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Hundreds pay their respects to Dr Ranginui Walker

Saturday 5 March 2016 | Published in Regional

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ORAKEI – New Zealand’s country’s academia is mourning the death of Maori’s leading academic Dr Ranginui Walker.

Hundreds of mourners gathered at a church service at Auckland’s Orakei marae on Friday. Dr Walker died on Monday, aged 83, and since being at Orakei thousands arrived to say their final farewells.

He has been described as a brave man who was committed to the cause.

Te Kahautu Maxwell of Whakatohea paid tribute to Dr Walker and the work he did for his own iwi and for all Maori and he asked why no representative of the government attended the funeral considering all the work Dr Walker had done on the Waitangi Tribunal.

“He gave his life and soul to fight for our rights and to change the thoughts of the Pakeha to better understand the treaty,” Maxwell said.

“Ranginui fought for our rights which are entrenched in law and policy today.”

His former colleague Dame Anne Salmond was next to speak, describing Dr Walker as “fearless, intensely rational, passionate and incisive.

She spoke of how she met Dr Walker in 1970 after he had finished his PHD, and remembered how he and Patu Hohepa were a powerhouse.

“Analysing legislation, writing articles, speaking up about racism in New Zealand, and the formidable contractable issues Maori were facing at the time.

“The things they said were true but they upset many people but students heard the truth in what they said and they were inspired into action.

“If I look back now to the times I met him and see what he and Patu and so many others achieved, with the power of the mind and the pen, it seems like a miracle.”

While a great mind, and noted academic, he was also a family man– always proud of his children and grandchildren, and his wife Deirdre was his rock, Dame Salmond said.

He had helped transform the understanding of the shared history of New Zealand.

“He loved this country with all of his heart,” Dame Salmond said. “He died, but he hasn’t left us. His legacy will echo down in history.”

His son Stuart Walker spoke, sometimes through tears, about his father’s last days and shared stories of what it was like to have Ranginui Walker as a dad.

When his father would get annoyed at him as a child he’d call him a “Dodson” which was the maiden name of Dr Walker’s wife, Deidre.

Dr Walker was surrounded by his children and his wife in his last days, he said.

“In the last hours of his life he was at complete peace.”

His mother was preparing to speak, he said, “but there is only so much stress a heart can take”.

Green party co-leader Metiria Turei started her speech with the song Tutira Mai Nga Iwi, and those gathered at the funeral quickly joined her. The crowd often sang in unison throughout the service.

Dr Walker dedicated much of his life to documenting significant historical events from a Maori perspective which resonated with many non-Maori.

Rev Hirini Kaa spoke about Dr Walker’s book Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou, Struggle Without End and said “he didn’t write it to give us despair, he wrote to give us hope”.

Dr Walker was carried to the hearse by his two sons and grandsons and was taken to be cremated in a private whanau ceremony.

Accolades and final farewells continue to flow for the extraordinary academic.

“Rest now, Ranginui. Rest in your final resting vessel, knowing that you have completed your research, your role teaching children, students and people,” said Sir Pita Sharples.

“His greatest legacy is that he wasn’t afraid to talk about the historical injustices done by non-Maori to Maori. He explains how Maori were oppressed. He also highlighted concerns about Maori poverty,” says Sharples.

When Ranginui Walker was at Auckland University he was a staunch supporter of the activist groups Nga Tamatoa and the Polynesian Panthers.

Ngai Tuhoe activist Tame Iti, had nothing but praise for Ranginui Walker and the influence he wielded.

“He would encourage us to protest the issues and not just sit idle and do nothing. He would also be there to guide us and monitor our progress. That was his nature.” - PNC sources