Indigenous | Aotearoa

Te Moana Nui Games back for first time since pandemic began

Te Moana Nui Traditional Games (known formerly as Heiva Tū’aro i Vaihi) is a competitive event celebrating and promoting ancestral sports of Oceania.

Athletes from around the Pacific test their skills, strength, and endurance in various disciplines with the event hosted in Waimea Valley of Oahu, Hawai’i.

The games, happening this weekend on November 5 for the first time since the pandemic hit, is part of the larger Makahiki Festival. The name change is in reference to the many island nations in Polynesia.

Event organiser and founder Manarii Gauthier started the event back in 2016. Originating from Tahiti, Heiva Tū’aro i Vaihi was opened up to other Pacific Island nations in 2015, including Aotearoa.

Let the (traditional) games begin!

“The motivation there was to promote the sports as much as the [traditional] dancing is promoted outside of Tahiti,” he says.

The disciplines for this year’s Te Moana Nui Games include coconut tree climbing, the Timau Ra’au (foot race), Amora’a ‘Ōfa’I (stone lifting) and Taputo (wrestling).

Te Moana Nui acts as an unofficial qualifier for a bigger event in Tahiti. But should anyone want to venture to Tahiti, Te Moana Nui is the perfect preparation.

Manarii had praise for the Māori athletes who have participated since its inception. “Throughout the history we have with them in Tahiti and Hawai’i, it’s been awesome.

“It’s always been more of an exchange with everybody of Te Moana Nui than a competition but the fact that they bring it every time has motivated every athlete that has been doing this, before they showed up, to get better.”