Archive for the ‘Mauri Ora’ Category

The history of Tuahiwi, a Kāi Tahu village in North Canterbury, was the subject of a talk by Antony Nihoniho, who has made this the subject of his PhD research. He stressed that the dynamics of both cultural groups, Māori and British, were equally valid, and that the history he was presenting was an example of the colonial process that went on throughout Aotearoa. In the early days there were six Māori communities with marae in Christchurch, and Kāi Tuahūriri were the most influential historically, and now. They saw land as not able to be owned, but rather conferring responsibilities, and giving the right to resources. The rights of the individual were embedded in the community, and rights of access came through highly complex relationships with land and people.

In England in the 18th and 19th centuries there had been a change from feudalism to capitalism, and land had been commodified. Acts of Enclosure created legal property rights to land previously held in common and many rural people became paupers. After their land was no longer available the only thing they had left to sell was their labour. As some British moved to Aotearoa there was a clash between how people viewed land and its ownership.

Kāi Tahu had moved to Te Wai Pounamu/ the South Island and absorbed the tribes of Waitaha and Ngāti Māmoe. In 1700 they established a pā at Kaiapoi (Kai-a-poi, the place food was swung in and out of) which was the centre of the Kāi Tahu economy. In the late 1790s sealers and whalers settled, especially in the south of the island, and inter-marriage was widespread. The Kāi Tahu economy thrived, and included international trade. In 1829-32 Te Rauparaha sacked the Kaiapoi Pā. At the same time Māori were affected by measles, influenza, and tuberculosis pandemics, introduced by immigrants.

In 1840 Te Tiriti o Waitangi was signed, and between 1844 and 1864 most of the South Island was sold under eight deeds known as the Kāi Tahu Covenants. The largest of these was the Kemp Deed of 1848, where 20 million acres were sold for £2,000. The Deed had two versions, in Māori and English, and they were different. It was promised that 10% of the land would be reserved for Kāi Tahu and that schools and hospitals would be provided. Māori expected they would still have access to food sources, but neither this expectation or the promises were fulfilled. Kāi Tahu were given just 6,356 acres, with no schools or hospitals, the British expectation being that the tribe would soon die out. From 1849 Kāi Tahu claimed that the Deed was neither just nor honoured, and they pleaded for land to be allocated so they could participate in the growing economy. The tribe descended into abject poverty with children dying, and people living in squalor unable to feed their families.

After the sacking of Kaiapoi Pā people fled south and settled at Tuahiwi, the home of Ngāi Tūāhuriri, which became the centre of Kāi Tahu recovery. Families were allocated just 14 acres each, despite the fact that the British believed 50 acres was the minimum to sustain a family. From 1848 the Canterbury Association surveyed and sold land, and in 1853 the Canterbury Provincial Council was established. Swamps and wetlands were drained. Pastoral farming was imposed and boomed, but Kāi Tahu were unable to participate. By 1865 572 farms had been established by settlers north of the Waimakariri. Kāi Tahu were unable to vote or stand for local body elections, e.g. for school and drainage boards, and Agricultural and Pastoral Associations. Land which had been in Kāi Tahu ownership was purchased by people sitting on local boards, and only one-third of the Tuahiwi Village is occupied by Māori today. Lawyers were allowed to represent both the Māori owners and the Pākehā purchasers, and sometimes bought land themselves. Benefits available to non-Māori were not available to Māori. In 1966 Rangiora County Council decreed that only one house was allowed on each ten acres, (remember, Māori whanau had only 14 acres each), and this was not changed until 2011. Tuahiwi was not provided with water-lines, sewerage, footpaths, or other amenities.

Antony spoke of his paternal grandmother, Te Uira Barrett (1907-79) who had been a significant landowner and should have had a prosperous life. In 1937 there was a Māori Housing Survey where each family was graded. Extensive records of this were kept, with patronising comments judging whether some Māori were able to live “like Europeans”. Because there was little alternative, land was either leased or sold. Te Uira went from owning five sections to just one, and in the 1930s gained a subsidy to build a house there.

