The weekend of 9-10 March was an historic one for our rūnaka. It was when we finally moved into the concluding stages of caring for the huge collection of kōiwi tāngata that were the responsibility of the rūnaka of Te Tai Araiteuru. The main group of these kōiwi tāngata were collected for academic study and had been passed over to manawhenua to be held in a wāhi tapu until a decision was made about their re-interment/reburial. Kāti Huirapa Rūnaka ki Puketeraki has been working towards the reburial of about 67 of the kōiwi tāngata, mainly those taken from our local coastal area, as well as some kōiwi tāngata that had been rescued from eroding sites on Huriawa, and some given into the care of Kāti Huirapa Rūnaka.

The weekend started with a wānaka to examine what was about to be undertaken and the appropriate tikaka and kawa needed to ensure that what we did was tika. With the leadership of our kaumātua and the added wisdom of our whanauka Piri Sciscia, we worked through the various aspects of the appropriate rituals and, or ceremonies and how we would fulfil them the next day.

In some ways what we didn’t fully anticipate was the intense emotion that was evident throughout the poroporoaki and re-interment for these unidentified tūpuna. The kōiwi tāngata were brought onto Puketeraki Marae for their final poroporoaki.

David Ellison, Upoko, spoke of the opportunity offered to the rūnaka to ‘lay our ancestors to rest’ and then associate professor Hallie Buckley gave a summary of the findings of the Anatomy Department of Otago University. David Ellison said it was ‘gratifying for our rūnaka to receive so much information about our tūpuna’, and how they survived the harsh conditions of 250-300 years ago.

The kōiwi tūpuna were then taken up to the historic pā site on Huriawa Peninsula to be laid to rest. Professor Sciascia rightly pointed out that, ‘this is part of putting right the wrongs of colonialism’.

Kōiwi tūpuna being brought onto Puketeraki Marae, Sunday 10 March.

David Ellison, Upoko, overlooks the re-interment of kōiwi tūpuna on Huriawa Peninsula.