Topic: Traditional Story: The Mangroves

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This song also has another message. If you tangle with us, if you want to scrap with us, it will be like trying to force your way through the tangled roots and branches of the mangroves.

Archived version here.

E uhi tai uhi tai
E uhi tai uhi tai ē
Kei uhi tai ana ko ngā manga ki
Otāwhiwhi
Kei tūtuki te waewae
Ki te poro o te paiaka
Uhi tai uhi tai
 The tide flows
The tide flows in
The sea covers the estuaries up to Otawhiwhi
Feet may strike against the sharp young
shoots of the mangrove
The tide flows on into the land

This song also has another message. If you tangle with us, if you want to scrap with us, it will be like trying to force your way through the tangled roots and branches of the mangroves. The mangrove-covered mudflats of Tauranga Moana can be very deceptive. Here is a story about how the people of Te Arawa were taken in.
 
After the canoe Te Arawa had made a landfall at Whangaparaoa, the canoe was sailed into the Bay of Plenty, past the islands Whakaari, Motiti and Tuhua, and north west to Moehau at the northern end of the Coromandel Peninsula. This mountain the commander Tamatekapua claimed for his burial place. Then the canoe turned back into the Bay of Plenty, past the island called Ahuahu, in search of a permanent place to settle. The canoe came in close to the shore past Waihi and toward the western entrance to Tauranga Moana. It was decided to land there and cook a meal.
 
Inside the harbour the people looked around and saw what appeared to be large flat fields of kumara growing on the shore. "Our children are hungry," said the women, "and we are tired of eating fish for every meal. Let us cook some of our kumara to eat with our fish." The people had brought a supply of kao, dried kumara, and some tubers for planting in the new land. "There is plenty of kumara growing here already. We can eat what we have brought with us." So they landed near Otawhiwhi and prepared their meal.
 
Tamatekapua was not entirely happy about this. He could see the kumara fields and he agreed to the women cooking some of the seed kumara. However, he would not let them use his supply of kumara for the hākari, the feast they prepared. Whakaotirangi, the wife of Tamatekapua, was the only woman who refused to allow her supply of kumara to be cooked. She tied her kit full of kumara very securely and put it away safely. The people cooked their food and thoroughly enjoyed this meal on shore. Only Tamatekapua and Whakaotirangi ate very little and still seemed unhappy. Tamatekapua picked very slowly on the small piece of kumara he took as his share. That is why Te Arawa called that place Te Katikati a Tamatekapua, the nibbling of Tamatekapua.
 
The people sat back, comfortable and full of food, and looked around their landing place. Aue! The kumara fields were now full of water! They had not noticed while they cooked their meal how the tide was creeping in, how the sea flowed into the estuaries, covering the mudflats. The kumara gardens were really mangroves. The people cried out when they realised their mistake. But it was too late because they had eaten their kumara.
 
The people went back to their canoe Te Arawa and sailed out of the harbour of Tauranga and eastward along the coast. The brother of Tamatekapua was called Hei and he claimed all the land around Tauranga Moana and named it Te Takapu o Waitaha, the belly of his son Waitaha. The descendants of this man are called Waitaha a Hei and live at Manoeka. As Te Arawa passed the Te Puke area, Tia claimed the area on behalf of his son Tapuika and that is the name still used for the people of Te Puke. Tamatekapua claimed the area around Maketu for himself and called it Te Kureitanga o Taku Ihu, comparing the headland to the shape of his nose. It is from this that the name Okurei has been given to the northern point of the Maketu peninsula.
 
The people of Te Arawa landed at Maketu, at the mouth of the Kaituna, and settled there. Some travelled south and claimed the land inland around Rotorua and Taupo. It is said nowadays that Maketu is the prow and Tongariro is the stern of the canoe Te Arawa. That is because the descendants of the people of Te Arawa, all the tribes and sub-tribes of Te Arawa and Ngati Tuwharetoa, occupy this area of Te Ika a Maui, the North Island.
 
But what about the kumara that had been eaten by the people of Te Arawa, the kumara which should have been saved for planting? It was lucky for them that they had not found the kumara in the kit which Whakaotirangi had hidden away. She took those special seven tubers and planted them in the garden she had prepared at Maketu and which was called Parawai. Within two years they had grown and multiplied so that in generations to come, Te Arawa always had a good supply of kumara. Even today when the people of Te Arawa want to refer to a collection of treasures they talk about te putea iti a Whakaotirangi, the little kit in which she kept her precious seed kumara. Sometimes, all they need to say is te kete a
Whakaotirangi, the kit of Whakaotirangi, and that is enough warning to be careful.

Remember the mangroves. Appearances can be deceptive.

Other stories are found off the article - An Introduction to this collection (please click) 

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This page archived at Perma CC in October of 2016: https://perma.cc/U5BE-MPAN

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