Te Ahikā (Prologue) Part 1
Many generations ago the ancestors of Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti (The descendants of Hauiti) arrived in Ūawa. They lit Te Ahikā – the long burning fire, at a small coastal cove and called the place Ōpoutama after a magnificent drama that had befallen them in far off Hawaiki. The ancient homeland. Titirangi reminded them of the rituals of farewell when they left their loved ones behind, forever. A flame was lit along the coast and atop promontories – we had arrived. And the stories were told in the crackling firelight, illuminating the pantheon of gods; our valiant our villains, our triumphs and times of trial and retribution.
As generation dissolved into generation, an unbroken line of whakapapa and wānanga cascaded never ending stories of love, innovation, action and adventure. The ancient narratives coursed through the bloodlines of the fabulous School of Learning called Te Rāwheoro – Te Kura wānanga o Hingangaroa. And then there was Hauiti our great ancestor and the flame did roar into an inferno that scorched the heavens and the earth. And in the afterglow of victory and peace we privileged a heroic legacy that continues to burn with pride within his descendants today – Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti.
Then some 21 generations after those first arrivals and encounters a ship arrived. Our paramount leadership, Hinematioro and Te Whakatatare-o-te-rangi welcomed the Endeavour, Captain James Cook, Tupaia and the crew to Ōpoutama. Te Ahikā was a welcome respite and sanctuary for the weary sailors from the storm. We were transfixed with the adventures of Tupaia and he with the chronicles of Te Rāwheoro Whare Wānanga. And the stars rose and fell on the stories we shared around the fire for those few days in 1769. Ūawa and Tolaga Bay became synonymous and an ancient past transitioned into a time of new arrivals, whalers, traders, missionary folk and settlers. Trade and industry flourished and a community grew up.
Today we are a community that has witnessed the procession of Kings and Treaty’s. We have suffered the ravages of disease – how could we forget what happened at Mangarara, and the alienation of land. But together as an Iwi and community we have fought great wars and have been unified in maritime and natural disasters. We have huge expectations for education, business, and employment and on the sports field. We celebrate the successes of our young people and support their adventures – locally, nationally and internationally.
We want to ensure that they will find a source of pride and identity in what is now our dual heritage and a future to be shared. Te Ahikā is our metaphor, a beacon of light of warm welcome as it has been down through the ages. We aspire that our tamariki know and appreciate that they live in a fabulous place and have an incredible story to share with the world. They are the kaitiaki of the treasure trove of stories that is Te Ahikā. It is their birthright as citizens of Hauiti, of Ūawa, of Te Tairāwhiti and Aotearoa New Zealand. And that for them, like us, Te Ahikā is a warm bright welcome for the nation and the world to hear and understand: Our Story, Our Voice, Our Place
Korero nā Victor Walker