A kuia who has lived on the streets of Honolulu for over 10 years has been identified as a “high-ranking Maori” who owns land in New Zealand, a newspaper reported Saturday.
The woman, who suffers from dementia, and was called by Josie May by welfare officials in Hawaii, is Ethel Helmbright, grand-daughter of a chief who signed the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi.
Family members, who thought she had died long ago, recognised her after a state-appointed guardian in Hawaii issued a photograph this week in the hope that someone could identify her, the Dominion Post reported.
Believed to be about 80, she is the daughter of a German immigrant, Reginald Helmbright, and Parekohai Waiariki.
One of our lost aunties – what an amazing story,’ nephew Peter Helmbright of Opotiki, on the east coast of the North Island, told the paper.
Her niece, Colleen Helmbright of Kawerau, recalled her aunt announcing that she was going to Alaska: ‘We thought she had frozen in the ice in Alaska.’
The family said they would bring Ethel home, and she would be looked after in a house near Opotiki.