Tēnei au, tēnei au
This version of a widely recited tauparapara/karakia, is unique to Wairarapa. Indeed the now famous karakia originates from the writings of our tohunga Te Whatahoro. It refers to the acquisition of the baskets of knowledge by Tane and is especially suitable for use at any learning-related occasion.
Nau mai taku kura mokopuna, Wairarapa Moana Trust 2007
Tēnā te puna kei Hawaiki, The source is at Hawaiki,
Tuna is the generic Maori name for eels. The tuna of Wairarapa Moana were once famous for their quantity and quality. For centuries, Wairarapa Maori valued tuna as a food source and mainstay of the pre-European economy. Tuna were used as gifts and were traded in the South Island and at various locations throughout the North Island.
Early Europeans came to Wairarapa via the western side of Kawakawa (Palliser Bay) thereby encountering Lake Onoke and Wairarapa Moana. Before agriculture was established, the newcomers had to rely on Maori knowledge of native animals and plants to survive. It is from Maori that they also learnt the value of tuna.
The ability to maintain and then control the Wairarapa lakes’ eel fishery was at the centre of disputes between Maori and Pakeha. Colonists demanded that their land be safeguarded from ﬂooding and also pushed for more land to be made available through draining of the lakes and wetlands.
Successful lobbying by the colonists saw eel habitat destroyed, migratory paths blocked, traditional practices restricted and eventually a serious decline in eel numbers.
While today, eels are once again a valued species within the Wairarapa lakes, it is their status as an ancient species that faces a major threat to their survival.
According to Maori mythology, tuna are the children of Te Ihorangi, the personified form of rain. Their family include Para (frost fish), Ngoiro (conger-eel), Tuna (river-eel) and Tuere (blind eel). Tuna lived in the waters of Puna-kauariki in the highest of the Maori heavens. But due to the sun being so close in by-gone days a severe drought caused the water to dry up and so the family descended to earth to avoid Matuku-whakapu (the bittern). Once on Papatuanuku the family fell out because Para ate the oﬀspring of Tuna. So Tuna went to live in the swamps, while Ngoiro, Para and Tuere moved to the sea.
There are only two main species of eel resident in New Zealand. Maori had names for diﬀerent sizes, colours and other characteristics of eels. Ethnologist Elsdon Best collected 160 diﬀerent names from throughout the country, including several from the Wairarapa.
Aporo te Kumeroa, a well known southern Wairarapa chief and scholar of the 19th century, provided the following descriptions of eels that are found in Lake Wairarapa or rivers ﬂowing into it.
Maui, the great explorer of the Pacific region, who discovered the islands of New Zealand and left us with the enduring tale of his hauling a great fish from the depths of the ocean, was also involved in many other legendary feats.
One day Maui’s wife Raukura was getting water from a stream when the god Tuna-roa sneaked up and hit her with his powerful tail. He then proceeded to insult her so she ran home to tell Maui what had happened. Maui grabbed his axe Matoritori, the severer and went straight down to the stream where he saw Tuna-roa coming towards him. Maui placed logs across the stream for Tuna-roa to use as a bridge and then hid. As soon as Tuna-roa stepped oﬀ the logs Maui jumped out and smote his head from the rest of the body. The head was thrown into the sea to become the conger eel and the tail became the freshwater eels. As Maui waved the body to and fro blood fell onto the pukeko and kakariki birds and the toa toa, rimu, totara and matai trees. The very end of the tail became the creeping vines of the forest that since that time have been used to make eel baskets.
Download a PDF of this page for printing or reading offline.
|Previous: A piece of land||Top of this page||Next: Tuna stories continued|
Content on this page was last updated: 13/03/2017 10:29am