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Paremiria Nancy Mason

“Ka tū mai i roto i te pā, nōkū hoki te pā, nōu te pā; he tūrangawaewae tēnā nō tātou”. [When we stand inside the marae; the marae is mine, the marae is yours and it is a place for us all to stand] (N. Mason, pers. comm., 2005).

Nancy Mason lives in the family home located beside the meandering waters of the Ohau channel. At the time of writing this story, she was 81 years of age. The impressions I formed of her through our engagement in this story-gathering project were of a strong, independent and energetic kuia with a deep commitment to caring for her whānau and for Ngati Te Takinga hapū in general, through her work at the marae. Our second

meeting saw her fixing her car and our third meeting, cleaning the house next door which she was also painting and fixing. On the fourth occasion of our meeting, she had just spent the week mowing her son’s, her daughter’s and her own lawns!

Not unlike Merepaea, Aunty Nancy maintains an integral and significant role at Te Takinga marae, being the kuia responsible for preparation of the wharenui for hui. Her role includes laying the mats – whāriki and preparing the beds. More importantly, she cares for the bereaved families during tangihanga, including the deceased or tūpāpaku.

Aunty Nancy’s unexpected presence and participation at what was to be Merepaea’s interview, was a great bonus; her free, open and significant contributions to our

discussion enriched the whole process. In addition, the majority of the discussions were conducted in what is now considered to be rare Pikiao dialectical reo, which considerably enhanced the special nature of this interview. The essence of Māori philosophical values and beliefs and Māori conceptual thinking is irrefutably best articulated and captured, through the medium of te reo Māori.

Te Kainga Home

The aunties began their stories by reminiscing about bygone days. Okawa Bay and the surrounding area “the church right up to the mill” a block of land belonging to “Ratema’s father” emerged as a place of significance for three reasons. Firstly because the Aunties’

kuia and koroua resided there; secondly because it was from a point on this land that

tūpapaku were transported by waka across Okawa Bay, to the urupā Motutawa and thirdly, because of the Rotoiti Timber Company mill which was located where the Duxton Hotel, formerly Okawa Bay Resort, now stands.

‘The mill’ featured heavily in the conversation. As well as being a primary employer of many of the local men, the mill also supplied whānau with wood for the fires by which water was heated for baths during the wintermonths and also, for cooking. Aunty Nancy recounted this feature of her childhood in the following way:

In the wintertime the old lady and the old man Ngāwiki and Wītika they used to light a big fire for us outside to heat the water. We would take our big cups and sit around the fire while the water was heating. That’s how we had our bath and we would go down to the river ki te horoi ngā kākahu [to wash the clothes]. But in the summer time well, kei te pai, plenty of water summertime (N. Mason, pers. comm., 2005).

In addition, the mill barge having dropped its logs at the Okawa Bay, on its return trip across Lake Rotoiti to either the skids below Matawhaura or at Komuhumuhu (Gisborne Point), served as a handy means of transport for the locals. In Aunty Nancy’s words, “a, ka hari mai i ngā logs ki te mira, ana kua hoki empty, no logs ana, ka peke mātou ki runga me o mātou koroua, kuia ki te haere ki Te Rotoiti ki te tangihanga”. [The barge brought the logs to the mill and would then return empty. Then we would climb aboard with our kuia and koroua and travel to tangihanga at Rotoiti.]

Further descriptions of everyday life at Mourea during the Aunties’ life times, included washing clothes in the river, using outside toilets and, the use of candles and then kerosene for lighting, in the absence of electricity in homes. While agreeing, “it was a good life”, on reflection the couple both agreed that it seemed “like a hard job now” and for Aunty Nancy, not a life she would like to return to although she did say, and “you could do it again if you had to”.

When asked about the “good life” they had referred to, Merepaea said: “there was something that brought us together in that concept [the good life] that made us all one”.

Merepaea pondered the thought further and added:

The younger generations have lost out. There is another way coming in with them, which is not a deep sense of knowing about the strengths, the power of the Holy Spirit and the wairua that we

got, and that was what the old people had. Te wairua tino kaha kei runga i a rātou, hei awhina i a rātou, hei mahi katoa i ngā mahi; tenei wa, kaare rātou [te hunga, rangatahi] e mahi, kua ngaro (M. Henry, pers. comm., 2005).

[They [the old people] had great spiritual beliefs, which were present at all times, and in everything they did. In these times amoungst the young people, that spirituality is lost].

