At the opening of the Conservation Week launch on Thursday night, Te Marino Lenihan, on behalf of Ngāi Tūāhuriri, spoke directly to the theme of Healthy Nature, Healthy People.
“Toitū te marae o Tangaroa; Toitū te marae o Tāne; Toitū te iwi; If the domains of Tangaroa (water) and Tāne (land) are strong and vibrant; so too will people be strong and vibrant”.
He asked us to think about the words differently - heal-thy land; heal-thy people.
It was a theme reflected earlier that day as our team from Te Pūtahitanga sat with kōhanga reo kids, the people of Ngati Wheke and peace activists in the rose garden at Lyttelton to commemorate Te Ra o Parihaka. The remembrance service at the old gaol site recalls a shameful history back in 1879, in which over 420 ploughman in Taranaki were imprisoned for ploughing their fields, and erecting their fences on the land they called home.
Without any consultation with leaders, Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi, the constabulary pulled down the fences to allow for a road to be built through the settlement of Parihaka. But as soon as they were pulled down, the people of Parihaka Pa put them up again: it was the first marks of global passive resistance – the foundation for peace - which the world later witnessed in the actions of Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King.
Up to 400 ploughmen were held without trial in prisons in Lyttelton, Hokitika, Dunedin and Ripapa Island. 136 years later, in the quiet churchyard at Rapaki, tamariki played around the Memorial to the women and children who forever mourn those men, the men who never returned to their tribal homeland.
A different dimension to healing the land was seen on Saturday at Te Pataka o Rakaihautu, in the heartland of Wairewa. With the blessing of the rūnanga, the Rod Donald hut was opened to both act as a living memory of the late Green Party leader and also to act as a facility for families to live on and off the land, to be restored in the great outdoors, to live simply and sustainably. At the opening, Iaean Cranwell from Wairewa, spoke about the dream of the rūnanga to have their tamariki mokopuna playing in the hills and learning the ancestral names all around them.
It is what some are now calling ‘wilderness therapy’ – the notion that nature is an awesome teacher. In amongst the applications we have received at Te Pūtahitanga we have been really impressed by the pioneering spirit evident in Te Tau Ihu with Whenua Iti and Abel Tasman Waka Tours – both of which are focused on teaching lifeskills while having an incredible time in the beautiful land and water in our own backyard.
At the other end of the island, Te Pūtahitanga is also investing in Rangatahi Tumeke a four day camp in the Catlins starting and finishing at Te Aroha Marae, Awarua (Bluff). This is an opportunity for rangatahi to experience life in the outdoors while learning stories of their tūpuna, whenua, moana and ngāhere.
In thinking about rangatahi magic, all of us here at Te Pūtahitanga wish all whānau courage and encouragement for the next few weeks of Level 1, 2, 3 and scholarship examinations. Have a look at the timetable over the next four weeks and let’s wish all our young scholars well. And in that light, I would like to send out a challenge to all our kura throughout Te Waipounamu to do what these teachers at Fraser High have done in providing a message of support to all their students in the next few weeks ahead.