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July 21, 2008 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

An Interview with Hone Harawira

I waimarie atu a Ngai Tauira ki te kōrero tahi me Hone Harawira, tērā o ngā kaiporotēhi e mōhio whanuitia ana. I kōrero ia mo tana mahi ki te whare Pāremata, ki te reo Pākeha, ā, koira te tikanga kua tuhia pērā ki raro nei:

Mahi: He māngai o te whare Pāremata, Te Tai Tokerau
Rā: 3 Hōngongoi, 2008, 6pm.

Te Kaipatapātai: Tahu K Wilson: Ngai Tauira Apiha

Life in Parliament

T: Are you surprised to find yourself in Parliament?

H: Yeah, well. I’ve been approached by others parties over the years. You know when you protest hard enough and long enough, people think you’ve got something to say, so I’ve been approached by all sorts of parties. But I just take two seconds to say no there. I’ve got relations in every one of those parties: NZ First, Labour, National.

T: Are they the parties that have approached you in the past?

H: Yeah… New Zealand First, ACT, National, Labour…

T: They would have tried to rein you in more than the Maori Party?

H: Ohh… I never even contemplated it. I was never interested. Then we had the Hikoi a couple of years ago. When we got to Parliament and they were passing out those cards to join the Maori Party, as soon as I saw it I knew two things. That was May 2004. I knew that one: I would be the Tai Tokerau candidate for the Maori Party, and two: I’m gonna win that election. And it was just obvious… That’s really what there was to it… I’m happy to do it. Proud to do it!

T: It’s also an independent Maori voice as well aye?

H: That’s it! That’s all. It’s really what it’s all about aye. Our work in the House in the last couple of years has really highlighted how an independent Māori voice fits. Everything that the Labour Māori MPs do is what their party tells them to do, and anything the National Māori MPs do is what their party tells them to do. None of those things are guided by Kaupapa Māori, or Tikanga Māori; only by what their parties tell them to do. I don’t think that there was ever anything to compare it with before so people tended to think that Labour was pretty cool to Māori. Now we’re in here it’s pretty easy to highlight it… it started with the Foreshore and Seabed, cutting off Manaaki tauira, taking Māori Language out of schools, taking the Treaty out of the curriculum, taking the Treaty out of legislation. That’s the Labour Government!… Did their voters vote for all of these things? And most Māori had never really seen it before until we started saying it. So, yeah…

Getting Used To It

T: Are you getting used to it here? Think you might be keen on another term or two?

H: Oh, I’ll do what I have to do. I don’t ever intend to get used to this place though. A lot of politicians in here – thankfully the Māori Party’s not like that – they’d rather change their principles than risk losing what they’ve got here. This place makes me more than twice as much as I’ve ever made in my whole life! But, if I wasn’t here tomorrow I wouldn’t cry. I understand the need for us to be here, I understand the struggle that we have, and I enjoy the challenge of this place… but I’m not wedded to the idea of a Parliamentary career. Pita had to be hauled screaming and kicking out of Hoani Waititi, the Marae, his Kura, his Kōhanga Reo, developing his Wānanga. Te Ururoa is keenly involved in education around Rotorua, Whakatane.. Myself I was involved in broadcasting, and my own Kura up North. We’ve got things that we can go back to tomorrow.If I could go back to them tomorrow, I would. I’ll never let this place become too important.

The Suit

H: I only have one suit and I keep it hanging up in here. I put it on just before I go down to the House, take it off as soon as I get out of the House. It stays here. I bought it the day before Parliament opened. Titiwhai was there. Parekura. We were at a tangi yesterday up North for Lady Henare, Sir James’ wife, and Parekura was giving me assholes when he was speaking, in his whaikōrero, about him and Shane [Jones] came in their suits and looked at Hone, in his jeans and his track shoes. I suspect that if the people up home saw me running round in a suit, they’d go “Nigger Boy! Nigger Boy!” you know? That’s not me so I don’t need to change. You know if I’m down the beach I’ll have a pair of shorts on and a t-shirt. If I go paddling, I might just have shorts on. If I’m working in the garden I’ve got the jeans and the gumboots. When I’m in the House I’ve got a suit! No big deal. But it’s not my normal way of dressing so I choose not to wear it all the time.