Te whakawhānau tamariki On childbirth

“Ko te pito tonu, ko tērā te hononga ki te wairua”

the umbilical cord is the spiritual connection (M. Henry, pers. comm., 2005).

Having broached the subject of the younger generation the conversation then turned to childbirth and traditional practices around this event. As well as having witnessed the birth of children aided by kuia in attendance as midwives, both Merepaea and Aunty Nancy raised six children each; hence they were both well versed in this matter. Aunty Nancy spoke first:

Kite au hoki tērā āhuatanga i a Kere [Kerehitina]. Whakawhānau ana ka noho ia ki runga i te tūrū ana, kei raro te kuia ara, ngā turi. Ka haeremai te tamaiti ra rā, ka taka i runga i ana turi – te tamaiti. Tērā te whakawhānautanga o te wahine i tērā wa. Ko nga turi o te kuia ara, ki waenganui o turi ana kei reira koe e mea ana, ka haeremai te tohu, ara kei te pirangi puta te pēpi, ana ka haeremai, ka taka tonu ki runga i ngā turi o te kuia. Nāna tonu e tapahi te pito o te pēpi (N. Mason, pers. comm., 2005).

[I was witness to Kerehitina giving birth. She sat up on a chair and the kuia was below her. The kuia’s knees formed the platform upon which the baby landed when it was born. Another way was for the kuia to place her knees between your knees when you were about to give birth. When the time was right and the baby was about to come, the baby would be born onto the knees of the kuia.

The kuia would then cut the babies umbilical cord].

When quizzed as to the instrument with which the pito or umbilical cord was severed, Aunty Nancy responded “he pipi”: the shell of a pipi.

The pito and whenua of newborn babies were taken and buried by the kuia and koroua however; the place of burial remains unknown to both Merepaea and Aunty Nancy. They were resolute that ritual as such, was the sole concern of the kuia and the koroua.

Merepaea stated “kei nga koroua, nga kuia tērā āhuatanga. Ka whānau ano he pēpi ana, ka haerehia anō tērā wāhi”. She continued and added: “kei a rātou te wā – tanuhia ki hea? Ko koe tonu ana e mohio” [They the, old people, were the only ones that knew where that burial place was].

Aunty Nancy affirmed these statements. She said “ko rātou anō e mohio ana; kaore mātou e mōhio i tēnā wā”: [in that time, they [the old people] were the only ones that knew]. The practice of burying the umbilical cord and the after birth of newborn babies was, in the view of both Aunties, he hononga wairua, he hononga tangata, he hononga whenua. That is, the affirmation of a child’s spiritual and physical connectedness to God, to their people and to the land (M. Henry, 2005; N. Mason, 2005, pers. comm.).

In accord with both Merepaea and Aunty Nancy’s thoughts about traditional Māori child birthing practices or iho whenua (Walker, 1990), authors Makareti (1986); Walker (1990); Metge (1995) and M. Mead (2003) assert that returning the the pito or the umbilical cord and whenua of a new born child to the earth, is a symbolic gesture having its origins in the Māori creation story. Hineahuone, the first female, was created by Tane nui a Rangi from Papatuanuku his mother. Tane nui a Rangi took Hineahuone as his wife and, when their first child Hinetitama was born, Tane was instructed by Papatuanuku to return the whenua or the afterbirth and the pito (umbilical cord) of this child, to

Papatuanuku – the earth. The act of iho whenua bonded people, both physically and spiritually, to the land at birth; thereby affirming their ownership of and connection to, the land – Papatuanuku and through this connection, their link to ngā atua.

Best (1929) and Buck (1949) affirm the accounts relating to iho whenua given by all the authors mentioned, including those of Merepaea and Nancy.

Kua hoki mai nei ki te ukaipō

This expression relates to the child that is nurtured in a spiritual and emotional sense as a tangata of that whenua or kainga

Mentioned within the discussions on iho whenua, was the notion of the disconnection of some of the younger generation [of Ngati Te Takinga – Ngati Pikiao] through western (hospital) birthing practices. Aunty Nancy stated “i whānau katoa ki te hohipera. Kaore koe e mōhio atu ai i aha anangia e rātou because kua kore ke hoki rātou i whakamohio mai” [all our births were at the hospital and you did not know what they [the doctors and nurses] did, because you were not told].

