Volume 106 1997 > Volume 106, No. 4 > The flight of Pareraututu: An investigation of Taonga from a tribal perspective, by Paul Tapsell, p 323-374
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Whakarongo ake au
ki te tangi a te manu e karanga nei
tui… tui… tui… tuia
tuia i runga
tuia i raro
tuia i roto
tuia i waho i te here tangata
ka ranga ki te po
ka ranga ki te ao
tuia te muka tangata i takia mai
i Hawaiki nui
i Hawaiki roa
i Hawaiki pamamao ki te hono i wairua
ki te whaiao…
ki te Aomarama…
Ti hei mauri ora!

There was a stormy red horizon over the city of Auckland as I drove the leading van carrying Murirangaranga and Pareraututu home. Following us back on this wet morning were three other vans, numerous private vehicles and a 50-seater coach packed with Ngati Whatua, Tainui, and museum officials. Although none of the Arawa had slept properly, fatigue was the last thing on anyone's mind. Everyone had been gripped by excitement and as I drove home, I reflected on the overnight stay at Te Whare Tapiri marae. 1 Most of the night had been busy with talk and preparation. After a feed, the elders had engaged in a lively debate on how they thought the ancestors would expect the return of our taonga to proceed. Eventually the kawa of the next day had been agreed upon, which required everyone to go without food from midnight onward…. After completion of the return home, the fast would be ceremonially broken with a hakari which properly returns everyone - 324 to a state of noa…. The road back to Rotorua unwound like a black ribbon, shiny with the rain that persisted all the way home. Beside me sat the Ngati Whakaue elder Tomairangi and his Ngati Rangitihi cousin Jack Te Aramoana Brady, who spent the whole trip debating Te Arawa tribal politics. As I drove I alternately tuned in on their korero and on to the kuia sitting behind me. Not long after starting out they had removed the lid of the small box containing Tutanekai's flute, Murirangaranga. All of the kuia were descendants of Tutanekai and before long the taonga was being passed among them and being talked to in a very light-hearted way. Jokes and ribald wisecracks concerning his role in bringing Hinemoa to Tutanekai periodically sent the kuia into gales of laughter intermixed with songs from their younger, romantic days. Meanwhile the koro sitting in the front continued their political discussions, totally disregarding the carryings-on behind…. Three very short hours later the procession pulled up in heavy rain outside Taharangi marae near Ohinemutu, Rotorua…. Right on cue, the rain stopped completely. More than 200 members of Te Arawa greeted our arrival with a powhiri complete with a three-man taiaha wero, which is only performed on the most special of occasions…. The emotion was overwhelming as the taonga were taken into the arms of their descendants after a century or more of separation. The kuia, who only minutes earlier were cheerfully conversing in the van, were now consumed with grief as they rejoined with their Arawa counterparts to remember the dead who had once been associated with the taonga before them. The Auckland Museum conservators could only look on as the mucus and tears flowed. The intensity of the aroha displayed by the many kuia was matched by the mana of oratory released from the kaumatua. At one point the proceedings were punctuated by a very strong, short earthquake. The elders were not surprised. One simply asserted: “[They're] glad to be home” (Tapsell 1995a).

During my time working as a curator in the Rotorua Museum (1990-1994), I experienced the power that taonga can bring when they are returned home to their descendants (Tapsell 1995a). As a member of the Maori tribal group, Te Arawa, now studying anthropology and museums at Oxford University, I have produced this essay with the aim of synthesising the two world views in which I exist, in an attempt to provide a more accurate translation of taonga than is currently available. I am aware, however, that the non-Maori reader will have great difficulty in grasping just what taonga are, for there is little definitive literature on the subject. I have, therefore, written, as an introduction, HE TAONGA “TRADITIONALLY” DEFINED to provide a fuller understanding of taonga than has hitherto been published. Unfortunately, taonga have neither been properly understood, nor credited with any major importance, by outside observers. Most texts on Maori society do not even mention taonga, or gloss over this pivotal concept with cursory - 325 definitions like ‘heirloom’ or ‘property’. I attempt to explain the concept by developing Maori terminology into a contextual meta-language. Following Salmond (1984), I provide full English translations of essential Maori terms, not as footnotes, but as central features of the main text. After many exhaustive discussions with my Te Arawa elders concerning the Maori conceptualisation of our universe, I am confident that the meta-language I have refined in this introduction and then proceed to use throughout the essay, accurately portrays taonga as perceived by Maori tribal descendants.

The intent of the following section TUI AND COMETS is to show how certain taonga travel along two trajectories over time. By introducing two metaphors, the flight of the tui 2 and the orbital path of a comet, I explore how these trajectories provide deeper understandings of the complex and varied roles taonga play within Maori tribal society, both historically and today. Then THE FLIGHT OF PARERAUTUTU uses an ethnographic-narrative approach to describe my Te Arawa grounded experience of a taonga named Te Kahumamae o Pareraututu (Pareraututu's cloak of pain). The aim of this narrative is to provide a contextualised example of one particular taonga in a particular tribal situation. The next section COMPLEX TRAJECTORIES provides three further examples of taonga within Te Arawa's universe, to demonstrate both the spiritual and the social-economic-political complexities taonga still represent, especially when they are exchanged during life-crisis hui.

This paper concludes with a discussion FROM THE INSIDE OUT, which contrasts the Te Arawa perspective of taonga with current Western analysis. From a narrative platform of “lived experience”, I attempt to re-centre academic discussion surrounding taonga back to the context from which they originate. In essence, my work is grounded in tribal experience rather than in ethnographic texts produced by impartial observers who have separated taonga from their dynamic realities. The elders' colourful imagery of tui and comets helps to capture on the ground reality of how taonga function within Maori tribal culture. Within this context my paper develops understandings of taonga and how they continue to weave descendants to land, travel beyond tribal horizons and ameliorate life-crises. Today, these powerful symbols of tribal identity not only endure but remain inseparably layered within a wider genealogical cloak of knowledge which shrouds the whole of late 20th century Aotearoa-New Zealand in a living ancestral past.


A Dictionary of the Maori Language (Williams 1971:381) translates taonga as ‘Property, anything highly prized’, but it does not give any further indication of what exactly a taonga can or cannot be. To my knowledge there exists only one other easily accessible translation which provides, in - 326 simple terms, a closer approximation of what may constitute a taonga. This translation, produced by Sir Hugh Kawharu in 1989, arose out of the need for Pakeha New Zealanders to gain a better insight into Maori claims for Crown breaches of the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi. After supplying a literal translation of the Treaty (see Appendix 2) where taonga is defined as ‘treasures’, Kawharu attaches the following footnote:

‘Treasures’:‘taonga’. As submissions to the Waitangi Tribunal concerning the Maori language have made clear, ‘taonga’ refers to all dimensions of a tribal group's estate, material and non-material - heirlooms and wahi tapu, ancestral lore and whakapapa, etc. (Kawharu 1989:321).

By virtue of its inclusion in the Treaty of Waitangi, it is evident that the concept taonga must have been of great importance to Maori people in 1840. The pivotal role that taonga continue to play in modern day Waitangi Tribunal hearings indicates that their importance has remained undiminished. Within this Government-created forum, tribal groups have successfully demonstrated how the Crown (New Zealand Government) historically undermined the Treaty promise to protect Maori leaders' rangatiratanga (chiefly authority) not only over their lands and villages, but also their taonga. Since its inception in 1975, the Tribunal has heard, or is to hear, under the Treaty reference to taonga, Maori claims relating to rivers, harbours, lands, fisheries, forests, sacred sites, mountains, underground resources, language, and carvings (for examples see Environmental Management and the Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi 1988, Oliver 1991, Cox 1993; see also Waitangi Tribunal Claim Reports for Kaituna, Manukau Harbour, Muriwhenua, Ngai Tahu, Ngati Awa, Te Arawa, Te Ati Awa). Even the Treaty itself, in which the word is enshrined, is considered by Maori to be a document of great sacredness and is today referred to as a taonga.

Far from limiting, these submissions indicate that the word taonga is a powerful and all-embracing Maori concept that defies explanation by simply providing a list of written examples. For Maori, if an item, object or thing is described as he taonga it immediately elicits a strong emotional response based upon ancestral experiences, settings, and circumstances. The underlying force driving this response to taonga is whakapapa.

whakapapa: genealogy; to layer one upon the other; kin ties; systematic framework ordering descendants under common ancestors; genealogical descent lines connecting gods with all things living.
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Whakapapa, ritually recited by elders in chant-like form, provides the philosophical context in which taonga can be understood from a Maori perspective. Whakapapa allows the structural sequencing of the universe by tying all things into a genealogical order. This starts with the primary state of Te Kore, the potential to create. After many generations, Te Kore produces Te Po, the many realms of darkness in which the union of Ranginui (Sky-father) and Papatuanuku (Earth-mother) unfolds as they beget over 70 principal gods, or atua. These atua, led by Tane-mahuta, ultimately overcome their never ending darkness by pushing apart their celestial father from their earthly mother, allowing the manifestation of light, Te Aomarama, to enter their world. Subsequently, the human element along with all other living things comes into being, each having genealogically descended from the heavens down to their living descendants today.

By using common ancestors as points of reference mapped upon their customary landscape, Maori have been able to maintain a complex knowledge of their kinship and descent connections. These ancestors link them not only to themselves and their neighbours, but also to all things that exist in the universe. In former times all landmarks, prominent trees, rocks, hills, each bend in a stream, everything within a tribe's territory, were richly layered with ancestral names and events which validated the kin group's right of occupation. The traditionally accepted role of taonga is to represent the myriad ancestor-land connections, reinforcing the kin group's complex identity and authority over their estates. Taonga, however, are more than simple identity markers to certain ancestral estates; they are also accredited with possessing mana.

mana: authority; power; prestige; status; integrity; self-esteem; source of energy from the gods transmitted through ancestors; ancestral power embracing people and their estates.

Mana is a powerful concept which permeates every aspect of Maori tribal existence. As one of three essential elements contained within taonga, mana is instilled in a taonga through direct association with ancestors as it passes down the generations. The greater the ancestor who once used the item, the more powerful is the mana associated with it. As each generation passes, the mana of a kin group's eponymous ancestors increases in proportion to their seniority, genealogical antiquity, and the strength and number of living descendants. This in turn elevates the perceived mana of any item originally associated with kin group ancestors. To maintain the mana of taonga demands the complementary presence of tapu, so that the ancestral sanctity of such items can be properly preserved for the benefit of descendants whom have yet to be born.

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tapu: protect; sacred; prohibition; set apart; indication of presence of ancestors. If transgressed can inflict ill fortune. The balancing state to tapu is noa or profane, common, everyday, free of ancestral influence.

Tapu is the second element always associated with taonga, which acts as a social controlling agent preventing an item's mana, or power, from being transgressed by the state of noa. The greater the mana of a taonga, the greater its tapu, which demands careful management of the item. This trustee-like management (kaitiakitanga) is traditionally upheld by senior elders and their families, who are not only responsible for each taonga's long-term care under the strict controls of tapu, but also its proper exhibition to the wider kin group during life-crises. Life-crisis ceremonies, such as death rituals, usually occur on the kin group's marae, providing the necessary contexts in which taonga most successfully operate. It is during these ceremonies that taonga come to play their integral role of maintaining the kin group's identity. This is achieved by elders “performing” the taonga to the wider kin group upon the tribe's marae, reciting an ancestral song or retelling genealogical knowledge associated with an ancient carving. Salmond (1984:118) identified taonga as providing:

…a fixed point in the tribal network of names, histories and relationships… Taonga captured history and showed it to the living, and they echoed patterns of the past from first creation to the present.

To expand Salmond's discussion, taonga mnemonically provide elders with genealogical reference points, by virtue of their direct association with specific ancestors, which reanimate the kin group's surrounding landscape. This is possible because as taonga travel from one generation to the next, so too do their complex, genealogically ordered histories, or korero, which are individually attached to each item.

korero: oratory; to speak knowledge; speech; talk; verbal discourse; orally transmitted knowledge; truth account of the past; historical utterance; narratives associated with ancestors.

I identify korero as the third, and arguably the most important, element contained within taonga. Without korero, a taonga ceases to be recognised as representing a specific genealogical position for its descendants. This lack may subsequently undermine the ongoing trusteeship of the item and - 329 its associated mana and tapu. Korero can, therefore, be metaphorically compared to a cloak which shrouds the ancestral item in “warmth of knowledge”, which can include rituals, genealogical recitations, and historical stories. These aspects of a taonga's korero are carefully released at appropriate times to the wider kin group during life-crises. In its primary form, korero, the customary medium of transporting all lore and knowledge, is itself regarded as a taonga alongside whakapapa and land. In its pure state korero takes the ancient form of karakia which in many cases have been passed down, word perfect, from distant ancestors.

karakia: recitation; incantation; highly ritualised prayer; oratory requiring correctness in word form, fluency, and intonation; mediation with the gods; ancient verse that defies translation and is traditionally regarded as pure.

All taonga tuku iho, or ancestral items of great antiquity, are recognised as having been continuously wrapped in ancient karakia since their creation. This custom, executed by elders prior to any exhibiting of taonga, continues today, and is seen as essential to ensuring that the mana, tapu and korero of their kin group's ancestral items remain intact (Tapsell 1995a). Most importantly, karakia serve as a channel of mediation with the atua who control the power to nourish or destroy the mauri contained within all existing things.

mauri: life essence; life force; power of creation from the gods; sustains existence of form; binds the physical with the spiritual.

From first existence all things, even rocks, have mauri. This maintains the form of their creation, which is always an act of the atua, until the thing decays back into the earth, indicating that the mauri has departed. In the case of taonga, their mauri was initially awoken by karakia, and by the skills of the original priest, artist or composer. These persons' skills, however, are still considered to be gifts from the atua; they are seen as merely “vehicle[s] used by the gods to express their artistry and genius” (Mead 1984:25). After creation, ritual recitations of karakia are imbued in every taonga, enveloping it in a state of tapu. This protects the mauri and thereby ensures that the item's inherent mana, tapu and korero are secured.

