Regional | Cathy Dewes

Annual kura hikoi as principal files urgent treaty claim

Every year students of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ruamata in Rotorua travel to Mokoia Island to commemorate the Treaty of Waitangi.

This year was especially significant because they're at the heart of an urgent claim that's been filed with the Waitangi Tribunal to establish the right for Māori children to a Kaupapa Māori schooling.

Ruamata principal and lead claimant Dr Cathy Dewes says “kura and Te Aho Matua - its approach to teaching and learning - must be protected and promoted to maintain Māori as the first language of Māori children”.

For many years this has been a tradition of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ruamata to return to Mokoia Island every Waitangi Day.

This year’s lesson “was about the Treaty in relation to self-determination in the bid for Māori controlling outcomes for Māori,” Dewes said.

Climbing to the peak of Tamawhakaiikai, weaving, and discussing what challenges the Treaty of Waitangi presents, were the activities of the day.

‘Great start’

“These lessons can be taken back to school. It’s a great way to start the year on Mokoia,” kura student Roimata Brown said.

And Te Orangawairua Hohepa said their families enjoyed the topic - the Treaty of Waitangi and the signing.

Some raukura or kura graduates had made their way back to support the kaupapa, including Tuhia Hohepa who said she enjoyed “connecting with family, climbing the mountain, and walking in the steps of our ancestors”.

And Te Wiremu Poinga said learning the history of Waitangi and the history of the island Mokoia was important.

The island day presented a Māori education base of teaching, Māori knowledge, Māori customs and was developed by the school. All of these facets aimed to give an example of what Māori with the Treaty of Waitangi partner strives for today, self-determination for Māori.

Dewes said the children had learned they were people of this land.

“They are the efforts of self-determination, and when they become adults they will know that these are something worth advocating for because non- Māori have not yet honoured this.”

Treaty claim

Dewes is the lead claimant in the urgent claim filed with the tribunal, which has come to light now but was filed in October 2021 on behalf of all 63 kura and the whānau of 6500 students nationwide.

It argues the Crown has not upheld the foundational philosophy of Kura Kaupapa Māori, Te Aho Matia, for 35 years

Dewes said it was about the right of tamariki Māori to grow and develop as Māori through a Kaupapa Māori schooling option.

“Past and current Crown actions have severely compromised the contribution of Kura Kaupapa Māori and Te Rūnanga Nui in their ability to both promote and develop te reo Māori and mātauranga Māori and to provide much-needed Kaupapa Māori pathways for tamariki Māori.”

Dewes said high on the wish list was the establishment of a Māori Education Authority that allowed Kura Kaupapa Māori Aho Matua along with all kaupapa Māori educational institutions to operate autonomously.

The claim also concerns active protection and promoting of Kura Kaupapa Māori Te Aho Matua as a taonga in their own right and as critical agents in the maintenance and transmission of te reo Māori as a first language of tamariki Māori.