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Whina Cooper

Whina Cooper (1895-1994, Te Rarawa) at Hamilton, New Zealand, during the Maori land march, 25 September 1975
Whina Cooper (1895-1994, Te Rarawa) at Hamilton, New Zealand, during the Maori land march, 25 September 1975 Photograph by Christian F Heinegg (born 1940), courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand (C F Heinegg Collection, PA7-15-18)

Whina Cooper (1895–1994, Te Rarawa) was a Maori teacher, storekeeper, community leader, and activist who fought lifelong for Maori rights.

Maori land march

Aged 80, Cooper led the 1975 Maori land march from the Far North to Parliament (1,000 kilometres), inspiring countless New Zealanders. The march put Maori Treaty grievances on the national agenda and made Cooper a symbol of Maori cultural revival. She was affectionately dubbed 'Mother of the Nation'.

This recognition was a culmination of Cooper's lifetime of activism, both in the northern Hokianga and on the national stage. She had promoted Apirana Ngata's land schemes in the 1930s and later became founding President of the Maori Women's Welfare League in Wellington.

Whina Cooper was made a Dame in 1981, and a member of the Order of New Zealand in 1991, a few years before her death. In the last years of her life, she had a strong message for the country: 'Let us all remember that the Treaty was signed so that we could all live as one nation in Aotearoa'.

Read biography of Whina Cooper

Watch a 1975 documentary about the Maori Land March

 



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