Song of Waitaha 21 Years On…

December 10 is a very significant date in this modern age in terms of the Waitaha Nation.

I will go back to the beginning. In the mid 1980’s a decision was made by a senior elder of the time here in Te Waipounamu. Because of the pain of the people and the lands he decided that the time had come for the philosophy of Waitaha to be brought back into the World of Light, Te Ao Marama, ‘to heal the people and to heal the land’ because Waitaha are a people of Peace and adhere to the philosophy of Rongomaraeroa, keeper of all things peaceful, truth and aroha, compassion.

He wanted some of the stories and wisdom of Waitaha to be brought out in written form .He then instructed 5 people to do this sacred work. He nominated the 5 people. Each person was given specific roles to play in the production of this book. There were people, a man and a woman whose geneology went back in to the Waitaha people. With their combined knowledge in the modern world and the old world of Waitaha they were key to this whole process because this work had to be carried out adhering to the strict protocols of ritual and ceremony. There was to be a scribe and this was Barry Brailsford. There was Derek Mitchell who had the knowledge of the technological world, he even created a special font for the book. He was a skilled photographer and a designer as well. Richard Nunn’s carried the sounds of the ancient musical instruments for the Trail of 1989 then Barbara Brailsford became involved as one of the five. She had a key role in the work for the book, Song of Waitaha. She was the person who held the group together with her skills as an organiser for the many journeys that had to be taken during the gathering of the information.

So this number 5 made up the group to bring this work forward. Before this could happen though the sacred and ancient trails of Peace, Rongomaraeroa had to be opened. It had been closed over 100 years before this by the ancestors. In the tradition of peace there was to be no blood shed on the trail. Sadly this happened and the decision was made to close the trail. This trail could not be walked in the traditional way again. The Rahui was put on the trail for that time although they knew that in the future it would be lifted to enable the return of the teachings for the World to learn again the way of peace to live by.

And so on December 10, 1988 a party of 12 began this journey. For everyone of the 12 who walked there was a kaumatua fasting and in deep prayer. The 12 was made up of 4 women and 8 men, there were 5 Maori and 7 European, 5 rangatahi, young people and 7 adults.

People were chosen for various reasons, blood ties to the land through whakapapa, skills for working in the outdoors, knowledge of the tikanga of the trails and the ability to conduct and lead ceremony and ritual for the trail, leadership skills in the outdoors and people skills to hold the group together in this very significant event.

The journey took 7 days and we were tested to the maximum spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally. It awakened the memory of old knowledge to the ones who carried blood ties to these sacred trails. Some knew parts of the trails intimately even though they had never been there before, some were able to predict things that would happen, some knew of pending danger, one knew what we had to find along the way and where these places were, one was able to read the star maps; one was totally fearless when it came to climbing cliffs and negotiating difficult waterways, others knew intuitively when to come alongside and offer support. All were brave and so very courageous, especially the young woman who almost lost her life one terrible day. The night of that day when we were safely ensconced in the nice warm hut, she announced that if a helicopter flies by she was going to hitch a ride. The next morning a helicopter did arrive literally out of the blue and she didn’t want to leave the group, she stayed on for the rest of the journey.

And so we were to find 7 gateways along this trail. They were described to us from the memory of a 6 year old. And every one of these gates was exactly as was recalled by this man.

So our tasks were many. One was to find these 7 gateways along the way, there was one for every day as it turned out.

Another task was to get the whale over the pass, another was to identify the constellation that was to be in the heavens directly above the sacred lake, the daily task of identifying the gateway and approaching it in the traditional ceremonial way of our ancestors and to enact the ceremony and rituals as was the way of the old ones, was enacted every day, another was to listen for the specific birds associated to the trails and to watch for them.

All of these tasks were met. Much fun and singing rang out over the trail during that week. There were many challenges as well but challenges met with courage and strength of heart, mind and spirit and body.

Our ancestors were with us and showed themselves to us in different ways, sometimes a glimpse of them out of the corner of one’s eye, sometimes the sound of music and laughter, sometimes in dreams, always with much love. And so seven days after we set out we arrived at the base camp on the eastern side of the trail and received a beautiful warm welcome from the people who held the mauri of the kaupapa of the trail, that is the lifting of and the opening of the Trails in the name of Rongomaraeroa.

It is with much gratitude that I salute those who took part but first it is with sadness that I farewell the spirit of one of the rangatahi, noreira e Puke, haere haere haere atu ra e tama, toku poutokomana maku o tera huarahi tapu, e rere koe I runga I tou hoki atu ki ou tupuna maha kua whetu rangitia, noreira toku tama, haere, haere, haere atu ra.

To Jo De Sierre, Derek Mitchell, Richard Nunns, Barry Braislford, Peter Brailsford, Gordon Brailsford, Katrina Ruka, Pere Ruka, Caroline Mitchell and Petariki Ngarimu I acknowledge your courage and commitment to this trail, the love and the light and laughter we shared, the special little meals each of you contributed, the acknowledgement of the gifts you all brought to the Trail and the way you conducted yourselves throughout with dignity, grace and integrity.

Ka nui toku aroha ki a koutou katoa. And so with the Trail completed the five who were called together by a senior kaumatua of the time, Te Pani Manawatu, were able to begin work on the book.

This work involved visiting sites of significance to Waitaha ancestors, to enact ceremony at these sites and after which the stories were released. This involved the people born of the tikanga and whakapapa (traditions and genealogy of Waitaha) and the scribe and the gentleman who was chosen because of his skills as a designer, technician in the IT world and photographer, and of course all of these journeys were co coordinated by yet another member of the five.

The five worked together on all aspects of the production of the book. Visiting the sites and recording took 2 years, it took another 2 years for the scribe and the designer to weave it together into it’s form as it is now, then it took another 2 years for the proof reading, publishing and printing of the book so that it was launched at Onetahua Marae, Golden Bay on December 10, 1994 exactly 6 years after we set foot on the Trail in 1988. And so this year marks the 21st year since that auspicious date.


  • Waipae Perese - nee Savage

    May 16, 2010

    Kia kaha kia koutou, “E TU WAITAHA”. My Tupuna is of Te Urukehu, many people throughout the years said they were related to her, then claimed and succeeded to much of her assets, everyone cashing in so to speak, the crwon gave to them without proof of whakapapa, luckily her whakapapa had been protected and kept safely in Rarotonga, this was to avoid any manipulation of the truth. This secret withheld within our hapu and whanau. Now it is time to stand!

  • Richard Te Miri Bevan

    February 12, 2011

    Tonight 11.Feb 2011 I was told about this publication by a relation of my wife, Brigitte Te Awe Awe-Bevan, (Charles Matenga).
    Charles is a very spiritual person, hes a master carver, fluent speaker of te reo, and the keeper of Rangitane Whakapapa.
    I will enjoy reading this book.

  • Wendy nash

    October 13, 2014

    Beautiful and such soul thank you. Is there any way I could purchase
    Whispers of Waiaha
    Tradition of a Nation
    And learn about more of your peoples knowings and writings.
    Thank you … I am also deeply connected to water being a straits woman born and raised on king island in Bass Strait.
    Wendy :-))

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.