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Matariki is Not a Pak’n’Save Special – Juanita Hepi

Literature, Mātātuhi, Ngā Toi Māori
image Bella Cole

Kei a te po te timataka mai o te waiatataka mai o te atua…

In the beginning, It was in the night that the Gods sang the world into existence…


Te Kore

Te Pō

Te Ao


Three stages, all turning, from nothing to darkness to light.

Prenatal, fetal, birth.


From the unions of water, heat, darkness, light, sound, energy and fury came atua who oversee us divinely but they are fallible. We know they’re not anthropomorphic beings looking down on us from high, we know they’re not he or she, or him or her, there’s no gifts of myrrh or sacred scripture, no Shiva, no Zarathustra, no Aeon


Atua are Atua. 


Winds, sky, sea, earth, atoms, neutrons, quarks, Hineateao, Hineatepō, Hineruakimoa, Hineatauira, Tūkainanapia – they are the beyond-us-that-sustains-us

And Atua generate new versions of themselves, suddenly mountains rise from oceans, Water bursts upwards and downwards, flora holding fauna, the WORLD peopled, the WORD sacred and text wasn’t even invented yet. We are the newest version of the oldest version of ourselves… (are you still with me???) we’re biological, we’re environmental, we’re wairua, we’re all of that! And we belong to every part of this whenua, from Murihiku to Whakatū, Hokitika to Oāmaru, from Kaikoura to Te Anau and here in this place, Ōtautahi, this place that fed us till our eyes fell out. 


Matariki is not a Pak n Save special. 


Consider someone you’ve loved 

and lost

grieve for them


with others.


Matariki is not a New World special.


When my ancestors left Te Patunui-o Aio – what you may know as Hawaiki, on board the waka Uruaokapuarangi were Waiariki-o-Aio and her husband Rākaihautū,

their son Te Rakihouia (houia, hoia, well it changes depending on who you talk to) and his wife Tapuiti, legendary astronomer Kōkōrangi and other members of other cohorts; Te Kāhui Tipua, Te Kāhui Roko and Te Kāhui Waitaha. 


Using expert science, they navigated the widest, wildest ocean, by star and tide and temperature. Did you learn about that at school? Blows my mind… We share these narratives with our Rarotongan sisters and brothers, in fact all across Te Moana Nui a Kiwa our narratives intertwine and connect. 


Waitaha, the name of our original settling ancestors – is sometimes known as Canterbury, it is the geographical location of a living whakapapa embedded in the veins of the earth beneath your feet. 


Migrations came from the North, from Kahungunu and Ngāti Porou – Game of Thrones styles, easy to glorify, easier still to despise –  and yet women still had periods, and men still got soft. From these wars and intermarriages came the next generation and the next. We are Waitaha, we are Kāti Māmoe, Ngāti Hāwea, Ngāi Te Ruahikihiki, Moriori, Rapuvai. We are hapū based people with different dreams and goals and ambitions. We are a whānau and we still fight each other. 


And we fight the Crown, for almost 170 years we fought, in The Ngāi Tahu claim we call Te Kerēme. I promised not to name names, in te Ao Māori, if you name one, you should name them all… BUT this piece of writing will end with the exception. Te Runanga o Ngāi Tahu Act 1996 was passed under a National Government. The Act made way for 18 regional organisations known as Papatipu Rūnaka to uphold our Law L.A.W and Lore L.O.R.E rights and responsibilities as Kāi Tahu. So without any truly meaningful context, we are… 


  • Ngāi Tūāhūriri – Mana Whenua over the land where you stand. You won’t catch their Nannies without lipstick and heels.
  • I’m so biased… Te Rāpaki o Te Rakiwhakaputa is the most beautiful marae in the whole entire cosmos.
  • Koukourārata is an example of what happens when we return to the land, the land returns to us.
  • At Ōnuku, our people sheltered from the double crossing Captain John Stewart and Te Rauparaha whose battles ravaged our lands, our leaders, our women and our children.  
  • At Wairewa, tuna cross the sand bar to the Pacific ocean.
  • From here travel Ngāi Tahu’s own 90 Mile Beach to arrive at Taumutu.
  • We leave Te Pātaka o Rākaihautū | The Banks Peninsula and travel South to Arowhenua, there the meeting house is named Te Hapa o Niu Tireni – The Broken Promises of NZ.
  • Next is Waihao, a centuries old name carried from our original Waitaha ancestors. 
  • At Moeraki our revered ancestor Matiaha Tiramorehu led a migration of refugees after the fall of Kaiapoi Pā.
  • Puketeraki is located in the Waikouaiti Native Reserve – part of the Canterbury purchase 1848.
  • in Ōtākou, warriors were trained and schooled and practicing artists. And they protected, all across Ngāi Tahu connected. 
  • Hokonui is the only inland Rūnaka on our seas-are-rising island
  • At Waihōpai the wharenui is named after a Kāti Māmoe chief – Te Rakitauneke. Whakapapa is important. 
  • Awarua is the worlds Southernmost marae, located in Bluff/Awarua
  • Then we meet Oraka – the bay, and Aparima – the river, Oraka-Aparima – the runanga. 
  • From Makaawhio on the West Coast comes legendary wāhine tipuna Raureka.
  • And at Ngāti Waewae – the story of Waitaiki is really a road map to stone quarries beginning on the obsidian island of Tuhua in Tauranga and ending at the Arahura river on The West Coast. 
  • And finally – if we began with Ngāi Tūāhūriri then of course we have to finish with Kāti Kuri at kaikoura, interhapū rivalry is fierce still today, although it’s nothing quite like asking what school you went to.


We have been moved by laws too many times. 


1840 blah blah treaty blah blah Gray blah blah 34.5 million acres to 35000… 





In 1850, 4 ships arrived in the Lyttelton Harbour, The Cressy, Charlotte Jane, The George Seymour and on my birth date the 17th of December arrived Randolph – carrying no less than 754 passengers from England. Colonists and Emigrants name them Canterbury Pilgrims. My tīpuna were there to do the meet n greets, to carry their loads, to feed and to clothe, for that is manaaki in action. 

They surveyed my mother till her roots fell out.


Ōtautahi is alive with the bones and stories of so many of our ancestors, 

Unpeel the layers and find story after story, fractured knowledge after fractured knowledge, and so now there are permanent settlements on my dusky behind.


They say we are a resilient city, but I am frustrated by the things people say about our city. Tell something it is something long enough and it starts to believe it, and sometimes I’m frustrated by what we say about our city, we are the city, a whare is nothing without its people. He takata, he takata, he takata.


And in the exempting circumstances of my denouement, 

these the words of our master orator Tā Tipene O Regan, 

“The more I learn about myself, the more like myself I become” 


Tuturu whakamaua 

Kia tina, tina, Haumi e, hui e, taiki e.

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