The 7 Seats

T: Out of the 7 seats that you’re going to win, which would be the hardest? Tainui?

H: It’s hard to tell, hard to tell. One thing that came up in the House the other day, Tau [Henare-National] raised it. It was how Parekura gave Ngati Porou $1.6 million last year, for some sort of governance thing aye… He has a way of making his power felt, in an election year, in his electorate. So that will be difficult… Nanaia will always be difficult because of their close connections to the Kingitanga. Those two will be difficult. But our way is simple really. It’s not to contest them on their strengths. We don’t have the money to combat Parekura. Neither do we have the depth of the historical connection to the Kingitanga. So we’ll rely almost purely on beating the feet, knocking on doors, and signing people up. That’s our game mate… Just let the Chiefs get on with doing what Chiefs do, and let’s get to the people. If we do that well, if we keep ourselves connected and open, to the people…well, it shows. We get a good rap everywhere we go around the country. But I find it very distracting when people say “you’re a Chief” and “you’ll do great things” and, shit if you’re not careful people start believing it! Cause you’re not! I’m not a Chief because I’m here, I’m just a MP! Our job is to defend Maori rights and advance Maori interests. Simple as that. Other peoples’ job out there is to keep the mana of the Tribe going, other people have a job of teaching our children… we’ve all got a job to do. This is just our job.

T: Crosby/Textor, have you heard about, have you read much about them?

H: Yes I have actually. I did follow the media stuff on it, who they worked for in other places, and how successful they’ve been. That’s the game, aye. That’s the game. I take advice from all sorts of people. A lot of the stuff I’ve learned over the last couple of years I’ve learnt from other people. People in Labour, National, ACT. Like Rodney Hide telling me how to deal with Select Committee bullshit, all that kind of stuff. I’ll learn from anyone. At our level we have to be open to information from all sources. At that big party level, they go for guys who have got a good track record, and they’ll pay big bucks for their advice. Those guys have done the bizo aye? They kept old what’s-his-name alive for a long time… Howard.

T: Yeah John Howard. Your friend John Howard…

H: Well, he didn’t just lose the election, he lost his seat aye… He’s fucking completely yesterday man! They’re clever though, I mean those guys. Even like the guy who did Don Brash’s billboards. At the last election they had a picture of Don Brash on one half, and Helen on the other half, and on Don Brash it’s got ‘KIWI’, Helen Clark ‘IWI’. You know Labour’s as fuckin supportive of Iwi as nobody… I took a look at those billboards and thought yeah that’s clever. I go to a Party Hui and everybody’s spitting tacks about it, I said don’t worry about spitting tacks. Learn from it, learn from it. That’s what we gotta do. Then the Greens got shafted. We tried to do a deal with the Greens. Tariana’s friends with them. Ten is better than six. If we’d stuck together it was a block of ten. Helen Clark would have called off any of their deals. She needed the Greens for Confidence and Supply. But if it was a block of ten…

T: How did the Greens vote in the Foreshore and Seabed?

H: They were staunch. They fought against the Foreshore and Seabed. Apparently, Metiria, every single clause she just hammered them…

Heroes and Connections

H: People ask me who were my heroes. Mine were Mohammad Ali, Huey P. Newton, Aldridge Cleaver, Malcolm X, those were my heroes. Never really had a lot of Maori heroes, and the ones that there were I knew: Syd Jackson, Tame Iti, Mum, and all those sort of people, I knew them all aye, they were part of my life. All of my words were [American] blacks… which was strange when I went over there, stateside. I was quite sure that I’d get on well with Blacks. I had to sleep one night in a Greyhound Bus station, and all these guys come in and… there’s just no connection aye, none at all. Then about three o’clock in the morning, the door comes crashing open, and I’m sitting there trying to get to sleep in this fuckin bus station, and this drunken old Indian staggers in, and he’s standing at the door, and he sees me and says “Aahhh!” and he comes down and sits by me. It was just like he was an Uncle. And I thought yeah, I should have realised that that’s the real connection. The tangata whenua. But he just thought I was an Indian. That was hard case.