As each taonga moves from one generation to the next, its associated korero, which includes karakia, whakapapa and historical accounts, is maintained and developed to reflect not only the relational positions of orator and audience, but also the kin group's continually changing social-political- - 330 economic circumstances. The elders strictly control a taonga's korero by releasing it either privately to selected descendants (tauira), or publicly to the kin group at ceremonial occasions (hui), such as those resulting from life-crises. Knowing their audience and the reason for their presence, and having an intimate understanding of the surrounding ancestral landscape, the elders craft their performances of taonga. These shape what aspects of a taonga's korero are highlighted or edited, recounted or censored, remembered or forgotten, in order to uplift the identity of its descendants without releasing too much knowledge for exploitation beyond the elders' control.

Performances of taonga upon the marae assist not only in weaving the kin group's identity back into the surrounding landscape, but also reinforce their mana, or ancestral authority, over the district, ensuring that upcoming generations develop a grasp of their tribal past. The performance of taonga by elders effectively collapses time and reanimates the kin group's ancestral landscape, allowing descendants to re-live the events of past generations. Described by Salmond (1984:120) as the “alchemy of taonga”, this ability to collapse time, which becomes most apparent during tangihanga (death rituals, which normally extend over several days), allows ancestors and descendants to be fused back into a powerful, single genealogical identity. Like the people, taonga have survived hardship and misfortune, travelled through generations of time, and arrived in the present, intact. The performance of taonga, therefore, plays an important role in the amelioration of life-crises, assisting the kin group to reestablish its ancestral identity after episodes of adversity.

Taonga are also valued by their descendants for their capacity to communicate knowledge from ancestors on a non-verbal plane. By analysing the performance of taonga, Mead (1984, 1986; also see Marsden 1975 and Barlow 1991) identified three aspects of non-verbal communication associated with ancestral items. Under the right circumstances, which are not necessarily confined to marae rituals, taonga can exert ihi, wehi and wana on an audience.

ihi: spiritual power; spontaneous physical reaction; supernatural; to feel an awesome presence.
wehi: to strike fear; awe; spine-tingling; to tremble; to excite.
wana:; authority; class; integrity; unquestioned competence.

The existence of these elements within specific taonga not only signifies the artistic accomplishment of the kin group's priests, artists or composers, but also reinforces the mana of direct descendants. Even taonga which have long since been separated from their korero can continue to exert ihi, wehi - 331 and wana. This ability is attributed to powerful ancient karakia still lingering about such items, protecting their mauri and maintaining their sense of mana and tapu. Many of the taonga still sustained by their kin groups exude ihi, wehi and wana, and are held to be repositories for the wairua of particular ancestors.

wairua: spirit; essence of being; soul of an ancestor; when not occupying a living being it dwells in the Maori mystical homeland called Hawaiki.

In these cases, the taonga carries not only the ancestor's name, but also his or her spiritual essence, and is acknowledged by descendants as possessing all the qualities of mana and tapu originally associated with this person when they were alive. Over time, certain taonga harbouring an ancestor's wairua may become too fragile to be properly shown (for example items created from organic material like cloaks, musical instruments or carvings), so they are committed back to the Earth and the wairua is ceremonially transferred into a newly-made replacement. Generally, when descendants interact with taonga possessing the wairua of their forebears, the antiquity of the physical item matters little. What is paramount is the customary value of the taonga, measured in the terms of mana, tapu, and korero, which must remain intact if its descendants are to glimpse their ancestral selves in its depths. Respect for taonga possessing an ancestor's wairua is widespread, and many become famous, even among unrelated kin groups. Often greeted as living representations of ancestors, taonga like Pukaki, Tiki, Uenuku, and Korotangi continue to be key performers in reaffirming Maori tribal identity in contemporary Aotearoa-New Zealand (Tapsell 1995b).

To reiterate, all items deemed taonga within the traditional Maori universe are directly associated with both ancestors and customary tribal lands. According to tradition, a taonga can be any item which recognisably represents a kin group's genealogical identity, or whakapapa, in relation to their estates and tribal resources. Taonga can be tangible, like a greenstone pendant, a geothermal hot pool, or a fishing ground, or they can be intangible, like the knowledge to weave, or to recite genealogy, and even the briefest of proverbs. They all possess, in varying degrees, the elements of mana, tapu, and korero. The greater the ancestors and the prestige of their descendants, the greater is the perceived mana of any associated taonga. Mana is protected through the recitation of karakia, which evokes the element of tapu and ensures that the taonga is treated with the reverence it deserves. The role of korero associated with taonga is to maintain the kin group's genealogical - 332 connection with their lands. If the korero, or knowledge, surrounding a taonga becomes separated from it, then its mana and tapu are also threatened. Without korero, the item ceases to communicate, loses context, and fails to link a kin group's identity to specific ancestral landscapes. Despite this, such taonga, which can be found in their thousands in archives, upon the countryside, or in museums, remain recognisably Maori because of the patterns embedded in them. They may continue to evoke feelings of ihi, wehi and wana and be called taonga, but because they have lost all associated knowledge, they are consigned to museum-like roles of representing an obscure and irretrievable past. The most powerful taonga, however, are those imbued with the wairua of famous ancestors, after whom they are named. Taonga such as these travel through the generations, tying people to land, reflecting social-political-economic realities, and accumulating korero. If taonga are separated from either their people or associated lands, they lose the context in which their knowledge was rehearsed and performed, and over time the rich korero that once shrouded them slowly but inevitably disappears.

Traditionally measured in terms of mana, tapu and korero, taonga are still utilised today as indicators of any particular kin group's robustness, especially during life-crisis ceremonies upon the marae. Tribes rich in taonga are invariably well endowed with lands, people and resources, while those poorly represented have generally suffered loss of control over estates, descendants and associated ancestral items. In former times, kin groups were able to re-establish their mana by recovering lost lands and taonga. The introduction of an alien European value system, however, made it difficult to rebalance past grievances according to tradition, and consequently taonga became decontextualised as kin groups permanently lost control over their lands and peoples. Looking back in history, taonga did not begin to undergo decontextualisation from their kin group-associated knowledge base until about 20 years after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. The ambiguities between the English and Maori versions of the Treaty worked in favour of the colonisers, who superimposed their value system upon Maori in order to achieve their own social-political-economic ends. Central to the Crown's successful colonisation of New Zealand was their conversion of Maori land into private European ownership, which was achieved rapidly and with devastating efficiency after the introduction of the Native Land Court system in the 1860s (Kawharu 1977). By 1900, this legal mechanism of imposing individual title upon communally owned lands had transferred almost all fertile tribal estates into Pakeha (European) ownership, irreversibly fragmenting Maori tribal society into mostly isolated, poverty-stricken kin groups upon marginal lands (Kawharu 1977). As tribes suffered land - 333 alienation during the later 19th century, the thousands of taonga associated with these Maori lands were variously part and parcel of the transaction (legally or otherwise), or were presented to the new tenants, removed to tapu burial grounds, abandoned where they lay, forgotten, sometimes burned, or perhaps sold to eagerly waiting collectors. After lands were alienated, associated taonga seldom served as anything more than sad reminders of what had been lost. Some taonga survived in old trunks or closets, up in the attic, or in museums, but most became irreversibly separated from their once rich korero.

Fortunately, all is not lost. The Waitangi Tribunal process not only offers an avenue for redressing past Crown injustices; it also offers an opportunity for kin groups to recapture lost taonga and develop a financial base from which new ones can be established. The Waitangi Tribunal has rekindled hope in the few remaining elders of a passing generation. Despite their age, elders like Kuru Waaka of Te Arawa have seized upon the opportunity created through the Tribunal process to reassert their rangatiratanga by negotiating with the Crown, as a Treaty partner, for the return of tribal resources. With guarded optimism they wait for the Crown to act honourably, as it promised to do in the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, allowing today's descendants to regain control over those taonga that remain, so that future generations may relive their ancestral past and re-establish their kin group's authority over their traditional estates.

Among taonga, one particular type is termed whakairo. According to Williams (1971:88), whakairo means ‘To ornament with a pattern’. Taonga whakairo are any ancestral physical items crafted through the artistry of weaving or carving (Mead 1991). They are not only physical manifestations of tribal knowledge but also spiritual representations of certain ancestors with whose wairua they have become associated over time. Each of these taonga was originally layered, by its artist, with a complex of interconnecting patterns reflecting fixed points within the kin group's dynamic genealogical past upon their lands. The most prominent taonga whakairo existing today are fine cloaks (kaitaka, korowai, kakahu), mats (whariki) and wall panels (tukutuku) woven from flax; canoes, houses, gateways, posts and long-handled weapons (taiaha, tewhatewha) sculpted from wood; flutes, fish hooks and club-like weapons (wahaika, patu paraoa) carved from human or whale bone; and stone effigies for protecting resources, sinkers, clublike weapons (mere, patu-onewa) and personal adornments (such as hei tiki) made from various kinds of stone. In keeping with the accepted idiom of my elders, and for the purpose of this article, I will hereafter refer to taonga whakairo, or physical ancestral items readily found upon marae and in museums, simply as taonga.

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One morning on Mokoia Island some years ago, I awoke very early and went for a walk upon my ancestral land. After a while I sat down on a rock beside Waikimihia pool, and looked back up at the bush-covered peaks of Tamatangarongaro and Taupiri. As the sun rose dozens of tui, or koko (as they are also known in Te Arawa), were darting, soaring and diving in and out of the bush. I noticed one tui in particular, well up the mountain with its feathers glistening and flashing in the morning sun. Quite suddenly, it headed down towards the tuis' favourite grove of pohutukawa trees beside Waikimihia, gliding and dipping across the steep terrain with elegant, swooping motions. After a long dive, the bird spread out its wings and briefly executed a shallow climb to lose speed, before entering into a new dive. At the top of each arc the bird seemed to became stationary for a moment, and each successive dive took it virtually out of sight as I strained to follow its skimming passage across the treetops. As the bird flew down towards me, I became aware that I was not the only one enjoying its flight. An elder, who had been quietly sitting in the Waikimihia behind me, began chanting an ancient tauparapara, initiating each new line in time with each new swoop of the bird: “Tui…. tui…. tui…. tuia!…” As he finished, the bird dived into the flowering pohutukawa directly above the hot pool. The elder had come down to the Waikimihia for an early morning bathe before everyone else awoke. As he finished dressing he gave me a broad smile and sat beside me on the rock:

“Now you know where our tupuna got their inspiration from! Tui is an ancient weaving term that means to ‘stitch’. The flight of the tui symbolises thai stitching action.” (While speaking, the koroua ran his hand through the air following the flight of yet another tui while at the same time pretending to hold a needle). “The most successful orators on the marae are like the tui, they take all the different threads present, and stitch them together into a beautiful korowai. The tau: Tui… tui… tui… tuia represents this” 3 (Tapsell 1995a).

Like the flight of the tui, a taonga briefly appears and then just as quickly disappears. As taonga descend through particular kin group's rangatira-lines, ceremonies dealing with life-crises such as tangihanga (death rituals), hahunga (in modern times ‘unveilings’), marriage, birth and conflict, manifest themselves as hui on the tribe's marae. Relevant treasures reappear and are displayed or gifted, before being hidden away again, sometimes for generations.

Taonga are threads from the past, acting as here, or guides. These guides - 335 link up the myriad of interconnecting relationships within the genealogically patterned universe of Maori society. From the time of creation down to more recent ancestral events, these “complementary and relative” interconnections represented by taonga (Salmond n.d.) have been woven and carved into the land by successive generations. Taonga are more than guides, however. They are also simultaneously the spiritual personification of particular ancestors who were originally associated with them. This spiritual presence, or wairua, is experienced by descendants as ihi, wehi and wana. The stronger the whakapapa, or genealogical connection between descendants and the associated ancestor, the greater the power and value of a taonga, as measured in terms of mana, tapu, and korero. By virtue of this reality, taonga created from fibre, bone, wood or stone are wrapped in karakia to become, over time, living representations of particular ancestors. Each taonga provides a genealogical pathway bridging the generations, which allows the descendants to ritually meet their ancestors, face to face. For every significant event involving ancestors, there exists, or once existed, a taonga that allowed descendants to remember their past, and to order the universe.

Each taonga's, ancestral pathway has woven a pattern of human interconnections upon the land for generations, forming a korowai, or cloak, of knowledge. This weaving occurs upon the marae during life-crises, when the oratory of the learned elders, tohunga, expertly ties together the many genealogical threads and events represented by taonga, thereby demonstrating the kin group's korowai over the land. Tracking the pathway of taonga through the Maori universe of time and space is like tracing a single aho, thread in a cloak. The thread, like the flight of the tui, appears and then disappears, time after time, in a repeating pattern that interlocks with other threads, or taonga, descending from one layer of whakapapa to the next. As with any garment, this woven korowai of taonga has two sides: the visible outer side, like the gliding climb of the tui when its wings are briefly spread out in a dazzle of brilliance, is displayed at life-crises, where taonga allow descendants to ritually embrace particular ancestors before they once again disappear from view. Each taonga represents a single genealogical thread, stitching sky to earth, atua to mortals, ancestor to descendant, generation to generation, in the descending pattern of the tui's flight. The successful marae orator captures this pattern, weaving all the ancestors together into an interconnecting korowai of complementary relationships upon the land. To turn the cloak over is to uncover how the thread between life-crises is connected: just as the tui dives from sight in between its gliding climbs, taonga also become invisible for periods of time, and are carefully maintained in tapu repositories hidden from public view.

