Taku rekereke, Taku tūrangawaewae
“Where I plant my heels is where I make my stand”
I have struggled to find a one word for 2018. Over the past few years I have taken a Maori word and spent the year unpacking concepts that underlie what the word means. However this year I have struggled to find another ‘kupu’ that spoke to me. Recently I realised why. Because I had not fully grasp what my 2017 one word, Tūrangawaewae was. I accept that and will continue to spend this year unpacking what it means.
Tūrangawaewae is one of the most well-known and powerful Māori concepts. Literally tūranga (standing place), waewae (feet), it is often translated as ‘a place to stand’. Tūrangawaewae are places where we feel especially empowered and connected. They are our tūranga, our kura, our akonga, our wānanga.
Recently I returned to Samoa for a family funeral. But again it ended up being much more than that. It was a chance to visit the land of my birth and spend time with my eldest son. He and I ended up having lunch with Tupua Tamasese and his Masiofo Filiga. The discussion led me to come back and read some of his latest publications. One that caught my eye was his Keynote Address to the Samoa Law Society & Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa Joint Conference in July 2016, Apia, Samoa.
Tupua spoke about ‘Tulaga vae’ in his address. He spoke about the the concept of “tu” as in “tulaga vae”, meaning the place where one stands and how aga is the concept that alludes to the old ritual of burying one’s pute (umbilical cord) and/or placenta (fanua) in the land of one’s birth. I love how all the connections click into place as I have previously shared how my pute is buried under the pulu tree in front of the house where I grew up. This is literal because again the reference is about the place that shaped me.
Once I read this I realised my understanding about Tūrangawaewae was still shallow and I knew why. I had not made connections using my Samoan language.
On Friday, we were in our new staff room and no our building is still not finished, but we are getting really close. Wendy, our principal pointed out an etching on one of our glass panels. I squealed with delight. It was Te Ti Tutahi. We have a link to our past in our new building. Te Ti Tutahi stands again.
Newmarket is central to all our schools in ACCoS, Auckland Central Community of Schools. So knowing about Te Ti Tutahi, a notable tree of the area, is also important for our Kāhui Ako because Ngāti Whatua are the Maori of the of our area.
The historical name for Newmarket is Te Ti Tutahi. Te Ti Tutahi literally means the single Ti or Cabbage tree that stands alone. However Te Ti Tutahi was much more than that. The tree was significant for Ngāti Whatua, Maori of the area. Te Ti Tutahi was the tree where the whenua (placenta) and pito (umbilical cord) of newborn babies were buried. The placenta was placed in a specially prepared receptacle and buried in the roots of Te Ti Tutahi. This practice reinforced the relationship between the newborn child, the land of Aotearoa and the area where they were born. Therefore Te Ti Tutahi te ingoa wahi, means Ti Tutahi is the sacred name of Newmarket.
I have spent a long time talking with Jane Kaa who was Deputy Principal at our school when I first came to Newmarket School. Jane was the person who first alluded me to our school having a massive history. Over time I have curated and gathered every piece of written records that I can source digitally and placed links to one place.
One major piece of information was Te Ti Tutahi. Ngāti Whatua call Newmarket, Te Ti Tutahi. However our school uses the Pohutukawa for our emblem. That is because we are surrounded by these beautiful trees. Our uniform is based around the colours of the Pohutukawa. Even our new building is red. Yet these trees were not there fifty years ago so in reality they are a much more recent addition to the area.
Historically as a school nearing 150 years there have been huge changes. For example we used to be where 277 currently sits. In the early part of the 1900s, the stories go that the principal had the ‘old’ cabbage tree cut down because he was sick of the rubbish the leaves made. I found a reference to the cutting down incident dating 1913, in papers past. However regarding the principal, these are stories passed down. I carried out further investigations and found out that F. J. Ohlson was the principal of that period. He left Newmarket to be the F. J. OHLSON principal at Maungawhau.
I have taken images from the old buildings and placed them strategically so you can see how it might have looked. These are all my guestimates and I have studied heaps of photos, maps and read so much about the area. If you can visualise Mortimer’s pass as a bullock track, with Te Ti Tutahi at the bottom. When I look now I realise that the building did not take up that much land and was probably more than generous in its dimensions.