Kāi Tahu are no longer invisible, and today are involved in assisting the Christchurch City Council in caring for the land, as can be seen in many aspects of the Christchurch rebuild. Antony spoke movingly of how, just two months ago, he was privileged and honoured to be able to buy back a section at Tuahiwi that was originally his family’s land, and will now be occupied by an eighth generation.

He spoke of how all parties involved had been trying to operate out of the best interests of their family, and considered how we can prevent such a disaster happening again. One way is to make the partnership between our two peoples work.

The story told of Tuahiwi
applies also to other Kiwi

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Error at Epsom

Epsom Girl’s Grammar School (EGGS), my alma mater, is in the news today, because some kōiwi/ human bones were discovered there. I gather the bones were actually a skeleton once used in science classes. I took science in the 3rd and 4th forms, but have no memory of any skeleton. Apart from the unpleasant task of dissecting a cow’s eye, the thing I remember from science classes is a teacher saying “Girls, you should never resist the urge to purge.” In the 5th and 6th forms science was not offered to those of us who were taking Latin. I did continue with maths, and remember when we studied trigonometry, the teacher would sometimes say that the girls who were taking science would understand a particular concept, with the implication that those taking Latin wouldn’t, and I didn’t.

When I sought an illustration for this blog post I felt sure I’ve kept a School Magazine from the early 1960s, but have no idea where it is. What I could easily locate was my third form maths prize.

Plate from my only school prize

The incident that has put EGGS in the news today is the fact that two Māori pupils were asked to perform a karakia for the newly discovered bones, and their parents have pointed out that this was not acceptable within tikanga.

When my mother died in 1995 I knew it would be incorrect to put her ashes in the local river, and instead I scattered them in my garden and mixed them with the soil. I later became involved with Te Runaka ki Otautahi o Kai Tahu, and was surprised to find how open and generous they were, compared with Māori activists I’d previously met in Auckland. At a tikanga class I learned that having human ashes scattered in the garden meant it would be unsafe for any pregnant Māori woman to enter our property. I eventually discussed this with a visiting friend who has expertise in Māori spirituality and he performed a cleansing ritual so any danger was removed.

It seems that current leaders at EGGS have not had the privilege of much tikanga instruction. In my day the school population was almost entirely Pākehā, but surely that will have changed by now. After this incident they will be keen for more cultural education.

You don’t know what you do not know
best to hold back and take things slow

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We heard three speakers from the Ngāi Tahu Regional Investment Fund. Wayne Vargis spoke of the history, how Ngāi Tahu for seven generations sought reparation for past injustices. He showed a video of endeavours the tribe has invested in since the settlement of $170 million in 1998. If anyone queries the fact that Ngāi Tahu don’t pay income tax, it’s good to point out that they have made a contribution of more than $650 million to the Government in social and health services. Ngāi Tahu have proved to be a first nations economic powerhouse, but much is generated centrally, and hasn’t always been shared with the 18 Papatipu Rūnanga.

The funds have grown through investment in farming, property, seafood, and tourism. The area of Ngāi Tahu covers 91.6% of the South Island, and their kaupapa/philosophy is based on ultra long term thinking. In their property portfolio they have an emphasis on sustainable regeneration. In forestry they advocate moving away from exotic forests, and will transition to purely native forest within 50 years (by which time current exotic trees will have been harvested).

The Regional Investment Fund is intended to accelerate economic endeavours within the 18 Rūnanga: Supporting the home fires to burn brighter and sooner.

Ben Matheson spoke of how they are working to grow wealth in the regions, looking for blended returns that incorporate profit, planet, and people. I was interested to note when he gave his mihimihi that he spoke in Kāi Tahu dialect. The others may have done so too, but I didn’t catch enough to pick that up.