T: You would have travelled a lot, being an MP?

H: Most of it was from my protests. People ask me to go speak at conferences and I go to to speak, basically. So I was very, very fortunate to hang out with native people. I never knew it until after I came back that the people I knew from the US, the Native Americans I knew were from the American Indian Movement. I know a lot of them. I didn’t think that much of it at the time, but then people hear the names and go, “oh wow! You know Russell Means?” Yeah I know Russell, why? And they’d go “waaoooww!!” That’s the kind of thing with my heroes here. They weren’t heroes to me they were just people I was with. They were just the people I hung out with. The real heroes in that American Indian Movement. I just knew them as brothers. They’re all in their 60’s and 70’s. Just privileged…

T: Are you off anywhere after the recess or this year, for Parliament?

H: I travel less as an MP than I did when I was protesting. Anyway when I travel I get in trouble…


T: How was it up there, in the Northern Territory? H: It was hard man. Really really hard. The hardest thing is that white Australians really don’t wanna know. And you know, I find Pakeha Australians easy to talk to aye… funny… they got a better sense of humour than New Zealand Pakehas do. I always get on really well with them. But when it comes to their own indigenous people mate they got a blindspot like you wouldn’t believe! They just don’t see them! They get along great with Maoris, they like Maoris. But their own people, they don’t even think of them as being people they might want to associate with. The culture is such that they just don’t see them. Know what I mean? And if they see them, it’s just enough to piss them off and so they ignore them. That’s all. And they live their whole life believing that they’re in the golden land, and they’re not caring about the people there. Aaahh! Some of the things you see and the stories you hear… particularly from some of the old ones aye. An old kuia told me how, back in the 60s, if you were gonna go cross-country, you’d try to get as far away from the road, as possible, at night time… this old lady was saying. She said because, in the daytime, if a white fulla was going from one farm to another farm, down the road, and he felt like shooting, and he saw a black fulla, he’d shoot him just as soon as he’d take a shot at a kangaroo. And nobody cared. You could run over a black fulla back in the 60’s, nobody would care. Nobody would report it… Fuckin ‘ell…

T: Is there a similar kind of racism here?


H: No we’re different. It’s different here. The reason why it’s different here is that there’s not an indigenous person in the world as stroppy as your fuckin Maori. Dare anybody try and ignore us mate. You know what it’s like aye? Anybody blink badly in your… fuckin pound them… when I was marching aye we just wouldn’t stand for it. I’ve been to Hawaii… they’re a lovely people the Hawaiian people. I see them accept things that we wouldn’t stand for over here aye. I say, ‘…Fuck me! If anybody tried that to me at home I’d fuckin drop him…’

Student Magazines

H: I get Salient and Craccum as well! I like to read them because student magazines are so irreverent! They have no respect for anyone, for anything, and I love it! …When the Wayne Mapp story was doing the rounds, I think it was Salient, they had a really good in-depth article on it. On the front of it it had a picture of Wayne Mapp. And at the top it had ‘Wayne Mapp’, and underneath it had ‘Dumb Cunt!’

T: (laughter hahaha)!!!