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In Te Arawa, taonga were traditionally stored by the rangatira families, either on their person or in elaborately carved whare-koiwi that were named after famous ancestors. These whare-koiwi were highly tapu storage houses known to have once harboured ancestral bones (koiwi) and cured heads, and in many cases, tribal taonga that were once used by these ancestors. After the ancestors returned to Hawaiki, the taonga would also disappear from sight, like the tui, until a new life-crisis emerged. The introduction of Christianity in the 19th century brought about a rapid decline of the customary use of whare-koiwi in Te Arawa. Human remains once kept in whare-koiwi were relocated to ancestral burial grounds, and in many cases their accompanying taonga were also buried or placed in caves with them. This practice of burying taonga, however, was never considered permanent, because at some later date, perhaps generations later, they were recovered and used again in appropriate life-crisis rituals. Taonga burials seldom happen today in Te Arawa because the Rotorua Museum, established by Enid Tapsell in the late 1960s (Tapsell 1993), now serves the same purpose as whare-koiwi once did, by providing a sanctuary in which tribal taonga can be safely stored on long-term loan. In recent times this local government-administered repository has become more aware of its Treaty partnership responsibilities towards the Arawa tribe and formally recognised these with the additional title Te Whare-taonga o Te Arawa. Although the Rotorua Museum has still to resolve decision-making issues surrounding taonga, it does provide a tapu sanctuary for tribally important taonga which, on short notice, can be retrieved by their hunga tiaki for use at life-crisis rituals like tangihanga.

hunga tiaki: (Te Arawa dialect for kaitiaki) guardian—spiritual and or physical; trustee; manager of taonga on behalf of wider kin group; protector; custodian (male or female); a customary role fulfilled by or delegated by members of the tribe's senior family, i.e., elders (rangatira) and their tohunga.
The Comet

While the tui provides an excellent metaphor for the trajectory of taonga which have remained within the tribe, it fails to adequately represent the treasures that are presented out of a kin group's sphere of control. As I talked with my elders about the differences between taonga that stay within Te Arawa and to those that were gifted to other tribes, I was reminded by them of our protecting atua, Makawe:

…who reveals himself as a comet on special occasions. If seen in the skies over Te Arawa during peaceful times, he symbolises the impending arrival - 337 of a crisis. His presence during times of adversity, however, is interpreted as a divine sign for Ngati Whakaue, and a bad omen by their adversaries. Today Makawe dwells in a sacred place above Ohinemutu on the Pukeroa pa, surrounded by the Rotorua Public Hospital's buildings (Tapsell 1995a).

Figure 1: The gateway to Pukeroa pa, “He taonga o Ngati Whakaue”, photographed ca.1880. (Courtesy the Auckland War Memorial Museum.)

My kuia, Bubbles Mihinui, showed me how the comet provides an apt metaphor for understanding the trajectories of Te Arawa taonga beyond our tribal boundaries. Only tribally-valued taonga which represent ancestral connections to particular lands and carry the authority of the collective tribe are considered worthy to be released to another kin group. On one level, the more valuable the taonga given, the greater the mana bestowed on the receiver and on the occasion. By the same token, the mana of the gifting kin group is elevated in proportion to its generosity, obligating the recipients to reciprocate some time in the future.

On a deeper level, however, successful prestations of tribally-prized taonga not only reaffirm the current social-economic-political relationships between two kin groups, but also symbolise utu, a transference of indebtedness, in accord with the occasion.

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utu: repayment; return in kind, return for anything - can be immediate or long-term; reciprocity; removal of debt; reversing a debt; satisfaction; ransom; reward; revenge; retribution; reply; to make an appropriate response so that mana is at the least maintained if not increased.

Accordingly, taonga prestations continue to carry values firmly rooted in customary relationships still practised on the marae, based on descent, kinship and lands. Although the social-economic-political survival of Maori kin groups may no longer be threatened by tribal warfare, the past 155 years of government-driven land alienation policies have provided ample motivation for tribes to maintain relations with one another in order to reaffirm their own tribal identity in the face of Pakeha colonisation. It is within this context that tribal marae and taonga continue to exist and perform the integral role of maintaining kin group ties with other tribes through important hui and reciprocal indebtedness.

Te Arawa's oral tradition indicate that tribally valued taonga were mostly released, received or exchanged as representations of a mutually binding contract to settle past hostilities with a bordering kin group. In most of these cases the crisis was triggered by issues of mana whenua, or authority over land, often resulting in guerrilla-like warfare within the contested estates, which in some instances lasted for generations. In the cases where Te Arawa's enemy were heavily defeated, control of lands, remaining descendants and their taonga, were assumed as of right. If, however, a peace was negotiated, then according to which kin group held the political ascendancy, access to particular tribal resources was relinquished or given, marriages arranged and taonga exchanged. After gifting, kaitiakitanga, the chiefly control of taonga, was assumed by the rangatira families of the receiving tribe (for discussion of kaitiakitanga see M. Kawharu MS. 1997). The taonga, which continued to carry the mana, tapu and korero of their former kin group, now acquired a new layer of korero as it became woven into the korowai of another tribe. If a future occasion warranted it, the taonga might have been gifted to yet another tribe, as was the case more than once with the taonga Te Kahumamae o Pareraututu.

When such taonga were presented by Te Arawa to other tribes, they were literally launched on an unknown, comet-like trajectory that sent them beyond the horizon of Te Arawa's consciousness, sometimes for many generations. Concern about the future well-being of these taonga was never an issue because the recipients understood their obligations as hunga tiaki. They were aware that the mauri of these items were protected by powerful karakia designed to maintain the physical and spiritual security of taonga - 339 on their far-away travels. Then one day they suddenly reappear, charged with the spiritual energy of past ancestors, returning home to their descendants in a blaze of rediscovery. Generations of the original kin group may have been born, lived and died, without knowing of their taonga's continuing existence in another part of the universe. Suddenly it streaks back into their lives, often as a result of some significant life-crisis, reaffirming the kin groups' connections to the ancestors who were originally associated with the taonga. This creates not only high respect for the gifting kin group who have allowed the taonga to return, but also an obligation upon the receiving tribe to repay the indebtedness that such a prestation can create. Upon their return, especially after an absence lasting for generations, these taonga are more than items once used by ancestors, they are ancestors. After receiving an emotional homecoming in accordance with their genealogical status, they are elevated to a new position of mana and tapu comparable, in status only, to the tribe's sacred relics: 4 a position that is perceived by descendants as inalienable. Generally, it seems that only taonga that have been released and then returned generations later can claim an inalienable status, but this is dependent upon the context of presentation, whom the taonga represents, the status of the kin group's associated lands, and not least, the political dynamics yet to be realised by future descendants. Thereafter these revered taonga may again emulate the flight of the tui and help ameliorate significant life-crises.


This section recounts my first-hand experiences involving a most valued Te Arawa taonga. The taonga is a dogskin cloak which was created by Pareraututu as a garment representing her tribe's pain. I originally wrote about this taonga in an unpublished University of Auckland essay titled “Comets and Whakapapa” (1995a). Because it contained genealogical knowledge, I wrote that paper with the intention that it would remain unavailable for wider distribution or publication. It also, however, contains important ethnographic material from which useful analyses of taonga can be taken. I have, therefore, produced this section on Pareraututu as an abridged version of my original narrative, minus any material that might transgress the tikanga surrounding the transmission of Te Arawa's knowledge to non-related peoples. It weaves an important strand into the overall fabric of my discussion.

tikanga: discipline of the ancestors; lore and customs carefully maintained and passed down through the generations by elders (rangatira and their tohunga); ancestral correctness
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  associated with all tapu ceremonies, hui and taonga, especially in a marae situation; principles.

It all started back in 1991, when I was working as curator at the Rotorua Museum. Early that year I was approached by Hari Semmens, one of the most senior elders of my tribe, Te Arawa, who asked me to assist him in securing the return of his great grandmother's cloak from the Auckland Institute and Museum. By reciting genealogy he situated himself with his ancestors and then told me the story of Te Kahumamae o Pareraututu.

Until 1982 I had only heard of my kuia's dogskin cloak and I thought it no longer existed. But that year a cloak exhibition came to Rotorua. I visited the exhibition out of curiosity and that's when I saw her. I walked straight up to her and put her on. People got upset, but they didn't understand, this was my kuia! The cloak felt right, she was warm and fitted exactly. My eyes were filled with tears as I remembered my old people talking about this great cloak and the maker, Pareraututu. She made it to honour the deaths of our people killed by Tuhoe in the battle of Pukekaikahu. Pareraututu was part Tuhoe herself and upon learning that many of her Rangitihi menfolk had been killed by her Urewera relatives, she became grief-stricken. So my kuia collected all the dogs that had once belonged to the fallen chiefs and wove their skins into our cloak of pain. She then made a journey to the Waikato to plead with the renowned Ngati Maniapoto fighting leader, Tukorehu, to revenge the Tuhoe. Her method of persuasion used no words. Instead she sat silently upon Tukorehu's marae for days on end, wrapped in the kahumamae and refusing to eat. Eventually Tukorehu's heart was so moved that he accepted Pareraututu's request by lifting the cloak from her shoulders and placing it upon his own. I do not know if Tukorehu revenged the Tuhoe or not. Many years later when my kuia died, her bones were placed upon our mountain peak of Tarawera called Wahanga.

I had always thought our kahumamae, Pareraututu, was no more. The old people had no further knowledge than what I have just told you. After being passed to Tukorehu the cloak became his to look after and we never heard what happened. In our eyes she was gone, most likely buried with someone of importance. Those were my thoughts up to the time I was reunited with my kuia in 1982.1 was so glad to embrace her and I thought Pareraututu had returned home for good. But then I learned she was going back to Auckland. I tried to talk to the museum to leave her here at home in Rotorua, to gift her back to us, the descendants. But no, they said the Auckland Museum owned her. I was greatly saddened when she was taken away and I knew it was up to me, her great grandson, to bring her back home. Every time I went to Auckland I would visit Pareraututu but I could not convince the museum people to let her go. No one wished to understand me.…Perhaps Pareraututu will come home yet? If this was to happen I shall die happy (Tapsell 1995a).

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Figure 2: The dogskin cloak “Te Kahumamae o Pareraututu”. (Courtesy the Auckland War Memorial Museum.)

It took me the next two years to fulfill Hari's dream. I began negotiations with the Auckland Museum, but soon discovered that the obstacles that the koro had encountered were very real and still daunting. I could easily understand why many Maori people feel alienated from their taonga held in large city institutions. Apart from the physical barriers of distance and glass cases, the visiting tribes also have to cope with foreign labels and bureaucratic hierarchies. These not only separate taonga from their descendants and ancestral lands, but also recontextualise them in Western culture as objects assigned monetary valuations and institutionally defined in terms of legal possession.

Fortunately the oral account associated with Te Kahumamae o Pareraututu at the time of collection was recorded. It gave a succinct history of the cloak up to the time Poihipi Tukairangi gifted her to Captain Gilbert Mair around the 1870's.

This mat was woven about the year 1800 as a ‘Kahu MaMae’ (garment of pain) on account of the slaughter by the Urewera of a large number of Tuhourangi chiefs at Pukekahu on Lake Rere-Whakaitu. One of the widows, - 342 a woman of high rank called Pareraututu, carried it to the great Ngatimaniapoto chief Tukorehu and sat covered up for several days fasting in his marae till his sympathies were so aroused that he consented to avenge the wrongs of her tribe. The mat subsequently descended to Tukorehu's grandson the late Rewi Maniapoto, who sent it to Ihakara Tukumaru of Foxton on the birth of his daughter. In 1866 Ihakara gave it to Poihipi Tukairangi the principal chief of Taupo who presented it to me (Auckland Museum Ethnology Department, Cat. No. 812).

The recovery of historical information that had become attached to the cloak since it had left the possession of Pareraututu was significant. Within Te Arawa, it was not known what the cloak's fate had been, until her rediscovery in 1982. Only the korero up to the time of her gifting by Pareraututu had survived with Te Arawa descendants. The retrieval of the events surrounding the cloak's almost 200-year absence was vitally important to the overall value of the taonga. Through ritual, this knowledge, or korero, was brought to the fore by the Ngati Whatua and Tainui elders who represented the Auckland Museum on the day the taonga was returned. By presenting the taonga's korero, these elders were effectively returning knowledge and object as one, back to their people and land. As Pareraututu was ritually received back home, the Arawa elders recontextualised this korero to effectively join the descendants present with their ancestors upon the surrounding landscape (whenua), demonstrating the power of taonga as unifying symbols of kinship (whanaungatanga) and tribal identity (mana).

Generally, as taonga move from one kin group to another, so also does their associated knowledge, which maintains both the integrity and the context of each item. Over the generations, this knowledge becomes cumulative, a measure of the value each taonga may possess. The greater the ancestors that were once associated with them, the greater their perceived mana, tapu and korero. The potential value of any taonga cannot be fully realised, however, until it is reunited with the descendants of the original possessors upon their ancestral lands. I do not think that anyone who was present on the day of the return anticipated the incredible spiritual power that Pareraututu released when she was welcomed home upon the lands from which she was born. 5

After her ceremonial return, I stayed back with Te Kahumamae o Pareraututu and witnessed the most poignant action of the day. Earlier koro Hari's eyes had become unashamedly wet as his kuia Pareraututu was at last and with great ceremony, laid before him in the Rotorua Museum. However it was not until after the formalities, when almost everyone had left the exhibition - 343 space, that the koro was finally able to reunite himself with his kuia. I watched the tall old man quietly collapse to his knees in front of Pareraututu. With great reverence he leaned forward and completed the hongi with his great grandmother. A lifetime of energy abandoned him and tears rolled down his cheeks onto the cloak as his family helped lift him back to his feet. I found myself also filled with emotion as I realised, probably more than anyone else, the burden that at last had been lifted from Hari's aging shoulders. Soon after we embraced in a hongi and we both knew the journey of Pareraututu had finally been completed (Tapsell 1995a).

Figure 3: “Te Arawa Treasures Welcomed Home”. From Auckland War Memorial Museum News, No. 54, June 1993.

In this ritual homecoming it was understood by Te Arawa that the mana, tapu and korero of their taonga had been returned, recognised and increased. It mattered little to the elders that the Auckland Museum continued to claim legal ownership rights over the taonga, without due recognition of the meaning and significance of the events surrounding their return. Later I tried to explain to one of Te Arawa's most elderly kaumatua the Auckland Museum's reasons for retaining legal ownership of the taonga. After listening very carefully he said that there was nothing to worry about:

taonga are our ancestors, they are like people, you can belong to them, but you can never own them. They have a freedom of their own. Some taonga become travellers. The old people use to say that eventually all taonga return home. I am inclined to agree. But no one can ever own them (Tomairangi Kameta, 28 April 1993).

