University of Waikato staff and students were among the thousands who attended the tangi for Professor Te Wharehuia Milroy CNZM, QSO who died last week aged 82.
Te Wharehuia was widely acknowledged for his leadership and commitment to te reo and tikanga Māori. Alongside his close friend Dr Timoti Karetu, Professor Milroy provided leadership to the University of Waikato’s Māori Studies Department through the 1980s and became Chair of the Department in 1987. He inspired the University’s motto, ‘Ko te tangata’.
Under Te Wharehuia’s leadership, the Department prospered as a beacon for Māori language learning and revitalisation for students and communities from across the country and formed the foundation for our Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies, Te Pua Wānanga ki te Ao. Te Wharehuia was conferred a University of Waikato Honorary Doctorate in 2005.
Alongside Professor Pou Temara and Dr Timoti Karetu, Te Wharehuia led the establishment of Te Panekiretanga o Te Reo Māori, the Institute of Excellence in the Māori Language in 2004, which continues today.
He was a member of the Waitangi Tribunal, presiding over many hearings, including the Ngāti Whātua and Wairarapa claims. In his time, Te Wharehuia was also a trustee on Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust and a member of the New Zealand Geographic Board, as well as a recipient of Te Waka Toi, the Creative New Zealand award. He was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the Māori Language in 2012.
Te Wharehuia was known for his ability to use traditional whakatauki in new ways, even making some of his own, such as the one below, expressing his hope that the oral traditions of Māori would be maintained:
'Whakahokia te reo mai i te mata o te pene, ki te mata o te arero'
(Bring the language back from the tip of the pen to the tip of the tongue)
He also gave the name Te Matatini to New Zealand's largest kapa haka festival. The name was based around two words "Te Mata" meaning face and "tini" meaning many.
"Māori performing arts brings together people of all ages, all backgrounds, all beliefs, Māori and non-Māori alike, participants and observers. When I look, I see many faces, young and old,” he said.
Te Wharehuia was buried at Rotorua's Kauae cemetery alongside his late wife Niwa (Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Kahungunu) who is buried there.
Together they had nine children including Waikato Distinguished Alumna and former Te Piringa Faculty of Law lecturer Judge Stephanie Milroy of the Māori Land Court.