can continue to exist without humans but humans cannot exist without nature. I am reminded of the saying ‘It’s in my nature,’ my belonging and tradition.

As an example, people living in Ruatāhuna, with nature, have greater control and influence within their landscape. Those living in the city are powerless. There are bylaws, regional councils, competing influences, less influence as a family, or kinship. City people are families of tax payers and ratepayers.  In Ruatāhuna the people belong there but there are more sophisticated amenities in the city. In Ruatāhuna there are no libraries, malls, weekly rubbish pickup.

What do you understand by the concept of heritage?
Heritage and culture. Culture is what we share in common, common likes and views. Heritage is how they have been passed down. They are a thread of consciousness of space and time; shared principles. In New Zealand we struggle with it: heritage has not matured. It used to be rugby racing and beer but 60 years later this is not us. We are still formulating our belonging, or heritage. Heritage is a product of us all, including land.

An important aspect of Tūhoe is your spirituality, wairuatanga. How can this understanding be rippled more widely?
TK: The best sermons are by example, rather than by pamphlets: living examples that bring joy and satisfaction, and spiritual essence. Most human beings need to be guided to sense, smell, touch. Living examples are the best way to have growing to self-awareness. We need to do it by teaching our children. Gratitude is memory of the soul, so when children are regularly exposed to wonders they want to be engaged. When they are denied the awe of life, what choice do they have but to regard life and people are torturous and want to die. So we must show our children the wonder of life. It is not just about three cars, insurance and an 8 -bedroomed house.

Tūhoe Claims Settlement Act 2014
Section 8.  Summary of historical account
Tūhoe did not sign the Treaty of Waitangi, and the Crown had no official presence in Te Urewera before the 1860s. Tūhoe remained in full control of their customary lands until 1865 when the Crown confiscated much of their most productive land, even though they were not in rebellion and the confiscation was not directed at Tūhoe.

The prejudice created by the confiscation was exacerbated by the Compensation Court process, which returned much of the confiscated land to other Māori but excluded Tūhoe from land they traditionally occupied and cultivated.

After the confiscation, the Crown waged war in Te Urewera until 1871 as it sought to apprehend those responsible for the 1865 death of Crown official Fulloon and then capture Te Kooti following his escape from Crown detention. The Crown extensively used scorched earth tactics, and was responsible for the execution of unarmed prisoners and the killing of non-combatants. In 1870, Tūhoe were forced out of Te Urewera and detained at Te Putere, where they suffered further hardship. The wars caused Tūhoe to suffer widespread starvation and extensive loss of life.

In 1871, peace was restored to Te Urewera when the Crown withdrew its forces and agreed to leave Tūhoe to manage their own affairs. A governing council of chiefs, Te Whitu Tekau, was then established to uphold mana motuhake in Te Urewera.

Between the 1870s and the 1890s, Crown pressure and the claims of other iwi led to the introduction into Te Urewera of the Native Land Court, surveying, and land purchases despite Te Whitu Tekau opposition. In 1875, the Crown induced Tūhoe to sell a large area of land at Waikaremoana by threatening to confiscate their interests if they did not sell.

Tūhoe sought to protect their remaining lands from sale, and in 1896, Parliament enacted the Urewera District Native Reserve Act 1896. This provided for local self-government over a 656 000-acre Urewera Reserve, and for decisions about the use of land to be made collectively and according to Māori custom. Tūhoe believed this system would protect their lands from sale. However, the Crown did not implement the self-government provisions of that Act and undermined its protective provisions.

Between 1896 and 1921, Crown purchasing in and around Te Urewera (some of which was illegal) and roading and survey costs imposed on Tūhoe under the Urewera Consolidation Scheme (1921) resulted in a significant loss of land. Harsh tactics were used to acquire land at Waikaremoana, where the Crown assumed control over Lake Waikaremoana and resisted attempts for decades by Māori owners to secure title to the lakebed.

In 1916, 70 armed Police arrested Tūhoe prophet Rua Kēnana at Maungapōhatu. Two Tūhoe men were killed during the arrest. Rua was cleared of 8 charges, including sedition, but was convicted of moral resistance relating to an earlier arrest attempt and jailed. The Maungapōhatu community went into decline after this and has not recovered.

Following the Urewera Consolidation Scheme, Tūhoe were left with only 16% of the Urewera Reserve, much of which was unsuited to settlement or economic development. This was insufficient to support an increasing population.

In 1954, the Crown established Te Urewera National Park, which included most of Tūhoe’s traditional lands. The Crown neither consulted Tūhoe about the establishment of the park nor about its 1957 expansion and did not recognise Tūhoe as having any special interest in the park or its governance. National Park policies led to restrictions on Tūhoe’s customary use of Te Urewera and their own adjoining land.

Today, around 85% of Tūhoe live outside Te Urewera. Those who remain struggle to make a living and face various restrictions placed on the land and resources in the area. Many suffer from socio-economic deprivation of a severe nature.