Today marks 147 years of UC history. As we celebrate our Foundation Day, we’re spending this week reflecting on the triumphs of some of our legends.
“E tipu, e rea, mō ngā rā o tō ao.
Ko tō ringa ki ngā rāakau a te Pākehā, hei ora mō te tinana.
Ko tō ngākau ki ngā taonga a ō tīpuna Māori, hei tikitiki mō tō māhunga.
Ko tō wairua ki tō Atua, nāna nei ngā mea katoa.”
Born into the Ngāti Porou iwi, Tā Apirana Ngata’s early years were strongly influenced by his father Paratene, and his great-uncle Rapata, who imbued him with a strong sense of loyalty to the Crown. As native speakers of te reo Māori, they both insisted he also learnt Pākehā knowledge and skills as they believed this could help him to improve life and conditions for the Māori people.
At Te Aute College, Ngata learnt the classics, was prepared for matriculation, university and the professions – and, along with all Māori students, was strongly encouraged to have pride in Māori and instilled with the mission of saving their people from social disintegration.
By 1893, when he graduated from UC with a BA in political science, followed by an MA and an LLB in 1896, Ngata was the first Māori to graduate from any University in New Zealand. He then dedicated his life to reforming the social and economic conditions of the Māori people.
Through his life, he became a renowned leader, land reformer and politician. Elected as a member of Parliament in 1905, he remained until 1943. As Minister of Māori Affairs, his Māori Land Development Scheme, inaugurated in 1931, was one of the greatest achievements of his Parliamentary career.
In 1949 Apirana Ngata wrote in the autograph book of schoolgirl, Rangi Bennett,
“E tipu, e rea, mō ngā rā o tō ao. Ko tō ringa ki ngā rāakau a te Pākehā, hei ora mō te tinana. Ko tō ngākau ki ngā taonga a ō tīpuna Māori, hei tikitiki mō tō māhunga. Ko tō wairua ki tō Atua, nāna nei ngā mea katoa.”
“Thrive and grow for the days destined for you. Your hands to the tools of the Pākehā, to provide physical sustenance. Your heart to the treasures of your ancestors as adornments for your head. Your soul to God to whom all things belong.” This became much quoted as a vision for Māori youth.
Ngata was knighted in 1927 in recognition of his services to Māori communities and for his efforts as Chief Recruiting Officer during the First World War. Throughout his life, he contributed profoundly to the revival of the Māori race spiritually, culturally, and economically.
New Zealand paid tribute to this remarkable man in 1999 by embedding his portrait on the New Zealand $50 note alongside the Porourangi Meeting house of his iwi and the Kōkako bird.
Interested to learn more? Check out the rest of our legends here>