WelCom February 2017:
Last December I attended the Iwi Chairs’ Forum held in Grovetown, near Blenheim, to present about Suzanne Aubert. The forum is a six-monthly conference for Māori leaders from all over Aotearoa.
The three-day manuhiri (event) was hosted by a small but important subgroup of Ngai Tahu Iwi.
The impressive venue, ‘Ūkaipō’ conference centre, was built for Te Rūnanga a Rangitane o Wairau. There were about 65 iwi leaders with support staff. Topics included social justice, housing, environment, health and economic growth.
It was quite emotional presenting the kaupapa about Suzanne Aubert to such an illustrious group of leaders, entrepreneurs and creative people. They listened attentively about the small French nun who made a huge influence on the Māori people when she got to Aotearoa in 1860 and who died here with the people she loved in 1926.
Aubert provided the basis of many prayers, Bible text and writings in Te Reo Māori, the native language taught to her by her Māori whānau. She developed medicinal remedies based on Māori Rongoa taught by her whānau, expert in various fields.
When Aubert arrived in Wellington in 1899 she was determined to show the rest of Aotearoa her gifts and share them with the displaced and disabled. She saw ‘Christ in everybody’ but never forgot her Māori whānau from the Whanganui river, plains of Heretaunga, shores of Te Tairawhiti East Coast and many other of her wahi tapu (sacred places).
Many Māori only knew Suzanne Aubert as Meri Hōhepa. She is remembered in the hearts of many Māori to this day as Meri Hōhepa.
Hēnare Walmsley is an architect and Māori Advisory Group Co-ordinator for the Archdiocese.