Te Morehu Whenua: Reconnecting with our Awa, whenua, tūpuna, kai, and marae

Rāwiri Tinirau - IIRC20
Thursday, November 19, 2020

Wānanga (traditional learning forums) focused on teaching tamariki (children) and rangatahi (youth) to hopu tuna (catch freshwater eels) has led to the consolidation of hapū (cluster of extended families, descended from an eponymous ancestor) projects and facilitation of other wānanga, that seek to share knowledge intergenerationally on tikanga (culturally and contextually appropriate practices) associated with whakapapa (genealogical connections), kai (food) gathering, and environmental restoration.

Te Morehu Whenua—the name bestowed upon this group of tamariki and rangatahi by their pahake (elders) and Ngāti Ruaka hapū—reminds participants of their connection to their remnant ancestral lands and environs, and their inherent responsibilities to these special places and spaces. This is particularly important, given the majority of participants live away from their ancestral lands, and knowledge imparted through wānanga is not generally accessible.

Wānanga are coordinated under the mantle of the Whakarauora Research Project, hosted by Te Atawhai o Te Ao. This project aims to collect information regarding both tangible and intangible taonga relevant to Whanganui tūpuna (ancestors) fishing methods and reintegrate this traditional knowledge within hapū curricular.

This presentation draws on the learnings from wānanga on tuna (freshwater eels), kākahi (freshwater mussels), pātiki (flounders) kōura (freshwater crayfish) from the perspective of six rangatahi. These rangatahi affiliate to Rānana Marae, Whanganui River, and have whakapapa connections to Ngāti Ruaka and other hapū from the Rānana area. Of significance is that the wānanga allow tamariki and rangatahi to re-establish their connections with each other, traditional kai and the environment, and help to foster an appreciation for what it means to actively rekindle one’s ahi kā (ancestral fires of occupation) and to learn and practice tikanga of the hapū.

Wānanga activities include: learning whakapapa, pepeha (tribal landmarks), waiata (songs), ruruku (incantations), tikanga marae (marae protocols and practices); visiting wāhi tupuna (ancestral places) and wāhi tapu (sacred spaces) of the hapū; and, learning kai gathering and preparation practices, such as keri toke (digging for glow-worms), toi tuna (bobbing for eels) pāwhara tuna (boning and preserving eels), and rama pātiki (floundering by torch).

Learnings from the Whakarauora Research Project and wānanga of Te Morehu Whenua will be shared in various ways, with dissemination being led by tamariki and rangatahi, supported by hapū researchers, all of whom have a pivotal role in the research approach of the Whakarauora Research Project. The presentation contributes to Kaupapa Māori research by not only rediscovering and enacting customary fishing methods of Whanganui tūpuna, but reinforcing connections between tamariki and rangatahi to tūpuna, the remnant lands they occupied and defended, their kai sources and environs, as well as Te Awa Tupua.