Te Arikinui Te Atairangikaahu, Queen of New Zealand's Maori
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Te Arikinui Te Atairangikaahu, 75, the queen of New Zealand's indigenous Maori population, died Aug. 15 at her official residence at Turangawaewae Marae in Ngaruawahia, New Zealand. She had diabetes.
Queen Te Ata was the seventh Maori sovereign, a direct descendant of a royal line that began in 1858, when the Maori responded to Britain's colonization of New Zealand by choosing a monarch of their own. The role carries only ceremonial powers but is hugely respected by most Maori.
Queen Te Ata was the longest-serving head of the Kingitanga (King) movement, which largely was a response to continual Maori land losses as European settlers flocked to the British colony and took land from the indigenous people.
Queen Te Ata, who lived on central North Island, became Maori queen in May 1966, the day her father, King Koroki Te Rata Mahuta Tawhiao, was buried. She was immediately catapulted into a role that included mixing with some of the world's most influential people.
She raised the profile of Maori overseas, acting as cultural ambassador for Maori and indigenous people and as hostess to most royal and diplomatic visitors to New Zealand, dining with dignitaries including President Bill Clinton and South African President Nelson Mandela.
No successor was immediately announced. The next monarch is to be chosen from among Te Ata's kin in the Kingitanga movement. About 540,000 of the country's 4 million people are Maori.
In May 2001, celebrating her coronation 35 years earlier, Queen Te Ata said Kingitanga had been "part of every moment, thought, dream and action. It is as much a part of me as the very air that I breathe."
"I have no doubt that in another 35 years, although many of us will be gone, the cloak of Kingitanga will still offer what it has," she said.
She was granted the Order of New Zealand, the nation's highest civilian honor, in 1987 and was identified as New Zealand's wealthiest Maori 12 years later, her worth estimated at $5.7 million.
In February 2005, Queen Te Ata was admitted to Waikato Hospital for surgery for kidney stones. She began dialysis treatment for diabetes this year.
Survived include her husband, Whatumoana Paki; and seven children.