The hospital’s practice of burning the placenta and umbilical cords of newborn babies is discussed as follows by Taare Tikao (1990) who states:

When a child is born to a Pākehā, the doctor or nurse burns the afterbirth, the Māori did not do this; it would be against the mana of that child, it would destroy the child’s mauri. Burning the whenua of a child born alive, was destroying its mana, the mauri of the living child would be gone. Therefore the whenua was never burnt, but buried in the whenua [land] and so the child’s mana and mauri were preserved (Tikao, T., 1990, p. 95).

Tikao’s (1990) views support Merepaea and Aunty Nancy’s thinking. The practice of iho whenua represents he hononga wairua, he hononga tangata, he hononga whenua. The discontinuance of the practice (as per Tikao’s example) raises questions around the

‘disconnection’ and/or alienation of those of our people for whom the tradition did not occur. While warranted, an examination of this notion is beyond the scope of this research. Presenting the question however, opens a space in which further dialogue may occur.

Ka pū te ruha ka hāo te rangatahi

The old net is cast aside, the new net goes fishing Me whakaatu ki ngā mokopuna kia mōhio ai.

Show the mokopuna so that they know (N. Mason, pers. comm., 2005) Within the context of the tikanga Māori birthing practices that were discussed in the previous section, the restoration of the tikanga of iho whenua by some of the younger generation of the Aunties’ children and grandchildren was also raised. There was a general acknowledgment that reclamation and restoration of tikanga Māori in this instance, by taking possession of the whenua of our newborn babies, is positive.

Exercising our rights in this way and then taking and returning the pito and whenua of our babies to the land is an encouraging development that both Merepaea and Aunty Nancy supported. They cautioned however, that reclamation and implementation of tikanga Māori practices required adherence to correct procedures; they stressed the need to teach and properly guide the successive generations of children.

The improper implementation of tikanga Māori and the need to exercise caution,

especially in the practice of iho whenua, was encapsulated within Merepaea’s comment:

“te wāhi i moe ai – ka haere au ana i roto i te paake mō ngā kai kē, e noho mai ana taua mea. Aue taku aroha! Ana, ka tango, ana, ka nehungia” [at the place where I sleep, I went to the freezer a place reserved for food; and inside was a placenta. I was greatly affected by this discovery. I took it [the placenta] and buried it].

When asked to explain the effect that this incident had on her, Merepaea said “he mea tapū i ngā wā o ngā kuia; it’s is a very very special thing”. She would not speak of any possible consequence of transgressing tikanga in the manner as expressed within her story, but instead she stressed the inappropriateness of thinking, or speaking, of any consequence saying instead, “he hopuhopu; kaua e hopuhopu. Kaore au e whakaaro mō tēnā. Ka tango ana, ka nehungia, ka mutu ” [I did not think of any consequence for to do so, is to invite consequence. I took it and buried it and it was done and the matter settled].

Based on the occurrence as described by Merepaea, it is evident that while some of the younger generations of Māori are choosing to follow traditional Māori child birthing practices, there is a knowledge gap which must be bridged in order to avoid possible breach and therefore transgression of tikanga. That is, we need to know and fully understand the meaning and significance of the tikanga or the methods in which we engage, prior to engagement.

Cultural continuity

Exposed by way of this storying project, has been the extensive tikanga Māori knowledge and practice base of our old people. Through dialogue, their guidance and counsel on matters of tikanga can assist to fill the knowledge gaps around tikanga Māori for the younger generation/s thereby assisting the process of Māori cultural continuity.

Having been raised by ‘the old people’ Aunty Nancy spoke of the differences in

upbringing and the western schooling system as impacting on the loss of tikanga Māori

experienced by her children. As one means to counter this loss, she said she has been talking to them “about home, the old life, what we used to do and how close you are to this one and that one [whakapapa]”; She went on to say:

I think it is too modern for them now. They don’t know it from the start. I think if they were to know it from like when we were little, like us now, they’ll understand.

The differences in the upbringing of Aunty Nancy’s generation and her children’s generation were reinforced by Merepaea. Merepaea maintained that the main point of difference in the upbringing of the two generations was that of the omnipresent taha wairua in which the old people who bore, raised and nurtured both herself and Aunty Nancy, were steeped. Repeating herself and once again emphasising the loss of spirituality amoungst the younger generations, Merepaea said “te wairua tino kaha kei runga i a rātou, hei awhina i a rātou hei mahi katoa i nga mahi. Tēnei wā, kua ngaro”

[They [the old people] had great spiritual beliefs, which were present at all times, and in everything they did. In these times, that spirituality is lost].

