January 16, 2013
Tribe puts custom before widow’s tears
A Tūhoe whanau at the centre of a burial controversy say they won’t cooperate with any attempt to dig up the body of James Takamore.
Mr Takamore’s partner, Denise Clarke, has won a Supreme Court judgment affirming her right to say where the body should be buried.
She wants it exhumed from the urupa beside Kutarere Marae in the Eastern Bay of Plenty and returned for reburial in Christchurch, where they lived together for 20 years.
His mother, Nehu Takamore, says the whānau have tried to talk through the situation with Ms Clarke but it did not work.
Rotorua District councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait says Ms Clarke could be in for a long wait, given how Tūhoe feel.
She says while it can be distressing not to have a loved one buried nearby, the deceased’s wishes and those of immediate family are not a priority in traditional practice, for good reason.
“By returning to your own tribal area you are ensuring that your children, and their children, retain this connection to their whakapapa, whenua, whānau, hapū and iwi.
“It may not seem that important at the time, and even to the current generation, but in the future it will be.
“Where you come from; the place names, your river and mountain defines who you are as Māori. Coming home keeps this relevant for future generations.”
Mrs Raukawa-Tait says when families return home to visit the graves of their parents; they often start to take an interest in tribal affairs.
“By burying family within their own tribal areas the whakapapa connection is kept alive. It was the old way of whānau and hapū showing how important future generations were to them. These would strengthen their numbers and add mana to the iwi. It was customary law. For Tūhoe in particular these old ways have never died. On the contrary they are determined to keep them alive.”
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