HomePacificAe Marika! In SOLI-darity

New Zealand MP Hone Harawira . . . gave tribute to Kihei Soli Niheu

This article by Soli’s good Maori friend Hone Harawira was posted December 4 on Mana Blog, three days after Soli passed away.

Back in 1981, Kihei ‘Soli’ Niheu flew into Aotearoa to march with us to Waitangi.

Soli was an Hawaiian activist. He’d met Maori activists at the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific conference in Hawaii the year before and wanted to come down and “check out those stroppy Maoris.” It was to be the first of many visits from Soli and other Hawaiian activists over the years.

Soli was a big guy, with a big laugh, a good sense of humour and an edge to his political consciousness that helped him fit right in to our world. He travelled widely throughout Aotearoa and made friends in many places as he supported Maori struggles, but whenever I think of his times here, there is always one incident that sticks out in my mind.

It was when we all got arrested up at Waitangi in 1981 while protesting against Graham Latimer and Whina Cooper getting knighted on the marae. The police had a truck parked outside the gate and as they hauled each of us off the marae they would open the door and literally throw us in.

One – slam! Two! Three! Four … and then the door swung open and after quite a struggle Soli comes crashing in too!

Anyway Soli starts abusing these cops. They’d already turned to walk away but when they heard his accent a senior sergeant spins around and says “where the f**k are you from mate?” Soli said he was Hawaiian, at which point the sergeant and a couple of other cops clamber into the truck and say “we don’t want no trouble with the f****n’ Americans” and threw Soli straight back out on the road!!!

Well, we all fell about laughing in the truck and Soli, knowing that no-one was going to lay a hand on him carried on swearing at the cops and calling for Maori sovereignty in his big bold Hawaiian voice until the truck roared off.

What a guy!

Anyway, last Friday 01 December 2012, at 10.30am, Soli passed away in Tripler Military Hospital up in the hills above Honolulu, surrounded by two of his three wives, three of his daughters and one of his mo’opuna. He’d suffered from diabetes for years but refused to let it slow him down and took his activism to Facebook when his ability to travel was limited. But last week it finally caught up with him and he went down fast.

Hilda and I were lucky enough to be in Hawaii and got to share some quality time with Soli before he passed away, and I’m so glad we were there for him.

Soli was a hard-arse Hawaiian warrior, ferocious and uncompromising in the struggle for Hawaiian sovereignty and fully committed to supporting the movement here in Aotearoa.

In his younger days Soli was a big man who people didn’t mess with and although the strength slowly ebbed from his great frame, his intensity never waned. But Soli was also a builder, a carpenter, a cabinetmaker and a wonderful cook, and a man loved by many.

I know I speak for many, many others when I say haere e te rangatira, haere, haere, hoki atu koe ki te kainga o o tupuna. Your work is done here brother; keep the home fires burning until we meet again some day to talk story …

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