Reflections of a ‘Sky’ Walker

Aue te aroha ki a Ranginui Walker kua wheturangihia ki te pō

I first met Ranginui Walker through his writings in the NZ Listener, where he in effect mentored many Māori living in urban Aotearoa. I was one of them. His writings were like those of Epistles, the letters, written in the Bible. Wise, provocative, challenging moral philosophy, and evocative they were for Māori, Pākehā and later Asian readers.

Ranginui had the ability to explain contemporary Māori aspirations to the dominant culture. More than commenting on Māori movements and causes, such as Ngā Tamatoa and Te Reo Māori kaupapa, he gave background, explained why it was happening, and highlighted the importance of such trends and patterns i.e. kaupapa.  He was also explaining things to a lot of Māori who were also trying to grapple with the meaning of such activities.  In my mind he was a major contributor to New Zealand race relations.

As an academic mentor, he fostered postgraduate learning and research, underlining the value in this level of competence. Rangi, along with the likes of Professor Hirini Moko Mead, created a space in which Māori could consider, and were encouraged to undertake a PhD.  I count myself as one of these students that were privileged to be guided by their ambience.

Upon my appointment to the UoA Business School I sought his advice on the role of a Māori academic as a thought leader and a learner. He advised me to continue to read widely, keep up with all the latest information, and bring our people along.  I treasured his counsel and try to follow his words to this day.

In recent years he and I met again in the Waitangi Tribunal Hearings (WAI 1040) for the Northern Enquiry, popularly known as the Ngā Puhi Claims, where Rangi served as a Tribunal Member and I appeared giving evidence on behalf of Claimants. His questions were considered and probing. He has been heralded for his singularity of mind, which describes his wonderful capability to focus on a matter of significance and probe around it.  This would set you thinking about things and then he himself would offer insights based on his extraordinary reading and knowledge of Māori history, Māori anthropology, philosophy and the Anglo-Western world.

Due to his wide writings such as the NZ Listener, books, articles, Ranginui inspired others to publish with force and conviction—commenting on what was happening in a way that was based on evidence and insight. He set a standard that has become normative. Ranginui Walker’s structural and social analysis shaped my way of thinking and view of reality. For his life and generosity I’m forever grateful.

Haere, haere, haere e kara. Nā tō mōkai aroha

Associate Professor Mānuka Hēnare, Director Mira Szászy Research Centre

One comment

  1. Ranginui Walker’s Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou was such an influential book in my undergraduate years and continues to be one of the most important references in my PhD work. I always remember the support Ranginui gave our group Te Kawau Maro when we opposed the government’s Fiscal Envelope billion dollar cap in the mid-nineties. Once Ranginui spoke publicly in the media and in his lectures about Te Kawau Maro, people started taking notice of the kaupapa we were disseminating and other students started to participate in the demonstrations.

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