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Ngoingoi Pēwhairangi: A Remarkable Life

Ngoingoi Pēwhairangi: A Remarkable Life

Автором Tania M. Ka'ai

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Ngoingoi Pēwhairangi: A Remarkable Life

Автором Tania M. Ka'ai

371 pages
4 hours
Apr 1, 2018


Ngoingoi Pēwhairangi was a highly respected leader from Te Whānau-a-Ruataupare at Tokomaru Bay who was passionate about the revitalisation and flourishing of the Māori world. She actively introduced initiatives in education, language and the arts and was a Māori leader of note, receiving a QSM for her services to Māori. She is also widely remembered for her beautiful song compositions, which are performed today. This biography describes her considerable achievements across many areas, her work for others, her humility and perseverance, and it brings her to life through stories from her peers, former students and family.

Apr 1, 2018

Об авторе

Professor Tānia M. Ka’ai (Te Whānau-a-Ruataupare, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Wheke, Ngāi Tahu, Hawaii) is Director of Te Ipukarea – The National Māori Language Institute and Director of Te Whare o Rongomaurikura – The International Centre for Language Revitalisation at Te Ara Poutama, Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Development, Auckland University of Technology. Throughout her academic career and in her personal and community life, Professor Ka’ai has had on ongoing focus on te reo Māori.

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Ngoingoi Pēwhairangi - Tania M. Ka'ai

First published in 2008 by Huia Publishers

This edition published in 2019

39 Pipitea Street, PO Box 12280

Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand


ISBN 978-1-77550-388-0 (EPUB)

ISBN 978-1-77550-388-0 (Kindle)

ISBN 978-1-77550-348-4 (print)

Copyright © Tania Ka‘ai 2008, 2019

Front cover image courtesy of Pēwhairangi Whānau Trust

Back cover image courtesy of Dalvanius Prime

This book is copyright. Apart from fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any process without the prior permission of the publisher.

A catalogue record for this book is available from the National Library of New Zealand.

Published with the support of

The waiata referenced in this book can be viewed on the Tāmata Toiere website www.waiata.maori.nz or by scanning the QR code above.

Ebook conversion 2019 by meBooks.

He Tohu Whakamaumaharatanga

This book is dedicated to the memory of the great men in my life. Firstly, to my father, Māhealani Ka‘ai, whose sudden death while I was completing my PhD thesis still affects me every day of my life. I know that you will be proud of this book. Me ke aloha Pāpā. Secondly, to John Hunia, who believed in me from a young age and supported me through my early education at Kawerau College. This was complemented by the support and mentoring I received from John Te Rangiāniwaniwa Rangihau when I studied at the University of Waikato. E ngā manu tāiko o Mātaatua waka, moe mai rā kōrua, ko taku aroha mō kōrua e kore e mimiti. And, finally, to Rikirangi Ben Pēwhairangi, who asked me to write this book in memory of his treasured wife. E te pāpā, te rau matua o tō pū harakeke e kore koe e warewaretia.


List of Illustrations

He Hokinga Mahara – Nā Parekura Horomia

He Hokinga Mahara – Nā Katerina Mataira

He Hokinga Mahara – Nā Rawinia Higgins

Preface – Ka Noho Au i Konei

Ngā Mihi

He Whakarāpopototanga

He Kupu Whakataki – Ehara Tēnei i Te Maunga Nekeneke

Mai i Te Poho o Te Tikanga

He Pā Harakeke

Te Kura Tuarua o Ngā Kōtiro o Tūranganui-a-Kiwa

Tuakina Mai Rā Ngā Akoranga

Kia Kaha Ngā Iwi Pupuritia

Tō Reo Whakarongo

He Whatu Tāniko, He Whatu Tāngata

Rere Atu Taku Poi

Mā ō Mahi ka Kitea Koe, E Te Ao, E Tō Iwi Māori

He Kupu Tuku Iho Mō Tēnei Reanga

He Kupu Whakamutunga

Appendix One: Historical Context

Appendix Two: Samples of Ngoi’s Writing






1.View of Te Toka-a-namu from Marotiri.

2.Te Poho o Te Tikanga, Waiparapara marae, Tokomaru Bay.

3.Wī Matahiki and Huka Pohaera, circa 1930, sitting outside a kāuta at Waiparapara marae, Tokomaru Bay.

4.Ngoi and her sisters, Hārata, Nunu and Mere.

