In the quest for a new, prosperous beginning, the Māori discovered Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud, and migrated here around 1670 in their tribes. The Ngāi Tahu tribe migrated down to the South Island. They conquered the Ngāti Mamoe iwi, dominating the South Island. The Ngāi Tahu came over in waka capable of carrying a few hundred people. When they arrived in Whakaraupo, the land was known for its beauty, plentiful resources, and advantageous position for warfare. As a declaration of conquering the land, Te Raki-whakaputa laid down his waist mat, thereby naming the land Rāpaki. At the time, New Zealand was an undiscovered land to the rest of the world, where only native birds and mammals lived. After the Māori settled here, the beginning of a whole new chapter started. The Māori lived in fear everyday, due to new predators such as the Haast eagle. However, this was just the beginning of their problems. Soon the Māori were on the brink of starvation, and had to find a reliable food source. They learnt new ways to hunt, to defend their iwi, and to make weaponry. The moa became the Māori’s first victim; never before had moa seen a creature that posed a threat to them. Slowly, the moa were hunted down, due to their plentiful meat and vulnerability. Now, having a reliable food source, the Māori population grew and grew, but the moa were facing imminent extinction. As many tribes settled in different regions, the natural instinct to protect their land and fight started. Tribes became involved in warfare, trying to claim the land for their own tribe. It was at this time that the Europeans discovered New Zealand. In 1670, New Zealand was a land of peace, where nature thrived, before people discovered it and turned the nation into an entirely different habitat.
After the arrival of Māori in New Zealand many tribes decided to travel down to the South Island. One of these tribes was the Ngāi Tahu who settled in Lyttelton Harbour (Whakaraupo). They soon realised they were not the only inhabitants of the Canterbury Plains, with two other tribes: the Ngāti Mamoe and the Waitaha already settled in the region. A great battle broke out between the competing tribes for the sought-after land and countless attacks ensued. Soon, an allegiance formed, and the three tribes grouped together as one, taking ownership of the whole of the South Island (Te Waipounamu). They called themselves Ngāi Tahu (linking with their ancestor Tahupōtiki), with five sub-tribes (hapū): the Kāti Kurī, Ngāti Irakehu, Kāti Huirapa, Ngāi Tuahuriri, and Ngāi Te Rua Hikihiki. The leader of this tribe, Te Raki Whakapapa, led 800 Māori in waka around the harbour to find a strategical place to settle. He chose the bay, and, going first ashore himself, threw his waist mat onto the sand, claiming the land and sea for his people; it is his statue that sits atop the Rāpaki Marae. Over the years, Ngāi Tahu made Rāpaki their home and came to depend on the harbour for food. It is said that when they first arrived, there were so many crayfish, they only had to stick their hand in the water to catch one. Since their arrival at Rāpaki, many buildings have been built around the site, including a school, a church, and relatively recently, a marae. After their settlement, the Ngāi Tahu have established a long history of trade and commerce, dating back hundreds of years. The modern Ngāi Tahu still wish for their tribe to be recognised as one of passion and energy. Their customs (tikanga), such as their language, their relationships with the land and sea, and their way of living, still distinguish them today. Ngāi Tahu are the guardians of Rāpaki, the land providing them with both food and safety. But Rāpaki does not belong to the tribe, with the idea of belonging being a European concept, the Ngāi Tahu do not own the land – they protect it.
Te Wheke Hall, new Maori meeting house at Raupaki on opening day from the website of christchurchcitylibraries.com/Heritage/Photos/Disc5/img0041.asp
Māori culture is centred around the iwi (tribe), hapū (sub-tribe), whānau (family), their relationship with the land, which acknowledges the human and spiritual, as well as the importance of their ancestors (tupuna). The Māori talk about embracing the future with their hearts in the past, and embracing this sacred relationship between past, present and future. The Māori do not have particular laws, but instead believe in a values-based system. Māori myth states that Ranginui (Father Sky) and Papatūānuku (Mother Earth) joined together and made their offspring live in confined darkness until they rebelled and pushed their parents apart to let life flourish. Because of this, Māori are very respectful toward their land and the people who have sacred responsibility of the land.
Hot Pools: Māori legend says that while the Māori were exploring their newly found land, they were cold, hungry and dying. They desperately needed warmth, so they prayed to the Tongariro Mountain for heat. In answer to their prayers, giant balls of fire were sent to the ground. According to the legend, every so often the fireballs would burst from the ground to ensure the Māori were not lost, creating a hole full of warm water, thus creating the hot pools. While the Māori travelled, they bathed in these pools that still remain today.