The fund encourages the regions to be self-sustaining, and the fund listens, supports, and works alongside the 18 Rūnanga. The aims are to:

*create jobs and career paths
*increase social inclusion and participation
*enable economic multipliers to foster a tribal economy
*sustainability and productive use of resources
*improve resiliency and strength of the Rūnanga

Samantha Sellars described Te Ara Pounamu a new tourism experience to be built in Greymouth, near the Railway Station. It will bring employment during its construction and operation and will be a way to share local stories.

Wayne said the Ngāi Tahu vision is slowly becoming better understood, but has not been widely communicated. He pointed out (re co-governance) that issues often have to be treated inequitably to bring about eventual equity.

So much to learn about their plan
which has a wide inclusive span

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Helen Brown and Michael Stevens displayed and spoke about Volume 2 of Tāngata Ngāi Tahu. I’m often intrigued that so many local Māori don’t seem to use the Kāi Tahu dialect. I guess they’ve all decided to use a more standard version of Te Reo.

This book is the second in a series of biological archives, with the criteria for inclusion being that people are Ngāi Tahu, and they’re no longer alive. For this iwi mana over their knowledge is vitally important.

The book features 50 short biographies each about 1,000 words, and 250 photographs, usually sourced from the families. Often a photo is the only memento a family has of a particular individual, and they were generous about sharing these. Lots of the old photos were able to be repaired, and all have now been digitised. More than half of those included in the book are wahine. Some of the stories have come from the Dictionary of NZ Biography, with later additions. Because so much has been digitised we can now go back and enrich the stories when new facts are discovered.

Only 10-20 Māori wahine signed the 1893 suffrage petition, and the majority of these were Ngāi Tahu. Two who did were Rhoda (Rora) Flora Orbell and her daughter Frances. Rora was engaged in working for the retention of Māori land, and her descendants form the largest branch of the Orbell family (based at Moeraki). Rora has recently been memorialised on a dining chair in Kate Sheppard House/Te Whare Waiutuutu.

Hira Moroiti Pōhio Traill composed and published music and was a carver of pounamu. She was a radical, outspoken, pro-Maori political commentator who wrote many letters to the Christchurch Press. She was passionate and ardent in her work seeking equity and justice for Māori. In the 1930s and 40s she agitated for Te Tiriti to be recognised, and the points she raised were eventually addressed in the 1998 settlement.

Erihāpati Pātahi is known for the fact that she was a strong swimmer and rescued her partner when their ship was wrecked, Her story was written down as A Pioneer’s Reminiscences by William Martin, a Pakeha gold miner.

One man featured in this volume is Paora Taki, who wrote down the story of his involvement in the Ngati Toa raids of the 1830s.

Katarina Kuini Wharerauaruhe Te Tau born 1899 was deeply involved in the Anglican Church, and during World War Two she worked for the Maori War Effort Organisation which evolved into the Maori Women’s Welfare League of which she was a founding member.

Martha Tahumu Spencer (née Edmonds) organised a street carnival in Bluff to raise funds to send gifts and many mutton birds to troops overseas. For this work she received an M.B.E.

Noeline Fife worked at the Kaiapoi Woollen Mills. Her passion was creative writing and her stories which were published in the Christchurch Star in the 1920s give a picture of rural Ngāi Tahu life. She was also an avid shell collector who collected and catalogued more than 9,000 shells. On Rakiura/Stewart Island she cared for her son who had muscular dystrophy and was confined to a wheelchair from the age of 12 until he died aged 34.

The final person we heard about was Henare Rakiihia (Rik) Tau who died in 2014. He was the Upoko of Ngāi Tuahuriri. For a couple of years I worked with Rik on the Advisory Group for the Dept of Internal Affairs Community Net. We sometimes flew to Wellington together and the group usually dined together the evening before the meeting, but I did not know him well.

Rik was raised gathering eel and whitebait and always stressed the importance of food gathering. He was active in the Ngāi Tahu case to the Waitangi Tribunal, and sometimes spoke to six community groups in a week, explaining the treaty claim to a wider audience.

