Messages from Māori leading the response to the deadly influenza pandemic more than a century ago are being shared by
the Māori Language Commission as part of its COVID awareness campaign. Extracts from articles published in Māori
language newspapers are being translated and shared ahead of this weekend’s Super Saturday Vaxathon.
“Our ancestors were quite clear: listen to health experts, listen to our doctors and nurses and fight for our families’
survival,” said chief executive, Ngahiwi Apanui.
“If you want someone you can trust: then trust your tipuna. The sacrifices they made are the reasons we are alive today.
Honour them by at least understanding what they believed in and what they went through.”
“It’s been comforting to read their messages to our families telling them that while the disease was frightening, they
needed to be prepared and to listen to expert advice. They did everything in their power to help save lives.”
“It’s also been incredibly heartbreaking to read of the loss of lives. In one article the writer mourns the loss of 2000
Māori people over a month. Another reflects on the bodies of 300 children. These were our darkest times but our leaders
were there, guiding our whānau through them.”
Before vaccinations, thousands of Māori New Zealanders perished and suffered from pandemics and epidemics such as
influenza, scarlet fever, tuberculosis.
“They were introduced to New Zealand from overseas. Therefore our ancestors rationalised that they needed to heed the
matauranga or knowledge from overseas to fight the overseas diseases,” said Mr Apanui.
“Our ancestors were practical and strategic: they survived against the odds, time and time again. And they did so in
order for us to live today: we were always on their minds when they fought to protect our whakapapa. We should honour
them now and make sure our mokopuna, 100-years from now are on our minds as we fight the urutā crisis our generation is
“There is no question that if those tipuna were alive today: they would be encouraging Māori New Zealanders to heed the
advice of our health experts, our doctors and nurses.”