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Rangitāne o Wairau


Ko wai rā, ko wai rā?

Ko Rangitāne te iwi, Kurahaupō te waka, Te Tapuae-o-Uenuku kei runga rā. Ngā wairau o Ruatere kei raro. Ko Raukawakawa moana kei waho kei waho hoki mai, hī hā hī hā

It is the people of Rangitāne, Kurahaupō is our canoe, Te-Tapuae-o-Uenuku stands tall. The hundred waters of Ruatere flows below. Raukawakawa ebbs and flows in the distance. The hands stretch outward, and back inward.

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This pātere, E Noho Nei Au, written by Tātere MacLeod, speaks of landmarks significant to Rangitāne o Wairau, and traverses the tribal rohe. The maunga (mountains) and awa (rivers) in the region are the source of stories and whakatauki
and in some cases embody Rangitāne tūpuna.

The resource rich Wairau, with its abundance of food from land and sea, encouraged Polynesian settlers to establish themselves at Te Pokohiwi o Kupe. The first of these settlers was Te Hau who introduced kumara cultivation to the area. Te Hau was followed by Kupe and epic battles between these ancestors occurred. Their incantations led to earthquakes and tsunami, shaping the coastline between Te Karaka and Wairau.

This whawhai (conflict) resulted in the naming of Te Hau (The Ned), a mountain peak on the eastern edge of Blenheim. Kupe visiting these locations is significant in that the information gathered was passed on to others who would return and permanently settle. These names and acts continue to holdfast through genealogy (names of descendants), whenua
(land), buildings and taonga.

During the 15th and 16th centuries, waves of migrants of Kurahaupō waka descent crossed Raukawakawa moana. Rangitāne who descend from Waipuna, the great-granddaughter of Kupe, migrated to the Wairau rohe (region) in the mid 16th century. Under the leadership of Te Huataki, Te Rerewa, Te Whakamana and Tukauae established pā, kāinga, and cultivations from Anamāhanga throughout the Marlborough Sounds to Cloudy Bay and beyond.

The abundance of food to be found here owes much to Ngā Wairau o Ruatere – the myriad waterways of Ruatere (Wairau river). These waterways nourish the Wairau Plains and flow into the Wairau Lagoons. The Wairau Lagoons and the extensive complex of pā (fortified village), kāinga (homes), cultivations, and urupā (burial ground) formed the cultural, spiritual,
and economic heart of Rangitāne in the Wairau. The area remains central to the identity and mauri (life principle) of the Iwi.

Rangitāne lived on estuarine areas across Te Tauihu such as Waimea, Whakapuaka, and Wairau lagoons. The Wairau lagoons were known as Wahanga-a-Tangaroa and Mataora (the ‘Long Lagoon’ and the ‘Big Lagoon’ respectively). The natural abundance of the area was so great that Māori hand dug a 22km canal system using kō (wooden digging implements).

Mechanisms were put in place where eel traps and nets were fixed within the channels. Maumi (moulting ducks) were captured, potted in their own fat in calabashes or containers made from tōtara bark or kelp obtained locally. Some preserved birds were kept, and some were traded with other iwi. Strict rāhui (prohibition) and conservation protocols were placed on the lagoons in order to preserve the various marine and bird species. The lagoons have remained an important source of mahinga kai (food cultivation areas) for Rangitāne up to recent times. High quality flax, fowls, fish, firewood, whitebait, kahawai, eels, flounders, shellfish, mussels, moa, swans, and duck were found in abundance.

A number of other pā (with associated urupā) and kāinga were built in and around the lagoons to protect the valuable resources of the area. A series of pā were located on Te Pokohiwi which enclose the lagoons on their seaward side. Te Pokohiwi was not only a Rangitāne occupation area and important source of mahinga kai, but was also an urupā and wāhi tapu complex. Rangitāne, who continued to bury their own dead in this urupā, are connected through whakapapa with these very early inhabitants, and are kaitiaki (stewards / guardians) of this deeply sacred place.

In the 1820s and 1830s iwi from the North Island invaded and settled in the northern South Island. Although Rangitāne no longer had exclusive possession of all their territory they retained their tribal structures, chiefly lines, and ancestral connections to the land. In 1840 the rangatira (chief) Ihaia Kaikoura signed the Treaty of Waitangi at Horahora Kākahu Island at Port Underwood.

The relationships between local iwi was tested throughout the nineteenth century. The ongoing breaches against the Treaty of Waitangi has had far reaching intergenerational impacts across all iwi. By 1860 they were left virtually landless. Introduced land practices impacted negatively, the clearing of land and draining wetlands limited the ability to carry out customary food gathering, floods caused the loss of seasonal crops, and livestock damaged houses. This amplified major health issues such as typhoid and tuberculosis.

Life was harsh for many local Māori. Attacks on Māori customary food gathering continued into the twentieth century, a petition in 1931 to uphold rights guaranteed by the Treaty of Waitangi. Despite this, Rangitāne have a strong, unbroken traditional, historical, cultural, and spiritual association with the coastline and rich ecosystems. Collectively we celebrate the drive, innovation, and tenacity of our ancestors. We must remember, our tūpuna were skilled engineers, renown traders, and ingenious communicators. These skills vital in the survival of Rangitāne in the Wairau.

I sit upon the summit of oratory, Te Tapuae-o-Uenuku, gazing outward to Raukawakawa, the path that was traversed by my ancestor who landed at Anamāhanga, 'twas Te Huataki! After a series of journeys to and from the North Island, he returned with other revered chiefs, including Te Whakamana, Tūkauae, Te Rerewa and Te Heiwī.

Through inter-marriage with Ngāi Tara and Ngāti Māmoe, peace reigned and the mana of Rangitāne was entrenched across Te Tauihu o te Waka a Māui. The hundred waters of Ruatere ripple through wetlands, the glistening streams of the ancestors. Te Wairau that stretches from its headlands, carving through the land to the modern day junction where one outlet flows to Te Koko o Kupe, the other to Te Pokohiwi o Kupe.

Standing tall is Parinui o Whiti, also known as Te Taumanu o Matahourua. Below is Kāpara Te Hau. Laying before me in the home of the ancient ones of yesteryear. The cleansing waters of Te Ara o Pipi and Mataora. The prestige, awe and power
that they have bestowed upon me. The descendant of the multitude of stars in the heavens. Giving rise to Rangitāne, people of the land, whose mana stretches across the top of the South Island. Behold the glory of Te Wairau!

© Copyright 2022 by The iwi of Te Tātoru o Wairau.

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