COVID-19 tests tribes influence
The global pandemic COVID-19 has been a litmus test for Waikato.
The virus virtually closed down our country on March 25 with two months of unprecedented isolation.
But this provided also an extraordinary opportunity to assess leadership, resources 25 years after our Treaty settlement.
Kiingi Tuuheitia Pootatau Te Wherowhero VII began by calling on our tribal services to collaborate and support vulnerable tribal members throughout the greater Waikato region.
Kiingi Tuuhetia who celebrated his 65th birthday during isolation embraced new video technology joining weekly karakia of the Pai Maarire faith online and posting video encouraging whaanau to take care of their kaumatua and rangatahi to obey lockdown restrictions.
He also coined a new tongi to guide iwi leaders and the tribal members as restrictions reduced to Alert Level 2 on May 14.
“E paru ngoo ringa kia tipu ngaa hua – Through hard work we shall succeed.”
A lot of hard work has been carried out.
Waikato-Tainui Chief Executive Officer Donna Flavell is proud of the combined efforts of the entities and kaimahi during the pandemic.
“The messaging from King to our whaanau, our karakia and right through to those tangible things of the welfare packages and support, literally saved the lives of some of our people,” Donna said.
The Waikato-Tainui Lands Trust, is the tribe’s social arm and implements objectives set by Te Whakakitenga ( the tribe’s parliament) and Te Arataura (the tribe’s executive).
A triage of support was adopted during COVID-19 called IPU, to keep tribal members ‘Informed, Prepared and Uplifted’.
Information came through key video messages by Kiingi Tuuheitia, the chair of Te Arataura Rukumoana Shaafhausen and the tribe’s negotiator for outstanding raupatu claims Rahui Papa.
The tribe also prepared for the impact of the global pandemic.
A free Tainui phone service provided advice and co-ordinated a roll-out of food parcels from warehouses at Hopuhopu to marae, then on to kaumatua and whaanau in need.
Waikato-Tainui worked with District Health Boards and Maaori Health Providers to arrange free flu vaccines for kaumatua prior to winter.
And a suite of social media videos was created by the Waikato-Tainui communications team and shared to uplift the spirits of the iwi.
Nga Miro Health Centre at Tuurangawaewae marae was a hub for Ngaaruaawahia delivering flu vaccinations and delivering parcels of kai and essentials to the community.
They were inspired by the work of Te Puea Herangi during a similar event.
In 1918 the influenza epidemic hit the north Waikato at Mangataawhiri with devastating effect. Almost a quarter of its people perished. Te Puea gathered up 100 orphaned children and the remaining whaanau, transporting them by barge to what would become Tuurangawaewae marae.
“A 100 years ago this happened and here we are now and so we are only carrying on her legacy and making sure her people live forever no matter what,’ WYNAE Tukere says. “It’s part and parcel of the Kiingitanga way and who we are.”
Tuurangawaewae marae kaumatua Pokaia Nepia, who received parcels during isolation paid tribute to the iwi.
“It’s awesome, and especially for those whanau who can no longer work and afford to buy their kai. He whakaaro rangatira.”
No tribal members died of COVID-19 during the lockdown despite the vulnerability of Maaori in past academics.
Maaori died at a rate seven times of non-Maaori in the 1918 influenza pandemic. Even in recent times we still have many of the conditions which led to the horrific death rate.