Indigenous | Taranaki Maunga

Taranaki Tū Mai: We are one people under Maunga Taranaki

The 8th biannual Taranaki Tū Mai Festival was held over the weekend, hosted by Taranaki tribe Ngāti Tama of the Tokomaru waka.

The festival draws Taranaki uri (descendants) back to their motherland from all parts of the country including Auckland, the South Island, and from Australia. The eight iwi (tribes) of Taranaki are – Ngā Rauru, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāruahinerangi, Taranaki Iwi, Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Mutunga, and Ngāti Tama. Throughout the three-day event Taranaki iwi competed against each other in 14 sporting events (for all ages), a debate competition and an inter-tribal kapahaka competition.

Ngāti Tama ki te Tauihu is situated at the top of the South Island, and this is its second time attending the festival. Ngāti Tama ki te Tauihu chief executive Hemi Sundgren says it is most important that uri remember that they are one people under Mounga Taranaki.

“What a fantastic weekend. You know, each and every one of us iwi are paddling our own waka to do so many things for our people, but weekends like this just bring us all together under our mounga (mountain), and it’s just so important for us to not forget about that. He iwi ko tahi tātou i raro te mounga o Taranaki (We are one people under Taranaki).”

Chathams connection

Sundgren also says learning more about Ngāti Tama helps his people understand more about their future.

“Last time we came up here we brought nine of us when it was in Te Hawera, and we said then that we should keep committing to this. So, we brought 30 people up this year, and we are all aware of the relationship with our Taranaki whānau, particularly the relationship our North Taranaki whānau have with the top of the South. And so, we’ve committed to come back just to learn more about who Ngāti Tama is and who Te Āti Awa is and reconnect with our origins and our whānau back here. But more importantly, help us understand a little bit more about what we want to do in the future”, Sundgren says.

In 1835 Ngāti Tama and Ngāti Mutunga moved through the South Island to the Chatham Islands. They had left northern Taranaki due to warfare. By 1870 most had returned to Taranaki. Some whalers stayed on in the Chatham Islands and there were intermarriages between the different ethnic groups. Sundgren says since then they have worked collaboratively with other tribes of the South Island. The Taranaki Tū Mai festival has given the people of Ngāti Tama ki te Tauihu a blueprint of how they might want to organise and facilitate their own future events.

Dreaming of one day hosting in the south

“We work together on certain things but I think coming together, I think building momentum about things, about understanding the things we can achieve together. I think working collectively towards kaupapa like this is a big thing for us in Te Tauihu (top of South Island). Building a sense of whanaungatanga (relationships) in and around the kapa haka, and different sports. And so, looking at how the Taranaki Tū Mai committee operates this kaupapa, how they run their working committees, what sort of sporting activities they do, kaumātua games, ngā mahi mō ngā tamariki, children’s games and things like that, and of course kapa haka. So, there’s so much to learn from this kaupapa,” Sundgren says.

Sundgren is hopeful they can one day host the Tū Mai Taranaki festival in the South Island.

“It might be a bit early, but of course, why not? Yeah, why not? It’s a great kaupapa,” Sundgren says.

Sixty-six-year-old Moetu Tuta has family ties to both Ngāti Tama ki te Tauihu and Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri. Tuta says he cannot express how much it means to him to reconnect with whānau back in Taranaki.

Tuta says, “to be able to stand here with all my other whānau and reconnect it means so much to me, more than I can express. I’ve enjoyed the connection; I can’t express that enough. This is our second year of coming here, so yeah, it’s been lovely coming to Taranaki Tū Mai. We’re very fortunate to have an iwi that has supported us to bring us all up here.”

The Taranaki Tū Mai Trust chairman Wharehuka Wano says the festival has now been hosted by all eight tribes of Taranaki and, from the time the festival started, the core values of the festival have remained as a guide for each tribe to host the festival and so that all Taranaki uri understand what the festival is all about.

“We actually started here with Te Āti Awa in 2009, a very small affair, Wano says, “This is the eighth of our iwi to have hosted the festival. But the whole idea was based on three pou (core values) - whanaungatanga (relationships), kōtahitanga (unity) and Taranakitanga (Taranaki tribal customs). Despite us being together, those sorts of things can happen anyway. But there’s a real buy-in from each of the eight iwi and it’s growing.”

Wano also says the festival has given the next generation the opportunity to learn and to take up different roles and responsibilities in operating and managing iwi events.

“I think it’s a big succession opportunity for our up-and-coming leadership. We’re certainly really encouraging our young next generation of leaders. We’re putting up on the paepae and those sorts of responsibilities to cover those sorts of responsibilities that are being picked up by the next generation. People like me have got to get it out of the way.

“When I look at the Ruahine whānau a bus load come over from Australia, and another bus from Tāmaki, and from Te Waipounamu. And because we’re putting it out there, it’s got a decent footprint. We’re clearly messaging about who will host and so our people can prepare themselves. And you know, the thing about our whānau, everybody’s got a good suggestion and they want to share it”, Wano says.

This year’s host Ngāti Tama is the overall winners of Taranaki Tū Mai 2023. The next festival is in 2025 and will be hosted by Taranaki iwi at Parihaka Marae.