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After listening to the wise council of my senior elders, I realised that to pursue the issue of legal ownership with the Auckland Museum was unnecessary. For the elders all that was important was that Pareraututu had come home. The old people had no written document to claim rights of ownership. The taonga did not require such evidence. What mattered most was how they had returned home. For Te Arawa, and the elders of the two Auckland tribes, Ngati Whatua and Tainui (who assisted the Auckland Museum in the return), a traditional exchange of taonga had taken place which recognised and acknowledged the obligations of kinship and the reciprocity of indebtedness. The return was according to the ancient rituals of Te Arawa for receiving home the spiritual essence of their ancestors after their existence under the mana whenua (mantle) of another kin group. Today elders of Te Arawa have seen some of their most cherished taonga return home. And for now, it seems, this is all that matters.

Two weeks later, I laid out Pareraututu on display at the entry to the Tarawera exhibit. A small group of Ngati Rangitihi elders led by Hari Semmens were present to ensure that the kuia went on public display with the appropriate rituals. Ngati Rangitihi had given the cloak the honour of conveying a special significance to the exhibition:


The cloak lying in this exhibition not only represents the warriors that were killed near Lake Rerewhakaaitu but also brings to us memories of Pareraututu who was buried along with many of her Ngati Rangitihi ancestors upon Wahanga. On 10 June 1886 the Tarawera eruption scattered their remains to the four winds. Te Kahumamae o Pareraututu is their memorial.

Nine months after the return of Pareraututu Hari Semmens died, and it was then that I truly experienced the power taonga can release. This came about when I carried the cloak Pareraututu onto Hari Semmens' marae during his tangihanga, surrounded by 60 of my elders.

The earlier chatter was now replaced by an eerie silence as we moved in unison to the gateway, to be called on to the marae. The sense of oneness was incredible. Pareraututu, now draped over my arms, sent chills through my body despite the summer heat. As we slowly moved onto the marae, ihi, wehi and wana exuded from our group. The spiritual presence of our ancestors had been summoned from Hawaiki and now floated upon the karanga (ritual calls of the women elders), enveloping everyone present. At a given point in our advance the kuia in front became stationary and then parted to allow me to carry Pareraututu forward. I was flanked by my two - 345 uncles, Kuru-o-te-Marama Waaka and Bishop Manuhuia Bennett. Just the three of us continued forward to the porch of the meeting house, Rangiaohia, as the rest of Te Arawa remained stationary. The home people now realised that their kuia Pareraututu was present and a new karanga reached out to their ancestor as she lay in my arms. I could now see old Hari laid out on the porch, surrounded by many kuia and women dressed in black. A crescendo of wailing surrounded the tupapaku of Hari as I slowly kept approaching. By this time my uncles Kuru and Manu had stopped moving, as I continued my slow advance to the threshold of the ancestral house and carefully placed Pareraututu into Hari's daughter's outstretched arms. The wails of grief and the copious flowing of hupe continued as the cloak was loving laid upon him. Everyone's eyes were wet. No one was unaffected. Slowly the lamenting cries of the kuia subsided and this great chief of Te Arawa was honoured through the speeches given by the many kaumatua present. The women surrounding Hari gently caressed the cloak, allowing their tears to gently fall upon her before being lovingly wiped away. It was then, as I sat surrounded by my people, elders and mokopuna, together grieving yet at the same time celebrating, that I realised the ultimate value of Pareraututu had finally reached full expression (Tapsell 1995a).

Hari's tangihanga provided the context which enabled the taonga Pareraututu to help refocus the descendants, their ancestors and lands back into one tribal identity. While still watching Hari with the cloak draped over him, I had listened to the elders' oratory as they animated the surrounding landscape and guided the living to see their taonga as ancestral representations which tie people and land together as one. Today our boundaries upon the land are fixed. Traditional political alliances with other tribes have been replaced by a battle to maintain kin group identity in an urbanised world. Because tribal warfare crises were eliminated under the European justice system, the use of taonga as physical symbols of mana over the land, like the Pukaki gateway that once stood on the summit of Pukeroa pa (Tapsell 1995b), were either abandoned or transformed to fit into new political contexts (see Fig. 1). The advent of the Native Land Court in the 1860s threw Maori tribal society into a new crisis which facilitated massive alienation of lands and threatened the very identity of kin groups throughout the country (Kawharu 1977). As a direct result, taonga formerly associated with certain tribal estates became redundant, and many were eagerly acquired by waiting curio-hunters, collectors and museums. Fortunately the marae and associated life-crisis rituals, like tangihanga, persisted, thereby maintaining the context necessary for surviving taonga to continue functioning in accord to their inherent value. Tribal lands may now be covered by tarseal, housing and European titles, but this does not - 346 diminish the mana whenua of kin groups over their traditional territories. 6 When Pareraututu returned to her descendants on their marae and during a time of crisis involving the death of her mokopuna, Hari Semmens, I witnessed not only the “alchemy” of taonga (Salmond 1984:120), but also experienced the performative power (i.e., ihi, wehi and wana) such treasures are capable of releasing when they interact with their people in the customary context of a marae. The taonga became a here, a guide, which assisted everyone present to focus physically, spiritually and genealogically on the crisis at hand, the death of a Te Arawa leader.

During the return of Pareraututu to Hari's tangihanga, neither Kuru or Manu were allowed to whaikorero because they were members of the mourning family. Te Arawa protocol dictated that because of their close kin relationship with the tupapaku, they were required to keep silent at all the welcoming formalities until the final night of ritual before burial, the poroporoaki. On this night, the close male kin members of the deceased, who like Kuru or Manu carry the status of kaumatua, can finally stand and formally release more intimate knowledge associated with the deceased and direct ancestors. Tribal members, young and old, attend this evening so they may share in their elders' korero about the kin group's past. For Kuru, the cloak effectively facilitated the release of his knowledge (whakapapa and korero) surrounding Pareraututu, as handed down to him by his mother, which in turn has allowed a new generation to learn what this taonga represents to their tribe.

This is the korero passed on to me by my mother concerning the Kahumamae o Pareraututu. My mother was named Ani Pareraututu after her kuia so naturally she took an interest in her namesake….

In earlier times Tuhourangi, who were also the ancestors of the people known today as Ngati Rangitihi, were always fighting with their neighbours, the Tuhoe people from the Ureweras. Tuhourangi lived on the edge of Lake Tarawera at a place called Moura. On one particular time, Tuhourangi led by Rangikatukua, crossed the Kaingaroa Plains and successfully attacked Ngati Manawa of the Tuhoe in their own territory. Purewa, the Tuhoe chief, decided to defeat the Arawas upon their homelands and kill Rangikatukua in revenge. However he was apprehensive about fighting so far from home. While at Maungapohatu he searched for a sign that may indicate the outcome of such a daring plan. It was here that Purewa spotted a shag on a branch of a tree. He turned to his tohunga and said: “This shag is the kaitiaki (spiritual guardian) of Rangikatukua.” It was known by everyone that Rangikatukua and his cousin Tionga were invincible fighters in the open because of their arrow formation technique like the diving shag hunting a fish. The tohunga turned to Purewa and said:” Throw your rakau (spear) at the bird. If you kill - 347 him then you will be victorious. If not then you should not go”. Purewa threw his spear and killed the shag. The sign was good and so Purewa's taua marched across the Kaingaroa Plains to Mount Tarawera. They rested at Lake Rerewhakaaitu where Purewa discovered a raised landscape feature within a closed valley at the foothills of the mountain. The place, called Pukekaikahu, fitted into Purewa's ambush plan; and he proceeded to conceal the majority of his war party at this location. He then sent a small group of Tuhoe's fastest warriors to Moura, the Tuhourangi stronghold on Lake Tarawera. The small group attacked Moura and incited the occupants to give chase. Tuhourangi could not believe the cheek of their enemy! So all the men poured out and gave chase to the small group of Tuhoe troublemakers who dared to insult Te Arawa in their own lands! Leading the chase was Tionga and this was soon spotted by one of his pursued Tuhoe relations. You see, Tionga's mother, Mahora, was herself a Tuhoe. Therefore the Tuhoe relation of Tionga, not wanting his cousin to be killed, yelled back during the chase: “Tionga e taku mua, taku muri! Tionga you are too far in front, fall back!” Unfortunately Tionga did not recognise the warning and called back: “Hoatu a tenei po ko to upoko hei poito mo taku kupenga! By tonight your head will be a float for my fishing net!” And so continued the chase which tragically ended in the ambush at Pukekaikahu. The exhausted Tuhourangi were killed by Tuhoe and included Tionga, Rangikatukua, and his son Hurinui. From this battle a tau was composed. Composed by Tuhoe it was a chant of victory. But for Tuhourangi, it is still recited as a chant of lament:
Ko te Rangikatukua koe waiho kia haere ana
Ko te Rangikatukua koe waiho kia haere ana
Kei whiua koe te whiu a Rongatakawiu kia mate ai
To ure tunaha i te awatea
Kei Moura kei a Tionga
Te paenga mai o te ure putete te huruhuru
E apu ra ki te kirikiri tai e ha….
If thou art Te Rangikatukua
Proceed then on your way [reference to the shag]
Lest thou be punished by Rongo-takawhiu [sic]
Or slain be the blear-eyed offspring in daylight at Moura.
With Tionga are those prepared
As ancient custom dictates
And 'tis they who shall bite the dust.
(Translation from Best 1925:439)
In time the people heard that Tionga had been taken back to Maungapohatu by Tuhoe and was being used like a scarecrow overlooking a mahingakai - 348 (cultivation). This greatly saddened Tionga's grand daughter Pareraututu, who wished the head returned. Such desecration was a great burden upon the people who no longer had the strength of numbers to reverse the insult and re-secure Tionga. Therefore Pareraututu weaved the kahumamae and proceeded to the Waikato to plead with the great chief Tukorehu to assist in the returning of Tionga's head. To gain Tukorehu's attention she sat, wrapped in the cloak, upon his marae for three days, refusing to eat. Tukorehu was eventually so moved that he agreed to assist in whatever she wanted. In return Pareraututu gifted the cloak. Through Tukorehu's influence peace was made between the Arawas and Tuhoe. The head of Tionga was safely returned back home to Tarawera. However my mother never knew or heard what happened to the cloak afterwards (Tapsell 1995a).

Sharing korero like this with the wider kin group during the poroporoaki not only assists in grieving but is also an effective way of transferring knowledge to the next generation. Always given in Maori, the continued repetition of the korero by each kaumatua plays a key role in activating and reinforcing young minds. By the end of the tangihanga, ancestors, land features, tribal knowledge and taonga have become inseparable. Ancient rituals recited at the poroporoaki ensure that the wairua of the dead present at the tangihanga will now begin their long journey back to the ancestral homelands of Te Arawa in Hawaiki, so that the living can return to living.

Two days after my first visit to Hari's tangihanga, I returned to Rangiaohia to see the koro into the ground.

A light drizzle fell as the Catholic priest conducted the final rites and prayers over Hari's closed casket. After all had been said and done, I stepped up to the hole and threw a handful of soil down onto the collection of flowers stacked upon the coffin lid. Turning my collar up against the rain I went back with the crowd to the dining hall for the ritual feast. Two hours later, after an excellent feast, everyone had started drifting off home when I was summoned back into the ancestral house, Rangiaohia. Pareraututu was now lying without Hari, below the third poupou (carved ancestor), surrounded by photographic portraits and her living descendants. I stood in front of the kuia for a moment, and then sat on a bench opposite the grieving family. Hari's eldest son stood up to ritually farewell his kuia, Pareraututu, on behalf of the descendants before she returned with me back to Rotorua. After returning the mihi I remained standing in front of the cloak and only the rain broke the silence. Then two young women stood beside me and sang a touching waiata while the family filed past Pareraututu and again allowed their tears mingle with their beloved kuia. After the final hongi to the cloak was completed, Hari's eldest daughter gently lifted Pareraututu up and placed her in my arms. With great reverence I turned to my right, and walked out of the house across the marae. Only Auntie Gypsy had followed the cloak - 349 and me outside. Upon reaching the gateway Auntie Gypsy released a karanga of farewell to Ngati Rangitihi's kuia, Pareraututu (Tapsell 1995a).

One year later, I travelled down from University of Auckland to attend the unveiling of Hari Semmens' headstone. This practice is a continuation of the pre-Christian tradition called hahunga, which required the scraping and special preparation of a person's bones one year after their tangihanga. This ceremony represented the completion of the wairua's spiritual journey back to Hawaiki, and the bones were thereafter wrapped in specially prepared cloth and cloaks, and secretly concealed within Te Arawa's ancestral lands. With the advent of missionaries, however, the hahunga was abandoned and the Maori people adopted instead the Christian practice of permanent burial. To ameliorate the emotional conflict this caused between the Church and traditional death rituals, kin groups modified the hahunga ceremony into an “unveiling”. This ceremony requires that a prestigious korowai be used to unveil the headstone one year after death, thereby representing the completion of the wairua's journey to Hawaiki, as well as symbolising the end of mourning. Sadly the Rotorua Museum chose not to respect Ngati Rangitihi's wish to ritually use Pareraututu's cloak for Hari's unveiling. Fortunately, however, Hari's daughter had completed a new cloak for her tribe after being inspired by the old one. This new korowai was taken by Ngati Rangitihi to the summit of Wahanga, where Pareraututu's bones had once lain, and a special ceremony was conducted to empower the new korowai with her mana. Through karakia on the tribe's sacred mountain peak, the new cloak was transformed into a garment of prestige suitable to shroud the headstone of Ngati Rangitihi's last elder of his generation, Hari Semmens. The following day this korowai became the focus of the unveiling, a new taonga in place of the old. At the end of the ceremony the korowai was carefully wrapped up and hidden by the female rangatira descendants of Ngati Rangitihi. Upon the arrival of new life-crises, the cloak has again been revealed to the tribe on their marae. Like Te Kahumamae o Pareraututu, the new cloak is now also seen to carry her mana, and has begun bridging the present with the past, the living with the dead, and showing a new generation of Te Arawa descendants the spiritual pathway home to Hawaiki-nui, Hawaiki-roa, Hawaiki-pamamao ki te hono i wairua (ritual references to the homeland).


