The walking tour along the Otakaro was a feature of this year’s WORD festival. Offered on three days, it quickly sold out, and I was glad to have secured a place. Joseph Hullen (Ngai Tuahuriri, Ngai Tahu) led us first to the riverbank in Victoria Square, opposite the law courts, where there is a significant group of Ti Kouka/Cabbage trees.
Ti Kouka trees, of the same family as leeks and onions, provided food, shelter, clothing, and footwear for early Maori. This area was the largest mahinga kai/food gathering area in Otautahi, and from here food was transported to the settlement at Kaiapoi. There were a number of Pa nearby, which served as way stations for travellers, and where people could keep an eye on their food source. From the 1780s local Maori interacted and traded with sealers and whalers, but in 1850 the Pa sites disappeared with the Kemp Purchase. The first organised commerce between Kai Tahu and Pakeha settlers happened at the Market Square (now Victoria Square). Maori built houses on the corner where the Oxford Tavern later stood, and brought goods in from Kaiapoi to sell to the settlers.
There were urupa/graveyards all through the city, because Maori like to bury their dead where they can keep an eye on them. When the St Luke’s Vicarage was built a skeleton was found which is considered to be that of Tautahi for whom Otautahi was named. Since the earthquakes, wherever there are excavations they will be overseen by an archaeologist, and by a member of the runanga if it’s an area where there may have been an urupa.
Because of the food gathering tradition of the Otakaro/Avon River, Kai Tahu are keen to have their cultural values commemorated. Patterns laid out in stone, such as this one at the Margaret Mahy Family Playground, help to tell the stories.
The patterns are set in a metal frame so that if the area needs to be dug up in future the pattern can ramain intact.
Some of Joseph’s story was heard in an interview with Kim Hill on Saturday morning. His part comes after the bit with Sam Crofskey of C1 Espresso.
After the walk I went to a session on Ngai Tahu Story Telling with Ta Tipene O’Regan. He talked about an oral map, and how when cultures move they take the memories with them and plant them in a new place. Place names are the memory posts, the signposts of the land. He told the story of Poutini, and how Port Levy got its Maori name Koukourarata. Ta Tipene said that myth is the only reality.
“An afternoon of Maori lore
has left me wanting to hear more.”
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