5.Iranui (Aunty Ada) Haig at Pākirikiri marae.

6.Wikitōria Matahiki.

7.Ngoi at Hukarere Māori Girls’ College, Napier, with members of the 28th Māori Battalion.

8.Te Hokowhitu-a-Tū at Pūtiki marae, Whanganui.

9.Tuīni Ngāwai, Ngoi Pēwhairangi and the rest of the group performing at the investiture hui for the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross to Second Lieutenant Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu at Ruatōria in 1943.

10.Sonny Kōpua, Lou Prime, Tuīni Ngāwai and Ngoi.

11.Te Hokowhitu-a-Tū with Tuīni.

12.Marriage to Rikirangi Ben Pēwhairangi at Waiparapara, 1945.

13.Te Poho o Te Tikanga, Waiparapara marae, prior to the renovations.

14.Tokomaru Bay Freezing Works, 1910.

15.Ngoi and her sister-in-law Te Ngaroroa at Mangahauini.

16.Ngoi, Terewai and Ben.

17.Irene Constance Pēwhairangi weaving a kete.

18.Ngoi and Ben with their mokopuna Gina at Ngoi’s sixtieth birthday, Tokomaru Bay.

19.Ngoi’s sixtieth birthday, Tokomaru Bay.

20.Ngoi and Ben with their mokopuna Gina.

21.Ngoi with Waiparapara marae whānau.

22.Ngoi and students from Gisborne Girls’ High School on the steps of Parliament, Wellington.

23.Gisborne Girls’ High School staff photo.

24.Ngoi and Gisborne Girls’ High School Māori Club.

25.Ngoi and students from Gisborne Girls’ High School at Parliament, Wellington, with Hon. Whetu Tirikātene-Sullivan.

26.Ben preparing a hāngi for a hui, Pākirikiri marae.

27.Ngoi and her kapa haka group (Gisborne Girls’ High School and Gisborne Boys’ High School).

28.Letter to Ngoi from Governor General Sir Keith Holyoake, proposing her QSM award, 1977.

29.Governor General Sir Keith Holyoake presenting Ngoi with her QSM award, 1977.

30.Ngoi and Ben at Government House after Ngoi received her QSM, 1977.

31.Ngoi at a hui.

32.Ngoi and others from Tairāwhiti leaving a performing arts hui at Tūrangawaewae.

33.Ngoi with Dr Michael King during the filming of the Tangata Whenua series, 1973.

34.Ngoi with Iritana Tāwhiwhirangi at a hui.

35.Students learning by Te Ataarangi method during the broadcasting hui held by Ngoi.

36.Ngā kuia o Te Ataarangi, Iranui Haig and Ngoi Pēwhairangi.

37.Ngoi at Te Ataarangi hui.

38.Ngoi had a great passion for the development of Māori arts.

39.Ngoi at the National Weavers’ Association inaugural hui, Labour weekend 1983.

40.Johnnie Frisbee, Ngoi and Sir Kīngi Ihaka.

41.Ngoi addressing the first weavers’ hui she convened, at Labour weekend 1983.

42.Ngoi at the first weavers’ hui.

43.Ngoi teaching at a reo and tikanga wānanga, Pākirikiri marae.

44.Ngoi at a hui.

45.Ngoi with students at the Koha hui, Tokomaru Bay.

46.Ngoi and Pā Ariki of Rarotonga at Pākirikiri marae, Tokomaru Bay.

47.Ngoi with whānau performing at a hui at Pākirikiri marae.

48.Ngoi, friends and whānau performing for Te Hokowhitu-a-Tū.

49.Ngoi receiving a trophy as winners of a kapa haka festival.

50.Ngoi’s junior kapa haka group from Tokomaru Bay.

51.Ngoi and Ben with Jean Wikiriwhi at the Rotorua Polynesian Festival in the 1970s.

52.The original composition of ‘E Ipo’ that Ngoi wrote.

53.Ngoi with Dalvanius Prime.

54.Dalvanius Prime with Ngoi, his god-daughter (Ngoi’s mokopuna).

55.Ngoi at the fiftieth jubilee celebration of Te Hokowhitu-a-Tū, Easter 1981.

56.Ben Pēwhairangi and Noel Raihānia.

57.Ngoi with Selwyn Parata at Te Hui Kaitito, 1984.

58.Iranui Haig, Ngoi and Ben Pēwhairangi at Pākirikiri marae.

59.The Ngāwai family.