The Flight of Pareraututu is but one of hundreds of narratives maintained by kin group elders throughout Aotearoa which demonstrate the depth of ancestral knowledge that is, or once was, genealogically layered within every - 350 taonga ever to exist. Taonga are poignant reminders of the past, represented by the concepts of mana, tapu and korero, which, when “performed” by elders on the marae, become symbolic illustrations of the kin group's ancestral identity to surrounding lands. Pareraututu demonstrates how taonga, if they still maintain their mana, tapu and korero, can ritually re-enter today's tribal society, and thereafter assist in the amelioration of life-crises. Although a museum concept of “legal ownership” still hangs over Pareraututu, it is generally seen as irrelevant by Te Arawa. Rather than enter into a legal debate over “ownership” of ancestors, all that truly mattered to the tribal elders was that Pareraututu and the three accompanying taonga were back home on Te Arawa soil so they could once again be reunited with their descendants. Even the ongoing crisis of tribal identity in the face of urbanization 7 was temporarily forgotten as Te Arawa elders welcomed home not only their ancestors, but also their rarely seen urban descendants, whose combined presence represented a powerful reaffirmation of the tribe's customary authority over Rotorua's township and districts.

Since then, Pareraututu has continued to accumulate ancestral power, adding to the mana, tapu and korero collected over the generations. Like the comet's tail, the blaze of this taonga's mana has grown far greater than the item itself and, because of its powerful identity-maintaining qualities to ancestral lands, it is now perceived by Pareraututu's descendants as inalienable. Since its comet-like return, the cloak has been allowed to emulate the characteristic flight of the tui by participating in a life-crisis ritual, an essential requirement for ensuring that the taonga's spiritual essence is maintained for future generations. This was achieved when Te Whare-taonga o Te Arawa temporarily released Pareraututu to her descendants during the life-crisis ritual of Hari's tangihanga, where her full customary value was finally realised, and allowed the elders to ritually weave the ancestors she represents back into the korowai of their kin group's universe.

Around the same time, another taonga reappeared in comet-like fashion over Te Arawa's horizon, after an absence of three generations. This taonga is a taiaha, a long hard-wood weapon, which carries the ancestral name Tuhourangi, after one of Te Arawa's great warrior leaders who lived over 14 generations ago. Whereas the return of Pareraututu evoked emotions of love and tears, the return of Tuhourangi elicited feelings of mana (chiefly authority) and tapu (spiritual power). The taiaha is an ancient weapon that represents land retention through the physical force of male warriors. The fact that this taiaha still exists indicates that the weapon's mana has never been vanquished. The taiaha was originally presented in 1901 by an Arawa leader, Te Rangawhenua, to an English army commander, Colonel Crole Wyndham. The taonga was taken back to England and survived three - 351 generations without ending up in the hands of a collector or being lost in some obscure museum. The Arawa descendants were astonished to discover that the English guardians had honoured the traditional value of the taonga by returning him in a generous act of reciprocity. For Te Arawa, the 1992 return of the taiaha was not unlike the welcoming home of a very old and revered elder after a lengthy absence. His return offered the best possible reason for all of Te Arawa to celebrate their identity, without the burden of death to dampen the reunion.

As the time approached the museum's lobby became full to overflowing with young and old awaiting the arrival of the taiaha. Then silence rippled through the air as kuia gave stern looks to their school-age mokopuna to be quiet…. Because it was raining, proceedings had been forced inside but this did not prevent the powhiri from taking place in front of the museum. My 60 year old uncle, Ray Keepa, the acknowledged taiaha exponent for Ngati Whakaue, was given the honour to wero the taiaha into the building. His wero from earlier times are legendary, and this was the first one he had done in years…. The old rugby injuries disappeared as he crossed the tarseal barefoot and laid a dead branch in front of the taiaha being held by Rangawhenua's descendant elder, Tomi Gray. Beside him stood his nephew, Whakatau Clarke, also carrying his own taiaha as an escort for the ancient weapon. The take was picked up by Bill Gray and the ope followed Ray Keepa into the museum, as a karanga was sent out by Ngati Whakaue's elder, kuia Tuku Hohepa, welcoming home the long absent ancestors of the taiaha. After the exchange of karanga the whole of Te Arawa erupted into haka led by Joe Hakaraia. Pride and awe radiated from the school children present as they tried to get a glimpse of the ancient taiaha. Many elders spoke on this occasion, not only because of the taiaha's presence but also because many other tribal taonga were about to go on public display…. Hamuera Mitchell opened the speeches and the honour of closing was given to Tamati Wharehuia, the eldest living kaumatua in Te Arawa. The mana of oratory was returned to the paetapu with a closing Christian karakia by Wihapi Te Amohau Winiata. The elders finished this part of the proceedings with the hongi and lined up at the entrance to the newly re-established Te Arawa gallery. Pateriki te Rei now donned his kakahu and, placing me directly behind him, led the hikitapu (the “removal of spiritual interference” ceremony) through the gallery that was still in a state of tapu. Everyone else fell in line behind me, elders first, as the tohunga slowly walked through the gallery performing the ancient ritual, ta i te kawa (reciting of ancient karakia involving the use of the plant kawakawa), which cleared the tapu surrounding each taonga and allowed the human element to enter the space (whakawatea). Koro Pat timed his karakia recital perfectly so that he finished standing directly before the display case especially prepared for the taiaha Tuhourangi. Uncle Tomi now stepped out in front with the taiaha in hand, - 352 as koro Pat started reciting karakia over the ancient weapon of war. Uncle Tomi then handed Tuhourangi to me and I placed the beautifully balanced taonga on display. Surrounded by my tribe, the significance of the moment was not lost as I fought back my emotions and embraced Uncle Tomi in a hongi. At the same time koro Pat's karakia came to a close with all Te Arawa chanting in unison: “Tai iki E!” (Tapsell 1995a:69-70).

The tui-like appearance of Tuhourangi at his descendant's tangihanga several months later added a special dimension, because of the taonga's ability to transport past ancestors forward into the present. This is not something that is easily observable. It requires a depth of cultural understanding based upon a lifetime of relevant experiences, which allows recognition of the deeper relationships and interconnections of kinship, or whanaungatanga, that come to the fore during a life-crisis.

With one of Te Arawa's most senior kaumatua, Tomairangi Kameta, accompanying me, I removed Tuhourangi from display and we travelled down to Waitangi (near Maketu). I assisted the koro out of the car and carefully unwrapped Tuhourangi, holding him in the noa-whakapaepae position. Then the koro and I slowly approached the entrance to Te Paamu marae. In front of us was a group of people from Mataatua waiting to go on. As soon as they saw the old koro and me, they all parted, allowing us to stand in front, thereafter keeping their distance. Eventually the preceding ope finished their tributes to Bill Gray and we were called on to the marae by the kaikaranga. No women walked in front of the koro and me as we proceeded in silence to the seating arranged on the left of the sacred courtyard facing the ancestral house, Tia. In the porch lay Uncle Bill surrounded by grieving kuia and whanau-pani whose cries of anguish were audible from the moment we stepped onto the marae. Immediately to the left of the house stood the kaumatua and younger men who remained standing while the ope that followed us silently stood, acknowledging the dead, before seating themselves on benches behind us. We, however, remained standing for some time as the koro, almost in tears, sang a moteatea under his breath to his recently deceased wife. When we finally sat down the elders of the tangata whenua took their seats upon the paetapu. The whaikorero opened with them and followed the traditional Te Arawa speaking sequence of one for one, utuutu, which always finishes with the tangata whenua (Tapsell 1995).

The degree to which this crisis is “experienced” is also dependent on genealogical ties to the dead, the living and the land. The closer the tie, the more intense the experience. It is the presence of taonga, however, which allows ancestors from the past to be experienced by their descendants as “living” in the present. All Maori expect to travel the pathway from life into - 353 death, which starts with their tangihanga, and allows them to join their ancestors in Hawaiki. This knowledge is significant in understanding how to experience, rather than simply observe, taonga operating in their customary universe of value. Elders of Te Arawa still understand today, generally without being able to explain to a non-Maori how or why, that if their ancestors are to travel from Hawaiki back to a tangihanga to collect their newly dead descendant, taonga, the “living” representation of these ancestors, must be present:

Figure 4. Descendants of Te Rangewhenua, carrying the taiaha “Tuhourangi”, being ritually welcomed by Ngati Whakaue into the Rotorua Museum, Te Wharetaonga o Te Arana. (Courtesy of Rotorua Daily Post.)

After their first speaker had sat down Tomairangi pushed his tokotoko (orator's carved walking stick) forward to indicate to the other kaumatua sitting beside him that he intended to stand. Slowly the 83 year old removed his hat and jacket before rising to his feet. I remained seated, holding Tuhourangi, as the paetapu strained to hear the old voice from the hunched up frame of Tomairangi on the visitors' side of the marae. He recited ancient tauparapara to awaken the ancestors associated with the taiaha so they might assist in guiding the wairua of their deceased mokopuna back to Hawaiki. The koro stepped aside as I rose to my feet, still maintaining the taiaha in the noa-whakapaepae position. I then proceeded across the marae towards the porch of my ancestral house while the koro continued to recite karakia. The moment I started moving, Uncle Tomi began walking from the paetapu to meet me halfway in front of the porch. Meanwhile elders - 354 from the tangata whenua also stood and launched themselves into a full-blooded haka in front of the house. I could still hear the koro behind me reciting karakia beneath the resounding haka from in front, as Uncle Tomi and I slowly approached each other across what at the time seemed like the widest marae in the world. My spine tingled and I could feel the gooseflesh racing up my arms as I reached halfway, halted, and let the magnificently weighted taiaha glide through the air into the fighting stance of whakapaepae before lowering him into huanui. Changing my grip to toropaepae I presented Tuhourangi to his descendant Tomi Reonui te Karei, who was standing before me. Tomi remained there holding the taiaha in a position parallel to the ground as the haka continued. I took one step back and, turning to my right, slowly returned to the koro. His eyes were closed but I could see his lips were still moving. As the haka finished I was once more standing beside the koro, turning myself back to the left to face the house again. I had ensured my returning actions had reflected the postures of the wero's finishing ritual known as whakarite, which dictates the correct method of retreat upon the marae. In the following silence Tomi took the taiaha to his brother and gently laid the weapon in a noa position upon the cloaks lying over Bill's tupapaku. As he retreated from the porch many of the kuia were again consumed by grief and their wails drifted across the marae. I sat down as the koro finished his whaikorero, then sang a very old Tapuika patere that he later told me his grandmother used to sing when he was a child (Tapsell 1995a).

Up to this point I have described how taonga in Te Arawa's universe follow a pathway not unlike the flight of the tui. If at some stage they become instilled with the necessary mana, they may be gifted beyond the kin group's horizon on a comet-like trajectory which could return them generations later, as was the case with Pareraututu. Sometimes, getting home is not so easy, especially if the trajectory happens to take taonga to the other side of the world where they may become captured within Western society's orbit, in museums and private collections. But even these taonga, if their korero remains intact, as with Tuhourangi, could yet find their way back.

On rare occasions, however, there have been taonga gifted beyond Te Arawa which are never meant to return home.

Within the Rotorua Museum exists a powerful mere-pounamu 8 which is considered so tapu that it is only approached by Te Arawa with the greatest of reverence. The mere was placed here on long-term loan by descendants of the Arawa leader who received this taonga as a peace offering from the powerful neighbouring coastal tribe, Ngai te Rangi. For generations this mere, which was passed down the senior lines of Ngai te Rangi, was responsible for the dispatching of many Te Arawa ancestors. Animosity - 355 was first triggered between the two tribes when Ngai te Rangi invaded and settled upon Te Arawa's unoccupied ancestral home, Maketu, over 12 generations ago. This resulted in a war which came and went for eight generations and accounted for many deaths from both tribes.

Te Arawa eventually regained control of their ancestral homelands during the height of musket warfare in the early 19th century, which consequently forced the withdrawal of Ngai te Rangi to their Tauranga district. In time Ngai te Rangi conceded their rights to Maketu through a formal peacemaking hui at Maketu pa whereupon the leader of each kin group exchanged their korowai, and also their mere. The korowai were expressions of peace and mutual respect which were further reinforced by the offering of daughters for marriage. The exchanging of the mere-pounamu, however, carried different messages. In the first instance, they represented the mutual acknowledgement that Maketu was again solely the domain of Te Arawa. Secondly, and on a deeper level, the exchanging of these tapu weapons represented the spiritual homecoming to each kin group of their many ancestors who had been respectively taken during eight generations of bloody battle. When these two leaders died, they were each buried in the other's korowai, as was the gifted Te Arawa mere also buried with Ngai te Rangi. Pia Rolleston, who is the senior living descendant of Ngai te Rangi, says her koroua was buried with the Arawa mere so as to demonstrate the permanence of the peace negotiated at Maketu. She asserts that the burying of the mere with her koroua effectively prohibited Ngai te Rangi from ever again contesting Maketu. Maketu's peace was sealed with pounamu, and it is understood that this peace is to remain permanent as long as the Arawa mere is never returned. If the Arawa mere was ever dug up and returned, it would be tantamount to declaring war again upon Te Arawa. Meanwhile, the Ngai te Rangi mere presented to Te Arawa, called Nga Rurumata Koukou, still remains with the living, safely secured within the tapu repository of Te Whare-taonga o Te Arawa. One day it may even be buried with an Arawa leader, but this taonga, a memorial to the blood spilt at Maketu, is intended to always remain under Te Arawa's control (Tapsell 1995a).

Not only have taonga-pounamu been gifted out of the tribe with understandings that they are not to be returned, but woven taonga of great importance have also been presented beyond the kin group carrying similar designs. Te Arawa are renowned for their weaving skills, especially of korowai, kaitaka, kakahu, piupiu, kete and whariki. For the past century, the most famous manufacturers of weaving in Te Arawa have been the Ngati Wahiao people at Whakarewarewa, who use geothermal activity to assist in preparation of such items, which are still traded throughout Aotearoa. The finest weavings, however, were always kept by the rangatira families for prestations on appropriate occasions, which in some cases may not arise for - 356 generations. One of Te Arawa's most senior elders, Kuru Waaka, who has lived in Whakarewarewa all his life, told me some of his experiences involving woven taonga which were gifted without any expectations that they would be returned home. On one occasion (the 100-year commemoration of the Tarawera eruption in 1986), he gifted to the first Maori Governor General, Sir Paul Reeves, a most beautiful and highly prized whariki that his mother had made at the turn of this century. Even though Kuru knew this taonga would become the “inalienable” property of the Nation, its selection was made because it reflected the mana of Te Arawa, acknowledged the status of the Governor General and his genealogy (Taranaki), and brought an ancestral focus to the occasion. 9 He emphasised the importance of selecting and presenting the right taonga, because above all else it had to reflect the genealogical complexity of the occasion, rather than any personal desire to keep it for himself. Not least, he highlighted the care one must take to ensure the receiver understands exactly the korero that surrounds the gifted taonga: its history, ancestral connections, and relevance to the occasion. In some special cases, taonga are “loaned” to individuals or even kin groups with an understanding that they are to return to Te Arawa upon death, if not before.

