As people gathered at the gates of Te Kuiti Pā awaiting the call of the pūtātara there was an air of anticipation stirring amongst the crowd. The early dawn service to officiate the ‘whakaoho ake’ or reawakening ceremony for the traditional meeting house situated at the base of the Awakino hill in the Te Kuiti township.
The Ringatu church were given the privilege of leading the ceremony as they had conducted the ‘whakamoe’ ceremony some twelve months prior to ‘rest’ the Whare while the carvings and Pou were being restored. The links between the Ringatu people and Ngāti Maniapoto hark back to the late 1800s.
In 1873 when Te Kooti Rikirangi Te Turuki and his followers came to Te Nehenehenui it was during a time when Te Rohe Pōtae was already a refuge for Kīngi Tāwhiao and Waikato kin following the land wars and confiscations in the 1860s.
This period of time characterised Māori resistence and the desire to strengthen and maintain the essence of Māoritanga. Te Kooti and his followers lived in Te Nehenehenui for a decade, Wahanui advocated for a pardon in conjunction with negotiations regarding the main trunk railway and Te Kooti reciprocated by building a whare rūnanga, a place for the people to gather and discuss the issues of the day.
Te Tokanganui-a-Noho is a storehouse of knowledge and insight to the most important aspects of a Māori world view. The layout of the whare rūnanga and the ornately carved pou tell a story of the intimate links between the many tribes of Aotearoa and Maniapoto me ōna hapū maha.
There are many accounts of the whare rūnanga which have been recorded by the Marae. But the story of Te Kūiti Pā is supported by surrounding monuments and buildings which detail the connections to the Kiingitanga and local contribution of servicemen to the World War campaigns.
There is ‘the Kings house’ Te Ranga a Haurua a small and humble reminder of the perpetual manaakitanga shown from those early times when Kīngi Tāwhiao resided in Te Nehenehenui to the current day for Kīngi Tūheitia VII. The annual poukai is an enduring reminder of the commitment amongst Maniapoto to the principles of the Kiingitanga and the historical undertaking of ancestors to support the aspirations of the movement.
The wharekai Nau Mai III is where the essence of mānakitanga so often felt at the pā, is confirmed. Stories of the ringawera who work tirelessly to ensure the hui is complete with warm hospitality and great food!
The restoration of Te Tokanganui-a-Noho has and will always be a labour of love. As the saying goes, “Many hands make light work” there are the people of the marae who gave their hands, time and effort to see the project completed. The funders and partners who provided financial support, the technical leaders and advisers who provided knowledge and expertise.
I was reminded of the enduring relationship between the Ringatu and Ratana church who officiated the days proceedings and the people of Ngati Maniapoto.