60.Kumeroa Ngoingoi Pēwhairangi.

61.Ngoi preparing kai for another hui.

62.Ngoi shares kai in the kitchen at Pākirikiri.

63.Ngoi and Gina, Ngoi’s mokopuna, with friends.

64.Ngoi’s granddaughter, Ngoi Kumeroa Iranui Pēwhairangi.

65.Gina’s children to Ondre Te Hau.

66.Gina’s children, Ruaumoko and Te Aomihia Pēwhairangi-Te Hau.

67.Te Aomihia Pēwhairangi-Te Hau joins with Te Whānau-a-Ruataupare at the Ngāti Porou festival.

68.Ngoi’s great-granddaughter, Iwiata Morgan Pēwhairangi-Nukunuku.

69.Te Aomihia Pēwhairangi, Iwiata Pēwhairangi-Nukunuku, Ruaumoko Te Hau, Tere-i-te-wai Pēwhairangi-Nukunuku, Enoka Pēwhairangi-Nukunuku.


Nā Parekura Horomia

Ifirst met Aunty Ngoi and Uncle Ben when I was very young and my grandfather Pōneke had the shearing runs. However, it was only when I returned to Ngāti Porou when I was much older that I really came to know Aunty Ngoi. The longest time I spent with Aunty Ngoi was a period of seven or eight years when we had high unemployment in the late seventies and eighties. During this time, she talked to me about a host of things to do with her travels. One of the things etched on my mind today is that she spent a lot of time with other Māori leaders, such as John Tāpiata, Aunty Lena Manuel, Aunty Iritana Tāwhiwhirangi, John Rangihau and Hōhua Tūtangaehe, who would often enlist her support. She was, in her own way, one of the pioneering Māori bureaucrats. She travelled the country, supporting many Māori organisations, and she was tactical in the way she got what she believed in, in relation to being Māori – for Māori, by Māori – through government agencies, various education forums or social welfare forums. She also had a real knack of creating a following, of both Māori and Pākehā.

There was a time from the eighties to the nineties when I visited most of the marae in the country. One of the significant memories I have of this time is seeing in many of these marae the same photo of Aunty Ngoi, which had been hung after she had passed away. This shows she was a wahine of huge influence.

I remember some of the special times with Aunty Ngoi when I was the boss in the Labour Department. She would ring me up and tell me to pick her up when I was up on the Coast. Sometimes we’d go up north and see people at Pōtaka, Ruatōria and Tikitiki, and then we’d come back to Tokomaru Bay. Other times, she’d tell me to pick her up, and she’d go to the Regent Café in Gisborne, which was one of her favourite eating places. From that day to this, one of my favourite dishes is the hāpuka and eggs that was on the menu. In hindsight, I think Aunty Ngoi was doing two things – mentoring me and showing her support of me and my work in the Labour Department amongst our Ngāti Porou people.

Aunty Ngoi did some amazing things. She was strong at working with outside interests, and she had an incredible tenacity to work within the confines of tauiwi government and tauiwi bureaucracy and really get her way. She was strong on cultural renaissance and on the preservation of our land. She was strong at keeping her beloved Hokowhitu-a-Tū alive, and those who worked with her in kapa haka and who are still here today, such as Kohi and Rāwiri who were youngsters in those days, have certainly benefited from her influence.

I recall when Dalvanius did a stint with her in Tokomaru Bay; he was a singer, a great singer. He was doing ‘Poi E’, and she was writing lyrics; it was a fabulous time. She used to tell Dalvanius, ‘The only good thing about you, Dalvanius, is that you make good fruit drinks.’ He used to make sodas, and Aunty Ngoi loved him for that, and she also cherished his singing ability.

I was there when she wrote that great waiata ‘Ka Noho Au’. If you look at the words of ‘Ka Noho Au’, I think that it’s a great summary of Ngoi’s beliefs, of what she stood for and why she was so strong at doing what she did and being who she was.

Ngoi knew some great things about our marae. One day she said to me, ‘If you go out to Hinetamatea, there’re some carvings from Hikuwai that have been stored there for years.’ We were doing the restoration of marae on the Coast then. Cliff Whiting was getting into stride, and people such as Dollar Te Hau and Uncle Ben, Ngoi’s own tāne, were becoming very masterful in the restoration and preservation of our carving and tukutuku.

