National | Hawai'i

A Māori view of the rising volcanic activity

Two recent major volcanic eruptions in Hawai'i and South America's Guatemala have left communities and wildlife devastated, but what do Māori customs and beliefs make of all this environmental movement? Māori cultural expert Tei Nohotima explains to Kawekōrero that from a Māori perspective, each type of volcanic occurrence has its own meaning. New Zealand he says, has its own volcanic activity in the form of Te Waiaitoto and Ruaimoko and the two lava flows known as Te Rua-wai-ahi and Awa-rua-ahi which we call the Wai-toto-rua whose activity is embodied through our Māori weaponry. The warrior embodies the fires of Ruaimoko, the god of the earthquakes.

"Something we can take from volcanic activity that have happened recently is that the Onetai signifies a new house. Onetea is a sign that a new leader will be raised on the forecourt. Onetakataka from Ruaimoko is a sign of a new initiative," expalins Nohotima.

The two major volcanic eruptions have occurred in and around the Pacific Ocean leaving nearly 200 people missing following the eruption of the Fuego volcano last Monday. Guatemalan emergency officials say at least 75 people have been killed. Over in Hawai'i, hundreds have lost their homes after Mt Kilauea began erupting over a month ago, and now lava has vaporised an entire lake in the Kapoho Bay forming new land mass.

Reflecting on the eruptions from Mt Kilauea Nohotima says, "Hawaii is recreating its landscape to become firm again. The lava is a way for the earth to cleanse itself through Ruaimoko and his two fiery rivers."

The Tūhoe progeny briefly tells of the different activity pointing out that onetai is when the earths' crusts move sideways causing a quake signifying a new house needing to be built. Onetea happens when sandy volanic ash rises from the ground indicating a new leader will be raised on the forecourt. Onetakataka is the friable soil unleashed from the land that signifies a new initiative.

Nohotima emphasises, "Those are some of the signs discussed by priests in traditional houses of learning. The earthquakes in the South Island were a sign of the death of great leaders and within each tribe a leader passed. That was a sign to the young people to be vigilant and ready."

Understanding these messages he believes is crucial for Māori to remain safe from environmental occurrences such as those of Mt Kilauea and Fuego volcano,

"We've stopped praying in our rivers, people don't pray at river mouths, people don't greet the sun as it rises."

"We don't have the capacity to teach our children all of these things such as acknowledging the environment and Tāwhiri, perhaps that is a responsibility of kura kaupapa Māori, not to go back to how it was but to go back to our stories because our stories tell us how to live harmoniously with our environment."