It is at this time of midwinter that we are especially reminded of our origins as a people. We are often enveloped by the mist, and always surrounded by the mountains in the valley of Ruatahuna where Manawa Honey is based. We are blessed to be operating right where we are from, as the history following explains…
Many Māori trace their main ancestry back to the histories of their ancestors from the islands of Polynesia voyaging on great waka across the Pacific to populate their regions. But we, as the people of Ruatahuna trace back to before these migrations to our aboriginal ancestors Te Maunga (The Mountain) and Hinepūkohurangi (The Mist Maiden). Hinepukohurangi lured Te Maunga to earth from the heavens at Onini, a place in Ruatahuna that we well know. From their union came Pōtiki I or Pōtiki-tiketike, from whom then sprang Ngā Pōtiki, the original tribe of the Ruatahuna region.
In time, from Ruatāhuna, many lines of Ngā Pōtiki extended across the vast Urewera region, so Ruatāhuna is also known as ‘te pā harakeke’, a likening to the flax bush which is ever expanding through the blades of flax that emanate from the centre of the plant. Ruatahuna has other names of significance too, but these we will come to in later articles.
Significantly, Ngā Pōtiki predates the waka of Mataatua so that as Ngā Pōtiki we have no tradition of migration to Aotearoa and we have no tradition of an ocean voyaging waka, for our genesis lies directly in the land and the mists of time. The principal tīpuna of Ngā Pōtiki tradition, including Hinepūkohurangi, Te Maunga and Pōtiki-tiketike are held firmly in our oral traditions. These traditions, when recorded in the early 20th century also led to the Tuhoe tribe becoming quaintly knows as the ‘Children of the Mist’ or ‘Nga Tamariki o Te Kohu’.
It is not until a number of generations after Potiki-tiketike that the Mataatua waka arrived and intermarriage began with the aboriginal tribes of our wider tribal region. In time, the peoples of this wider region became known as Tuhoe, after our ancestor that descends from the Mataatua waka.
Whilst we are clear about the order of this history, we are unable to pinpoint exactly when Potiki-tiketike flourished. Instead, as our elders would say “If you know where those mountains come from, then that’s where we come from. If you can trace where the mist comes from, then you have discovered how long we have been here… When this land emerged from wherever it came from, we were on it.”
So, when the valley mists come down and lay like a cloak, clinging to the mountains that surround us, we see the union of our ancestors Hinepukohurangi and Te Maunga, and it reminds us not just of our genesis but also of how we remain an integral part of our environment.
Kaahui Te Rire (Project Executive) and Brenda Tahi (CEO), Manawa Honey NZ
28 June 2020