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New Zealand - Traditional Maori flags

Last modified: 2013-06-15 by ian macdonald
Keywords: new zealand | stars: southern cross | stars: 4 | star: 5 points (fimbriated) | star (sectored) | crescent: points up (blue) | ratana | ngati tuwharetoa | maori |
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Ngati Kahungunu

[ Flag of Ngati Kahungunu] image by Olivier Touzeau, 31 August 2011

The tribal flag of the iwi of Ngati Kahungunu can be seen here: It is a 1:2 blue flag with the iwi logo in the center and the word Kahungunu below.

According to the Ngati Kahungunu iwi website (, "The Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporation was incorporated under the Incorporated Societies Act 1908 on the 19th of December 1988 as Te Runanganui o Ngāti Kahungunu Incorporated. Six years later the authority, although financially strong, experienced political challenges that its governing body was unable to overcome on its own. After a short period, the organization was reborn on 9 December 1996 under the name Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated. A newly elected Board resumed control of Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi affairs in May 1997. In 1998 the Board commissioned a team, comprising of Moana Jackson, Mereana Pitman and Mere Ruru assisted by Taanga Lawrence to undertake a constitutional review of Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated.
Ngāti Kahungunu has the third largest Iwi population, The 2006 NZ Census and Local Government statistics show that 59,946 people or 12 percent of the Maori population, belong to Ngāti Kahungunu. This was 8394 more than at the 2001 Census. A large percentage of Kahungunu people reside outside the traditional iwi boundaries. Many more, not included in the census count, reside overseas. Geographically, Ngāti Kahungunu has the second largest tribal rohe in the country, from the Wharerata ranges in the Wairoa District extending to Cape Palliser in South Wairarapa. The coastal boundaries are Paritu in the North to Turakirae in the South."
Olivier Touzeau, 31 August 2011

Ngati Tuwharetoa

[ Flag of Ngati Tuwharetoa ] image by James Dignan, 5 August 1997

This the flag of Ngati Tuwharetoa, one of New Zealand’s biggest and most important Maori Iwi (tribes), seen on last night’s news during coverage of the funeral of Tuwharetoa Paramount Chief Sir Hepi Te Heuheu. The flag is an unusual one — it contains a scene which (from the brief three or four seconds or so during which it was shown) appears to show a Maori warrior standing in front of a marae (tribal village centre), against a background of forest. This is placed on a pale blue background containing the four stars of the New Zealand flag. At the hoist, there is a broad band which appeared to be either dark blue or black (this may have just been the shadow of the flagpole on the fabric of the flag, but I don’t think so). This band was covered by part of the village scene.

Two points about this image:

  1. this is from three or four seconds on film clip. I did video it, but even replaying the video, I couldn’t get a very clear picture of it.
  2. I apologise both to FOTW listmembers and also to the people of Ngati Tuwharetoa for my lousy attempt at drawing a warrior and a village! MacDraw Pro™ and my artistic abilities both have their limitations!
James Dignan, 5 August 1997

Pronunciation of Ngati Tuwharetoa:

  • Ng - as in "hanger" (one sound)
  • a - as in "workable"
  • ti - as in "tee"
  • Tu - as in "to"
  • wha - as in "emphasis"
  • re - as in "referendum"
    (a rolling "r", if you can’t roll "r"s, use "de" as in "demonstration")
  • to - as in "taught"
  • a - as in "workable"
Roti, 7 June 1999

Ratana faith

[ Symbol of the Ratana faith ] image by James Dignan, 28 Jul 1997

This is the emblem of the Ratana faith, a Christian sect peculiar to New Zealand and particularly to the Maori people. It has been prominent in the news here in the last few days, due to the recent death of one of the leading figures in both Maoridom and Ratana, former politician and campaigner for Maori rights Matiu Rata. (NB: the colour which I have represented as purple may, in fact, be black. I have based my picture on a few TV news reports, in none of which the colour appeared definitely one or the other. Also, I have seen the crescent in other colours, notably white). Here is what the New Zealand Book of Events (B. Fraser ed., Reed Methuen books, 1986) has to say about Ratana (pronounced with similar vowel sounds to the word "gardener"):

Seriously ill with influenza, on Nov. 8, 1918, Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana saw visions of clouds rising from the sea and heard a voice appointing him as mangai (mouthpiece of God) with a mission to unite the Maori people. He began his ministry as a healer and oracle. A Christian sect grew around him. By December 1920, a temple had been built at Ratana Pa, near Wanganui, and the Ratana Church as an organised church came into formal existence on May 31st (Pentecost) 1925. A God more powerful that Maori atua (traditional gods) was being worshipped, and Maori tapu (taboo) was banned. Within a few years, his church had 22,000 adherents. November 8 is celebrated as an annual feast in the Ratana faith.

James Dignan, 28 July 1997

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