On the trail of our tipuna
A FIRST-of-its-kind cultural mapping project to document wāhi tapu (ancestral sites of significance) and their surrounding mātauranga Māori (knowledge) has been launched for Te Araroa and East Cape region.
‘Nga Tapuwae — in the footsteps of our tīpuna' was launched by Te Whānau a Hunaara and Te Whānau a Tarahauiti last Friday at Hicks Bay Motel.
The project was supported by Nga Taonga o Hinerupe Limited, one of the recipients of Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga's Ngā Riu o Ngā Tūpuna (Revitalising mātauranga Māori in ancestral landscapes) funding programme.
Twenty grants of up to $25,000 were awarded last year to iwi, hapū and hāpori Māori projects to support the revitalisation of vulnerable mātauranga Māori.
The Ancestral Landscape grant's aim is to support the retention and transmission of kōrero tuku iho (traditional narrative) as well as traditional practices in ancestral places in four areas: cultural mapping, maramataka (the Māori lunar calendar), waka haerenga (Māori canoe journeys) and kohatu (memorial tombstones).
Leaders of the Nga Tapuwae project in Te Araroa, East Cape, Hal Hovell and Michelle Wanoa, said sites, buildings, trees and events significant to all New Zealanders from a European perspective had been well-documented, were given protection where appropriate and their history recorded.
“Sites of cultural significance to Māori have by and large not received the same attention.
“There have been some site recordings carried out by Leahy, Walsh, Bain, Jones and other archaeologists within the Tairawhiti area but by and large archaeological sites of cultural significance to Māori within the Tairāwhiti/East Coast Area have not been well recorded or documented and have no protection.”
Ms Wanoa and Mr Hovell said one of the reasons for the lack of documentation was because their ancestors were not in favour of disclosing these sights and their significance. They feared the sites would be desecrated.
“Because of this fear the knowledge of a lot of these sites and the history associated with them has been lost.
“This is illustrated by the low number of sites recorded on the Gisborne District Council archaeological overlay.
“Since 1981 members from Te Whānau a Hunaara and Te Whānau a Tarahauiti and associated hapū have, as time and available whānau have allowed, have quietly compiled an inventory of their cultural sites of significance.”
The project involves locating and gazetting all the sites of significance in the area of study. The history of all sites would be documented and the information gathered held by local hapū associated with the area.
The site locations would be made available to be included in the district council's archaeological overlay, so if any developments were to take place at those sites then they must consult with the local hapū, they said.
“Although some of our history and sites have been lost, we still have people within the hapū who are aware of the sites and the history. It is envisaged that in recording the history of these sites it will be retained and never lost.
“The first stage will involve mapping two sites of significance, with a vision to continue to record all sites from the Awatere River mouth east to Te Pakihi at East Cape, and once this has been accomplished it is the intention of our core group to move to the Te Araroa community.
“This is just phase one of what has been envisaged as a long-term project.”
The team have been invited to present their project at the New Zealand Archaeological Association Forum in July this year in Dunedin.
“We intend to create an indigenous archaeological framework that in time we hope will be utilised throughout Aotearoa.
“We have plans to go overseas, visit other indigenous cultures to find the commonalities to see if our indigenous archaeological framework would work for other indigenous cultures around the world.
“We also hope to host an International Indigenous Archaeological forum here in our rohe (Te Araroa area) because we have so many sites that we can share with other indigenous cultures.
“The aim is to launch our template of Indigenous Archaeology at that international conference.”
The project's mātauranga Māori advisor, Curtis Bristowe, said the project was a great opportunity to relearn and revitalise the knowledge within whānau Māori.
“It is the first time this is being done,” he said.
“We are going to follow in the steps of our tīpuna (ancestors).”
Matahi o te tau Marae trustee Rei Kohere has been the part of the project since its inception in the 1980s.
“We are hoping that our interest in this project will inspire others to do the same thing because our history and knowledge is in danger of being lost,” he said.
The project's media and communications advisor Latasha Wanoa (Te Whānau a Hunaara) said Ngā Tapuwae was a very large and important project to maintain Māori cultural heritage.
“This project looks at mapping our cultural heritage and wāhi tapu we have within our area of Matakaoa, which is important for revitalisation of our reo Māori, stories and mātauranga passed on to us by our tīpuna, because now it is on us to pass it onto the next generation.”