H: (laughter) Nobody would write like that except a student magazine. I know a lot of our people get really upset when they read stuff like that but, you know I cherish… I read some of the articles in there, some of the letters to the Editor, when you got individual students saying things. It’s just… it’s hilarious, and it’s witty, and it’s challenging it’s mentally challenging. Sometimes living in Kaitaia, you miss the challenge. So I used to have this woman send me Craccum. Just so I could read it. And I’d go… Ooh, God…! cos you’re just not thinking like that when you’re living in the North. And when they do something…! That’s a terrible thing to say! And then you realise you used to think like that yourself not too long ago. So it helps to keep your mind fresh, helps to keep your mind young, I find. Helps to keep you mentally challenged, student magazines… they’re glossier now than they used to be in my day. That was, yeah this here, that was the Craccum of those days… It was all like this…

Home and Work

T: Do you still go home every weekend and, head up there?

H: Every weekend. I make sure I do. I get home every week. I remember one time I was gonna miss, so I rang her and said, I’m comin up, she said you can’t come up you got this other thing first thing in the morning. I said I’m coming home, be at the airport. Met her. We had a date for twenty minutes at the Kaitaia airport, and then I jumped on the plane again.

T: Do you miss that? Being at home…

H: Oh hell yeah. What I really miss, is my Grandson. We’ve had him since he was one, and he was eleven when I came in here. Now he’s 14. And I’ve missed all of those three years. I find the really important years, I used to take him to all his rugby, his swimming, his athletics, his league, his waka ama, basketball and all that stuff… Now it’s all happening and I’m not there. I miss it badly aye, miss it terribly. I miss the fact that in here, I talk about them, and I fight for things. Outside, we did things. You know what I mean?

T: Yeah…

H: Where I used to work I was the CEO of our radio. We started a Māori radio station and a Pakeha radio station, then a Rangitahi radio station, then a Country FM radio station, and a television station. In Kaitaia. We did all of those things… you know? We challenged ourselves to do things that other people didn’t think we could do. From my old protest days I understand the importance of the media, the importance of spreading your message rather than always having to react badly about somebody else’s message. So I enjoy the challenge; our school we started it from nothing. Our kura, built it up to where it is now… all that stuff aye. I enjoyed the challenge of doing things. Particularly doing things that other people don’t think you can do, like those radio stations, and the TV station. And like there is no other Maori TV station except MTS which is big bucks aye. We did that out of nothing… and it’s still going!

T: Was it just run from out of one of your mates’ sheds or something?

H: Oh no, we’ve got all of our stations in the same building… television’s easy to put in, you put it in another room really. If I was back there I’d know how to make my television station hum… But anyway… yeah so. I miss the doing things. I miss the challenge of thinking my way through some issues, getting together with a group of people of like mind, and then challenging ourselves to do something that hasn’t been done before. And then doing it! So those things were all new. No Maori radio station had ever started its own Pakeha radio station, or its own Youth radio station… know what I mean? So we just wanted to grow everything that we did. I’m glad to say, that all of the things that we started are still going. So that’s good to see.

T: The people up there are they still looking after it?

H: Yeah.. yeah. But I miss that, I miss that hugely… I mean Protest is about challenging and tearing things down. But, the other part of my life, particularly the last two years, has been to tear something down if I didn’t believe it. And to say so. Challenge everybody, change the whole fucking world if necessary, and then say ‘This is how you do it, we will do it and I’ll show you how we can do it.’ So that all those people who don’t think so.. ohh man… who cares what they think. When you get together with people of like mind. They’re kind of scared cos it’s never been done before. You just do it! You just make it happen.


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  1. Anita Garland says:

    Tena Koe Hone, I love your korero about starting from nothing. I remember starting at the WharePaia from nothing, and I couldn’t beleive that we had nothing. Unforunately I wasn’t there when your mum was there, and I wish I was(despite the negative korero). From that day in 1989 I live and fight as much as I can for our people because it taught me a hell of a lot. Those tangata whaiora looked relly scary, and now their leading normal lives. I am so greatful from starting with nothing, and I beleive that we can do anything because of the maori party and your mum and all of those other really important rangatiri.

    Mauri Ora

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