The Tertiary Education Union Te Hautū Kahurangi held a special retirement celebration in Wellington recently with Whaea Kāterina Daniels to acknowledge her decades of service to the union that she has been a part of since the early 1980s.During that time she has served on numerous branch and national committees, and represented the organisation at overseas union and indigenous education forums. Whaea Kā, as she’s affectionately known, has been Kuia of ASTE Te Hau Takitini (the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education since the mid-1980s) and the TEU since 2009 to the present, and in the 1990s was made a life member.Whaea Kā is of Te Arawa and Ngāti Tūwharetoa descent. Born at Whakarewarewa Pā, she was a penny diver, spent part of her childhood living with her Koro who spoke only Māori, and she remains immersed in her culture, connected to whānau, and has taught te reo Māori for decades in formal and informal settings including kōhanga reo, the compulsory sector, and 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).The TEU’s incoming Tumu Arataki, Māori vice-president, Hūhana (Susan) Wātene from Unitec paid tribute to Whaea Kā: “She has been the ultimate role model to me and epitomises all that is mana wahine. 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 mine was an 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, and get us to deal with different 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 this union 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 dynamic. And she has been a security blanket for those of us who are Māori.”TEU National Secretary Sharn Riggs paid tribute to the work that Koro Huirangi Waikerepuru 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 both as ASTE and 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.