Thursday, July 25, 2024
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The Weaving of Whakapapa Research

I recently conducted a hikoi in Tamaki makau rau for the family of my father’s sister who in many ways are removed from their Maori genealogy due to surviving within the fast pace of western living. Actively engaged as New Zealanders in work and sustaining their families.

The one day journey included Waikaraka cemetery in Onehunga, St James cemetery in Mangere Bridge village and St Peter’s church in Onehunga. It brought together family history and stories that incorporated both Maori and European ancestors, a unity of what it really means to be a New Zealander of two cultures. “Nga tupuna ki mua, ko tatou kei muri” The ancestors in front, we are behind.

The weaving brought together the families’ of Ormsby and Paki with a service at the grave of my grandparents which included a karakia and a waiata and followed by Christian hymn and prayer and a brief story as to why my grandparents were buried at Waikaraka, it was not where they had wanted to be, but circumstances beyond their control such as illness, and death within a location far removed from their family home in Rotorua. The journey continued in visiting the graves of other family members Maori, who too were far removed from ancestral villages, traditions and values. Auckland at this time being the mecca for work. Exploring further we visited the veteran’s area and the memorial to an Anglo Irish family member who was a regimental soldier in the Land Wars, far removed from the fires of the hearth of his family in Dublin.

The journey continued to St. James cemetery and the richness of Maori history and stories of Mangere Mountain and the villages of Te Wai o Hua to visiting the graves of Maori ancestors interred here in this peaceful site. Surrounded by an ancient past Maori and the establishment of the Church of England and the unity of faith and the blending of two cultures respecting both Maori and European values.

To St. Peter’s in Onehunga to pay respects to a European ancestor buried under the Church as the church expanded and covered graves of a number of colonial settlers. We visited the original wooden church of the 1860’s that once stood at the current site and too the onetime vicarage , now a school, as we traced the footsteps of this ancestor and through his eyes in the stories that he left we saw the Onehunga of his time.

We concluded this journey with a shared lunch and the joy on the faces of the next generation who came away with a richness of their forebears and a colourful historical past was my accolade. The desire to learn more was paramount with the weaving of whakapapa to continue.

“The arrogance of the present is to forget the intelligence of the past.”  We are racing too fast, if we but slow down and enjoy the land and its short European history embraced by the ancient Maori past of ancestors, migration, settlement, traditions and culture we will find a land that is unique amongst all others. Bringing the intelligence of the past to the present as we look to the future.

Ma mua ka kite a muri, ma muri ka ora a mua. Understanding the past provides vision for the future, vision for the future provides purpose in the present.                               

Owen Ormsby, Historian and Genealogist. February 2019.

Nga mihi nui kia koutou

Kia tau te rangimarie,

Owen Ormsby