It is at the 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 Ruatāhuna in the heart of Te Urewera, where Manawa Honey is based. We are blessed to be operating right where we are from, in the environment that made us, 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 came together with Te Maunga at a place called Onini, which is near to the village centre of Ruatāhuna on the main road that runs through our region. From their union came Pōtiki I or Pōtiki-tiketike, who had several children that then settled their families in different parts of Ruatāhuna. Thus, from Potiki-tiketike sprang Ngā Pōtiki, the original tribe of this part of Te Urewera than then thrived for many generations.
In time, from Ruatāhuna, many lines of Ngā Pōtiki extended across the vast Te Urewera region, so Ruatāhuna became 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, the flourishing of Ngā Pōtiki in many parts of Te Urewera predates the waka of Mātaatua so that as Ngā Pōtiki, we have no tradition of migration to Aotearoa and we have no tradition of an ocean voyaging waka.
Instead, our Ngā Pōtiki 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 Tūhoe 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 Mātaatua waka arrived and intermarriage began with the original tribes of our wider tribal region. In time, the Mātaatua waka came to dominate the peoples of this wider region, so that we became known as Tūhoe, after our ancestor that descends from the Mātaatua waka.
We are clear about the order of this history, but early recorders of our history attempted to pinpoint the dates of when Potiki-tiketike flourished in Ruatāhuna. Instead, we prefer to follo what our elders 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. It reminds us not just of our genesis but also of how we have always been an integral part of our environment. And we are dedicated to never losing that sense of what makes us a mountain rain-forest people, forever.
(Originally posted by Kaahui Te Rire (Project Executive) and Brenda Tahi (CEO), Manawa Honey NZ, 28 June 2020)
Touch upon the flavours and moods of our forests, and the mist and mountains of our valley through our exquisite range of Honeys of Te Urewera….