Indigenous | Waka Hourua

Learning how the ancestors got around the world

A unique festival, Te Hau Kōmaru, has been run this week in Tauranga to bring voyaging in double-hull canoes back to life.

Locals and visitors are getting to go on board four double-hull canoes - Hinemoana, Tai Rawhiti, Haunui, and Ngahiraka mai Tawhiti - and learn about the history of travel – to the thrill of many so far.

They get to listen to crew members’ stories of travelling around the world on these vessels and see how people live out on the ocean.

Lessons include navigation using the stars, winds and tides, also live music and a mobile education unit that housed some of the latest technology to interact with children as they learned more about waka hourua.

“The most important thing is we are showing waka is not just a story in a book but it is real and about their ancestors. This helps to support history subjects in schools also” Te Hau Kōmaru chair Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr says.

Teaching history

After the Tuia 250 festival Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern asked Barclay-Kerr if there were a way to bring about awareness of knowledge and history of the double-hulled canoe used in Aotearoa. She also put aside money to build awareness about ancestors’ use of the waka and to support history subjects in schools.

Hohepa Potini, a volunteer from Ngāti Toa Rangatira, helped teach the children and parents how to set up and pack down a waka’s sail.

“I think it is a great idea for our children to learn about double-hull canoe and all things connected. And no doubt this learning will become a subject in all schools for our children.”

Tauranga local Larry Baldock says he was amazed this waka travelled to America and Honolulu.

Lucy Shepard who was there with her children said “being Pākehā it’s just the best thing I can do is connect my kids with Te Ao Māori to make them understand what it really means to be a New Zealander. They love it.”

The Te Hau Kōmaru team will be heading to Auckland this week to teach and promote the world of waka hourua there.