He Whiringa Muka: The Whanganui River, Rānana Marae and waiata

Meri Haami - IIRC20
Thursday, November 19, 2020

He Whiringa Muka is a doctoral study that examines the relationship between

the Whanganui river, Rānana Marae (meeting place) and waiata (songs). This

project uses ecomusicological methods, Kaupapa Māori methodologies and

performative ethnography while adapting and applying Te Awa Tupua legal

frameworks within research. The objective of this research is to explore the

inextricable connection between the marae community of Rānana and the

Whanganui river through examining the musical expressions of this relationship

within the scope of waiata.


The Whanganui river is regarded as a fishery and described as taonga

(geographical treasure) of central, material and spiritual significance to

Whanganui iwi (tribe). The preliminary literature conducted for this research

highlights the centrality of the river, as it was essential, significant and vital to

the survival and livelihood of Whanganui tūpuna (ancestors) (Waitangi Tribunal,

1999; Reynolds and Smith, 2014; Tinirau, 2017; Rose, 2004). However, the

river has changed over time due to colonisation, which brought involuntary

chemical exposures, environmental pollution, the Tongariro Power Scheme and

climate change. Therefore, the ecology of the river has changed indefinitely

(Waitangi Tribunal, 1999; Bates, 1994; Rose, 2004; Reynolds and Smith, 2014).

The ownership of the Whanganui river has historically remained contentious and

has resulted in the passing of Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims

Settlement, WAI 167), granting the Whanganui river legal personhood (Reynolds

and Smith, 2014; Salmond, 2014; Te Aho, 2014).


The Whanganui river and Rānana marae whakapapa (genealogically) together

and waiata is utilised not only as a conduit for iwi, hapū (sub-tribal; collection of

families) and whānau (family) knowledge but to further reinforce custodianship

rights and protections of the land (Ka’ai Mahuta, 2010; Haami, 2017; McRae,

2017; Mikare, 2011; Henige, 1982; Broughton, 1979; Ngata, 2006; Tinirau,

2017). Moreover, the relationship between the Whanganui river and Rānana

Marae influences te mita o Whanganui (the dialect of Whanganui) and attributes

to specific waiata pedagogical and transmission processes (McNeil, 2017; Haami,



This presentation aims to examine the research methodologies as well as the

findings from the wānanga (semi-structured interviews) with descendants of

Rānana Marae. This research aims to create a Kaupapa Māori ecomusicological

framework based from the Te Awa Tupua legal frameworks and wānanga with

descendants of Rānana Marae for its hapū communities. This study reaffirms

mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) through waiata as oral legacies that have

historically transmitted and expressed the relationship and well-being of

Whanganui iwi and the Whanganui river.