Return to the Land
Ethel May Helmbright — for some years a homeless fixture in Waikiki until she was hospitalised last year unable to remember her name — may well be the key to her estranged family’s land disputes in New Zealand. Her large Maori family in New Zealand says she is the last granddaughter of a Maori chief who signed the 184 Treaty of Waitangi. Helmbright’s re-emergence in New Zealand could provide a vital piece of her family’s right to land around an area called the Bay of Plenty. “Auntie’s the last line of ariki (a person of high regard in Maori culture),” said her nephew, Peter Helmbright, whose late father was Ethel’s oldest sibling. “Now the land, all of it, goes to her. It’s all about the land.” If the land around New Zealand resurrects happy memories for Ethel and eases her transition home, that would be fitting to Peter, her nephew. “Auntie used to work the land,” he said. “If the land triggers her memories, that would be nice now, wouldn’t it?” And it could help Ethel regain her place in the world, identifying herself with her whakapapa once again.