“A ha Te Arawa e!  E!  A ha Te Arawa e!  E!  Ko te whakaariki... ko te whakaariki!  Tukua mai ki a piri, tukua mai ki a tata.  Kia eke mai i runga ki te paepae poto a Houmaitawhiti!”

Teacher, guide, mentor, peacemaker, staunch unionist, and te reo Māori advocate – all these words describe the inimitable Whaea Kāterina Daniels says Sharn Riggs, National Secretary of Te Hautū Kahurangi | Tertiary Education Union (TEU).

“Her passing leaves the members and staff of TEU with heavy hearts” says Riggs.

Whaea Kā, as she’s affectionately known, passed away yesterday in Rotorua. The TEU passes on its deepest condolences to her Daniels and Maniapoto whānau.

Whaea Kā, of Te Arawa and Ngāti Tūwharetoa, was Kuia of the Association of Staff in Teritary Education (ASTE) in the mid-1980s, the TEU from 2009-2018, and the Council of Trade Unions from 2014-2018.  In the 1990s Whaea Kā was made a life member of ASTE.  

During her almost four decades with the union she has served on numerous branches and national committees, and represented the organisation nationally and internationally at union and indigenous education forums.

Born at Whakarewarewa Pā, she was a penny diver, and spent part of her childhood living with her Koro who spoke only Māori.

She taught te reo Māori for decades in kōhanga reo, the compulsory and tertiary sectors, as well as community night classes.

Her academic work has been at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, Tai Poutini Polytechnic, and Waiariki Polytechnic.

She was a TEU member at Waiariki Polytechnic and represented her iwi, Tūhourangi-Ngāti Wāhiao, on Te Mana Mātauranga (the rōpū Māori in the Tiriti-relationship co-governance of the institution).

“All who had the privilege of spending time with Kā are richer for that experience. We were so grateful of the time she gave to us and willingness of her whānau to share their important taonga for the many years she was our Kuia”, says Matua Hōne Sadler, TEU Kaumātua.

“As members grieve, they will also take time to celebrate the life of Whaea Kā, and more tributes will be released next week in our regular publication, Tertiary Update.”

But for now, we will reflect on her life, by sharing tributes that were made on her retirement from TEU:

TEU’s Te Tumu Arataki, Māori vice-president, Hūhana Wātene from Unitec said: “She has been the ultimate role model to me and epitomises all that is mana wāhine. With her mannerisms, guidance and humour she is able to put people in their place without putting them down. She is also extremely willing to share what she knows. Once, when I spoke at a conference at Monash University in Brisbane, Australia, she heard that I was speaking there and she got her son to drive her there to do the karanga for my presentation. This was her way of saying that she is there to awhi and tautoko me for my important presentation, and I knew that I was not there on my own.”

Dr Miriama Postlethwaite from Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi said: “I met Whaea Kā when I was a member of ASTE. She really brings us back to some important values about how we treat each other. Sometimes in a crisis, in her gentle but strong way, she would get us to look at the issue and not to personalise it enabling us to discuss and deal with difficult issues at our hui. We each felt we were still in a state of dignity and not put down by her. She’s a Kuia so she brings with her a depth of culture, knowledge, and wisdom to TEU that we have all individually and collectively benefited from. She’s a true wahine toa. She has a femininity that is very strong as a wahine Māori that is a beautiful balance between her and our previous Tauheke, Dr Huirangi Waikerepuru. She also has a sense of humour that sometimes shocked us, with her occasionally raunchy stories. And she has taught us that even when we have challenges facing us, we can also look on the lighter side of life.”

Carla Jeffrey from Massey University said: “She’s always felt like the calm in the room, even when it has been heated. She can break the ice with a cheeky comment that changes the hui dynamic. And she has been a security blanket for those of us who are Māori.”

Riggs paid tribute to the work that Koro Huirangi and Whaea Kā, and the late Kuia Mereiwa Broughton, have done ensuring that the foundations were laid for the enduring work the union has done as ASTE and AUS, and continues to do as TEU to build a lasting relationship that reflects and honours Te Tiriti o Waitangi in all the work that we do. This could not have happened without their strength, wisdom and guidance.

E kui e Whaea Kā, ko riro koe i te kakati o te mate, te hāuatanga a te toki a Whiro. Haere mai haere, e hoki koe, haere koe ki te tūturutanga mō tātou te tangata e noho manene nei ki runga i a Papatūānuku. Hoatu tō haere ki tō hoa pūmau, a Matua Monte, kia moe okioki i tō takotoranga o te urunga tē taka o te moe tē hakaarangia. Hoki atu ki tua o tāwauwau, ki te wāhi e kore nei koe e huri mai erangi ko mātou ka anga atu. E moe mārie koe (nā Matua Hōne).