So many folk can now be known
as Ngāi Tahu’s archive has grown

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A wonderful new mural on the bunker outside the Art Gallery depicts Māori goddesses/atua wāhine. It’s the work of Kāi Tahu artist Xoë Hall, for whom these Goddesses are super badass ancestors.

Hine-tītama is the flashing red dawn, who becomes Hine-nui-te-pō, the atua of night and receiver of souls in the afterlife.


Mahuika, atua of fire, appears with her flaming manicure, shining a light on the past, while being a torch for the future.


The trickster Māui is shown in lizard form, referencing the time he tried to crawl through Hine-nui-te-pō to reverse the cycle of death and she awoke, slamming her thighs shut on that idea, and therefore bringing mortality to all mankind.

Maui and Hine-nui-te-pō

The Goddesses are given form
with colours that are bright and warm

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I rarely choose a book by a male author, but the reviews for this novel intrigued me, and I was thoroughly engrossed by it. The setting in Aotearoa, and the Māori aspects were fascinating. It’s a fantasy, with mythic atmosphere, and a generous sprinkling of Te Reo. The female spirituality resonated deeply with me, and the consideration of language and tikanga reflected our current society. I was pleased to recognise some Māori words, others I could guess from context, and it was good to learn some new ones (which I hope to remember). I kept my Reed Māori dictionary handy but some words were not in my 1999 edition. One of my Xmas gifts was Māori Made Fun, a book of puzzles in Te Reo, and I’m looking forward to trying those.

The author is Pākehā, and the acknowledgements at the end make it clear he had Māori support to write this story. It’s a very different novel and one I unreservedly recommend.

The women characters are strong
he learns it’s best to go along

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A self-affirming lesson I learned years ago is that should (and must) can always be transformed into could.  Lately I’ve found the shoulds are creeping back into my life, especially in connection with my Te Reo course.  For several weeks we’ve been told to look after ourselves and our whanau, and that there are absolutely no expectations of students at present.  Yet a tiny voice inside tells me I should/could be working on the online course and I should/could be memorising vocabulary.  If it’s could, I have a choice, and right now I choose not to study, and wonder if I ever will again.

The class has had a couple of Zoom sessions, which have been gentle and encouraging, but I find I’m dreading the time (28 April) when classes start again.  They will be online for at least six weeks, and the online work doesn’t suit me.  I find the system keeps throwing me back to where I’ve been before, and I miss getting feedback about what I’m doing.  Recently we’ve been advised to use smartphones to identify new words, and also for taking part in an online quiz.  My smartphone doesn’t allow me to download these apps, which makes it harder for me to keep up.  I would dearly love to have a textbook that I could work my way through in a classroom situation.

Today we had a message from our tutor asking us to advise her if we are considering withdrawing, and I think the time has come for me to do that.  I’m aware I may then find I want more mental stimulation, but I will still have my blog and my poetry.  Plus I could spend time working on my genealogy, and I would enjoy doing a jigsaw.  I knew when I took this course on that it was supposed to be full time and that so much commitment might be more than I could cope with.  The added difficulty of having to stay home in my bubble makes it even more unlikely that I would complete the course, and if I withdraw now I will have freedom for other things.

So, Haere Ra to Te Reo
I may come back one day for more.

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After two weeks of studying Te Reo I’m feeling less confident about completing the course.  The weekly three hour lessons have been okay, but studying at home is somewhat fraught.  There’s an online course component, but I’ve found the structure of it difficult to follow, and have twice phoned the Help Desk for assistance.  Studying online is very different to what I’ve done before.  I’m a visual learner and I long for written resources to follow.  The best parts for me are where there are exercises with gaps to fill in, or recordings to be made and uploaded.  I presume that eventually my kaiako/teacher will give some feedback on these.  There are tutorials available on Monday lunchtimes, but these are not convenient for me just at present.  I’m aware I may have few opportunities to practise, especially now I’m no longer in paid work.

