Tohu a Te Kīngi 2024: Humble Waitomo kuia a ‘little embarrassed’ by honour

Waitomo kuia Josephine Anderson has been recognised in the King's Birthday Honours for services to Māori. Photo / Supplied

Josephine Anderson’s (Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Whanaunga) whānau says their mother was anxious and a little embarrassed learning she was to receive a King’s Birthday Honour.

Today, she has been appointed a Companion of the King’s Service Order for services to Māori.

Anderson, who is the main kuia for Waitomo Caves and the kai karanga and waiata tautoko at Tokikapu Marae near Te Kūiti, felt she did not deserve the honour.

This is despite having devoted more than 40 years of her life to the cultural and historical preservation of land, language and tikanga in the Waitomo area, including performing an integral role in Ruapuha Uekaha hapū's Treaty settlement process over a 34 year period, as the first person to directly negotiate with the Crown.

“She was a little bit anxious about it because she didn’t feel that she deserved it,” says Anderson’s daughter, Marama Morrison.

Anderson is recovering from a recent medical event, so her daughter and son Peter Morrison are speaking on their mother’s behalf.

“She was actually embarrassed but we explained to her that it is not just about her. It’s about everybody else that has been on the same journey for much of her life.”

Anderson’s involvement began with governance roles from the mid-1980s with Ruapuha Uekaha Hapū Trust and Tanetinorau Opataia Whānau Trust. She remains a current kuia advisor.

Anderson has been a member of the Waitomo Caves Management Committee since 1990 and is a past trustee and kuia advisor for the Waitomo Caves Museum. She continues to act as a kuia advisor for Waitomo’s Glowworm Caves, Caves School, Caves Water Catchment Group, and Tourism Group Holdings.

She is a member of the Maniapoto Marae Pact Trust Kaumātua Group and a former member of the Māori Women’s Welfare League Waitomo branch.

Asked if their mother quite grasps the extent of her contribution, Marama laughs and says, “Of course not, of course not. It’s just another journey. It’s just another day for her.”

Peter says their mother is “humbled” but also aware that she is “one of many that have progressed things in and around Waitomo.”

“Mum’s also a farmer too. She comes from a very humble farming background, and right up until she got ill, she was still running the farm in Waitomo.”

“The land is tuku iho, you know,” adds Marama. She wants to keep all the generations on the land.”

Anderson is convalescing at the moment, slowly regaining her health. But she is sure to have a bright smile when her whānau visit next.

“We’re on our way over. We’ve got some nice kai in the car with us - kina, mussels and some smoke trout,” says Peter.