For the tens of thousands of Ngati Porou living away from home staying connected without whanau infrastructure is near impossible. Te Taurahere o Ngati Porou Ki Tamaki trustee Keita Kohere’s advice: ask what you can do for your iwi.
When you’re the mokopuna tuatoru of a renoun warrior chief chances of you not knowing your genealogy, history and political legacy are nil. And so it was for Keita Kohere and her tuakana Kristen,despite being born and bred in leafy Auckland suburbs. “Brainwashed,” is how the great-great-great grand-daughter of Mokena Kohere jokingly describes her upbringing away from the Ngati Porou homeland.
The Kohere girls were always around Natis. Throughout the 70s and 80s their father Rarawa Kohere was an active member of the Auckland taurahere which regularly met at the Holy Sepulchre/Tatai Hono marae. Keita remembers ‘lots of pakeke’ with surnames like Paenga, Stirling, Taiapa and Kaa who were part of the first wave of Ngati Po- rou who left their tūrangawaewae and the cowsheds in the late 50s for labouring, nursing and teaching jobs in the big smoke.
Holidays were spent at the family farm in Rangiata on the East Cape. “It was all about farm work, being a fleeco, cooking for the shearers, killing a beast...we had to work”. But what was once a bustling residential population in Rangiata has now dwindled to less than a handful. Keita concedes it’s hard to convince urban kids to holiday there now and it’s concerning that others of her generation don’t feel the same about maintaining links.
Above: Keita ( second from left) with members of her whanau (l-r) Marangairoa, Kaakatarau, Kristen, Tuhaka and Malcolm Kohere.
This breakdown of traditional links to the heartlands is a contemporary reality for nearly 80% of the Ngati Porou population who live in urban centres, and is a direct result of relocation and assimilation pol icies enacted in the 60s. The 2013 Census reconfirms that the highest population of Ngati Porou live in Auckland –13,161 people identify themselves as Ngati Porou making them the second highest tribal grouping in Tamaki Makaurau. The impact of urbanisation is well traversed in the excellent PHD thesis Ngā Pā Harakeke o Ngāti Porou: A Lived Experience of Whānau by the late Taingunguru Whangapirita Walker and is recommended reading for those wanting further insights.
As a taurahere trustee Keita is acutely aware of the ongoing challenges of urbanisation, and is keenly involved with initiatives to build a Ngati Porou community in Auckland, such as the establishment of the kapahaka Porou Ariki. “When we were setting up Porou Ariki we set up a taura here website.
When we did that we compiled a database of 1,000 Ngati Porou in the city...we met heaps who knew they were from home, but didn’t know how to get involved”. Getting involved without whanau infrastructure on the coast can be difficult, so with this reality in mind Ngati Porou ki Tamaki Makaurau has refreshed its strategic plan. The focus is on establishing Ngati Poroutanga within Auckland with plans afoot in the new year to release a ‘Hot 20 Natis’ list of up and coming rangatahi, and a pakeke kapahaka to build cultural awareness. “It will be an opportunity for our generation to have access to pakeke”, Keita explains. “Having that access exposes us to dialectical differences of Ngati Porou reo and tikanga and quality control”.
But there are measures individual whanau can take to rekindle their links to the Coast, and the proliferation of online virtual Ngati Porou communities are proof that Naatis are embracing technology to do so. Keita also recommends a change of mind-set. “There can be a sense of entitlement but if you’re looking for connections, understand what the connection will require you to give, rather than take”.
In saying that Keita warns against what she describes as the ‘old way of thinking’ about people who’ve grown up away from the Coast. “When you think that in 10 years time, the majority of Ngati Porou landowners may not have grown up at home, our land is at risk if the hau kaenga are treating urban kin as a class below... it’s a good way to destroy the tribe. You end up with thousands of Natis in the city with no connection and no value for the land”. A sobering prospect Natis need to tackle head on, wherever they may be.
Keita’s advice on how to reconnect:
- Ask ‘what can I do for the iwi?’
- Register with Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou
- Seek out your taurahere
- Get a whanau group together for events like Pa Wars and Tamararo Kapahaka competitions
- Support your Taurahere events or offer to help run them
- Get in the kitchen
TAURAHERE O NGATI POROU KI TAMAKI CONTACTS