Karakia was an integral component of all aspects of life during the times of our kuia and koroua and, in Nancy and Merepaea’s view, the wairua or spiritual deficit of the current generation coupled with, in most cases, a limited knowledge of tikanga, has lead to a weakened sense of connection to one’s marae. An example of this ‘weakened sense of connection’ was provided by Aunty Nancy who said:

Ki te tūpāpaku ka mate mai ana, ka moe mai i tētahi tāne nō Iwi – hapū kē, me karanga anō tētahi o o pā, kua pirangi te tāne, te wahine rānei, me whakahoki ki tērā pā. Ka pehea hoki taku tūrangawaewae? A rātou taima, i a rātou, ka huri, kaare e waihongia te pā; ka huri a, ko Te Takinga kei reira tāhuri koe ma te taone, ka hoki mai ana ka hari mai ki tēnei pā. Kaore koe e paahi tō pā, tō tūrangawaewae. Koira a rātou mahi ana, ki roto i a mātou, oh well, e tika tonu ana.

Inaianei, warewarengia wērā mea (N. Mason, pers. comm., 2005).

[If a person who has married outside of their own hapū or Iwi should die and then be taken at the request of their husband or wife to the husband or wife’s marae while bypassing their own, then that which is forsaken, is their turangawaewae, their own marae. In the times of the old people it was right and proper that the deceased did not bypass their tūrangawaewae, their own marae.

Today these things are forgotten]

In tandem with the stories gathered for this research project, statements such as this one form an integral component of the intergenerational knowledge transfer required in order

to assure Māori cultural continuity; a process for which Merepaea and Aunty Nancy are strong advocates, as evidenced through their korero:

Ko ngā kōrero o mua, ka hari mai ki mua ki ngā mokopuna kaore anō i rongo ki ērā kōrero. E rite ki ta mātou ngā kaumātua. Mō ngā mokopuna kua pakeke ana. Ka whakaatuhia ki a rātou, he whēnei, he whēnei, he whēnei”. (M. Henry, pers. comm., 2005)

[It is time for us to bring forward the teachings of the old people of our times. The time for these teachings to be used to show the older children amoungst our mokopuna how things were, and can still be, done in accordance with tikanga Māori as taught to us].

Ae, he tika tēnā, me whakaatu ki ngā mokopuna kia mōhio ai. (N. Mason, pers. comm., 2005) [yes that is correct. Show the mokopuna so that they know].

Hīreme’s (2005) views in relation to this same issue, gives credence and support to the words of our kuia. Hīreme states:

Disturbingly, our Iwi communities are telling us that the rate with which the transfer of this knowledge and skills is able to take place, is becoming increasingly more laboured. Our old people tell us they want to pass on this knowledge. Our young people, both local and away, are telling us they want to learn. But somehow it is not happening fast enough. And so increasingly more and more of our old people are taking their knowledge and skills with them (Hīreme, H., 2005).

While kuia such as Merepaea and Aunty Nancy are actively engaged in Māori cultural continuance by virtue of the active roles they uphold at Te Takinga marae, Hīreme’s (2005) words are a reminder of the depth of gratitude owed not only to these two kuia, but as well, to those of our people who have stepped outside of convention and taken the time to sit, to talk, to be recorded and to be part of this stories project.

He tamaiti tohu

Children whose roles are predestined

“He tamariki tohu; kua tohia ia ki tēnā āhuatanga kei te haeremai te wā, ana ki a rātou – kua tohutohutia” (M. Henry, pers. comm., 2005).

Some children are chosen for certain things and the when the time is right those who are chosen emerge to take up the role as was predestined for them.

The notion of the “tamaiti tohu” (M. Henry, pers. comm., 2005) was referred to by Merepaea and alluded to also, by Aunty Nancy. At first, Aunty Nancy approached the subject in a roundabout fashion referring simply, to those “who want to listen” and others

who think “oh who wants to know about that?” (N. Mason, pers. comm., 2005). After further ponderings however, Aunty Nancy went on to say:

Ko te tamaiti tohu ko ia pea te mea ka whakaaro ki tana tūrangawaewae, ae. Ko ētahi, kao. Kaare mau i a rātou” (N. Mason, pers. comm., 2005): [perhaps those children with predestined roles are those who have thoughts for, or embrace, their tūrangawaewae. Some children do, some do not].