I try to do several hours study each day, and to take a break whenever I’m feeling stuck.  The whole project is a little overwhelming at present.  I’ve added the Maori keyboard to my computer, but the macrons look more like grave accents (à, è, ì ò, ù).  The podcast I listened to this afternoon ended with the advice: “Keep going – never give up.  Above the clouds the sun is shining.”  I’m very aware that when my daughter leaves there will be only eleven days until my Jury service, and I think I may have been foolish to register for that.  At present I’m avoiding my regular exercise class, and my poetry group, and definitely not writing any poems, all of which gives me a little bit of extra time.  My intention is to enjoy days with my daughter while she’s here, and to continue the regular meetings with friends which are essential for my wellbeing.  I will keep studying and hope things will improve in a few weeks.  We’ve been told that if we withdraw from the course within four weeks there will be no effect on our academic record, but frankly my academic record is not something I care about at present.

I’m determined to persevere
for a good portion of the year

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At an introductory session for my Te Reo course I was asked to fill in a form and give three reasons why I wanted to do the course.  I hadn’t thought a great deal about this beforehand (I’m a reflective learner) and put down things like wanting to understand what was being said at meetings and on radio and TV.  Lately I’ve been more carefully considering my reasons, particularly as my commitments for the next couple of months have increased, and I’m less confident of being able to give sufficient time to study.

My desire to learn Te Reo is partly because of my commitment to Te Tiriti and partly because of my desire for a more inclusive society where my values are shared.  On several past occasions I’ve been part of making a treaty-based decision to transfer a small amount of power from Pakeha to Maori, which has always given me a good feeling, as well as building my relationship with Maori.  For some years I regularly attended monthly meetings of Te Runaka ki Otautahi o Kai Tahu, and loved the process, energy and ‘wellcomeness’/manaakitanga of these meetings – so different to the way much Pakeha business is conducted.  I’m aware that Te Tiriti is the basis for government in this country.

I’ve done some study, mainly experiential, of Maori Tikanga, and I’m drawn to the fact that their world view is communal rather than individual.  I also love that their spirituality is based on nature and a balance between feminine and masculine.  This is in line with my own spirituality and has a familiar security for me.  I sometimes find the Maori links with Christianity uncomfortable, but this applies in the Pakeha world as well!

I see learning Te Reo as a personal way of helping to integrate society in Aotearoa.  All my voluntary work is based around supporting communities, especially my local geographic community, and I welcome the chance to help bring about a society that reflects my values.  My recent small action for abortion law reform was another such opportunity.

It’s been good to reflect on my reasons for choosing to study Te Reo, and this reflection makes me more motivated to succeed.

Te Reo opens up a door
and I’m encouraged to learn more


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The 180th anniversary of Te Tiriti o Waitangi is being marked today in various ways across the country.  In Christchurch there’s a festival in Victoria Square where many stalls had a Maori and/or sustainability focus.

Waitangi Day stalls

I bought Shabby Chic All Natural Cleaning Paste, made from baking soda, pure castile soap, and essential oils.  It looks a little like Chemico.  There was also a variety of food stalls, some of which had a Maori flavour

Food stalls

Raw fish was offered, and Hearty Hangi’s made with love.

Modern hangi are gas-powered

Hundreds of people were enjoying the music and entertainment in the fine weather.

Waitangi Day entertainment

I noticed two plaques laid in the ground of the Square, that I hadn’t seen before.  One read Market stalls selling meat, fish, produce and groceries occupied this area in the 1880s, and another: Public Works Department offices and yards occupied this site in the 1860s.

6 February is a day when we can stop and reflect on the meaning of Te Tiriti and what action we might take.  There have been several messages about the importance of Pakeha learning Maori ways to balance the fact that Maori have been obliged to live in a Pakeha world for over 180 years.  My learning Te Reo this year will be a move in that direction.

We need to learn the Maori way
and hear the things they have to say

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