Whakapapa (Māori pronunciation: [ˈfakapapa]), is a fundamental principle that permeates the whole of Māori culture. It is a paradigm of cultural discourse and provides the basis for establishing, enhancing, and even challenging relationships between individuals, whanau (families), hapū (local tribal entities) and iwi (regional tribal bodies)
My iwi – Ngāti Kahungunu
Ngati Kahungunu means ‘descendants of Kahungunu ‘ (a famous chief who lived mostly in what is now called the Hawke’s Bay region).
Ngāti Kahungunu trace descent from the Tākitimu canoe. Ruawharo, a senior tohunga (priest; expert in traditional lore; person skilled in specific activity; healer) on the canoe, settled at Te Māhia.
The legend is told that Tākitimu left Hawaiki because of a quarrel over gardens named ‘Tawarunga’ and ‘Tawararo’, and that the canoe was built at a place named Whāngārā. The commander was Tamatea-arikinui and the canoe landed at Tauranga, where Tamatea disembarked. Others then took it to the East Coast landing and left settlers at several places, including the Waiapu River, Ūawa (Tolaga Bay), Tūranganui (Gisborne), Nukutaurua (Māhia), Te Wairoa, the Mōhaka River and Pōrangahau. Tamatea later went overland to Māhia and Tūranganui, naming various places as he proceeded.
My Maori people come from the Mahia peninsula. The Ruawharo marae is located in Ōpoutama, Māhia. Its principal hapū are Ngāti Tama and Rongomaiwahine of Ngāti Kahungunu iwi.
Ruawharo gave the name Te Māhia to the peninsula because it resembled a part of his tribe’s original homeland, Te Māhia-mai-tawhiti (the sound heard from a distance).
Ngāti Kahungunu are New Zealand’s third largest tribal group. Stretching down the North Island from the Māhia Peninsula to Cape Palliser, their territory is divided into three districts: Wairoa, Heretaunga and Wairarapa. (ref)
I’ve had a yearning for some years to visit the marae. I have no particular reason. All I know is I need to go there.
I have no plans to meet my natural father or siblings. I have been told my father lives in Napier. I have never met him and I understand his wife and my 1/2 siblings have not been told about me. I find it hard to believe that in such a small and close-knit community, someone hasn’t let the baby out of the bag.
The story of Kahungunu and Rongomaiwahine
Kahungunu had heard reports of Rongomaiwahine’s beauty and high birth, but when he arrived at Nukutaurua, on the Māhia Peninsula, he found that she was already married to Tamatakutai. In an attempt to impress her people, he gathered enormous quantities of fern root, tied them into bundles with vines, and rolled them down a hill. Such were the quantities that it became like a landslide, blocking the doors of the house.
Kahungunu then went up onto a hill and watched the karoro (shags) diving. He practised holding his breath, counting ‘pepe tahi, pepe rua, pepe toru …’ (count one, count two, count three . . .) until the birds reappeared. Then Kahungunu went diving, holding his breath for as long as the shags had done. He filled several baskets with enough pāua (a type of shellfish) for all the occupants of the village. When he surfaced from his final dive, he had covered his chest with pāua, and everyone was very impressed. The hill has since been named Puke Karoro.
Having gained the approval of Rongomaiwahine’s people, Kahungunu set out to create discord between Rongomaiwahine and her husband Tamatakutai. One night he surreptitiously broke wind near the sleeping couple, causing an argument between them. In the morning Kahungunu joined Tamatakutai in the sport of surfing in a canoe. After several trips Kahungunu took over the steering, and capsized it on a particularly large wave. Tamatakutai fell out and, unable to swim, was drowned.
Kahungunu and Rongomaiwahine marry
One day Kahungunu asked Rongomaiwahine to dress his hair for him. As she was fastening his topknot, the tie broke. Kahungunu took from his plaited belt some flax that had been grown at Kawhainui, near Tauranga. After softening the flax in water, Rongomaiwahine used it to tie his topknot. Kahungunu then stood up, and facing north said:
“E te pūtiki wharanui o Tamatea i mahue atu rā i runga o Tauranga.”
Here is the binding broad-leaved flax of Tamatea that was left at Tauranga.
It was from this remark that Rongomaiwahine and her people finally knew the true identity of Kahungunu, and he became her permanent husband. They settled at Maungakāhia, their pā at Māhia, where Kahungunu eventually died.
Many of Rongomaiwahine’s descendants on the Māhia Peninsula identify themselves as Ngāti Rongomaiwahine rather than as Ngāti Kahungunu: they believe her to be of superior lineage. (source – http://www.teara.govt.nz)
I’m off to New Zealand in a few weeks to connect with my Whakapapa. I sent off a letter requesting permission to visit the marae this week and apart from booking our flight, have made no other plans and will wing it when we get there.
Poor MM (my man) is coming along for the ride but seems a little anxious. I didn’t realise how anxious until he said “So what am I suppose to do while you’re away in a wigwam for god knows how many days smoking the silly pipe with your ancestors? Are they like, head hunters there?” Gee honey, we need to get you out of Brisbane. Firstly, we are going to New Zealand not a Cherokee reservation in America. Secondly, It’s not the 1800’s. I think they might prefer MacDonald hamburgers to MacDonald the local white farmer. Just don’t look at anyone and you’ll be right. (That’s my little wicked sense of humour having a lend of him. Maybe I’ll let him stare at his boots for the first day before telling him I was joking)
Rangitane song welcoming expatriates back home