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The Autobiography of a Maori

"Ko te Hera te Pakeha"

"Ko te Hera te Pakeha"

The late Poverty Bay chief, Wi Pere, who represented the Eastern Maori electorate for several years, and who after his defeat in 1905 by Sir Apirana Ngata, was appointed to the Legislative Council, was outspoken, but he had sense enough to put his unparliamentarily remarks in Maori form when addressing the House.

On one occasion he was well-worked up and, to conclude his fiery speech, he said, "Ko te hera te pakeha!" When the House adjourned, Sir James Carroll page 154reproved the old chief for his immoderate language and asked him why he did not use Maori swear terms. Wi Pere replied, "Do you think I would use my ancestors' swear words on pakeha? No whia, Jimmy!" Of course, the House interpreter rendered in his own words what Wi Pere had said.

I remember listening to Wi Pere when he was speaking at a conference of the Young Maori Party held at Awapuni, near Gisborne, some years after the incident in the House. The subject under discussion was the diminishing area of land left in the hands of the Maori people, Wi complained that the Maori was becoming landless while the pakeha was gradually taking all the lands. He concluded by saying, "Well, never mind. Let the pakeha have all the lands. When my own last acre in the world is gone, I'll go to heaven where there is a little section reserved for me." Then Wi hesitated and went on, "But who knows, perhaps even in heaven, the ubiquitous pakeha will follow me and rob me of the little bit I may have there."

The elderly pakeha members of the Young Maori Party didn't appreciate Wi Pere's oratory but the young Maoris roared with laughter.