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History . . . Arowhenua pa pictured in 1905. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

As South Canterbury residents mark the region’s anniversary day on Monday, The Courier looks at earlier history of the area. Reporter Greta Yeoman, assisted by Kā Huru Manu archive manager Takerei Norton and Te Rūnanga o Arowhenua upoko (Arowhenua leader) Te Wera King, have compiled a collection of Ngāi Tahu history and historic sites as noted in the iwi’s cultural mapping project.

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There are many sites of importance for South Canterbury Māori, both Kā Huru Manu archive manager Takerei Norton and upokorūnanga Te Wera King say.

Mr King, who is a kaumātua from Arowhenua, said the Kā Huru Manu mapping project was a way to “keep those stories alive”, particularly around providing information about places that may no longer be in use and what those places were used for.

“Some places have been lost to time . . . but every single bit is important.”

While Arowhenua marae was not the first pā for Arowhenua Māori, it has been the main settlement area for the iwi since the mid 1800s.

Creation stories . . . Aoraki/Mt Cook is a key focus of Ngāi Tahu creation stories. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

Te Waiateruati pā near the mouth of the Opihi River was the first pā for Arowhenua, which Mr King describes as a “really important site” for Arowhenua hapū.

They relocated to the current Arowhenua settlement south of the Temuka township following the controversial Canterbury Purchase of 1848 by the Crown, which allocated the iwi several small sites around the region within the more than 13million acres of Canterbury land it “purchased” from the iwi.

The Arowhenua kāinga (settlement) is situated between the junctions of the Opihi and Temuka Rivers, the latter which was traditionally spelt/pronounced as Te Umu Kaha.

Mr Norton said the Opihi River was a major travel route and food source for Māori based at Arowhenua, particularly as it led travellers all the way up to Te Manahuna (the Mackenzie Basin).

Lake Pūkaki, along with Lake Ōhau and Takapō (incorrectly known as Lake Tekapo today) were all part of mahinga kai gathering patterns.

About Kā Huru Manu

While an online atlas was first pitched by Ngāi Tahu rūnanga in about 2012, the cultural mapping project Kā Huru Manu had been in the works from about 2004, Kā Huru Manu archive manager Takerei Norton says.

“It’s the extension of work done by previous generations.”

The now-online atlas (Mr Norton describes it as “Ngāi Tahu Google”) holds more than 1000 traditional Māori place names in Te Waipounamu (the South Island) so far – but there are more than 6000 place names, and associated histories, to be eventually added.

He paid tribute to the kaumātua (elders) who had spent years collecting the stories, history and archival information of Ngāi Tahu descendants, through personal collections as well as in archives and libraries around the country.

“This has literally been done by grass-roots people.”

The Kā Huru Manu digital atlas can be viewed at kahurumanu.co.nz/atlas.

During the 1879 Smith-Nairn Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Ngāi Tahu land claims, kaumātua from Ngāi Tahu recorded Te Manahuna as an important kainga nohoanga (food-gathering settlement) where weka, pūtakitaki (paradise duck), aruhe (bracken fernroot), and tuna (eels) were gathered, Ka Huru Manu states.

The high usage of the Opihi route is why there are so many rock art sites along the river, the Kā Huru Manu website explains.

Aoraki/Mt Cook is also a prominent area, particularly for Ngāi Tahu, as a centre of the creation stories of Te Waipounamu.

In the first creation account, Aoraki was an atua (demi-god) who arrived from the heavens with his three brothers.

The return journey went “drastically wrong” and their waka crashed into Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa (the Pacific Ocean), forming what would later be known as the South Island.

This ties in with the earliest name for the island, Te Waka-o-Aoraki, as Aoraki and his brothers climbed to the highest side of the waka where they turned into the highest peaks of Ka Tiritiri-o-te-moana (the Southern Alps).

The second creation account has Aoraki as a passenger on the Arai-te-uru waka that crashed on the Otago coastline.

Many of the passengers then went ashore to explore the land, including Kirikirikatata who carried his grandson, Aoraki, on his shoulders.

Kai . . . Weka were one of several kai (food) sources for Māori living at Arowhenua. PHOTO: ODT FILES

The passengers needed to be back at the waka before daybreak. However, most of them did not make it, instead turning into many of the landmarks of Te Waipounamu.

This is why the Mount Cook Range takes the name of Kirikirikatata, as Aoraki sits slightly further north – on his grandfather’s shoulders.

Another area of importance that Mr Norton highlighted was Waimataitai hāpua (lagoon), which was also a significant source of mahinga kai.

Transcripts documenting information by Hoani Kahu from Arowhenua in 1880 state Waimataitai was an important location for gathering eels and whitebait, but this area was lost in the 1930s due to the creation of nearby Port of Timaru.

Just south of Waimataitai was Te Ūpoko o Rakitauheke, which was also a Native Reserve set aside during the Canterbury Purchase.

In 1926, the land was sold to the Timaru Borough Council to cover unpaid rates and was declared a Public Reserve in 1930. It is now the site of the Caroline Bay Trust Aoraki Centre.