The Maori lost much of their land in the nineteenth century, and they also became poor compared with the Pakeha. Their complaints were largely ignored by the Pakeha until 1975, when young Maori protesters helped to organise a great Land March of Maori from all over New Zealand, down the length of the North Island. At the head of the march was Whina Cooper (when she made the march, she was almost eighty years old!). Their destination was the Parliament Buildings in Wellington.
This march to draw attention to Maori land losses and other grievances was followed in 1984 by another march in the opposite direction, Te Hikoi. This time the Maori protesters walked from Ngaruawahia, home of the Maori King Movement, to Waitangi in the north, where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840. They called on the government to ‚honour the treaty‘ and they wanted to tell the Pakeha about the problems facing the Maori. Once again there was a woman, or rather two women, at the head of the march – Eva Rickard and Titewhai Harawira. They wanted the Government to plan for Maori development, and they wanted the return of more Maori land.
The protestors were not allowed to speak to the governor general and the prime minister. They had hoped to do that, but they had also promised that Te Hikoi would be a peace march. Nobody made trouble at Waitangi. Even the gang members kept the promise to be peaceful, though they danced war dances in a field and made fiercy speeches.
The protestors went home from Waitangi thinking their march had been a failure. A few months later, however, the National Party lost the elections to the Labour Party, and a new government came to power which promised to examine the grievances which the Maori marchers had taken to Waitangi.
Maori tribal groups and individuals have successfully challenged the government in the courts and the Waitangi Tribunal in recent years, forcing changes of policy on a number of issues.