Generally, taonga prestations between two tribes are best interpreted as physical representations of the wider social-economic-political relationship held between the kin groups. From one generation to the next careful account of payments of food and moneys (the latter having replaced the former over the course of this century) to all other tribes is maintained by the rangatira families. In Te Arawa's case, if a hui of importance is proceeding within the territory of another tribe to whom a debt is owed, then the rangatira will mobilise an ope of Te Arawa elders to attend and pay honour to the occasion. This payment is made firstly through presence and oratory, and then reinforced by the laying of koha (food or money) on the marae and if the occasion warrants it, the prestation of taonga. If successfully transacted, Te Arawa would return home knowing that they had not only honoured their debt, but that they had placed the receiving tribe in a state of utu towards them. This indebtedness now obligates that tribe to attend a Te Arawa hui of similar importance, sometimes years later, which will allow them to return payment to a degree that the utu is not only satisfied, but in fact reversed.

Traditionally, Te Arawa's mana over their district was physically manifested in the arts of weaving and carving, which continue with great strength even today. Fine feathered cloaks and whariki, symbolic representations of Te Arawa's whakapapa and mana (over lands and people), feature prominently among the many taonga that the tribe has presented to others over the generations at life-crisis type occasions. They are always - 357 presented by being laid out on the marae—symbolising Te Arawa's past and present, connecting land and sky upon the sacred courtyard, representing ancestors and descendants as one identity standing before their hosts or distinguished visitors. After prestation, taonga become the responsibility of the recipient tribe's rangatira families, or hunga tiaki, who are free to manage them according to their own lore and customs. This may mean retaining them for generations, gifting them on to other kin groups (which may eventually bring them back home), or even burying them with tribal leaders. I could give numerous examples of intertribal prestations, but the following narrative encapsulates for me, as a Te Arawa, the essence behind the “gifting” of taonga within our tribal universe. Kuru Waaka recounted to me this experience so that I too could share in some of the lessons he once had as a young man, which taught him that the value in taonga is not so much in their keeping, but in their giving.

Figure 5. Kuru-o-te Marama Waaka (deceased June 1997).

When the boys went off to war, our women folk in the village put away their weaving and nothing was continued until the end of the war when everyone was home. This is an old tradition that is still maintained today—all work is put away while there is a tangi on down at Wahiao. It is seen as a sign of disrespect to the grieving families to continue weaving. When my mother died, she hadn't woven a cloak since the day the boys left for war - 358 (in Europe). But could she weave! I was the baby in the family, and when I was only 18 I used to have to drive my father all over the countryside to tangis because he had crook eyes like me! And this one time, I had to drive him and my mother over to King Te Rata's tangihanga at Waahi pa (Tainui, Waikato). My mother had made for me this beautiful kakahu out of koko (tui) and kereru feathers, and she told me to bring it along. Well after the tangi and on the same day, the new King was crowned. This was Koroki and it was announced that Te Arawa would escort the new, would-be King into the marquee where the crowning ceremony was to take place. Well my mother said to me: “When Mita Taupopoki finishes his whaikorero and is about to put the money down, you lay your cloak upon the marae with the ties facing the new King, and the old man can place the money onto it.” But I answered back my mother: “What's a young lad like me going to be doing up front?” “Never you mind,” she replied, and she went and spoke to her nephew, the great chief Hemana Pokiha and told him to take me with him. All of us were wearing our cloaks and then the time came for Te Arawa alone to escort Koroki into the marae. Te Arawa lined up five to each row stretching all the way back, and right in the front row was Koroki himself. Flanking his right was Tai Mitchell and outside him Mita Taupopoki. On Koroki's left was Hemana Pokiha, and he placed me alongside on his left in the front row. And I was just a lad, Cripes! and there I was right up front and even my father was behind me! So onto the marae we all proceeded and then we sat down and the speeches opened with Hemana first to reply for the visiting tribes. Koroki now sat in the marquee facing us. Finally the speeches for our side came to a close with Mita Taupopoki, and as he neared the point where he was to place the koha down on the marae (I think it was 100 pounds, which was a lot of money in those days), I stepped forward from beside Hemana, took my kakahu off and laid it out on the marae with a throwing action, and with the collar towards the new King. I carefully stepped back as Mita laid the money on top of it and that was the last I ever saw of the kakahu made for me by my mother, Ani Pareraututu. Many years later… [I was told by Dame Te Atairangikahu]… that the cloak which Te Arawa had thrown down in front of her father Koroki was the same cloak in which he was eventually buried….She then said she would arrange for a replacement. I said: “NO. You have done me the greatest honour by having your father buried in my cloak. Nothing could ever replace that” (Tapsell 1995a).


In my paper, “Comets and Whakapapa” (1995a), I drew on my own experiences as a tribal member of Te Arawa and as the former curator of the Rotorua Museum, and attempted to demonstrate the beauty, power, and spiritual “alchemy” that all taonga are capable of releasing, especially during life-crisis occasions. This essay is an extension of the ethnographic examples - 359 offered in “Comets and Whakapapa”, to provide contrasting examples of taonga in order to highlight each item's contextual diversity. This diversity, which becomes more complex over time, is the function of a unique genealogical relationship between descendants and their ancestral estates, rather than the actual form of the taonga itself. Hopefully, the examples I have chosen demonstrate the varied roles and trajectories that each individual taonga represents within the wider context of Maori tribal society. Taking genealogical diversity as the key, I shall now investigate the academic understandings currently being imposed on taonga, in an attempt to develop a more accurate picture of how taonga actually exist in today's Maori universe.

In Firth's (1929:353) economic study, he claimed that “heirlooms” in Maori society

…descended from various ancestors of the tribe through a number of generations. By reason of their associations they were regarded with great reverence, and were often thought to be possessed of some super normal virtue. All of any importance bore proper names. These were held by members of chiefly families, and were handed down by them to their [descendants]…. If they had more than family interest, however, they were looked upon by the people as being tribal property as well, held in the nature of trust by the chief…. [These heirlooms were] brought out on ceremonial occasions [so] that the people might admire them and perhaps ‘tangi’ over them in greeting.

Firth's observations indicate his general awareness of the importance physical ancestral items can represent to their kin groups during socially important occasions (hui). Because his analysis is generally based upon written sources he was, therefore, unable to convey any deeper understandings of taonga in relation to ancestral identity and the surrounding landscape. This is not to say he was unaware, but his academic training and purposes biassed him towards observing taonga as surface depictions of a wider economic system. The values surrounding taonga, their prestations, and the importance of life-crises in facilitating such exchanges were not grasped and understood. Instead, his study focussed on “institutions” of the Maori people, and taonga were ethnographically cast in the role of being “merely illustrations” (Strathern 1990:38) of more important activities.

Firth, like all writers of his era, was bound to report upon “The Other” in a language and discipline understandable to his own Western culture. Not surprisingly, taonga were re-presented to a Western audience according to familiar concepts like “heirlooms” for smaller ancestral items and weapons - 360 made from wood, bone or stone; “mats” for almost anything woven; and “slabs” for the larger carved objects (for examples see Grey 1869, White 1887-90, Tregear 1904, Best 1924, Firth 1929; also see Auckland Institute and Museum correspondence 1870 - 1970). An investigation of the many museums in Europe and Great Britain indicates that smaller taonga, or “heirlooms”, were the most popular items collected, studied and displayed by early ethnographers. Once obtained from Maori sources, these items were easily transformed into Western objects of academic and monetary wealth, not only because of the exotic material from which they were made, but also because of their easy portability. The concept of “heirloom” was rarely, if ever, associated with woven articles or larger carvings, clearly indicating the lack of understanding of taonga by most Western academics and observers up until the 1980s international exhibition Te Maori (Tapsell 1996). If we seek to contextually understand the use of the word “heirloom” by ethnographers in regard to Maori items, it becomes clear that this label was used to describe only a fraction of taonga.

In The Coming of the Maori (1949), Te Rangi Hiroa avoided using the term “heirloom” and chose instead to utilise the customary terms of his ancestors to describe the physical objects they originally used. Drawing upon his Maori background and experiences, Te Rangi Hiroa created an informed study which examined Maori material culture and social institutions in detail. Although his approach used traditional names to describe individual material items, he did not venture to introduce the widely used Maori concept ‘taonga’. Instead, he resorted to using non-Maori terms such as “cloaks”, “weapons”, “carvings” and “ornaments”, to generally describe taonga to his readership and thereby avoid confusion. For Maori who read Te Rangi Hiroa's work, however, his in-depth understanding of taonga is obvious. His firsthand descriptive experiences of life-crises elicit immediate understanding from readers familiar with associated rituals. Thus, The Coming of the Maori continues to be not only an academically valued resource but also a multi-layered collection of knowledge with which Maori descendants can identify. In the latter stages of his work, Te Rangi Hiroa carefully describes four different prestations of taonga which all occur upon the marae within the life-crisis context of hui: pakuwha, the prestations of taonga during a senior line marriage between two major iwi (p. 368); taua wahine, the prestation of taonga in payment for adultery (p. 370); kopaki, the prestation of taonga by visitors to the mourning kin group during tangihanga (p. 420); and tahutua, the ceremonial prestation of food and/or taonga by the mourning kin group to honour their visitors at the conclusion of the tangihanga (p. 428).

The use of taonga as a Maori concept in academic writing seems to have - 361 first appeared in Johansen's 1954 publication, The Maori and his Religion. This publication was written in Denmark and based solely upon secondary ethnographic sources. Nevertheless his European academic audience was introduced to a general, if somewhat dislocated, understanding of these Maori items of wealth. It was not until the early 1980s that the word taonga finally found its way into general academic writings of the Pacific, and only after North American Art institutions decided that highly decorated items created by Maori ancestors were in fact worthy of carrying a status not dissimilar to Western culture's “fine art” (Tapsell 1995b). Professor Hirini Moko Mead was at the forefront of introducing the concept ‘taonga’ to the wider non-Maori audience because of his close involvement in the creation and execution of the international “Maori Art” exhibition named Te Maori (Mead 1984). This exhibition propelled taonga from being examples of primitive art traditionally confined to museums (for example Hamilton 1896, Archey 1955, Powell 1979) into recognised artforms displayed in modern North American and New Zealand art galleries (Mead 1986).

The overseas impact of Te Maori brought home to New Zealanders, both Maori and Pakeha, the importance of taonga and its legitimisation as fine art. For the first time, non-Maori people began to learn directly from descendants what each taonga may actually represent, not just as artwork, but also as detailed representations of the Maori peoples' ancestral past. Elders participating in Te Maori released vast amounts of orally maintained knowledge which major museums, like those in Auckland and Wellington, attempted to synthesise back into their taonga displays. They soon realised, however, that the only way they would be able to make their exhibits work successfully, as in Te Maori, was to allow Maori descendants continued access to their museum-held taonga. My 1996 paper, “Taonga and Obligations of Reciprocity”, is an examination of how New Zealand museums have responded to Te Maori both immediately and in the long term.

Since Te Maori, some anthropologists have also sought to discuss and analyse taonga. But rather than being based on fieldwork, their understandings have been developed beyond New Zealand's shores from early historical accounts and ethnographies of the Maori people (for example, Weiner 1985, 1989; also see Hanson and Hanson 1983 and Johansen 1954). These writers have taken original ethnographic interpretations and descriptions of certain aspects of Maori material culture, 10 assigned them the general label ‘taonga’, and then typologically sorted them in order to reconfigure Maori “gifting” into new categories of Western understanding. The old concepts of “heirloom”, “mat” and “carved slab” have been seized upon as universally representative of all taonga. Thomas argues that the - 362 value of this approach lies in the shifting of attention “…from the forms of prestation to the characteristics of particular kinds of objects” (1991:23). However, his main concern, like mine, is with the limitations which arise from the re-creation of certain “types” of taonga, overshadowing the rich and diverse “ancestral actuality” attached to each individual item.

