Home' The Wellingtonian : January 26th 2012 Contents 12 THE WELLINGTONIAN, JANUARY 26, 2012
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Tamati Reedy's life well lived
Rugby memories: Sir Tamati Reedy reminisces about playing against the Lions.
Photo: JOSEPH ROMANOS
Joseph Romanos talks
to Maori leader Sir
Tamati Reedy about
Apirana Ngata, playing
rugby against the 1959
Lions and what it was
like living in the
southern United States.
I read you were brought up by
That's true. My mother was not
well, so my grandmother and
grandfather picked me up and
took me up the East Coast with
them, to Maraehara Valley.
What language was spoken
in your household?
Maori was the first language.
My nanny spoke Maori all the
time. Then I got to school and
started to learn English as well.
When you were growing up
did you meet Sir Apirana
Many times, not that he would
have known who I was. He would
come back from Wellington and
stop at the school to see how
things were going. He kept our
tribe on track in education. It
would be like Richie McCaw
visiting a school today. There was
a huge sense of mana about Sir
You played rugby for East
Coast and Thames Valley.
Our homestead was mad on
rugby. My father was a Maori All
And you played against the
Yes, they were a great team.
Their backs were a scoring
machine. I marked Malcolm
Thomas on the wing.
I see they beat East Coast
Poverty Bay 23-14 and you
scored a try. Terry McLean
wrote that you played on the
left wing with great distinc-
tion and that no other wings
the Lions encountered came
within cooee of your standard.
I don't know about all that, but
it was nice of him to write it.
You got degrees in Auckland
and Hawaii. Were you very
involved in university student
life in Auckland?
Not at all. I was teaching at St
Stephen's by then and my wife,
Tilly, and I lived there. I would go
into Auckland in the afternoons
for classes. No time for anything
else at the university.
In the early 1980s you
worked at the University of
Alabama. What was it like for
a Maori couple in a southern
I was invited to the university
as a Fulbright scholar. People did
look at me twice, though it helped
that I was at the university. They
looked at my skin colour and they
thought I might be Asian, or
Indian. They didn't know much
about Maori. They couldn't get
over our British accents.
We went wherever we wanted.
If we wanted some kai we'd go
into a restaurant. There was an
obvious class distinction. The per-
son bringing the water and doing
the dishes would be black, but the
person serving the food would be
Alabama was the university
George McGovern said in the
1960s that no blacks should ever
enter. By the time I got there,
there were about 1000 blacks out
of a student population of 16,000.
The situation was improving, but
you could see what the problems
had been, and there was still a
You have advocated that
Maori language be compulsory
People sometimes object to the
word compulsory. I say Maori
language should be a core subject,
like English or mathematics. It is
only right that children learn of
our country's history. Part of that
is the Maori language. I feel that
is an important part of education.
You and Tilly were respon-
sible for Te Whariki, the docu-
ment for biculturalism, in the
1990s. You must be proud of
We are. We represented Te Reo
at a conference on early education
and came away thinking we would
like our own charter, based on
values of respect and love. That's
how Te Whariki came about. We
were proud to contribute to it, but
it's important to stress we didn't
do it alone.
What are your views on the
Maori claims going through
From a Maori perspective there
is much to be addressed still. The
political will is to settle them now
and forever. I don't feel that is the
case, but the settlements now are
giving some sense of healing.
Something had to be done, other-
wise it would just be talking and
talking for decades more.
There are outstanding issues
though, issues of land, of fairness.
Tribes need to feel a sense of jus-
tice. To give one example, Ngati
Porou had 175,000 acres of land
removed by the Declaration of
Wastelands. That was devastat-
ing for them. Now 6000 hectares
have been given back. You can see
why Maori don't quite see that as
You have lived in many
places. Is Wellington now your
It is. We lived in Auckland and
got roped into coming here to
work in the Department of Edu-
cation. I used to come to Welling-
ton in the 1950s to see Tilly, who
was studying at Victoria Univer-
sity. I was deeply in love with her,
but did feel Wellington was cold,
misty and windy as we walked
back from the movies to Kelburn
However, we've grown to love
the place. Our kids and our wha-
nau are here. When we drive from
here [Glenside] into the city, and
see the sun and the calm harbour
it's one of the most magnificent
sights in the world. The city offers
so much culturally. It is a very
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