Indigenous | Investitures

Arise Tā Patu!

Dr Patrick Patu Wahangū Hōhepa (Ngāpuhi, Te Māhurehure and Te Ātiawa) has been knighted for his services to Māori culture and education.

Hōhepa, who has had a dedicated academic career, is a former professor of Māori language at the University of Auckland, and a former chair of Te Taurawhiri i te reo Māori.

Whānau spokesman and nephew Julian Wilcox says it's been a very trying time keeping mum about Sir Patu's knighthood.

"When the news came to us that he would be knighted, we tried our hardest to try and stay quiet, so that the news wouldn't get out, and we weren't allowed to tell anyone."

"This isn't a potato trying to make itself like a kumara."

Tā Patu graduated with a BA from Auckland University in 1958 and then an MA. As a recipient of a Ngarimu post-graduate scholarship, Hohepa studied for his PhD in linguistics at the University of Indiana. Famous US linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky was a friend and student there at the time.

'Precious taonga'

Julian Wilcox remembers his uncle's return home to Auckland University as a lecturer inMāori studies.

"In the 1970s I remember Tūhoe arriving in Auckland, so that people like Te Wharehuia and Hirini could learn how to teach Te Reo Māori at Pākehā universities. Te Rangihau made that request."

From 1955-1959 he was a tutor in Māori studies at the University of Auckland, and from 1960-1962 he was a junior lecturer in Māori Studies. From 1965-1971 he was a senior lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Auckland University before becoming a senior lecturer and professor in Māori studies at the university.

Sir Patu was appointed as a ministerial secretary in the Kirk Labour government in 1972. Wilcox says becoming secretary was all Sir Patu was after at the time, following the stance of a previous Ngāpuhi MP, the late 19th-century member Hone Mohi Tāwhai.

"He went into Parliament as a secretary under then Māori Affairs minister Matiu Rata, not as an MP because the direction given by Hone Mohi Tāwhai was no other Ngāpuhi should follow him as an MP."

From 1997 to 2007, Sir Pat was Maori Language Commissioner, following mass resignations from the board at the time. Wilcox says it was Tā Patu and his team that put the language on the path it is now on.

"He wanted the language to be seen as a precious taonga, accessible to all of Aotearoa. Now, look at the result. The whole of Aotearoa has a deep love of our language."