‘Kua hinga te totaranui o te wao nui a Tane’
‘A great Totara has fallen in Tane’s forest’
At the far northern boundary of my Te Tai Tonga electorate is the suburb of Waiwhetu, in the city of Lower Hutt.
It’s the home of the Te Matehou hapu of Taranaki Whanui ki te Upoko ote Ika (An Ati Awa tribal grouping) and today they farewell one of their Kuia Ra Waho,a nanny from another iwi, Jean Puketapu of Tuhoe.
Whaea Jean was at the forefront of the Te Kohanga Reo movement in 1982. Her husband Kara Puketapu was, at the time, Secretary of Maori affairs and his Tu Tangata Programme that he implemented in the 80’s included language revival at an early child level. The first Kohanga in the country opened up just over the hill from Waiwhetu marae at Pukeatua in Wainuiomata where Kara and Jean where living at the time. She was the first teacher of a Kohanga Reo as we know it today.The wider Tuhoe families have arrived to tautoko the Puketapu whanau and the wider hapu of Te Ati Awa to say farewell to a most important kuia in the Kohanga movement and in the tribal life of Te Ati Awa and Tuhoe ki Poneke.
Unfortunately I’m up in Te Wahipounamu today so wont be able to attend the tangi but I managed to sneak away from ‘the house’ for the afternoon on Wednesday and spent the rest of the day with the haukainga. I arrived before the first set of manuhiri and must say, felt priviliged to have been accorded the haukainga status of being able to ‘sneak in through the side door’ to spend private time with the kuia and her immediate family before the crowds started to arrive, and so I acknowledge their aroha towards me.Today will be a busy day for Waiwhetu and I wish them well. They’ve just finished hosting the Waitangi Tribunal for two weeks and now they find themselves back on the paepae and in the wharekai as they continue to hold and uplift the mana of our tupuna and our customs. Such is the way of everyday Maori life.
“Nana te Whariki Papatipu o te Kohanga Reo,o te Matauranga, i raranga”