At Play Learn Grow we acknowledges and reflect the unique place of Māori as tangata whenua. Our children are all given the opportunity to develop knowledge and an understanding of the cultural heritages of both parties to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Our curriculum respects and supports the right of each child to be confident in their own culture and encourages children to understand and respect all other cultures, of which we have a great variety of.
Over an extended Waitangi weekend I went on a 7 hour drive to Waipiro Bay between Ruatoria and Gisborne, staying at the stunning Iritekura Marae, a marae with so much mana. There was a tangihanga going on at neighbouring Taharora Marae (that we later attended) so the tangata whenua were a little down in numbers, but the pōwhiri was nevertheless outstanding.
Elder Te Naiti Te Reo was kaiwhaikōrero (main speaker) and gave a commanding mihi. The power, passion and beauty in his kōrero where there for all to see. We felt settled, reassured and welcomed to be here. The size of the journey to being our whānau that whakapapa to Ngatiwai iwi was acknowledged. Whaikōrero acknowledged the rock at Kawa Marae on Aotea brought by the Ngati Porou hapu of Iritekura and Taharora, to lay down the mauri and symbolise the connection with Kawa Marae.
We heard our ancestor Kewene Tamakatore. Kewene was a great warrior from the Iritekura hapu of Ngati Porou, so his home was Waipiro Bay. As a young warrior he accompanied Ngāpuhi during the musket wars, on battles with Te Mauparaoa’s ope that fought and lost to the Marutūahu iwi confederation (Ngāti Rongoū, Ngāti Tamaterā, Ngāti Whanaunga, Ngāti Maru and Ngāti Pāoa) on Aotea (Great Barrier Island) in 1838. Kewene escaped the battlefield but was captured coming down out of the bush for water. The Marutūahu men wanted to kill him but Te Mariri spared his life. He adopted the Ngatiwai gave Kewene to Takaau as a husband. Their daughter was Raihi Miraka, seen as the last great rangatira of Aotea.
Oratory is a traditional and integral element of tikanga Māori (maori practice). Whaikōrero is viewed as a hallowed realm, with only a select few amongst many reaching the pinnacle. I have not reached the pinnacle and am studying towards a diploma in Tikanga Māori at Te Wānanga o Aoteoroa this year, having completed certificate courses in it previously. It was an honour to be invited by our whānau kaumātua to whaikōrero for the manuhiri (visiting group), where I got to talk for a few minutes in te reo māori.
During final hākari (feast) stage of the pōwhiri, I talked with Elder and we reflected on the big question, about just how do we keep whaikōrero relevant, whilst keeping its sacred nature?
Whilst only a few days in length it was a masterclass in tikanga māori, that despite best efforts and amazing kaiako (teachers) at Te Wānanga o Aoteoroa (kia ora Desrae Popata, Aaron Henare, Blackie Tohiariki, Errin Henare & Kristin Henare), there is nothing like the real thing. This was a tremendous experience. Whether kotahitanga to prepare large meals in rapid time, clean up, play and sing waiata, the whānangatanga was beautiful. I learned about kaumātuatanga where the kaumātua talked about their responsibilities:
1) carrying the culture
2) attending and providing rituals at hui, tangi and pōwhiri on marae
3) speaking on behalf of the hapu or whānau
4) providing spiritual leadership and social control
5) resolving disputes and conflicts between whānau and iwi (or others)
6) providing guidance on matters of religious and cultural needs
7) assessing whether rahui need to be placed
8) protecting and nurturing rangitahi (younger adults) and tamariki and mokopuna
9) recognizing and encouraging the potential of younger members.
These are the challenges we face and at Play Learn Grow we love and greatly exceed the objectives enshrined in Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa (Ministry of Education’s Early Childcare Education Curriculum).