In February the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) free trade deal will take place in Aōtearoa. The Ratana celebrations on 25th January could provide a catalyst to overturn the signing of TPPA. That would be a miracle worthy of the Ratana heritage.
Founder T.W. Ratana who died in 1939 was a Māori prophet, leader, healer and visionary. Known in the early 20th century as ‘the Māori miracle man’ he asked for Māori to believe in things that had never occurred before and the people flocked to him.
His influence on Māori politics and politicians is such that the Ratana movement continues to this day. Each year on 25th January at Ratana pa (village) his adherents the Morehu celebrate his birthday with services, sports tournaments and the like. And each year NZ politicians travel to Ratana to see and be seen by Māori voters.
The Ratana movement is more than just a Māori form of western religion started by a charismatic leader. Over the years, from the early 1920’s it has been a lightning rod for Māori aspirations and they have never lost sight of pursuit of the honouring of the Treaty of Waitangi.
In 1975 Ratana village hosted the Māori Land March, in 2006 the Ratana movement (see Ratana flag pictured at NZ parliament) marched against the Foreshore and Seabed legislation of the Labour led government.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement signing is another such critical moment that the Māori nation face, not the least because Waitangi Tribunal claimants against the signing
but as clearly articulated after the reading of the full TPPA terms by Māori lawyers and leaders such as Moana Jackson they attest, that TPPA will advantage non-elected corporations to make profits without the constraints of democratically elected governments. Furthermore, TPPA opponents say
‘Maori will lose intellectual property rights;…..Settlement of grievances will be prejudiced (past and future); Wai 2522
We may all be skeptical that a political miracle like this could ever happen at Ratana in 2016, however T. W. Ratana in his own age challenged the status quo not just in Māori hierarchies and spirituality matters but also the NZ government. In 1924, he travelled to England to attempt to petition the English King for the Treaty of Waitangi to be honoured.
The Ratana movement has also been integral to Māori women entering NZ parliament.
In 1893 Māori got the vote unlike English women who had to wage a long and sustained militant civil disobedience war on their own government until achieving universal voting rights in 1919. See my Screen Natives movie review of the movie ‘Suffragette’ here.
Although Māori got the vote in 1893, we had to wait until 1949 for Iriaka Matiu Ratana to be the first Māori native woman to enter NZ parliament. She stood for Western Māori seat after her husband Matiu Ratana, the incumbent died suddenly. Iriaka held the seat for twenty years, despite being a solo parent to seven children and running a dairy farm.
In 1972 Whetu Tirakatene Sullivan became the first Māori woman Cabinet Minister and she was endorsed & groomed for politics by the Ratana movement and in particular, her father, Eruera Tirakatene, a Ratana stalwart and the first Ratana holder of the Southern Māori seat.
The brilliant Sandra Lee who in 1993 became the first Māori woman to win a general seat. does not have any obvious links to Ratana Pa or whanau, however, a Ratana link exists nevertheless. The late great Matiu Rata mentor of Lee and of course the 1979 founder of the Mana Motuhake Party had been a Ratana Youth leader.
In 2004 outstanding political leader Dame Tariana Turia founded and was co-leader of the Māori party. Raised in Whangaehu near Ratana, in her formative years she witnessed firsthand the results of the political work of Iriaka Ratana and Whetu Tirakatene – Sullivan on her village and at Ratana.
Politicians of all persuasions always appear at Ratana 25th celebrations. This is their photo opportunity with Māori en masse a kind of ‘cuzzie up’ before Waitangi Day in February.
An eleventh hour stand at Ratana by all Māori politicians against TPPA to overturn the signing of the agreement in February is still possible.
Now that would be a miracle worth witnessing.
Te Haahi Ratana
Wai 2522, Wai 2523, Wai 2530, Wai 2531, Wai 2532 CONCERNING the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 AND applications for urgent hearings concerning the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement by the claimants for the Wai 2522,2523,2530,2531 and 2532 claims.
Nga Kahui Pou: Launching Maori Futures by Mason Durie, Huia Books 2004
Crossing the Floor – The Story of Tariana Turia by Helen Leahy Huia Books November 2015
Dorothy Page “The Suffragists: Women worked for the vote” Essays from the Dictionary of NZ Biography : Bridget Williams Books/Dept of Internal Affairs, Wellington: 1993
‘ Iriaka Rātana ‘, URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/people/iriaka-ratana, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage),
Angela Ballara. ‘Ratana, Iriaka Matiu’, from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 14-Jan-2014
Angela Ballara. ‘Tirikatene, Eruera Tihema Te Aika’, from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 12-Mar-2014