When Te Ti Tutahi was cut, all the remained was a stump.
From Simons (1987: Pg, 43) I found this reference to Te Ti Tutahi. ‘The Buckland family of Highwic carefully preserved a sacred cabbage tree which had the personal name of Te Ti Tutahi. This was wahi tapu, a sacred place, where the umbilical cords of chiefly children of the Waiohua were buried. Many ceremonies were performed there. The real name of Newmarket is Te Ti Tutahi. The tree stood near the school until 1908 when it was cut down “as a danger to children!” Members of the Buckland family rescued the stump which grew in a reserve near Highwic until smothered by weeds. Cabbage trees growing in gardens nearby are from shoots; Te Ti Tutahi still lives.‘
I also found 1908 was the date referred to o the back of one old image located in the Auckland Museum Archives.
When you visit Highwic House in Newmarket, you can see some of the descendants of Te Ti Tutahi planted in the gardens by Bucklands children. This photo of some of our past students taken in the grounds shows one of them in the background.
At Newmarket School, Wendy Kofoed our current principal collected shoots from Highwic house when she was first principal here and planted them around our school.
Unfortunately we had to get rid of two trees for our new carpark. But as you come up the stairs past the pohutukawa tree you will still find a magnificent specimen growing.
Over the years I have paid attention to this tree and observed its cycle. I have watched Tui coming and drinking from the flowers or or sucking the fruit. I watch for the flowers because this turns the tree into something absolutely spectacular and I become excited at the changes that take place, kind of like markers of nature.
Sometimes teachers ask me to come and tell stories about our school and I always talk about Ti Tu Tahi and its significance for the area. I share about how we have Grandbabies growing in our school and how we must take care of them as they are links to our past.
I often take photos of the one by the stairs because it really is just a magnificent tree and wonder about the devastation to Ngāti Whatua when one of our old principals just chopped down the tree with little regard for its significance. But probably more out of ignorance and naivety than anything. At the same time, this story is part of our school’s history just as Captain Cholmondely Smith, our first school principal, used to fight in the Maori wars and heaps of our children died in the first and second world war.
To me Te Ti Tutahi is Tūrangawaewae. At my school of Newmarket I must applaud Wendy for ensuring that the memories live on in our school and with our children. As our children pass through our school, many have come from a different country and have their whenua and pito buried there. Therefore even though they now live here they still consider the land of their birth their Tūrangawaewae and we must not forget that. Just like one cannot ask me to forget Samoa because it is my island home and my tulaga vae.
We cannot simply change back our current school emblem to reflect Te Ti Tutahi however we can incorporate the memories and stories as we move forward. Just as we must remember and acknowledge our historic motto of ‘Not self, but service’. Just as we must also acknowledge the Tūrangawaewae of all of our learners. Somehow we must embrace and acknowledge the languages of their birth and ensure that all students have strengths in their own cultural identities. We must incorporate both into all that we do at our school.
Therefore by acknowledging the significance of Tūrangawaewae of all our learners we bring into our teaching and learning an understanding of who they are, their families and whānau, their language, their culture and develop our own empathy about the challenges they face coming into new lands learning a new language and learning new ways of being. Together we learn about Ngāti Whatua, the Tangata Whenua of our area and learn about their Tūrangawaewae so that together we can move forward and grow in our understanding of Tūrangawaewae because after all the next generation have birth places in Aotearoa as their Tūrangawaewae.
More about Te Ti Tu Tahi
Efi, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta’isi. “ ‘Where Is Our Island?’ Navigating Language, Vision and Divine Designation in Samoan Law and Jurisprudence.” Samoa Observer, 10 July 2016, www.samoaobserver.ws/en/10_07_2016/local/8480/‘Where-is-our-Island’-Navigating-Language-Vision-and-Divine-Designation-in-Samoan-Law-and-Jurisprudence.htm.
Simmons, D. R., and George Graham. Maori Auckland. Bush Press, 1987.