I.Wellington residents seem to have woken up on a horrible morning, a fog clinging to the hills and harbor when news emerged that Moana Jackson, who had spent most of his life in the Wellington War Unit, had died. The lawyer, teacher, activist, father and grandfather was the most expressive, distinctive and strong intellectual of his generation. He was also perhaps the most humble, and so flattery is ill-suited to a man who has given so much without demanding anything in return. But recognition must stand: Moana Jackson was a rank-and-file officer (chief), and his contribution to New Zealand’s political and intellectual life is unparalleled.
However, this does not mean that his contribution was free. In 1988, following the publication of He Whaipaanga Hou, a landmark report that found that the criminal justice system was racist, Matua Moana became the target of the worst authors of letters to national newspapers and the most vicious calls on the radio for feedback. And yet he never took a step back. In the coming decades, he will argue over and over again that the criminal justice system is racist, responsible for colonization, and that the best way to restore the mana of victims, criminals, and the people who run the system is tikanga.
In short, a Maori legal system.
At the time it was radical. But 34 years later, and this argument is Orthodox. This is a sign of Matua Moana’s vision that he could diagnose mass imprisonment before we have enough vocabulary to describe it. Ha Waipaang Hou did not compromise in his argument that without systemic change Maori will continue to suffer discrimination and disproportionate consequences in the criminal justice system. Today, Maori make up more than 50% of the prison population, despite the fact that they make up only 15% of the population as a whole, which terribly confirms this argument.
A sign of Matua Moana’s courage is that after properly diagnosing the problem and predicting how it would develop, he was willing to offer uncompromising treatment. A separate Maori legal system. Data and time would eventually catch up with Matua – one can rarely find an intellectual or politician who would disagree with the fact that colonization is the cause of disproportionate Māori imprisonment – but in the 1980s when Māori were condemned as violent (“race warriors “). ») It was scandalous. Who is this Jackson? Who is this “radical”?
I remember the first time I heard Matua speak in person. This was in 2014 at the University of Victoria Law School in Wellington – Matua Moana’s own alma mater and the school to which he gave so much to his students. His topic was Te Tiriti o Waitangi, with an annotation that promised a digression into the history and context of this document. However, Jackson began with an apology. He promised his moka (grandson) that he would be home by noon. He was sorry when he had to shorten his lecture. And then, for the next almost two hours, Matua went for it. He revealed the doctrine of discovery for “legal fiction,” which it was by guiding us students through a tour of everything from the role of papal bulls in imperial expansion to the hypocrisy of Captain Cook’s first voyage.
But what I appreciate in this lecture is how Matua Moana brought it to an end. It wasn’t just a history lesson in law. It was a story of what was important to him. He told us that after he talked about such exciting topics for many, that he was going home for sandwiches with butter and pretended to be pouring cups of tea for his mocha. Today it is nice to present this scene. But for his mokapun (grandchildren) today and the following days are disastrous. They shared their karo (grandfather) with all the Maori. This testifies to the kindness and generosity of his whānau, a quality embodied by their koro.
Intellectuals often celebrate their reputation for the quality of their thought. But they are not very well known for their clarity of expression. But it is impossible to praise Matua Moana without reworking this soft, smooth voice. The most wordy intellectuals speak in paragraphs. Matua Moana spoke in tunes. “Ever since the ancestors began to know this land as Mother, Papatuanuku, stories have been able to guide and teach, as well as entertain or warn,” Matua Moana wrote in 2020. The stories were an important part of his intellectual breakthroughs. . He enjoyed reading a variety of forms of storytelling: from novels to essays and poems. In 2004, when he defended the “title of tupun”, a new way of representing our rights and responsibilities towards the land, Matua often relied on ancient stories about how our ancestors cared for this country.
Ka mua, ka mura. “We’re going back to the future.”
It is impossible to compile a summary for Matua Moana. He just did too much. He was a co-founder of the Maori Legal Service. He was a judge at the International People’s Tribunal in 1993 and again in Canada in 1995. He chaired a working group tasked with drafting the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Indigenous peoples. In 2016, which may have been the culmination of his life, he led a working group that published Matike Mai, a plan for constitutional transformation in New Zealand. I suspect that such praise may embarrass Matua, but it seems absurd not to list his achievements and not to recognize his contributions to indigenous peoples around the world.
I heard Matua Moana speak many times after that lecture in 2014. We both performed on the 50thth Hart’s anniversary – Stop all racist tours – and he has spoken many times to our union leaders and members. He often reminded us that one of the only Pākehā institutions admired by his own Koro were the trade unions. Radicalism prevailed in the family. But my memories of him remain more personal than intellectual. When we met, he was always more willing to talk about what I think than what he said. In every interaction – in every speech, lecture and essay – he always looked for ways to raise the mana of others. This is another assessment of the rank of the highest rank.
Today, Hinepukohurangi, a girl from the fog that obscures the Urever Valley, rides along the North Island ridge, helping to announce the death of Matua Moana in Ngati Poro, Ngati Kahungun and Wellington. Jackson lies in Te Weiman under the protection of Te Maung and Hinepukohuranga. Tomorrow he goes home to his dreams. In this way his vans will carry one of the greatest legacies ever left in Maori society. But it is largely a legacy belonging primarily to his family, his iwi and hapū and community, and only to the rest of us. This country is much poorer than his death, but much richer than his life.