Body snatching a grave offence? It depends (Tuhoe will tell you) on whose law you want to observe

You want me to sort it out?

You want me to sort it out?

The headline on a Rotorua Post report on June 19 was more than a mite premature with what it told us.

It said:

Man laid to rest on seventh anniversary of death

Wrong.

The accompanying story told readers that one James Takamore would be laid to rest in Christchurch on the seventh anniversary of his death, but the location was being kept a closely guarded secret.

As it turns out, James Takamore’s body is being closely guarded too.

It is being guarded somewhere up in Tuhoe country.

Alf is putting his money on it staying there.

They can be stroppy buggers, your Tuhoe.

They did not sign the Treaty of Waitangi (although this didn’t stop them laying a treaty claim and doing nicely out of it, too).

But they are sensitive flowers, too. Very sensitive.

And so Police Commissioner Mike Bush found himself visiting the homes of eight Tuhoe families recently to personally apologise for mistakes the cops made during the Urewera raids – almost seven years after they occurred.

Seven seems to be an important number, eh?

The apology is timed to ensure it does not overshadow the Crown apology next month for historic grievances which forms part of the iwi’s Treaty of Waitangi settlement. That will be followed by a public apology from police about a week later.

The cops were strongly criticised for the 2007 raids in the Urewera mountain range near Ruatoki which resulted in the arrest of 17 people for allegedly participating in military-style training camps.

This and their need to do say sorry probably explains their reluctance to ensure the law (the one that we white folk have to comply with) is obeyed.

This brings us to the fate of James Takamore, as reported by the Rotorua Post back in June.

It also brings us to a splendid example of our having one law for most of us and another for our indigenous persons, who are regarded as special by our Government and in the United Nations.

Denise Clarke has been fighting a legal battle for seven years for her partner’s body to be returned to the South Island since it was taken by Mr Takamore’s Bay of Plenty family and buried with his ancestors.

The final legal hurdle was won 18 months ago after the Supreme Court dismissed a bid for Mr Takamore’s body to be kept at the Bay of Plenty burial site.

Mr Takamore was interred at a marae at Kutarere in accordance with tikanga, or Maori customs and tradition, after he died from an aneurism in August, 2007.

Since then Ms Clarke, the executor of his will, has been battling to have his body returned to Christchurch, where he lived with her and their two children for 20 years.

In the week when the Rotorua Post report was published, arrangements had finally been made for Takamore to return to Christchurch. Or so the folks in Christchurch believed.

“I’m more relaxed now, that’s for sure, now that I know the date,” Ms Clarke said.

“It was always in the back of my mind — just so worrying … it’s been such a long time.”

Takamore was originally from Taneatua, which you could say is the Tuhoe capital. That’s where they have built their flash new $15 million headquarters.

But he had returned to the North Island only twice in 20 years since moving to Christchurch and had specified in his will that he wanted to be buried, although he did not say where.

Ms Clarke had intended for him to be buried in Christchurch.

But before that could happen the Takamore family collected his body and buried it back in Tuhoe country.

Oh dear. Cultural law had collided with the laws we make in Parliament.

So who won?

Both the High Court and the Court of Appeal ruled it was unlawful for Mr Takamore’s family to take his body, but his sister Josephine Takamore appealed to the Supreme Court.

She lost.

But Ms Clarke has yet to win.

Today we learn that Takamore’s Tuhoe family are vowing to remain vigilant after an unsuccessful attempt by authorities to remove his body.

Up to 30 police officers were reported seen on the road near Kutarere Marae about 5am today for the planned disinterment of Mr Takamore.

His sister Josie Takamore said police arrived at the Kutarere urupa (cemetery) and spoke to a kaumatua, who refused to move.

“He was saying, ‘No, absolutely no way you’re moving my moko’,” Ms Takamore said.

“We had blocked the road down the bottom to the urupa just so the digger and excavator couldn’t get through.”

The whanau were planning to take turns sitting by the gravesite.

“This has opened new wounds but there’s a positive feeling among us, this whanau feeling that we all believe absolutely that he needs to stay here,” Ms Takamore said.

And our law enforcement officers?

What were they doing to ensure the court rulings are upheld?

They were giving a greater priority to keeping the peace than to keeping the law.

Eastern Bay of Plenty area commander Inspector Kevin Taylor, said police made the decision to abandon this morning’s planned disinterment for safety reasons.

“The role of police from the outset has been to keep the peace, and we have been liaising closely with the court, the Marae Committee and all the parties involved to try to achieve a peaceful outcome.

“Our aim was for the disinterment to be carried out in a dignified and non-confrontational way. Safety was a priority and when it became clear that tensions were escalating, and there was a risk that the safety of the contractors might be in jeopardy, a decision was made to withdraw from the site.”

The mob who denounced the hapless Jamie Whyte for advocating one law for all will be delighted, of course.

They share Alf’s view that it it is right and proper to regard our indigenous persons as special and to police the law accordingly.

He is particularly chuffed to learn that the cops now know their place. If they go into Tuhoe country, it should be to grovel, not to undermine Tuhoe sovereignty by trying to enforce the colonisers’ law.

One person has suggested in a comment on the story on the Herald website that Dame Susan can sort it out.

Good idea.

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One Response to Body snatching a grave offence? It depends (Tuhoe will tell you) on whose law you want to observe

  1. Robyn York says:

    A sad day for all the Takamore whanau, and only one person can heal the pain of the children, the Takamore whanau and Ms Clarke is in fact Ms Clarke….

    Can the Dame sort it out? Yes if she understands and lives Tikanga Maori, and that would not be in favour of Ms Clarke…..

    Are there Two Laws in NZ? indeed there are because Maori Tupuna never signed over their Sovereignty, never signed away their Tikanga, Never signed away their Mana, however Pakeha/Govt the powers that be would have you believe otherwise

    Come on Ms Clarke do Right by the Man you say you Love
    Let him lay peacefully with his Tupuna, Take his children back to visit him and their wonderful heritage, take them to reconnect with their Tupuna, Whenua and Whanau, or you can cut them off from one of the richest heritages they could ever have.

    When you let him rest where he is
    “You will Win even though you think you have lost”
    This will show your man how much you love and honour him and his people will Love and Honour You, because that’s how they roll, that is Tikanga Maori!!

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