Ngoi was a fountain of knowledge and wisdom. She would always prime me before we had the Māori Council hui because I was the chairperson of the executive. She would also prime me before we had the Kōhanga Reo hui because I was the chairperson of the Kōhanga Reo Trust Training Branch. I always listened to her advice. We had some great whawhai, such as the time we fought to get the old school back at Tokomaru and turn it into a kōkiri centre.

On reflection, Ngoi also enlisted the support of her whānau, who were always close by – people such as Mere Pork, sister Charlotte, sister Nunu, Sugar, Uncle Ben, Aunty Matekai, a whole lot of wāhine and Uncle Phil. So, collectively, they kept the place going. There are many people I haven’t mentioned, such as Les and Aunty Ginger. They would rally around Ngoi and her causes, including enlisting the support of Pākehā and bringing some of them home to Tokomaru to spend time amongst her people. I used to ask her, ‘Why are you bringing those Pākehā home here?’ She told me, ‘It’s really important, boy; you need to grow up and learn that we have to work with Pākehā because they’re not going to disappear. What you really need to do is to understand what goes on in Wellington.’ So, Aunty Ngoi would bring Pākehā politicians back, and we’d host them, mihi to them, and they’d see what Tokomaru Bay was all about. She really believed in doing the right thing.

I remember Hōhua Tūtangaehe (he was a great old fella who spent his time in Ngāi Tahu) telling me that he believed Aunty Ngoi was one of the, if not the, Māori wahine in her time who really revved things up to go forward. She took you around the country and would try to team you up with other people, but she always had a task set up for you – to go and listen to that person or help that person or talk to that person. She was always directing things and making sure they were done.

Ngoi wasn’t shy of having a good time too. At home she loved playing cards with her whānau. That was when I saw her really happy. She would always put her hands in my pocket and say, ‘Give me some silvers.’ She would katakata haere, and it was a great sight watching them all doing that.

A couple of other memories come to mind. I was fighting unemployment within our whānau, and it was around Christmas, when there are always struggles and strains. I was a bit of a one-man band doing all the organising, being the boss and doing clerical stuff. It was New Year’s Day, and Ngoi was walking along the road. She said, ‘Where the heck are you going?’ I replied, ‘Oh, I just gotta go and finish my paperwork.’ Ngoi then said, ‘Don’t you go to damn work; it’s not the right thing to do. It’s the New Year, and you should be thinking about what you’re gonna do. Never mind going to work! You go down, do your stuff quickly and then come up home for a cup of tea, otherwise there’s things that might give you a fright if you carry on working today.’ I thought I’ll go down, do my stuff and call in on the way back, and hopefully by then, she might be asleep or something.

Well, I got up to the office, and as I gazed out the window, I saw these three big whales bouncing around in the sea. I packed up quickly and went back to Aunty Ngoi’s, and she said, ‘By Joe, you’re back quick!’ I said, ‘I was sitting at the window, and I saw all these whales swimming around.’ She said, ‘I tried to tell you, you know, that you shouldn’t go to work; you need to be enjoying life, like us.’ So, Aunty Ngoi was always giving me lessons. She used to often say to me, ‘Boy, you gotta go to Wellington. You gotta understand and go to Wellington. You’ll do all right. You go and get down there. I want you to get going.’ She kept on at me like that for a couple of years. I used to think ah, what the heck, it’s just Wellington. And here I am in Wellington.

In closing, I want to talk about Ngoi’s favourite marae, Waiparapara. When I had the job of looking after unemployment, I assembled plumbers and carpenters and a lot of hammer hands to help me restore marae, including repiling and restoring the carvings. One day, Ngoi said to me, ‘Boy, I want you to come to a meeting on Sunday at Waiparapara.’ At that time, the marae was a bit wobbly because it was old. There were only a dozen of us there, including Don Parata, Uncle Tait, Ginger, Nunu and Tui Coleman. At the meeting, Ngoi said, ‘I want to pull the marae down and build another one.’ I thought to myself gee hika, this is a pretty big go. Uncle Tait asked her, ‘Have you got a carpenter?’ She said, ‘Yes!’ I thought gee, I wonder who the hang that is. Then Ngoi pointed at me. I thought crikey dick, this is heavy stuff because this is a Ringatū marae, and we hadn’t built a brand new marae before. She said, ‘No, it’ll be okay!’ After that, she closed the meeting with a karakia, leaving me sitting on the veranda. I thought bugger this, I’ll call in and see her. When I arrived at the house, I called out to her. She said, ‘You just go and build that marae. You make sure it gets done. Pull it down and rebuild it!’

