A leader of Ngāti Rēhia said in a Facebook post this week that he would gladly strip ACT leader David Seymour of his iwi title if he wanted to “carry on with the race card”.
Mana Epiha, the poster, has been a member of te taumata (the leaders’ post) of Ngāti Rēhia, their decision-making and representative body, since he was a child.
Epiha is a 10th-generation direct descendant of the hapū's ancestor, Rēhia.
“Don’t ever claim that you are Ngāti Rēhia if you want to tutū with the Treaty,” Epiha’s post read.
Seymour explained to media recently that his great-great-great grandmother was Maraea Te Inutoto, a high-status member of Ngāti Rēhia.
In response to Epiha’s post, Seymour told Stuff that people have a right to their opinion but it was wrong to think that any one person could speak for the entire iwi.
“I am also part-Scottish. I have never heard any Scottish person say that if I don’t agree with them, they will take away my Scottishness. If you stop and think for a moment, what this person is saying is every bit as ridiculous as that.
“This country deserves a say on what the Treaty means. It’s everybody’s country and everybody should have a say in how its constitutional arrangements evolve and develop.”
Seymour said that debate was a positive thing and a “healthier outcome than the division that is being caused by co-governance.
“ACT has consistently said the Treaty is a taonga and that its principles provide the basis for a modern liberal democracy – the Government is sovereign, its job is to protect property rights, and we all have equal rights and duties.”
Epiha said Seymour’s response was narcissistic and ignorant.
“Traditionally, one or two people would speak for the iwi. For Ngāti Rēhia, those are members of te taumata [the leaders’ post].
“After weighing up the opinions of every whānau, te taumata makes the final decision, and it only needs to be said once.
“Scottish lore and tradition, although I respect them, has no place and no comparison here on these lands. Indigeneity here in Aotearoa is when the community you claim as your own also claims you back.”
Epiha said co-governance is the closest Māori have ever been to equity and equality.
“With 183 years of topping the stats for the most incarcerated, abused, unhealthy, and impoverished, we, as Māori, have finally started taking positive steps forward, only for Mr Seymour and his government to bring it into question again.
“Those ancient signatures on that Treaty document are taonga, and they are tapu. It would be foolish to meddle with such power. The world we live in isn’t just physical; the spiritual world runs part and parcel every single day.
“[Our] ancestors were the movers and shakers of the 1800s,” said Ephia, citing Hongi Hika, Turikatuku and Princess Matire Toha.
“These are the greats of all greats and ignorant little David thinks he can claim he is one of us and then tutū with the founding Treaty document that our great ancestors put in place, so we can prosper.”
Epiha said Seymour was missing a whole world of power and beauty.
“I just hope he finds himself at some stage in his life,” he said.
“I invite ACT to prove to Māori and Pākehā exactly how much of a taonga the Treaty is.”