Touring a nation’s past

Since June 2010 I have been immersed in reading, writing and talking whakapapa to Te Arawa kaumatua and rangatahi in an effort to make sense of hapu and the connections that bind Te Arawa as a nation. The discovery and renewing of old ties between hapu members has been a thoroughly rewarding and very exciting journey. On the other hand, getting to know the subject matter of Māori warriors has been a constant battle for me as a writer operating within a belief system that ignores the warrior culture as mere folklore. “Why?” is a word I have been living with these past months as I visited the hapu of Te Uru Uenuku Kopako surrounding Lake Rotorua, Reporoa and Maketu, searching for answers.

The rewards have been knowledge and revelation, after meeting tribal members and whanaunga connected in many ways to the history of Maketu. I suddenly realise the ancestral links come with an embracing history, and somehow in this journey of writing a historical account of our warriors both ancient and new, I am feeling like a tourist with an invisible guide.

This morning, I am watching a colony of quail feasting on my lawn. Set apart from the colony is a magnificent male on guard duty and sporting a perfectly tailored feather plume. He need not worry, as paw-footed predators dare not walk near my house. In these precious moments, I am thankful my ancestors were magnificent and brave, as they have bestowed on me, a legacy of life and fierce pride and determination to ensure I protect and fight for the land they left in my care for succeeding generations. Hence, appropriately, this excerpt taken from the introduction to my manuscript is a summary of a Māori philosophical stance on the God of War.

God of War
The God of War is sometimes referred to as Tumatauenga or Tukaaniwha, although Elsdon Best acknowledged various different names used by tribes in reference to this god. For example, he notes that the personification of the ‘war-god Te Rehu o Tainui was a lizard’.
Percy Smith, author of The Māori Wars, said:
‘Uenuku was one of the great man-consuming or War God of Taranaki.’ These three lines from a Moteatea are in reference to the tangi for Taranaki Chief Mokowera, who was shot and murdered by Nga Puhi Chief Rewa:
The war god Tu should feast
The heavens should consume
And also Uenuku
The influence of Tumatauenga can be seen in the dedication of male children to the god through ceremony and protocol involving tohi, pure and karakia. These blessings ensure the child’s well-being physically and mentally, shaping and guiding him towards societal norms. Meticulous use and observance of karakia aim to invoke all the atua to strengthen the bones and shape the child. In explanation of the deep Māori understanding of Tumatauenga, I have included some examples borrowed from various Te Arawa men, both past and present, focusing on the importance and influence of Tumatauenga to mankind.
19th Century Te Arawa Chief Wiremu Maihi Te Rangi Kaheke said:
Na wai i homai? Na te pakanga i homai,
Na te riri i homai. Na nga tangata, i homai.
I homai ki a wai? I homai ki te kikokiko,
Kei te kikokiko
Kei te tini honohono
He Manawa ka
Irihia nei e Tu Matauenga.

E tu ka riri
E tu ka nguha
E tu ka aritarita!
E tu ite korikori
E tu ite wheta
E te ite whaiao
E tu ite ao marama

Translation:
Where did the binding, the strength come from?
It came out of war. It came out of fighting.
It came from the people.
Who was it given to? It was given to flesh. The flesh
The many people bound together
Their spirit is lifted up by Tumatauenga.

Angry Tu, raging Tu,
Burning up inside
Stand firm in the waving
Stand firm in the brandishing
Be established in light
Be established in full day light (MSS.81)

Aspects of reciprocity in association with utu
Utu is a term appropriated to revenge in warfare, explained by Elsdon Best in terms of a ‘sacred duty’ under the ‘aegis’ of Tumatauenga the God of War. In fact, utu has many facets of meanings, and is associated with Tumatauenga in many different ways. In traditional Māori culture, every aspect of nature was acknowledged from childhood to manhood and thus utu, can also have positive aspects, as an integral part of a child’s conditioning and tribal teachings: a right which is integrated with tribal history and survival. Another aspect of utu is the custom of koha between manuhiri and tangata whenua. Another aspect is the exchange of children or bloodlines integral to reinforcing a peace agreement made as a result of utu.
The utu of retribution was conducted in several different ways, as the following scenario shows:
In a case regarding ‘a man who mistreated his wife from a neighbouring tribe, the taua muru plundering party of the woman approached her husband’s tribe who lay out taonga as payment for the offence’.
Some waiata, moteatea and names given to children, commemorated different battles and loss of loved ones: this was also indicative of the principles of utu to ensure the events were not forgotten and retribution would follow.
An important role bestowed upon Tumatauenga was negotiating and influencing the seventy gods, including Whiro, the malevolent atua of poautinitini’, to make the first man, Tiki. To alleviate any misunderstandings or confusion concerning Whiro: In the Māori paradigm everything has a balance. The Māori philosophical meaning of Whiro necessitates his role within the realm of deities in the creation of Tiki, who is perceived to have been gathered and formed by the gods.
As an illustration of the influence and importance of Tumatauenga in our lives, I include an excerpt from a Tauparapara often used by Rangiwewehi Rangatira Tohunga Mita Mohi before he begins his whaikorero:
Te ingoa o to tupuna o Tu,
Tu whakaheke tangata
Ki raro, kia Tawhaki.
Translation:
The names of your ancestor Tu
Whose blood travels through the descendants
To Tawhaki.
Note: All tribes can lay claim to Tawhaki as an ancestor. His name originates from Hawaii.

20th Century Warfare and Māori
During World War I and World War II, Māori volunteered for service overseas with a sense of adventure and to see the world. In terms of utu in a modern context of war of attrition, Māori soldiers sought to restore a global balance of peace and justice.

__________________________________________________________

[1] Elsdon Best, The Māori As He Was, Wellington: National Museum, 1974, p. 167.

[2] Wiremu Maihi Te Rangikaheke was born 1815. He was a Te Arawa Chief of Ngati Kereru hapu affiliated to Ngati Rangiwewehi. He is the author of the manuscripts in Governor Grey’s New Zealand Māori Manuscript Collection.

[3] Elsdon Best, p. 167.

[4] Telephone interview with Eru Biddle, Tuhoe, Māori Studies, Waiariki Institute, Rotorua, 11/11/10.

[5] Interviews with Pat Mohi, Rangiwewehe  November, 2010. Telephone interview with Eru Biddle.

 

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