Ngā Ūnga Waka

By Anna Reeves

We talk about the loss of


and Te Reo…

but what about the loss of a culture



I read about the tīheru (the canoe bailers) –

What happened to those? (Were they thrown into the sea?)


I read about 1000 waka

hitched up on a beach. (Where are they now – all those waka? Where?)


Who was the last wahine

to pick

a piece of moss

to soak up her

menstrual blood?


I read about the Whare Kōhanga…

I look around the land.

Where were they built?

Must have been

somewhere. (What stands there now?)


I read about the pahū used to send messages


an awa

… around a roto.

When was

the last time

the last pahū

sent a message

around the  c  u  r  v  e

of water?


I read about manu tukutuku

how they sent signals to neighbouring pā.

When did

the last one


in the sky? (Never to fly again).


Who played



poi āwhiowhio






a tree?


Who was the last one

in a whāriki tūpāpaku

on the atamira

flesh rotting away

leaving nothing but bones? (Kōiwi, kōiwi). (Tell me – where are my bones now?)


Who ate

the last kākahi

from that stream? (Kua mate koutou katoa).


Who let the last cooking fire go cold? (Leaving nothing but ashes).


Who pulled the hue vine out… Who? (Never to be planted again at that spot.)


Who put the last leaf of kawakawa on the wound that needs healing…


The names

of the people

who did

these things

are carried

by their



atamira – raised platform on which deceased person was placed

awa – river

hue – gourd, calabash

kākahi – fresh water mussell

katoa – all of you (used for a group that is all the same)

kōiwi – bones

kua mate koutou katoa – “you are all dead”, kua = past tense, mate = dead/death, koutou

kua roa kē au e [] ana – for a long time [I] have been…

manu tukutuku – kite, manu = bird, tukutuku = to send out

mokopuna – grandchild/grandchildren, moko – mark or likeness = representation of, puna – to well up, flow, spring [of water]

ngā ūnga waka – the treasured landing places of waka, ngā = plural, ūnga = landing place, waka = voyaging vessel

pā – village

pahū ­– drum made from native wood

poi āwhiowhio – object made from a hue (gourd), used to attract native birds

roto – lake

te reo – the language

tūpāpaku – someone who is dying or deceased

wahine – woman

whakapapa – all encompassing system of relationships in customary belief, including those between people, atua (gods), inanimate objects and the land

Whare Kōhanga – temporary houses built for the birth of a child

No Comments

Leave a Reply