“The starry hosts of heaven abide there forever. The hosts of men upon this earth pass away into oblivion. A song of lament, an expression of heartfelt mourning for you Pāpa Erima. An authority of Māori language, a repository of history and traditions, rest in eternal peace. Go, depart, farewell,” says Human Rights Commissioner for Maori and indigenous rights, Karen Johansen.
The Human Rights Commission joined the country in paying tribute to Maori Language Commissioner Erima Henare who passed away suddenly last month aged 62 years.
“The Ngati Hine proverb ‘Kokiri te manu i te ata, kokiri te manu i te po’ speaks of leaders who work tirelessly and is a perfect metaphor to describe Erima. Moe mai ra e te rangatira,” said Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy.
“Erima was a tireless leader whose many life achievements include safeguarding New Zealand’s indigenous language, we mourn the sad and sudden loss of a great son of Ngati Hine.”
“Last year he called for Maori Language Week to be extended and called on us all to make it happen by speaking more te reo, more often and in more places. We should honour him by making this happen.”
Among other public, advisory and educational sector posts, Erima was executive director of Mâori at the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, a member of the Waitangi National Trust Board and a Maori cultural adviser to Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga. He also served as an advisor to King Tuheitia Paki.
Erima had also been a member of Creative New Zealand, New Zealand Arts Council, Northland District Health Board member, and other regional and national boards and committees. An expert on the history, reo and tikanga of the peoples of Te Tai Tokerau as well as a respected leader: Erima’s name was derived from his whakapapa links to the far north “No nga iwi e Rima o te raki”.
Labour MP for Te Tai Tokerau, Kelvin Davis said his knowledge, language and humour would be impossible to replace. "A star from the constellation of Matariki has faded," Mr Davis said. “E Takitaki ana ngâ whetû o te kâhui o Matariki.”
"All of Ngâti Hine, all of Ngâpuhi will be mourning", Mr Davis said.
Dame Tariana Turia reflected on Erima’s father, Ngapuhi rangatira and Maori Battalion commander Sir James Henare.
“Sir James would say, ‘We’ve gone too far forward to ever go back and that’s what we have to hold fast to, and that is what Erima personified,” she said.
After lying briefly in state at Te Puea Marae in Mangere, Erima Henare
lay in state at Moerewa’s Otiria Marae where thousands attended his tangihana including King Tuheitia Paki, the Head of State of Samoa Tupua Tamasese and other dignitaries. He was laid to rest amongst his ancestors at Takapuna Urupa at Motatau.
Radio New Zealand reporter Lois Williams has been reporting up North for 25 years and has provided Turangawaewae with these photographs. She says it was difficult for her to cover the reporting of Erima’s tangi and to also be saying farewell to a man that she had known well and respected greatly.
“I now realise that following his heart attack last November and now, rereading his speech receiving the outcome from the sovereignty claim, that he was indeed unwell. His last speech was, I feel, his greatest,” she said.