Ngā Tamatoa (The Warriors) was a Māori activist group that operated throughout the 1970s to promote Māori rights, fight racial discrimination, and confront injustices perpetrated by the New Zealand Government, particularly violations of the Treaty of Waitangi.
Nga Tamatoa emerged from a conference at the University of Auckland organised by academic and historian Ranginui Walker. The group consisted of mainly urban and university educated Māori who were offended by continuing confiscation of land and degradation of the Māori language. The group was inspired by international liberation and indigenous movements.
In September 1972, Ngā Tamatoa presented a petition with more than 30,000 signatures to the Crown to have Māori taught in schools. Other initiatives by the organisation helped to enforce real social and political changes in New Zealand which has seen the establishment of Māori language nests, Kōhanga Reo, and the Kura Kaupapa Māori immersion schools. In 1987, the Māori Language Act was passed by the New Zealand Government, giving Te Reo Māori (Māori language) official language status.
1975 Land March
Ngā Tamatoa organised the historic 1975 Land March, led by Dame Whina Cooper, from the top of New Zealand's North Island to Parliament in Wellington. Following the march, Ngā Tamatoa created a 'Tent Embassy' by camping on Parliament grounds in Wellington, demanding immediate action on land march issues.
He Taua 1979
The organisation was involved in disrupting the University of Auckland haka party, a part of the annual student capping parade. This was annual parade in which engineering students parodied the Māori haka, by painting male genitals on their body and performing with sexually obscene gestures. The disruption was mainly organised by a group of Māori and Pacific Island students, called He Taua 'War Party.' Following a violent attack on the engineering students, when several students were assaulted, members of He Taua were arrested. Their court case in Auckland sparked anti-racism protests outside the courthouse. Members of He Taua included Hone Harawira, later a Member of Parliament.
Treaty of Waitangi
Ngā Tamatoa initiated the annual protests at Waitangi on Waitangi Day, in 1973 after Prime Minister Norman Kirk changed the name of the day to 'New Zealand Day'. The group claimed that the "Treaty is a fraud" because of the ongoing breaches committed by the Government. Ngā Tamatoa wore black armbands to the celebrations to mourn the loss of Māori land much of which had been confiscated or annexed by state legislation. The Auckland Māori Council declared their support of the protest by making a submission that cited fourteen statutes that were currently breaching the Treaty.
- Ranginui Walker, Nga Tau Tohetohe-Years of Anger, Auckland, 1987
- Ranginui Walker, Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou-Struggle Without End, Auckland, 1990
- Aroha Harris, Hikoi: Forty years of Maori Protest, Auckland, 2004