The Indigenous Environmental Network mourns the passing of Māori Elder and Traditional Knowledge Holder, Hinewirangi Kohu of Aotearoa (Ngati Kahungungu, Ngati Ranginui.) We express our deepest condolences to Hinewirangi’s whanau (family), the many Māori she worked with and helped in various capacities, the International Indian Treaty Council, and to all those who knew her. Hinewirangi passed away on February 15, 2023, surrounded by her whanau after a long illness.
Hinewirangi was an incredible visionary, teacher, and life-long activist. She was a beautiful singer, artist, poet, published author, and her great sense of humor will always be remembered. Hinewirangi was a long time Board member of the International Indian Treaty Council and through that affiliation she engaged in significant work internationally to ensure protections for Indigenous women and children amongst various other issues. She also represented Māori interests in the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Movement. In Aotearoa, she was a strong advocate for Māori women healing from domestic violence and sexual abuse; worked in Waikeria prison with incarcerated Māori men on revitalizing culture and language; worked in restoring Māori musical instruments; and many other cultural empowerment initiatives.
The Indigenous Environmental Network and the International Indian Treaty Council are sister organizations and through our international work have collaborated with Hinewirangi on many occasions. In 1995, she was a friend and mentor to women who participated in IEN and IITC’s outdoor conference in the Athabascan Chickaloon Village in Alaska. In 2018, Hinewirangi also hosted a delegation with two IEN representatives organized by Movement Rights exploring issues pertaining to the Tuhoe and Whanganui River Iwi (Tribes) and the rights of the Te Urewera Forest and Whanganui River respectively. IEN’s Executive Director, Tom BK Goldtooth shares, “Hinewirangi provided strong support for the delegation, as well as sage wisdom, humor, and made sure all were looked after. Her contributions over the years are significant, and her loss is a loss to us all. Much respect, and spiritual support are extended to her whanau, those she worked with, our relatives at the International Indian Treaty Council and all those who benefitted from her advocacy in all she was involved in.” Hinewirangi was a strong matriarch, and she inspired, befriended, and mentored numerous Indigenous Peoples across the world, and her legacy will live on forever.