November 02, 2016
McEwen contribution to te ao Maori recorded
The author of a biography of the last non-Maori head of the Department of Maori Affairs says his story reveals a lot about the country’s history and the place of Maori in it.
Mary McEwen was inspired to write about her father in law Jock McEwen because of the tributes she heard at his tangi in 2010.
Raised near Feilding, he learned Maori in the school playground and from elders at the nearby Aorangi Marae.
As a young cadet at the Department of Maori and Island Affairs, he was mentored by Sir Apirana Ngata and eventually became head of department in the early 1960s, after a spell working in Niue and heading the Department of Island Territories.
She says while his predecessor Jack Hunn took an assimilationist approach, Mr McEwan was far more sympathetic to the importance of culture to Maori.
"This idea that when Maori moverd to the cities they needed a place to be Maori and so he worked through the Maori Purposes Fund Board in particular to help to fund and start urban marae throughout the country," Mrs McEwan says.
Te Oka – Pakeha Kaumatua: The Life of Jock McEwen is published by Potton & Burton.