Saturday, December 17, 2011

Te Atairangikaahu

Dame Te Atairangikaahu, ONZ, DBE, OStJ (23 July 1931–15 August 2006) was the Māori queen for 40 years, the longest reign of any Māori monarch. Her full name and title was Te Arikinui Te Atairangikaahu. Her title Te Arikinui (meaning Paramount Chief) and name Te Atairangikaahu (meaning the hawk of the morning sky) were bestowed when she became monarch; previously she was known as Princess Piki Mahuta and, after marriage, Princess Piki Paki.

She was the only birth child of Korokī Mahuta and Te Atairangikaahu Hērangi; her father had an older daughter, Tuura, by an earlier relationship. Dame Te Atairangikaahu had adopted siblings including Sir Robert Mahuta, whose daughter Nanaia Mahuta is a member of Parliament. Dame Te Atairangikaahu was a descendant of the first Māori king, Pōtatau Te Wherowhero, and succeeded her father, King Korokī, becoming queen the day Korokī was buried. She attended Rakaumanga Primary School and Hamilton Diocesan School for Girls.

In 1952, she married Whatumoana Paki who was from the Northern tribe of Te Aupouri. They had seven children: Tuheitia Paki, Heeni Katipa (née Paki), Tomairangi Paki, Kiki Soloman (née Paki), Mihi Gabrielle Paki, Maharaia Paki, and Te Manawanui Clarkson (née Paki).

The office of the Māori monarch holds no pakeha constitutional function,however it is the paramount head of the Waikato federation of tribes with its parliament. In addition to this Te Atairangikaahu was an avid supporter of Maori cultural and sporting events and played an active role in local and global political events involving indigenous issues.

Her official residence was Turongo House in the Turangawaewae Marae complex coupled with Mahinarangi (official reception room for receiving dignitaries) and Raukawa iti(official guest house).

In 1970, she became the first Māori to be made a Dame, specifically a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. She was the first inductee of the Order of New Zealand when it was established in 1987 with her medal bearing the number 1. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from Waikato University in 1973, and an Honorary Doctor of Laws from Victoria University in 1999.

In December 2005, she started dialysis treatment when her kidneys began to fail. On 11 July 2006, she suffered a possible heart attack and was admitted to intensive care in Waikato Hospital, Hamilton. She was discharged from hospital later in the month, in time to celebrate her 75th birthday.

Te Atairangikaahu died on 15 August 2006, aged 75, at her official residence, Turangawaewae Marae in Ngaruawahia. Six of her seven children were present, with one daughter en route from Australia.

Her death sparked a week of mourning for Māoridom leading to her funeral on 21 August 2006. She is buried on Taupiri mountain in an unmarked grave, as are her ancestors, as a sign of equality with their people. Queen Elizabeth II send her condolences. Her husband, Whatumoana Paki, had wanted a tombstone for his wife, but members of the royal family do not have grave markings. Instead, Paki paid tribute to his wife by planting a breed of purple roses, named specifically for Te Atairangikaahu, around a memorial stone outside their home.

She and her husband had resided at their official residence at Waahi Marae in Huntly, New Zealand, during her reign. He continued to live at the residence with his son until his death in 2011.

Tuheitia Paki, her eldest son, was chosen during the mourning period as her successor with the help of a "kingmaker", after the consent of the chiefs of all the leading tribes was sought. Her eldest child, daughter Heeni Katipa, was the next leading contender for the position.

As an elective monarchy, the position is not automatically inherited by primogeniture (Te Atairangikaahu herself was her father's second daughter, though the eldest was not born to his wife), so any one of her children or a leading figure from another iwi could have been appointed.

Tainui are the guardians of the Kiingitanga by consent of the other tribes. Therefore it could have gone to another tribe...however the general feeling was Tainui own the position. Although not a position granted by primogeniture...convention has now made it so.

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