Tame Iti has been THE face of maori radicalism for more than a decade.
No doubt his arrest today on firearms charges will increase that notoriety.
Tame Iti was born in rural Bay of Plenty in Tuhoe country.
In the early 1970s Iti became active in the maori marxist group, Nga Tamatoa, while serving his apprenticeship in Christchurch.
It is unclear when Iti joined the Communist Party of New Zealand, but in 1973 he was part of a five person delegation to China, which included maori party members Willie Wilson and Hone Tuwhare.
Certainly Iti remained a member of the Timberlands (Bay of Plenty)branch of the Communist Party until at least 1988.
In 1975 Iti was involved with maori Maoist, Tom Poata in setting up a Maori Tent Embassy outside Parliament Buildings in Wellington.
In the mid ’80s he was involved in the occupation of the sacred mountain Mt Taiarahia (BOP) to stop Tasman Forestry planting pine trees in the area.
At the time Iti was also involved in the, Maoist controlled “aid agency” CORSO, attending some meetings of the organisation’s national council. He was also CORSO’s fund committee representative.
In mid 1986 Iti attended a communist organised Maori Trade Union Hui, where he moved a resolution: “As Tangata Whenua of Aotearoa, Maori land issues and struggles must be a priority for this Hui.”
On Waitangi Day 1988 organised a road-block near Taneatua to “talk to motorists about the treaty (of Waitangi).”
In February 1990 Iti 1990 appeared in a Whakatane Court, charged with throwing rocks at jetboats on the Whakatane river. Iti apparently objected to the “abuse and polluting of the river” by jetboating joyriders. He was involved in similar protests in 1988,89,1991 and 1992.
In 1993 It travelled to the US to network with American Indian activists. He also unsuccessfully stood for Parliament for Eva Rickard’s Mana Maori Party.
In 1995 at a “Fiscal envelope” hui in Opotiki, Iti handed a blanket to then Minister of Justice, Doug Graham and asked for New Zealand back. The same year, Iti was involved in the Motua gardens occupation at Wanganui.
In March 1996 Iti attended the 6th General Assembly of the People’s Plan for the 21st Century (PP21) in Katmandu, Nepal.
While very little known, PP21 was or is a very significant programme. Founded in Japan in 1989, PP21 links communist infiltrated NGOs across the Asia/Pacific region with Latin American and even African radical movements and organisations.
The movement is mainly Maoist in nature, but there is also some evidence that KGB linked activists may have been involved in one of the main organising NGOs.
Several New Zealanders, besides Iti have been linked to PP21. These include Aziz Choudry and Green MP Sue Bradford, who was in the early ’90s, a leader of the People’s Assembly which was affiliated to PP21.
On Waitangi Day 1996, iti received the Kawariki Award, for efforts to have the Treaty of waitangi “honoured” at a special ceremony at Te Tii Marae, Waitangi.
In January 1998, the Tuhoe group Nga Tamariki o Te Kohu led by Tame Iti marched on to land near the Lake Waikeremoana Motor Camp in Urewera National Park to protest alleged infractions by the Department of Conservation. “It said the department was using land exposed by a lower lake level without consultation with tangata whenua, and was thus breaching a 1971 lease. The use of 1080 poison, erosion through logging, destruction of kiwi, the introduction of water-borne disease giardia into the lake and the pollution of eel spawning areas were also concerns.”
In June 2000 Iti joined Piripi Haami and Anthony Tauni Ngatai-Sinclair in a delegation to Fiji to give support to George Speight’s “indigenous” and anti Indian coup.
Last month he returned to Fiji to offer support to coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama.
Would Iti carry his extremism to the point of armed insurrection?
Hopefully the courts will answer that question.