In speaking about her children Merepaea maintained that they had a depth of spirit and a certain insight detectable by the discerning. In Merepaea’s words, “te tohu o te wairua kei roto i a rātou, [ōna tamariki] ka titiro koe i a rātou, ngā kanohi titiro tonu atu ki a koe, hōhonu tonu a rātou titiro” (M. Henry, pers. comm., 2005). Merepaea spoke of her children as being staunch supporters of the marae through their work “ki muri” or, at the back in the kitchen. “Tēnā tō rātou mahi” that is their work, she said.

As the whakatauki ‘ka pai ki muri, ka pai ki mua’ [when all is well at the back it follows that all be well at the front] implies, the roles of those who work “ki muri” or at the back of the marae, are integral to the overall life and workings of the same. Service to one’s Iwi in the manner as described by Merepaea with relation to her children is the Henry whānau’s means by which to contribute to the upkeep of the ahi kaa. By providing the

‘hands and feet’ (Temara, 2005) that maintain the marae, they are part of the maintenance of the fire. Accordingly, the mana whenua of their whānau is upheld and their rights to participate in decisions are respected (Temara, 2005).


“Ko tō wāhi, ko tō whenua” (N. Mason, pers. comm., 2005) Your place, your land …

The land, the marae and the men formed the basis of Aunty Nancy’s thinking around tūrangawaewae. Her words were: “tō whenua, tō pā me ngā tāne, koina ōku

tūrangawaewae. Ki mai koe te pā, ka tū mai i roto i te pā, nōku hoki te pā, nōu te pā; he tūrangawaewae tēnā nō tātou.(N. Mason, pers. comm., 2005): [the land, the marae and the men they are my tūrangawaewae. The marae is mine, the marae is yours and it is a place for us all to stand].

Likewise in the case of Merepaea, although having strong links to Tūhoe “tētahi wāhi ōku, no Tuhoe; ko Tuhoe hōhonu tonu”: [a part of me belongs to Tuhoe, I have strong affiliations there] it was without reservation that she identified Te Takinga – Ngati Pikiao as her tūrangawaewae. Merepaea stated:

Ki ahau, ko tēnei kē taku tūrangawaewae i te mea, i tupu mai ahau mai rā anō ; i te timatatanga.

Kaore rawa i nuku atu i konei. Engari, mōhio ahau, nō Tuhoe ahau. Ritenga hoki ngā marae i reira engari kaore au i poipoihia mai i runga. Ki ahau, ko tēnei tōku tūrangawaewae. Ko tērā te whakamārama ki ahau mō tērā āhuatanga (M. Henry, pers. comm., 2005).

[To me, this [Mourea, Te Takinga] is my tūrangawaewae. It was here that I was born and here that I grew up; I have never left this place. Although I know that I am also from Tuhoe, and that I have marae there, I was not raised and nurtured there. Te Takinga is my tūrangawaewae].

The question of whether Ngati Te Takinga affiliates who grew up outside of the Ngati Te Takinga boundaries could claim tūrangawaewae status was responded to by Aunty Nancy, in the following vein:

Kei a rātou tēnā whakaaro. Kaore tāua e taea te ki. Kei a rātou katoa o rātou whakaaro. Ina ka haramai ki konei, kei a rātou” (N. Mason, pers. comm., 2005) [That decision is not ours to make.

It is up to those people; should they come to Te Takinga, then that is their personal choice. It is not for us to say].

Aunty Nancy’s words of providence “ka tū mai i roto i te pā, nō ku hoki te pā, nōu te pā;

he tūrangawaewae tēnā nō tātou” [the marae is mine, the marae is yours and it is a place for us all to stand] are timely. Spoken at a time when the importance of Māori cultural values is increasing amoung younger Māori people (New Zealand Press Association, 2007) her words help to instill confidence in those people who may seek to reconnect with their marae and people. In saying this however, it is important to remember that laying claim to our marae as our ‘tūrangawaewae’ requires us to embrace the obligations that support the upkeep and maintenance of marae and the ahi kaa, wherever and

whenever possible.

He pātai noa

Some questions go unanswered

This project is about stories of home and meanings associated with home, belongingness and Māori identity. Whilst the stories gathered will form an historical repository as a reference point for our people, the hope is also, to create a point of connection for those