A sacred mission to secure a future for Māori
13/10/2020 Today marks 45 years since 5, 000 marchers arrived at Parliament to present a 60, 000 strong petition highlighting Māori land loss. Organised by Māori land rights group Te Rōpū O Te Matakite and led by 79- year -old Whina (later Dame Whina) Cooper, the 1975 Land March left from Te Hāpua, Northland, and marched 1,100 kms throughout the North Island.
Fifty marchers left Te Hāpua on 14 September and the hikoi quickly grew in strength as Māori of all ages, backgrounds and tribal groups marched together, along with supporters from Pākehā and other communities. The petition called for an end to monocultural land laws excluding Māori cultural values, and asked for the ability to establish legitimate communal ownership of land within iwi (tribal groups).
The Land March contributed to the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal to investigate Treaty breaches. Its timing coincided with the passing of the Treaty of Waitangi Act on October 10th that set up the tribunal. Land March leader Whina Cooper had spent a lifetime spearheading Māori social and economic development; she was known for her sharp wit and down-to-earth views and quickly became a household presence as an advocate for the Land March issues.
The Land March pouwhenua (land marker post) flies the flag of Te Rōpū o Te Matakite (meaning those with foresight) and became an icon for Māori land rights. As the march passed through each tribal area, a member of that tribe was chosen to carry the pou, which was given special greetings when brought onto the marae (tribal communal centres) where the marchers stayed en route. As the march approached towns and cities, local people joined offering moral and practical support, stopping overnight at different marae, on which Cooper led discussions about the purpose of the march.
The Land March represented a milestone moment in the growing Māori cultural renaissance of the 1970s, bringing unprecedented levels of public attention to this uniquely Māori issue as daily TV coverage brought it into the nation’s homes.
Learn more about the 1975 Land March and read the legendary Dame Whina Cooper’s biography. A bronze statue of Dame Whina Cooper and her granddaughter Irenee setting off on the 1975 hikoi was unveiled this year at Panguru’s Waipuna Marae; read a news article about this special occasion in memory and honour of Whina Cooper and the role she played in the Land March.