Tariana Turia – lovely lady, don’t get Alf wrong – seems to have overlooked half of her whakapapa in her valedictory speech this evening.
We heard something about the Whanganui river and the mountains and umbilical chords and all that spiritual stuff that tells us Tariana has a different world view from Alf’s.
We got to hear about other bits of her heritage. But only the Maori bit.
She is apt to ensure we know little about the 50 per cent of her essence – a big whack of whakapapa when you think about it – that is American.
Maybe that’s because she doesn’t know who he is or was.
Maybe it’s because she doesn’t want to know who he is or was.
Maybe she doesn’t want to think too hard about an umbilical chord that stretches back to the Rocky Mountains or the Mississippi River.
Whatever it is, Alf was minded of a piece written by Michele Hewitson in the NZ Herald a few years ago.
Hewitson wrote that Tariana doesn’t let many people get close and quotes her as agreeing.
“That’s probably true … because … I don’t think people accept the essence of other people, really.”
That is a little sad, Hewitson observed, and a consequence of her childhood.
She was raised by her grandmother, and her mother’s older sister and her husband. She thought her grandmother was her mother and that her uncle was her father. “And my grandmother died when I was 5 and my dad died when I was 14 and I think that … I may have learned quite young that you have to protect your feelings.”
Her mother did later try to tell her about her biological father. She saw knowing as a betrayal of the man she thought was her father – so she refused to listen. All she does know is that he was, probably, Native American.
“You know, I’ve always been really hot on whakapapa!” And she’s chopped off an entire branch! “Yeah, that’s true. And I never realised that that’s what I was doing until my children began to want to know who he was …”
So if you consider that she has, as she says, been “moulded” by a childhood which involved an obfuscation (however kindly meant), and an abandonment (the father disappeared knowing her mother was pregnant), you can see why she might be slow to trust outsiders.
But the entire American branch was somewhat forgotten today.
Enough of the Kiwi branch was on hand, however, to ensure her speech finished with a good old bit of sing-song and haka.
Come to think of it, there was similar singing after Pita Sharples gave his speech.
And after some Treaty claims legislation passed their final readings.
The way our Parliamentary procedures are evolving, the Parley component of the word (Parley = a discussion or conference) will soon make way for Chanson (or song) which will turn it into a Chansonament. Or a Waiatament.
At that point it might just as well become just another music hall. We certainly have plenty of MPs who know how to lead the voters a merry song and dance.