‘Chance of a lifetime’
Gisborne men connected to Tauawhi Men's Centre had the opportunity to paddle in the tipuna waka (ancestral canoe) Ngatokimatawhaorua on Waitangi Day.
“The group of men went to support the waka taua (war canoe) crew and were fortunate to paddle on the waka,” Tauawhi Men's Centre coordinator Tim Marshall said.
It was the 80th anniversary of the launch of the waka.
Ngatokimatawhaorua was built in 1940 to mark the centenary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. It was built by members of New Zealand's northern and Waikato tribes and is the largest waka of its type.
“It was awesome to be part of such a big crew of men from all walks of life and cultures, including Maori, Pakeha, Dutch and Native American. We were all welcomed and supported to work together,” Mr Marshall said.
“The motivation to do this from Tauawhi was a combination of supporting the kaupapa, celebrating 10 years of operation this year and acknowledging Phil Paikea and Vic Tamati by making the trip north after all their visits to Tairawhiti over the years to support the work we do.
“A highlight was the chance for our men to connect with and express their indigeneity by paddling on Ngatokimatawhaorua, following hundreds before us.”
The men drew inspiration from the experience and wish to return next year.
“Doing this brought them out of their comfort zone and was a once in a lifetime opportunity they will pass on to their children,” Mr Marshall said.
Kani Haig, was among the Tauawhi ki Waitangi 2020 crew. “I had the privilege of having my partner tautoko our journey,” he said. “It was a first time experience for us.
“It was a lifetime achievement and a must-do for anyone who is passionate about whanau, hapu, iwi, the Treaty of Waitangi and history.
“My expectations were set quite high and unrealistic and once we got there and settled in, it really began to sink in. It felt like ‘boot camp' but in hindsight it is why we were actually there for the kaupapa o Waitangi.
“I enjoyed every moment of the waka training and how my single contribution and all of us together made for great celebrations. I saw the bigger picture that it's not just about me,” Mr Haig said.
Te Manawa Peawini, another paddler, said a highlight of the trip was “seeing the smile on my bro's face all week and hearing him tell his family about it, that did it for me”.
Jason Akuhata-Brown, who paddled too, said, “it was an amazing experience watching our Tauawhi team commit themselves to the kaupapa — learning how to paddle the largest waka in the world along with 80 other men, soak in new learning and grow stronger in confidence and mana.”
Mr Marshall thanked the Matapuna Training Centre for providing a van for the group to travel to Waitangi.