The recent publication, Inalienable Objects, by Weiner (1992), which attempts to reinterpret Mauss's (1925) discussion of hau in Maori society, reflects a “binary opposition” approach to (re)construct “other” societies (Salmond n.d.), rather than exploring the interconnections between non-Western kin groups and Western society within a continuum. While reading Weiner's 1992 analysis of taonga, I found myself struggling to reconcile her Western theoretical discourse not only with my Te Arawa experiences, but also with the oral narratives shared with me by elders. Generally, Weiner has presented a logical discussion which allows taonga to conform comfortably to Western notions of “inalienability”, “engendered wealth” and “keeping while giving”. Upon closer inspection, however, her taonga analysis, derived almost exclusively from secondary sources, is sometimes misleading. Firstly, her reading of some of the texts is not quite accurate (in one instance an ethnographic example 11 containing the word “spirit” was extracted from Tregear's 1904 publication (pp. 387-88) and reworked into her own text (1992:55), but this time the word “spirit” was replaced with “hau”. After careful reading of Tragear's original work, it is my opinion that the Maori concept mauri would have been far more appropriate). 12 Secondly, her “textually”-situated analysis fails to mirror the incredible diversity which continues to surround taonga prestations in Maori tribal society. From a Te Arawa perspective, I also had difficulty at times with Weiner's use of Western terms such as “possession” and “ownership” in relation to taonga. At home, it is a maxim that you cannot “own” a taonga, because they are your ancestors. You may become their hunga tiaki, or guardian, but this does not change the fact that you belong to them, not the other way around. What is owned, perhaps, is the obligation and responsibility passed down by ancestors requiring descendants to protect, interpret, manage and transmit the kin group's taonga to future generations. 13

Taonga created from physical materials were originally produced by either male or female specialists and can be easily identified as such. Weaponry like mere (of greenstone), wahaika (of whale bone) and taiaha (of hardwood), as well as canoes, whare-tupuna (ancestral houses), pataka (food repositories), hei pounamu (personal adornments), moko (tattooing), or anything else which is carved have always been, within Te Arawa, the creation of males; whereas the production of woven items such as cloaks, including korowai, kakahu and kaitaka, as well as whariki (floor-mats), kete - 363 (hand-carried baskets) and piupiu (a type of rain cape that since tourism has been re-adapted into a cord-like flax skirt) have been almost exclusively the domain of female artists. After completion, the artists (female and male), who are seen as merely fulfilling the creativity of the atua, relinquish the items to their host tribe and thereafter wield no further control over their fate. The items are privately transferred to the collective authority of the kin group, its tribal leaders (the elders), who decide the kaupapa (charter) of each item and under whose mana it will be controlled. Through the more public recitation of karakia, the tohunga-ahurewa (spiritual specialists, priests) then empower the items with the wairua of certain ancestors, which transforms them into taonga. The identities of the individual artists are quickly forgotten, 14 in comparison to the eponymous ancestors who are remembered to have been directly associated with these items. Over time, taonga aligned with these eponymous ancestors can accumulate prestige and power, mana and tapu, and may eventually become physical representations of the kin group's collective identity in comparison to all outsiders. I therefore agree with Weiner (1992) that taonga are gendered items of wealth in Maori tribal society, but it does not always follow that the gender of a particular type of taonga will be the function of the artist's sex. Hei tiki is one example of male labour producing female ancestral identities, which are then equally worn by male or female. Prestige cloaks, which are female productions, can also be worn by male or female. The right to wear them, however, is dependent upon rank and the kaupapa, or charter, of the garment as decided by kin group elders. Through direct association, the mana of the wearer, male or female, becomes the overriding power imbued into the garment. The “Kahutoi o Tohi-te-Ururangi” (The warrior-cape of Tohi te Ururangi) in the Rotorua Museum is a Te Arawa case in point, where female production has been subsumed by the mana of the male wearer. After investigating many more examples throughout Maori tribal society, I conclude that engendered wealth contained within taonga is better understood as derived from the male or female ancestors each item genealogically represents, rather than from any ascribed gender based upon the artist's sex.

I do not wish, however, to take away from the power of the artists whose mana of creation remains layered within taonga. The rich patterns woven into cloaks and the intricate symbols chiselled into wood, bone or stone reflect the female and male artists' interpretations of their kin group's genealogical attachment to the land. Each woven thread, each carved line, is designed to enrich taonga not only with artistic beauty, but also with echoes of mythology and tradition, reinforcing the kin group's multi-layered connection to their surrounding universe. In weaving, whakapapa 15 is - 364 artistically demonstrated as whanaungatanga, or kinship connections between the tribe and their estates (for example, the zig-zag patterns of taniko represents the interconnectedness of the kin group with their lands, sea and sky); while in carving, whakapapa generally manifests itself as mana according to descent (for example, poupou, or carved eponymous ancestors, that line each wall within Te Arawa's carved houses).

After completing the rituals associated with accepting taonga into a kin group's universe, their ongoing care and management is maintained by rangatira families. Generally taonga made from muka (fibre) are controlled by kuia (female elders), whereas weaponry and carvings are maintained by kaumatua (male elders). 16 This gendered control of taonga between life-crises reflects the wider roles kaumatua and kuia perform on the marae. Rather than seeing them in opposition, as has been the case with past writings, the roles of taonga and their hunga tiaki are best understood as complementary: relative but different. When a hani is adorned with an awe (muka and feather collar) it becomes a taiaha; visitors cannot be greeted by the kaumatua until the kuia have called them (and their ancestors) onto the marae; and when a carving is presented to another tribe, it is laid upon a specially woven item like a whariki or korowai. One cannot proceed without the other, such is the complementary duality of gender in tribal Maori society. If we compare the differing roles kaumatua and kuia played in each of the tangihanga returns of Pareraututu and Tuhourangi, we cannot begin to interpret the observable actions without knowing the ancestral context, or precedent, from which they originated. With Pareraututu, the female elders, or kuia, followed accepted custom, by leading the ope onto Rangiaohia marae with the cloak and kaumatua falling in behind. The mana of the female element, represented by the kuia, contains the power to neutralise any harmful spirits possibly present on the marae. No physical threats to the ope were perceived, and so the return of Pareraututu proceeded with the kuia in front. But when Tuhourangi was carried onto Te Paamu marae, it was a very different story. In this case, the men went to the front and led the women onto the marae. In former times, the open carrying of a weapon by Te Arawa onto a marae indicated the expectation of danger. Both sides would proceed with caution, and the women travelling with the ope would remain inside a protective shield of male warriors. A karanga would be issued by the host tribe's senior kuia but not returned by the ope. Instead, the elderly male tohunga-ahurewa, positioned in the front of the triangle formation of warriors, would lead the ope onto the marae with ancient chants (waerea), which summon spiritual protection and readiness in case of some hidden danger. Like Pareraututu, Tuhourangi's return was guided by sacred protocols set by previous generations which enabled the life-crisis ritual of encounter - 365 to proceed correctly in a manner that did not contradict the kin group's understanding of the past.

Every taonga return or prestation, therefore, needs to be understood as a dynamic reinterpretation by elders of their kin group's sacred protocols, transmitted from the ancestors, which they recontextualise to suit the uniqueness of each life-crisis. This ability by kaumatua and kuia to maintain a vigorous interplay between the past and present, tying identity-maintaining taonga with the kin group's estates and resources, has undoubtedly contributed to the survival of Maori tribal kin group identity. For countless generations, the elders have fulfilled the role of interpreter between ancestors and descendants, but today their numbers are dwindling alarmingly. The resulting power vacuum is the new crisis for today's tribal kin groups. Urban-born descendants, who make up near 80 percent of the Maori population (I.H. Kawharu, n.d.), seem nonchalant about this situation, and are perhaps more intent on pursuing issues of language and sovereignty rights as a Maori nation of “tangata whenua”, 17 than in listening to tribal elders who they often think are out of step with their descendants' urban reality. Within the vacuum, young, articulate, urban-born Maori have appeared. They are becoming more and more critical of their “out of touch” elders and the “rural” tribes they represent (for example, Mihaka 1988, Duff 1993, Tamihere in Melbourne 1995; see also New Zealand Herald, 18 April 1997:1). At least one urban Maori authority is currently arguing for the right to negotiate directly with the Crown regarding their urban non-tribal reality (Waitangi Tribunal Claim: Te Whanau o Waipareira 1995). Also at stake is the acquisition of “iwi” status which, if successful, would allow urban Maori unprecedented legal access to customary tribal assets through a separate Crown-imposed allocation system. 18 Will tribal identity be able to survive the growing urban pan-Maori movement, or will it be subsumed by Maori membership criteria based on non-tribal identity markers? What role will tribal taonga have to play in their descendants' urban identity? I raise these questions to encourage readers to be mindful that while taonga continue to be dynamic symbols of tribal identity, their interpretation is now being contested in new, revolutionary ways by the latest generation of urban-born descendants.

To conclude, I see the “wealth” of taonga controlled by tribes in Aotearoa-New Zealand today as directly proportional to the lands and resources still maintained by the kin group. The marae remains the quintessential focus of Maori tribal society, 19 and continues to provide the forum for the tribe's wealth to participate in life-crisis hui situations. The presence of taonga at hui is best seen as an assertion of kin group identity, both physically and spiritually, weaving the past with the present—ancestors with descendants— - 366 and reanimating the surrounding lands into a living genealogical map. Upon the hui's completion, taonga are hidden away until the arrival of a new life-crisis. Taonga reflect gender roles performed by elders upon the marae which are best understood as complementary and relative, rather than as polarised. Taonga are sometimes presented to other tribes or even to non-Maori kin groups. In Te Arawa they are generally “released” on the marae within the wider social-economic-political context of a hui. They normally carry no obligations of return, but they do signify the successful passing of indebtedness to the recipients. If a taonga does return after being launched by an earlier generation on a comet-like trajectory, it arrives home carrying an intensity of mana, tapu and korero, which, not unlike ancestral remains, elicits spiritual powers of ihi, wehi and wana, elevating the taonga to a most revered status. Thereafter the taonga resumes the characteristic flight of the tui. In Te Arawa, only taonga that have been ritually returned after generations of absence, such as Pareraututu and Tuhourangi, are perceived as inalienable. Even if they were to leave again, for example, if Pareraututu or any of the other taonga that accompanied her home were to be “legally” claimed back by the Auckland Museum, their mana, tapu and korero are now so intricately rew oven back into Te Arawa that, according to the elders, their return to Rotorua once again would be inevitable.

Te Kuru o te Marama e koro.
Te oka Arameta Te Kamo, te
Tohi a nga Matua kuia koroua.
Haere koe whakawehe atu ki te
Pouriuri, ki te Potangotango, ki
Te hunga noho i a Hine-nui-i-te-Po.
Hikoitia te Ara Whanui o te tini ki
Te nuinga o te iwi e noho mai ra
‘Ki tua o te Arai’.
Nau i pikau nga taumahatanga o
Te iwi i te aroaro o Tumatauenga
Ki rawahi, ki nga Rangatiratanga,
Me nga mana o te Motu o te Ao.
Oti pai au mahi, na reira okioki
Mai i roto i a kui ma, i a koro ma.
Waiho mai matau ki muri nei
Tangi ai e koro, na reira haere ra.
E tama na Tau e
Ka ngaro koe ki te Po oti atu.
- 367
Ka rarapa i te Rangi he uira
He kanapu te tohu o te Ariki
I a te Aramoana nana i ue mai
I maunu atu ai Te Puhi o Te Arawa
Ki nga Tapiri o Rehua na —i.
- 368
  • Books, articles and theses
  • Archey, G., 1955. Sculpture and Design, an Outline of Maori Art. Auckland: Auckland War Memorial Museum.
  • Barlow, C, 1991. Nga Tikanga Whakaaro. Auckland: Oxford University Press.
  • Best, E., 1924. The Maori. (2 vols). Memoirs of the Polynesian Society, No. 5. Wellington.
  • ——1925. Tuhoe. The Children of the Mist. Memoirs of the Polynesian Society, No. 6. Wellington.
  • Cox, L., 1994. Kotahitanga. The Search for Maori Political Unity. Auckland: Oxford University Press.
  • Duff, A., 1993. Maori: The Crisis and the Challenge. Auckland: Harper Collins.
  • Firth, R., 1929. Primitive Economics of the New Zealand Maori. Wellington: A.R. Shearer.
  • Grey, G., 1869. On the social life of the ancient inhabitants of New Zealand.
- 369
  • Ethnological Society of London Journal, 1:333-64.
  • Hamilton, A., 1896. Maori Art. Wellington: New Zealand Institute.
  • Hanson, F.A. and L. Hanson, 1983. Counterpoint in Maori Culture. London: International Library of Anthropology.
  • Johansen, J.P., 1954. The Maori and his Religion. Copenhagen: Ejnar Munksgaard.
  • Kawharu, I.H., 1977. Maori Land Tenure. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • ——(ed.), 1989. Waitangi. Maori and Pakeha Perspectives of the Treaty of Waitangi. Auckland: Oxford University Press.
  • ——n.d. Challenges in a Treaty. Address to the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania (ASAO). Honolulu, Hawai'i. 9 February 1996.
  • Kawharu, M.W., MS. 1997. Kaitiakitanga. D.Phil draft. Institute of Social Anthropology, Oxford University.
  • Marsden, M., 1975. God, man and universe: A Maori view. In M.King (ed.), Te Ao Hurihuri: Aspects of Maoritanga. Auckland: Longman Paul, pp. 191-219.
  • Mauss, M., 1925. The Gift. Translation by Ian Cunnison (1954). Glencoe: Free Press.
  • Mead, S.M. (ed.), 1984. Te Maori: Maori Art from New Zealand Collections. New York: Abrams.
  • ——1986. Magnificent Te Maori: Te Maori Whakahirahira. Auckland: Heinmann.
  • ——1991. The Nature of Taonga. In Mark Lindsay (ed.), Taonga Maori Conference, New Zealand, 18-27 November 1990. Wellington: Internal Affairs, pp. 164-69.
  • Melbourne, H., 1995. Maori Sovereignty: The Maori Perspective. Auckland: Hodder Moa Beckett.
  • Metge, J., 1964. A New Maori Migration. LSE Monographs on Social Anthropology, No. 27. London: The Athlone Press.
  • Mihaka, T.R.M., 1989. Ki te Whei Ao ki te Ao Marama. Wellington: Te Ringa Mangu.
  • Oliver, W.H., 1991. Claims to the Waitangi Tribunal. Wellington: Department of Justice (Waitangi Tribunal Division).
  • Powell, G., 1979. Primitive Art of the New Zealand Maori. Wellington: Seven Seas.
  • Salmond, A., 1984. Nga huarahi o te ao Maori: Pathways in a Maori world. In S. Mead (ed.), Te Maori: Maori Art from New Zealand Collections. New York: Abrams, pp. 109-37.
  • ——n.d. Science and Whakapapa: Conclusion. In Between Two Worlds. Working draft, University of Auckland.
  • Strathern, M., 1990. Artefacts of history: Events and the interpretation of images. In J. Siikala (ed.), Culture and History in the Pacific. Helsinki: Finnish Anthropological Society Transactions, No. 27, pp. 25-44.
  • Tapsell, P., 1993. Enid Tapsell 1904-1975. In E.R. Brinkler (ed.), Women to Remember—Rotorua and Districts 1893-1993. Rotorua: The Women's Suffrage Centennial Project Committee—Whakatu Wahine Aotearoa New Zealand.
  • ——1995a. Comets and Whakapapa: A Study of Tribal Taonga through the Eyes of Te Arawa. Unpublished paper, Department of Anthropology. University of Auckland.
  • ——1995b. Pukaki. Te Taonga o Ngati Whakaue ki Rotorua. Unpublished M.A. thesis, Department of Anthropology. University of Auckland.
- 370
  • ——1996. Taonga and obligations of reciprocity. New Zealand Museums Journal, 26(1):26-39.
  • Te Rangi Hiroa (P. Buck), 1949. The Coming of the Maori. Wellington: Maori Purposes Fund Board/Whitcombe & Tombs.
  • Thomas, N., 1991. Entangled Objects. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Tregear, E., 1904. The Maori Race. Wanganui: A.D. Willis.
  • Weiner, A., 1985. Inalienable wealth. American Ethnologist, 12:210-27.
  • ——1989. Why cloth? Wealth, gender and power in Oceania. In A. Weiner and J. Schneider (eds), Cloth and Human Experience. Washington: Smithsonian Institute Press, pp. 37-72.
  • ——1992. Inalienable Objects. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • White, J., 1887-90. The Ancient History of the Maori, his Mythology and Traditions. (Volumes 1-6). Wellington: Government Printer.
  • Williams, H.W., 1971. A Dictionary of the Maori Language. Wellington: Government Printer.
Published documents and official publications:

Environmental Management and the Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi 1988. Report on Crown Response to the Recommendations of the Waitangi Tribunal 1983-1988. Wellington: Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

Thorpe, J. (ed), 1997. Te Reo o te Tini a Tangaroa: The Newsletter of the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission. No.35, February. Wellington: Mana Productions Ltd.

