Today marks an important occasion for Rangitāne and our community. The unveiling of the Tauihu, on land owned by Rangitāne, is the result of a tremendous amount of work by numerous people, over an extended period of time. In years to come the significance of the Tauihu will become even more apparent.
Before commenting on the Tauihu itself I want to go back to 2 September 1863. On that day a wānanga took place at the Wairau Reserve where Rangitāne rangatira, Ihaia Kaikoura, recited whakapapa connecting his generation to those ancestors who had migrated across Raukawakawa moana and married tangata whenua women. The whakapapa was recorded by Meihana Kereopa, one of the first of our Kurahaupō elders to acquire the skills of literacy.
What we now call the ‘Meihana Manuscript’ is a collection of whakapapa and kōrero that account for the migration of peoples and the settlement of Te Tauihu. Furthermore, it provides the framework that gives structure and form to our oral traditions. It is the oldest book of its type, and while it is named after its author it is important to remember that he had a number of informants, including, Pirimoana Pōkīkī, Hohepa Te Kiaka, Rora Pairama, and Ihaia himself. Thus we can say the Manuscript belongs to all of us. Another important point to remember is these rangatira survived the musket wars, and as rangatahi, had access to elders who lived in the eighteenth-century.
The whakapapa imparted by Ihaia highlights some important themes in our history. Kurahaupō ascendancy in Te Tauihu o te Waka-a-Māui was achieved primarily through the intermarriage of migrating chiefs and tangata whenua women; this is epitomised in the figure of Tūkauāe, who stands at the rear of the Tauihu. His marriages to Hinepango, Ruamate, and Hinerewha created a new community built on older whakapapa lines. Subsequent marriages, for instance, of Tūkauāe’s son, Huawa, to Wharepuka, the daughter of Ngāi Tara chief, Te Ao Marire, reinforced whakapapa ties.
The marriage of Tūkauāe to Hinepango is of particular importance to the Wairau. Through the practice of taunahanaha whenua (the naming of places), the descendants of this union have been remembered in the landscape of the Wairau Valley.
Tūkauāe’s other marriages, recorded elsewhere in the Meihana Manuscript, are also important to the history of the Wairau. The 22km of canals that run into the Wairau Lagoons were a huge logistical feat requiring a significant labour force. The communities created through Tūkauāe’s marriages provided the necessary people power. Tūkauāe’s marriage to Hinerewha, for instance, brought Ngāti Whakamana into the complex mix of Wairau whakapapa. According to our oral traditions the canals were completed in the generation of Patitiwai – Tūkauāe and Hinerewha’s great grandson.
The Tauihu is a physical representation of the whakapapa recorded by our ancestors during the nineteenth-century. Our female tupuna, Hinepango, Ruamate, and Hinerewha are all present. Another important tupuna depicted in the Tauihu is Te Heiwi. Like Tūkauāe, she is a unifying figure, bringing together the multitudes of Rangitāne whanau.
At the front of the Tauihu stands Māui. Through Māui we connect to a mythology and a history centred in East-Polynesia. Here, in the South-West Pacific, Māui’s exploits are clear to see in the nomenclature of the North and South Islands. Māui embodies our navigational achievements, but he too is a unifying figure. He ultimately reminds us that we live on a Pacific island (Te Waka-a-Māui) and as such share in common future.
Dr Peter Meihana