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Unity, respect mark well-loved queen’s send off

By Paul Titus

Methodist Church leaders and lay people were among those who played a part in the momentous gatherings that marked the tangi and funeral of the Maori queen Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu.

A large contingent of church people paid their respects during the tangi at Turangawaewae marae. Later MCNZ President Rev John Salmon and Taha Maori Tumuaki Rev Diana Tana joined other clergy in the funeral ceremony on the marae and Rev Morehu (Buddy) Te Whare conducted the final ceremony at the gravesite on Taupiri Mountain.

Diana says the events were history in the making.

“It was absolutely unforgettable. I have never experienced an event like this is my lifetime. Not just the day of the funeral but all the days when her body was lying in state and thousands and thousands and thousands of people paid their respects for a queen they dearly loved.

“Those who attended came from across ages and cultural groups. She was loved by the nation and you could feel the sense of unity she strived for and believed in.

“It made me remember her whakatauki (proverb): Therefore my prayer is that we join in the spirit of unity. Let nothing divide us. Let’s work out our future together,” Diana says.

Along with Anglican and Catholic clergy Diana and John took part in early morning prayers, the service, and procession that led the body from the marae. A Ratana band then led the procession from the marae to the river. There her body was put on the waka for the trip down the Waikato River to Taupiri Mountain, where the leaders of the Kingitanga movement are buried.

Faye Te Whare says when the waka arrived at the end of its journey it was an amazing sight as people waiting on mountain did an action song of welcome. It was if the whole mountain was alive with hands waving and the greenery people were wearing.

Buddy Te Whare says the entire day of the funeral was positive and exciting. “It was a carnival of events with people everywhere and at least 20 boats on the water in addition to the four carved wakes. The NZ army, navy and air force were present, and there was a fly-by of 12 planes from a local aero club,” Buddy says.

During the funeral ceremony Buddy paid tribute to the Dame Te Ata’s father King Koroki and greeted the new king Tuheitia Paki. After two speeches by tangata whenua and two by other tribes, the family filed past the grave and put roses on the casket.

Because he had been away from home, the request to conduct the Dame Te Ata’s funeral only reached Buddy late the evening prior to the event. He believes Dame Te Ata’s sense of Methodist belonging was behind the request for him to lead the final ceremony.

In the evening Buddy was one of 500 dignitaries who shared a meal with the new king at Turangawaewae. Most tribes were present along with the Prime Minister.

The positive response to the toast proposed by a Wanganui representative is an indication of the support for the new king, Buddy says.

“Other tribes are anxious to show the king movement is something they can support. Support for him indicates the other tribes are happy with the direction the movement has taken.

“Tainui have spearheaded the treaty claims and some tribes believe they can learn from them how to run their own claim. They hope he fills his mother’s shoes and follows the direction she set.”