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Hoki atu ki tō maunga — Return to your mountain

By Jason Ruakere on Feb 15, 2016 04:00 am

Mt Taranaki

Taranaki is my pou. When I look to my mountain I feel connected, I feel grounded, I feel strong. Taranaki is my tipuna, my identity. When I travel away and return, I see my maunga and I know that I’m home.

I visit my mountain often, when I need time to think, to reflect and to be re-energised. My two boys have started coming with me and it is exciting to see them connect as I have from before I can remember.

Beneath its shadow lies the rugged Taranaki coastline, the whenua where my tipuna lived. My father was born on our family farm next to my marae at Puniho Pā and my favourite memories are coming here as a boy with my cousins. This is my turangawaewae, like my mountain, it is the place that anchors and sustains me.

Ko Taranaki te maunga
Ko Matanehunehu te awa
Ko Tarawainuku te marae
Ko Puniho te papakāinga

When my wife was hapū we looked at different options for a place to raise our family. We wanted our children to know who they are and where they are connected. Puniho Pā was the obvious choice.

Following conversations with whānau, kaumātua and marae trustees we relocated two old buildings, and joined them together to make our home at the pā. We established a garden, built a deck, installed a coal range and solar panels to cook and heat our water. We are very much amateurs at living here but have benefitted from the learning that has happened over the last seven years.

tamariki at pa

There are four families living on the marae. Together we help to keep the fires burning by holding wānanga and hui, supporting tangihanga and maintaining the buildings and grounds. We also enjoy celebrating special occasions such as birthdays and weddings with our extended Puniho whānau.

As parents we wanted to build a strong foundation where our tamariki are connected to their language, culture and identity so that they have a clear pathway to succeed in life.

The following are examples of how we have incorporated this into our lifestyle.

Teaching and learning

As a whānau we enjoy the flexible teaching and learning environment at Puniho. We co-construct our curriculum together and draw ideas from daily activities, recreation, sport and the environment. We have written our whānau goals and a graduate profile for our tamariki based on the next five years. We discuss and reflect on a weekly basis on how we have gone as a whānau and adjust where we need to do better. Teaching and learning is supported by our wider whānau and friends, the New Zealand curriculum, public libraries, online communities and digital technologies. Reading, writing and numeracy are woven throughout the day and delivered in te reo Māori and English.

Supportive communities

Living in a community that values the language and culture of our tamariki was a priority. Our children carry significant names from their whakapapa and special places within the wider whānau. Te Para is named after his great great grandfather, Hiona’s name relates to a special house at Parihaka and Waikawa connects our daughter to her great grandmother who was raised on Arapaoa Island and Picton. It is important for us as a whānau to know that their names are valued and pronounced correctly.

Engagement with the outdoors

Interacting and caring for the environment is important to us as a family. This has meant organising many adventures like growing kai, camping and fishing at the river mouth and staying overnight on the mountain. Our children have contributed to planting trees and trapping pests at the local beach reserve and they have learnt about recycling and reducing rubbish at the marae. We want our children to learn how to be responsible caretakers of their awa, moana and whenua so their children can enjoy these places in the future.

Here’s the challenge

Connecting with Māori students’ ‘significant places’ is very important in improving educational outcomes. This also helps in building genuine relationships with whānau, hapū and iwi. This can be achieved by finding out where your students’ significant places are and why they significant to them. If they’re unsure engage with their whānau to find out and whenever possible visit these places.

Everyday our children engage in their special places from the mountain to the sea. Taranaki greets them each morning outside their window. When they go camping they connect to Tangaroa, when they plant trees they help to care for Papatūānuku. We live on the same whenua as our tipuna. Puniho Pā is our significant place in the world.

Finally, I encourage you to….hoki atu ki tō maunga kia purea ai koe e ngā hau o Tāwhirimatea.

Return to your significant place where you feel connected, whether this is your mountain, river, to your family or a location where you have created special memories. Visit your place often so you can be re-energised and inspired to continue with your journey in life.

our tamariki

Our tamariki, Te Para (8) holding Waikawa (1) and Hiona (5)

Glossary of Māori terms
hapū  pregnant, subtribe
hui meeting
kaumātua older generation
pou stay post, mainstay
tipuna ancestor(s)
wānanga place of learning; and organised discussion for learning
whakapapa genealogy
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