I te Ara Taonga ki Tūranga | On the Road in Tūranga

nā Paora Tibble, Kaiwhanake ā-Iwi │Iwi Development Adviser

Ka pere taku pere ki te Tairāwhiti, ki Te Poho o Rāwiri, ki reira tūhonohono ai ngā taonga ā-Iwi.

Ngāti Oneone, nāhau te whakaruruhau! Rongowhakaata, nāhau te kaupapa i whakatō ki Ōrākaiapu, ko te tūāpapa tērā o Te Hau ki Tūranga!

On 28  – 29 March 2019, the Tūhonohono i ngā Taonga ā-Iwi: Te Hau conference was held at Te Poho-o-Rāwiri marae, in Kaitī, Gisborne. This conference was delivered in partnership by Rongowhakaata (the current iwi in residence at Te Papa) and National Services Te Paerangi.

Delegates outside Tūhonohono hui, 2019. Photo Norm Heke, (c) Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust and Te Papa

The name of this conference, Tūhonohono i ngā Taonga ā-Iwi, can be translated to, ‘Connecting the Treasures of the Tribes’. It’s a space where iwi can come together to share ideas, projects and what they’ve learnt from engaging with taonga.

Here are my thoughts on a few of the speakers and their presentations at the conference:

After Te Papa’s Kaihautū, Arapata Hakiwai shared some of the history of the Tūhonohono conferences, Taharākau Stewart (Pou Tikanga for Rongowhakaata at Te Papa) presented his ideas about what might be possible with Tūhonohono and why he was inspired to bring this kaupapa home, to Gisborne. Taha suggested the theme of this conference, Te Hau. This refers to the meeting house, Te Hau ki Tūranga, which was confiscated and now stands in Te Papa. Through his choice of theme we can also gain a further understanding of Hau in it’s various manifestations – i.e. hauora is health, haukaenga are the home people, hau is wind, breath – and how it can connect us all through taonga.

Next up were Jody Wylie and Teina Moetara, who took us on a vivid journey into the past. Teina and Jody shared the story of Te Hau ki Tūranga, it’s the story of the colonisation of Aotearoa.

Listen to Jody Wylie talk about Te Hau ki Tūranga on the RNZ podcast Ours: Treasures from Te Papa

(l) Teina Moerata walks us into the past. (r) Jody Wylie, a key researcher for Te Hau ki Tūranga. Photos Norm Heke, (c) Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust and Te Papa

Charlotte Gibson wove the story of the restoration of Te Poho-o-Rāwiri, the meeting house in Kaitī, Gisborne, where our conference was held. I’d like to acknowledge Charlotte, Ngāti Oneone and their beautiful whare, Te Poho o Rāwiri. It’s a whare taonga in it’s own right, as well as a primo conference venue and even better, it’s got free WiFi!

Charlotte Gibson giving voice to her whare, Te Poho-o-Rāwiri. Photo Norm Heke, (c) Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust and Te Papa

The next kaikōrero, Erueti Rakena, had passion, power and used the first person voice when speaking of his tupuna whare, Rahurahu, to rightfully command our attention. This is a restoration project that has been going for years and it was a very personal journey for Erueti. He shared lessons learnt and through doing so, allowed us, the audience, to envision just a small amount of all the hard work and effort that Ngāti Whaoa and Ngāti Tahu have put into his this awesome restorative kaupapa.

(top l) Erueti Rakena of Ngāti Whaoa, Ngāti Tahu, (r) Jim Schuster of Te Pou Here Taonga, (bottom) Jim Schuster showing the restoration work required for the tupuna whare, Rahurahu. Photos Norm Heke, (c) Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust and Te Papa

Alongside Erueti was Jim Schuster, Māori Heritage Adviser Traditional Art from Te Pou Here Taonga. Jim supported Ngāti Tahu and Ngāti Whaoa in the restoration work on their whare, Rahurahu. Jim’s mother, Emily Schuster was a master weaver and her father, Tene Waitere was a master carver. We also got Jim to deliver a workshop in Gisborne on the Saturday after Tūhonohono. His knowledge and understanding of whare Māori is amazing.

