Hinewehi Mohi's damehood a far cry from outrage she caused in 1999 singing national anthem in only Te Reo at rugby

A voice for modern Māori music using traditional instruments, Hinewehi Mohi is a living taonga - and now a Dame too. 

Four damehoods and four knighthoods were awarded in 2021's Queen's Birthday Honours.

Mohi says her damehood "feels like an acknowledgement of te reo Māori, waiata reo Māori, Māori music and the sense of nationhood we get through that". 

It's a far cry from 1999. Her then-bold move to sing the national anthem at the Rugby World Cup only in Te Reo was met with outrage back home. 

"It was really difficult because it challenged everything I thought about our culture and where we were at with it."

It was a painful realisation of how far the language had slipped away. 

Many Kiwis didn't know the words to the Māori anthem - now a generation of New Zealanders don't know anything other than singing both. 

Mohi continues to advocate for a bilingual music industry, working with both Māori and Pākehā musicians to re-record their hits in Te Reo. 

Mohi says the award represents Aotearoa's "growth and maturity as a nation". 

Today's other Māori Dame, Ruia Morrison, credits her tupuna for the honour. 

"I'm a little fish in a big pond," she explains.

But in the late 1950s, she made a big splash on the world stage, as the first Māori to compete at Wimbledon four years in a row. 

But like Mohi, Morrison found that being a trailblazer came with challenges and her excitement at becoming a Dame set off an emotional reflection. 

"Every emotion that's possible. Good ones and bad ones you know, it was a mixture of everything."

Two Dames, breaking barriers to strengthen Aotearoa.