Waitangi tribunal claims

Orakei 1987

Te Whanau o Waipareira 1995

Archival and museum references:

Auckland Institute and Museum

  • General Correspondence File A-Z 1876.
  • General Correspondence File ‘M’ - 1900.
  • General Correspondence files: A-Z 1876-1900.
  • Catalogue of the Auckland Museum, Vol. 1: Maori. (Ethnology Book I 1 to 899). Ethnology Department.

Personal communications:

Tomairangi Kameta, 28 April 1993.

Kuru-o-te-Marama Waaka, 1994.


Glossary (definitions by author)

aroha love, affection, often expressed in the context of common kinship ties
- 371
atua ancient protecting ancestors, gods
hahunga ritual preparation of human bones for secret concealment
haka fierce posture-type dance accompanied by chanting
hakari ritual feast to clear any lingering sacredness
hani taiaha without weaving and feather adornment
hau wind, breath associated with living things
hei tiki ancestral-shaped pendant usually made from nephrite
here a guide, genealogical point of reference
hongi ritual greeting by pressing noses
huanui taiaha fighting stance
hui kin-group gathering on a marae
hunga tiaki caretakers, guardians of taonga
hupe tears and mucus that flows during times of grief
ihi feel an awesome presence
kahumamae cloak that represents pain due to loss of life
kaikaranga female elder who performs the ritual call on the marae
kaitaka fine woven flax fibre cloak with embroidered border
kakahu cloak woven from flax fibre with feathers and tags attached
karakia ritual prayer, ancient incantation
karanga ritual calls exchanged by female elders as visitors come onto a marae
kaumatua male elders who are the kin-group's orators on a marae
kawa protocol on the marae
kete hand-carried basket woven from flax
koha presentations of gifts, food or money
koiwi human bones
korero speak; knowledge, ancestral oral history
koro, koroua old man
korowai cloak woven from flax fibre
kuia female elders who perform marae ritual
mana ancestral power held by kin-group leaders, authority, control
marae ancestrally named courtyard, focus of kin-group's mana
mauri life force, without which nothing can exist
mere hand-held chiefly weapon
mihi give a public speech
mokopuna grandchild
moteatea lament
noa state of normal, everyday commonness, non-sacred, profane
noa-whakapaepae customary stance used in the martial art of taiaha
ope large group of kin travelling together to a tribal hui
pa village, fortified hilltop
paetapu male orators of the marae who sit on a sacred bench
patere song of contempt strongly symbolising ancestors on the land
poroporoaki farewell speech
pounamu greenstone, nephrite, jade, mined from South Island rivers
poupou carved slab of wood inside a meeting house depicting ancestors
- 372
powhiri traditional welcome of distinguished visitors onto a marae
rakau length of wood fashioned into a fighting staff or spear
rangatira tribal leader, usually a male elder
rangatiratanga customary authority of a tribe, represented by its leader, over its estates
taiaha long hardwood fighting staff depicting an ancestor
take symbolic object of discussion laid in front of visitors by a taiaha warrior
taniko fine weaving of flax fibre which creates mosaic-like patterns
tangata whenua kin group that holds mana over their traditional estates
tangihanga death-mourning ritual on a marae, can continue for several days
taonga tangible or intangible item, passed down from ancestors
tapu spiritual power and presence of ancestors; sacred
tau, tauparapara ritual incantation at beginning of whaikorero, form of karakia
taua war party
Te Maori international exhibit of museum-held taonga, USA and NZ, 1984-87
tohunga spiritual leader, controller of tapu knowledge, supports the rangatira
tupapaku deceased kin member lying in state at a tangihanga
tupuna ancestor
utu payment in kind, balance, reciprocity, repay a debt
wahaika chiefly whalebone weapon used in conjunction with taiaha
waiata song
wairua ancestral spirit which can manifest itself as ihi, wehi and wana
wana strike fear, spiritual respect
wehi make the spine tingle
wero challenge
whaikorero ritual public speech by male elders on the marae
whakapapa genealogical charter, organises a kin-group's universe; to layer
whanau-pani grieving kin sitting with the tupapaku at a tangihanga
whare-koiwi elaborately carved store house for human remains and taonga
whariki finely woven kiekie (riverside plant) mat used on the marae

Texts of the Treaty of Waitangi (in Kawharu 1989:316-21)

The Text in Maori (Source: Facsimiles… of the Treaty of Waitangi)

Ko Wikitoria te Kuini o Ingarani i tana mahara atawai ki nga Rangatira me nga Hapu o Nu Tirani i tana hiahia hoki kia tohungia ki a ratou o ratou rangatiratanga me to ratou wenua, a kia mau tonu hoki te Rongo ki a ratou me te Atanoho hoki kua wakaaro ia he mea tika kia tukua mai tetahi Rangatira -hei kai wakarite ki nga Tangata maori o Nu Tirani - kia wakaaetia e nga Rangatira maori te Kawanatanga o te Kuini ki nga wahikatoa o te Wenua nei me nga Motu - na te mea hoki he tokomaha ke nga tangata o tona Iwi Kua noho ki - 373 tenei wenua, a e haere mai nei.

Na ko te Kuini e hiahia ana kia wakaritea te Kawanatanga kia kaua ai nga kino e puta mai ki te tangata Maori ki te Pakeha e noho ture kore ana.

Na, kua pai te Kuini kia tukua a hau Wiremu Hopihona he Kapitana i te Roaira Nawi hei Kawana mo nga wahi katoa o Nu Tirani e tuka aianei, amua atu ki te Kuini, e mea atu ana ia ki nga Rangatira o te wakaminenga o nga hapu o Nu Tirani me era Rangatira atu enei ture kakorerotia nei.

Ko te Tuatahi

Ko nga Rangatira o te wakaminega me nga Rangatira katoa hoki ki hai i uru ki taua wakaminenga ka tuku rawa atu ki te Kuini o Ingarani ake tonu atu - te Kawanatanga katoa o o ratou wenua.

Ko te Tuarua

Ko te Kuini o Ingarani ka wakarite ka wakaae ki nga Rangatira ki nga Hapu ki nga tangata katoa o Nu Tirani te tino rangatiratanga o o ratou wenua o ratou kainga me o ratou taonga katoa. Otiia ko nga Rangatira o te wakaminenga me nga Rangatira katoa atu ka tuku ki te Kuini te hokonga o era wahi wenua e pai ai te tangata nona te wenua - ki te ritenga o te utu e wakaritea ai e ratou ko te kai hoko e meatia nei e te Kuini hei kai hoko mona.

Ko te Tuatoru

Hei wakaritenga mai hoki tenei mo te wakaaetanga ki te Kawanatanga o te Kuini - ka tiakina e te Kuini o Ingarani tangata maori katoa o Nu Tirani ka tukua ki a ratou nga tikanga katoa rite tahi ki ana mea ki nga tangata o Ingarani.

(Signed) W. Hobson,Consul & Lieutenant-Governor

Na ko matou ko nga Rangatira o te Wakaminenga o nga hapu o Nu Tirani ka huihui nei ki Waitangi ko matou hoki ko nga Rangatira o Nu Tirani ka kite nei i te ritenga o enei kupu, ka tangohia ka wakaaetia katoatia e matou, koia ka tohungia ai o matou ingoa o matou tohu.

Ka meatia tenei ki Waitangi i te ono o nga ra o Pepueri i te tau kotahi mano, e warn rau e wa te kau o to tatou Ariki.

Translation of Maori text by I. H. Kawharu

Victoria, the Queen of England, in her concern to protect the chiefs and subtribes of New Zealand and in her desire to preserve their chieftainship and their lands to them and to maintain peace and good order considers it just to appoint an administrator one who will negotiate with the people of New Zealand to the end that the chiefs will agree to the Queen's Government being established over all parts of this land and (adjoining) islands and also because there are many of her subjects already living on this land and others yet to come.

So the Queen desires to establish a government so that no evil will come to Maori and European living in a state of lawlessness.

So the Queen has appointed me, William Hobson a captain in the Royal Navy to be Governor for all parts of New Zealand (both those) shortly to be - 374 received by the Queen and (those) to be received hereafter and presents to the chiefs of the Confederation chiefs of the subtribes of New Zealand and other chiefs these laws set out here.

The first

The Chiefs of the Confederation and all the chiefs who have not joined that Confederation give absolutely to the Queen of England for ever the complete government over their land.

The second

The Queen of England agrees to protect the chiefs, the subtribes and all the people of New Zealand in the unqualified exercise of their chieftainship over their lands, villages and all their treasures. But on the other hand the Chiefs of the Confederation and all the Chiefs will sell land to the Queen at a price agreed to by the person owning it and by the person buying it (the latter being) appointed by the Queen as her purchasing agent.

The third

For this agreed arrangement therefore concerning the Government of the Queen, the Queen of England will protect all the ordinary people of New Zealand and will give them the same rights and duties of citizenship as the people of England.

(Signed) W. Hobson Consul and Lieutenant-Governor

So we the Chiefs of the Confederation and of the subtribes of New Zealand meeting here at Waitangi having seen the shape of these words which we accept and agree to record our names and our marks thus.

Was done at Waitangi on the sixth of February in the year of our Lord 1840.

1   Maori terms are defined in the glossary (Appendix 1).
2   A nectar drinking bird native only to New Zealand easily identified by a tuft of white feathers on its throat and its unique song. Within Te Arawa, tui were traditionally a source of food and feathers, as well as being kept as pets.
3   See opening tauparapara.
4   Ancestral remains are whakapakoko (mummified bodies), uru-moko (cured heads), and koiwi (scraped bones adorned with kokowai or red ochre). Apart from some flutes, human remains are never referred to as taonga. Up until the acceptance of Christian burial practices, these remains and the most sacred taonga were either secured in whare-koiwi or hidden upon the kin group's land.
5   Three other significant taonga accompanied Pareraututu home: Horoirangi, a female ancestress carved from rock; Kahutoi o Tohi te Ururangi, a famous Te Arawa warrior's cape; and Murirangaranga, the koauau (flute) of the famous Te Arawa leader, Tutanekai (Tapsell 1995a).
6   For example, Ngati Whatua's uncontestable status of tangata whenua in central Auckland City.
7   Continued unsustainability of Maori lands, combined with the socio-economic realities of rural depression since the 1950s, have resulted in the majority of today's young Maori being raised, like their parents, within urban-metropolitan environments (Metge 1964). This geographical phenomenon has prevented two generations of urban-born Maori from maintaining sustained contact with their mostly rural based elders. Consequently, today's Maori identity is developing more as a “pan-Maori” reaction to an ethnically competitive urban reality, than as a function of “tribal-Maori” identity, transmitted by elders, based upon customary ties of kinship and descent to specific ancestral lands.
8   Pounamu is the general Maori term for nephrite or greenstone.
9   Kuru's mother was a survivor of the 1886 Tarawera eruption which killed over 150 of her tribe, Tuhourangi.
10   For example, the numerous publications and papers produced by Elsdon Best.
11   The accompanying photographic plate to Tregear's ethnographic example plainly shows that it was a whariki under the tupapaku(l904:387). It was not, as Weiner asserts, a cloak.
12   In Te Arawa hau is understood as the ‘breath’ or ‘wind’ of the living and it is considered inappropriate if this concept is linked to anything representing ancestors, like taonga. I would argue that today's use of the word hau as a spiritual dimension of taonga, only exists amongst Western academics and their texts, and seems to no longer have any context, if it ever did, within Maori prestation epistemology.
13   This concept of tenure does not in any way exclude Maori kin groups from exercising their authorised Western-legal control of “ownership” over their ancestral estates and taonga (treasured possessions) as originally promised by the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 (refer to the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 and consequent amendments, also see Kawharu [1977] for an in-depth discussion on Maori land tenure).
14   There are some notable exceptions, which include carved ancestral houses and of course Pareraututu's cloak.
15   The term whakapapa is also a weaving term used in reference to ‘layering’ muka.
16   Of course there are some exceptions, notably personal adornments like hei pounamu and hei matau. N.B. In Te Arawa the term kaumatua exclusively refers to male tribal elders who sit on the paetapu.
17   Today, tangata whenua is being reinterpreted by many urban-Maori to exclusively mean “Maori people of New Zealand”. This understanding contradicts the traditional interpretation: “descendants of those associated with specific tribal lands” and consequently undermines the customary authority of the original tribes which have been subsumed by city development and massive urban Maori drift over the past 40 years.
18   Tribal groups successfully appealed to the Privy Council (17 January 1997) for an overturning of the New Zealand Court of Appeal ruling (1996) which initially allowed urban Maori to class themselves as “iwi” and thereby be allocated assets (fishing quota) via a system separate from traditional iwi organisations (Te Reo o te tini a Tangaroa 1997).
19   The Orakei 1987 Report documents the cultural impact that losing a marae can have upon a tribe's identity.