Hera Ngata-Gibson looked at Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti’s journey of repatriating their taonga digitally. This iwi worked out pretty early on, that it’d be a very expensive exercise to repatriate taonga held in collections overseas. So they sent groups to those institutions overseas to hono to their taonga. What I got from Hera’s kōrero was the positive relationships developed between Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti and the institutions and more importantly, amongst themselves.

Hera Ngata-Gibson of Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti. Photo Norm Heke, (c) Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust and Te Papa

On the second day of the conference, we had both a special treat and a technical challenge. We called our international guest speaker Shannon Martin, Director of the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture & Lifeways, into the conference from Mt Pleasant, Michigan, USA. After first sharing a pre-recorded presentation the conference participated in a question and answer question with Shannon over a video call.

Shannon Martin (Director) and William Johnson (Curator), Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways. Image provided

One of the reasons that the Tūhonohono kaupapa was set up in the first place, was to give iwi an opportunity to discuss the possibility of developing their own ‘iwi cultural centres’. In this post-Treaty Settlement period of our history, iwi are looking at how they share their story through taonga. Over in the USA, indigenous tribes have established their own ‘cultural centers’.

My understanding is that this term was coined because the word museum has a lot of baggage for indigenous communities, it’s a colonial construct. In New Zealand a museum is where taonga and Māori have been ‘othered’.

Shannon shared work by her tribe on repatriation and reburial of ancestral remains that had been held for ‘institutional research’. This kind of ‘research’ has impacted on indigenous peoples worldwide. In the USA, there is the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, whereby institutions who receive federal funding are required to return ancestral remains and cultural items related to burial to Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organisations.

Casino and gaming profits were used to purchase land/properties that once belonged to the tribe. These were the humble beginnings of the whare taonga that they have today.

A key tool used in the development process of the Ziibiwing Center was strategic planning, it still continues to guide the development and community input to this very day.

John Coster took a session afterwards to speak to the development of Iwi Cultural Centres here in Aotearoa. Here we got a sense of the cost of such developments, and the ongoing maintenance.

John Coster presenting. Photo Norm Heke, (c) Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust and Te Papa

A panel of kaitieki (Eastern dialect for kaitiaki) who work in the museum sector was facilitated by Puawai Cairns which discussed how kaitieki looked after themselves when taking care of taonga. It’s not always an easy space, there’s timelines, there’s difficult people, there’s budget constraints and then there’s the taha wairua. All this comes with the privilege of being kaitieki.

(L to R) Tapunga Nepe (Tairāwhiti Museum), Amber Aranui (Te Papa) Awhina Tamarapa (independent contractor), Mark Sykes and Puawai Cairns (Te Papa). Photo Norm Heke, (c) Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust and Te Papa

The final session was a panel discussion on Te Hau ki Tūranga, led by Marsha Wylie. The discussion was where the place of Te Hau ki Tūranga should be for Rongowhakaata today.


Te Hau ki Tūranga panel. Photo Norm Heke, (c) Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust and Te Papa

In the breaks and during meals we got to network with iwi, hapū and whānau from all over the motu. There are quite a few jobs that I’m following up on after this conference, to support people in the care of their taonga.

Thanks to Amohaere Houkamau and her team at the Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust (kia ora Beck Waihape!) for all the work they did in bring this conference together in partnership with us. I’d like to acknowledge Amohaere for choosing to hold the conference at Te Poho-o-Rāwiri, it’s another example of Tūhonohono i ngā Taonga ā-Iwi.

A huge thank you goes to Eastland Community Trust for their sponsorship, and Conservation Supplies for conference bag goodies. Thanks also to the other organisation who supported this conference by supporting staff to present including Heritage New Zealand │ Pou Here Taonga and Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision. Me mihi ka tika!