Regional | Rangatahi

Reviving Te Tikanga a Tohi

Marlborough Sounds — Twelve Te Ātiawa whānau members revived a tradition when they embarked on a five-day journey designed to deepen their understanding of Māori culture and connect them with the natural landscape of the Marlborough Sounds.

The inaugural Te Toki o Awa course, a collaborative effort between Te Ātiawa o Te Waka-a-Māui Trust and Outward Bound, saw the revival of the Tohi Rite, an ancient Māori ritual last performed by members of the 28th Māori Battalion.

Both educational and experiential, the course covered essential aspects of tikanga and te reo Māori, including guided tours of significant wāhi tapu, (sacred sites) where they learned about the historical and spiritual importance of these places to their ancestors.

Complemented by marae stays, participants were immersed in the daily life and traditions of their community, including pōwhiri (welcome ceremonies), pūrākau (traditional storytelling), and discussions on kōrero tuku iho (oral histories).

A central feature of the Te Toki o Awa course was the re-enactment of the Tohi Rite. This ritual involved the symbolic cleansing of participants with water from the sacred Waitohi Awa, using branches of Karamū - a practice rooted in the belief that the waters carry the strength and protection of the ancestors, preparing those who are blessed for the challenges ahead.

Te Ātiawa o Te Waka-a-Māui Trust chief executive Justin Carter emphasised the importance of such cultural practices for the continuity and resilience of the Te Ātiawa identity. “The preservation of the Tohi Rite and other ancestral traditions is crucial for fostering a strong sense of identity and resilience among future generations of Te Ātiawa,” he said.

The design of the course is intended to create enduring impacts, aiming to enrich participants’ connections with the culture and community and is named to reflect the principle of enduring strength and unity within the Te Ātiawa people, even in the face of adversity.

The programme has been instrumental in enhancing participants’ confidence in practising tikanga and speaking te reo Māori, offering a supportive environment for both beginners and those with a more advanced understanding of Māori culture.

Outward Bound Course design manager Jen Riley highlights the importance of the collaboration between Te Ātiawa and Outward Bound.

“The development of people and facilitating connection to others and te taiao, the environment, is at the heart of our mahi. Te Toki o Awa is a way that we can contribute to the strengthening of Te Ātiawa who guide us in our te ao Māori journey and are mana whenua of the area where we are privileged to live and work,” she says.