Formation of the South Island: The traditions of Waitaha, Ngāti Mamoe, and Ngāi Tahu are embedded in our landscape. The waka Te Waipounamu carried the four sons of Ranginui to meet his second wife Papatūānuku. The sons journeyed from the heavens and, when they were set to return, the Karakia (incantation) failed, overturning their waka. This in turn became the South Island. The brothers climbed on top where they turned into stone and became the mountains known as the Southern Alps. It is understood that the captain of the waka Rakaihautu, Uruao, named many sites from Kaikoura to the Foveaux Strait, and carved out the lakes across the South Island to form food baskets that would sustain his descendants. In the deep south, the Tākitimu waka formed a mountain range, and the food baskets from the waka Arai Te Uru became the Moeraki Boulders. These ancient Māori legends and myths passed down through the generations are interwoven throughout our landscape today.
On our visit to the marae, one of the customs was to take off our shoes before entering to show respect. But, because of the earthquake risk, we did not have to, just in case the glass from the roof fell.
A koha is a gift visitors bring to the marae. By bringing this gift, you are showing respect to the people of the marae and to the sacred ground of the marae itself. Our gift was a gold coin donation to the people of the marae.
Another custom is not being allowed to eat or drink in the marae. But it is allowed in a separate room, because the main room of a marae is a spiritual place not meant for eating.
A pōwhiri is a welcoming ceremony involving six stages of formal greetings. The pōwhiri is predominantly spoken in Māori, and is used to greet manuhiri (visitors) onto the marae. A pōwhiri signifies two groups joining together; one welcoming the other, finishing with both groups coming together as one. It acknowledges the Māori Gods and remembers Māori ancestors by reinforcing kinship and friendship bonds. Many years ago, the pōwhiri was used to discover whether an approaching party of warriors was a threat to the iwi.
A traditional pōwhiri includes these steps:
The carvings are beautiful wooden structures inside the marae. Each carving tells a story of the Rāpaki people’s ancestors. Māori did not have a written language until the 19th century, so carvings were used to preserve the history and culture of the tribe. Māori carvings can be found in meeting houses, canoes, weapons and jewellery. Their craft also included precious adornments, tools, musical instruments, decorative panelling, and posts for the various buildings within the village.
New Zealand has the fourth largest fishing zone in the world, allowing access to a large variety of seafood. It is therefore surprising that the average New Zealander consumes so little of it. This was not the case in pre-European society, with seafood comprising the main component of the Māori diet. Māori were accomplished fishermen, using nets, traps, and hooked lines to catch fish.
Early Māori Diet - By analysing fish bones at various coastal sites, archaeologists have discovered that one or two fish dominated the Maori fisheries. In the North Island, snapper was the main food source, while barracouta and red cod were the major species caught in the South Island.
When the Māori first arrived in Christchurch, Lyttelton Harbour was plentiful in seafood. The local iwi would fish in Rāpaki Bay, gathering shellfish such as mussels, pāua, and crayfish. The fresh seafood was cooked by laying the flesh out on heated rocks, while shellfish was often eaten raw. Māori preserved much of their seafood to eat later or to trade for valuable resources. Fresh fish and shellfish were often hung out on poles to dry in the sun, or baked first before hanging for preservation.
Māori tribes are very protective of their land serving as ‘sacred ground’, and Ngāi Tahu is no exception. After the February earthquake of 2011, the Christchurch City Council needed somewhere to dispose of the waste and pollution produced by the earthquake. They decided on the beautiful bay that surrounds Rāpaki. This dumping site is Ngāi Tahu property, and the Council did not have the rights to dispose of the waste there. With the waste polluting the waterways, the animals were being poisoned and dying. This was not only bad for the wildlife, but also for Ngāi Tahu. Most of their food (kai) used to be sourced from the bay, and a large majority still does. But because of the pollution the quantity of seafood was diminished, and the fish and crayfish that usually thrive there were killed. Ngāi Tahu did not appreciate the City Council’s solution and asked if they could move their dumping site elsefwhere. After much effort, the tribe decided the only way this problem would be resolved was through court. The court meeting took place in 2011 and Ngāi Tahu won their case. They now have had their waterways cleaned of waste and gradually the sea life and kai have returned.
As well as the above, Ngāi Tahu have had many debates with others over their land in Rāpaki to keep what is rightfully theirs. Luckily, the tribe has succeeded in keeping their land clean, beautiful, and in their own hands.