Iti was taken as a baby to be a tamaiti whangai of Hukarere and Te Peku Purewa, who had 14 children born to them and fostered 26 others, including Iti's birth father.
Activism in support of Maori language and land rights was instilled in him from a young age by his foster family, and his own first act of defiance was to object to a school rule banning the Maori language, for which he was made to collect horse manure.
He studied radicalism in China and with the US Black Panthers, before returning to New Zealand to establish the Maori Liberation Front. His non-violent protest actions have included mooning the Governor General (one of the most insulting gestures known to the Maori culture), camping out on the grass in front of the Parliament buildings in Wellington, stopping a white-run boat race on the Whakatane River by swimming in front of the speeding boats, issuing eviction notices to white occupiers of confiscated Maori lands, and establishing the Tuhoe tribal embassy in Taneatua, near Whakatane.
He is one of the few Maori men to have received the moko, or Maori tattoo, in the 20th century, done after five years of reflection and in consultation with his foster father.
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