I left feeling a bit grumpy and went to talk with her great-nephew Tui Coleman. He wasn’t the flashest of carpenters, but he wanted to help on the project. So, Tui started, and then other people began chipping in. Two or three months down the track, Angeline Babbington, one of the whānau who had been working with us passed away. We were at her tangi at Pākirikiri. In the kitchen, the aunties, including Ngoi, were all playing cards. She called out to me, ‘Boy, how’s our marae?’ I said, ‘Oh, it’s nearly there.’ She said, ‘Oh, you go up and have a look at it.’ This was about ten at night. So, away I went. I will never forget what I saw when I got there. Tui Coleman was there, sitting on a box near the veranda with his flagon of beer. He said, ‘It’s finished.’ I had a look, and sure enough it was finished. All those people who had helped Tui to demolish the marae had stayed on to help him rebuild it, and they had done a grand job!

I went back to Pākirikiri around 11 o’clock, and Ngoi was still sitting at the table playing cards. She said, ‘How’s our whare, boy?’ I replied, ‘It looks beautiful, Aunty.’ Then she got up because the bell went for a late karakia. I’ll never forget Ngoi leaving to go to karakia. She glided down the kitchen with a boater hat and sang a beautiful tune about leaving and danced a jig like those people on Broadway. She was entertaining us, laughing like anything, and she kept on calling out to me, ‘Boy, you gotta go to church; get things right and get off to church. You should come now!’ I said, ‘Oh, nah, I’m tired, kui. I gotta go home.’ She replied, ‘Well don’t you forget – you make sure to go to church, because you need to.’ That was the last time I saw her. She passed away in the next couple of days.

I had a big tangi for Aunty Ngoi because she was a good person to me. I learnt a lot from her. She was unselfish with her knowledge, and she had a big heart. She really was, in my mind, what Māoridom has been about and should be about. I remember her tangi clearly. I remember people at the pō whakamutunga sleeping outside on the ground because of the huge crowds. It was one of the biggest tangi I have ever been to. I’ll always remember Aunty Ngoi as a great mentor, as a woman who gave unselfishly and as a great Māori leader of contemporary times. She was astute, and she was kind with her time – she was certainly kind to me. I was glad I built something for her. It was my last job on that scheme, and whenever I go past that marae, I always think about her. Kia ora.

Parekura Horomia

Former Minister of Māori Affairs


Nā Katerina Mataira

Mā ō mahi ka kitea koe e te ao, e tō iwi Māori.

The world and your Māori people will recognise you by what you do.

These are words from one of Ngoi’s many Māori waiata compositions that reflect her own personal commitment to life and her expectation of those she worked with.

I first met Ngoi on the occasion of a book launch in 1976. I had written a space saga in Māori called Te Ātea, and the launch was at Ngāti Porou, my home marae at Kariaka, Ruatōria. I was aware of Ngoi’s prowess as a songwriter and haka expert, but it wasn’t until 1979, when we found ourselves working together on initiating a community-based Māori language recovery project, that I came to know her.

I was a member of an advisory committee to the board of the then Council of Adult Education. Ngoi had been appointed by the council to teach Māori arts and crafts at marae around the country. I was there when Ngoi was presenting her annual report, at the end of which she said, ‘What the people out there want more than anything is their reo Māori.’

Aware that I had been doing some research on language recovery at the University of Waikato, the chairman of the council, Sir John Bennett, turned to me and said, ‘What are you going to do about that, Katerina?’

I had, in fact, just completed a pilot project to test the effectiveness of a particular language teaching method called the Silent Way in which coloured Cuisenaire rods were used to convey language structures and meaning. My response to Sir John was that I had a few ideas that might be useful, and he commanded Ngoi and me to find a way to meet the expressed need of so many Māori communities.

I’ll never forget that first day with Ngoi. She watched while I demonstrated. Then she’d go out for a smoke, after which she would come back and say, ‘Mahia mai anō.’ Over and over again, I demonstrated how the coloured rods could be manipulated to convey a teaching point. That took the greater part of the morning. When she finally sat down, reached for the rods and began, herself, to manipulate them, I stood back and watched. I was amazed at how quickly she recognised the potential of those rods as a teaching tool.

In that first week of working with Ngoi, we created a language learning system that was a combination of the coloured rods and Ngoi’s own style of incorporating waiata, haka, drama and role-playing in

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