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Rātana-Savage alliance

In 1936, a few years before New Zealand's centenary, Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana, leader of the Ratana movement, met with New Zealand Prime Minister Michael Savage (1872–1940). He gave him five symbolic gifts, including a badge like this.

The badge shows the whetu marama, the main tohu (sign) of the Ratana movement and symbol of maramatanga (enlightenment).

In the context of the gift, the badge stood for Ratana's 40,000 followers. They would support the Labour Party if Savage addressed Ratana's concerns about inequalities affecting Maori. Each of the other four gifts had a distinct meaning.

• A pounamu hei tiki (greenstone pendant in human form) symbolised the mana (prestige) of Maori, which was threatened.
• Huia feathers represented Maori. Huia are extinct native birds, killed by introduced predators and habitat loss. Their feathers are considered taonga (treasures).
• A kumara (sweet potato) represented the fact that Maori had no land to grow food.
• A broken watch symbolised Maori poverty. The watch had belonged to Ratana's grandfather – neither he nor Ratana had the money to repair it.

Allied with Labour, Ratana candidates won Parliament's four Maori seats in 1943. The two groups continued their alliance for the rest of the 20th century.

© Copyright Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand.