Tuesday, 19 April 2022

Where is PC…?

 … and why is this place important historically?


  1. Since no-one guessed correctly (or, ahem, was interested enough to respond) I'll give you the answer myself:

    * the place is Kawhia Harbour...
    * the first two pictures show part of the harbour's north head, on which sits the township of Kawhia and these two places: an important stand of pohutukawa trees, and >Maketu Marae (with a double-hulled canoe out front);
    * the last two pictures show Totara Point, from the harbour's south head (Te Maika).

    Why do these places matter, historically?

    * the first place matters because it is said to be the stand of trees on which the Tainui canoe was said to have tied up after its long journey from Hawaiiki, and then from Coromandel to here;
    * the Tainui canoe (from whose passengers all Tainui would be descended) would perhaps have looked something like the double-hulled canoe seen in the second picture; the final resting place of the canoe is said to be on the small hill to the left of the marae there: two stones are said to mark its bow and stern;
    * the second place matters because it was the last main pa and defensive position of Te Rauparaha before he and his Ngati Toa tribe were run out of Kawhia (with destructive consequences for the rest of the. North Island) by Tainui and Maniapoto.

    Curiously, however, despite the sites' enormous historical importance, there is very little to mark this. There is a small marker near the pohutukawa telling the tale, and the two stones and (now) a small fence mark the burial site of the Tainui canoe -- one of the main seven main canoes from which all Maori descend. But there is nothing at all to mark the place from which "New Zealand's Napoleon" sprang, nor any local interest in promoting the locations to tourists as anything important (despite them having much better tales to tell than stories about bloody Hobbits) and even active resistance to confirming the location of the buried canoe, even with modern non-invasive techniques.

    Still, these sites are undeniably important in the birth of our funny little country.

  2. My personal experiences suggest two reasons for the lack of interest in commemorating this spot:

    1. The shrouded and vague records associated with Māori history. I recall going to Rarotonga 15-20 years ago and being taken on a tour where I was shown the beach where the Polynesian journeys to settle NZ supposedly began. I was very impressed and interested, but later researched the topic and learnt that historians didn’t really know, and there was unlikely to be one place where the voyage began. This may have been the spot where the Tainui canoe first pulled up, but nobody knows for sure.

    2. The traditional Maori reluctance to share their history, even insomuch as it can be verified. On a subdivision development I was involved in I was keen to commemorate an archaeological find discovered during the earthworks that traced back to Māori settlement with a display and info-panel, but was met with reluctance and evasiveness by the local iwi, who I naively assumed would appreciate my intentions. They instead wanted to bury the find (literally) where it could be seen and known by nobody. I was puzzled why. To this day I’m still not certain why, but the archaeologist who had more experience dealing with them led me to believe it was some strange and perverted concept of ‘intellectual property’ - the idea this was *their* history and it belonged to them, and not to be shared with anyone. With the benefit of more learning and experience since then I think that’s partly the explanation. But I think the other inter-related explanation is the tribal nature of Māori culture, where any claim to be the origin of something important is likely to be a source of controversy and conflict between, or even within each tribe. Stating anything about their history was likely to offend or upset someone either inside or outside the tribe, so the easier option was to say nothing and bury it in the ground.

  3. Huh. I had a similar experience in Rarotonga ... except I wasn't taken on a tour, I noticed that a number of district names corresponded with the names of the waka that Māori claim brought them from Hawaiki.


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