Ancestral journey retraced

Katarina Te Maiharoa, from Timaru, left, Michelle Croft, from Whitecliffs, and Maiana Te Maiharoa (9), from Timaru, carry sacred waters from the Waitaki River mouth back to the Ahuriri River, during a heke to remember their ancestor Te Maiharoa. Photo by Andrew Ashton.
Katarina Te Maiharoa, from Timaru, left, Michelle Croft, from Whitecliffs, and Maiana Te Maiharoa (9), from Timaru, carry sacred waters from the Waitaki River mouth back to the Ahuriri River, during a heke to remember their ancestor Te Maiharoa. Photo by Andrew Ashton.
The epic journey of a Maori chief 135 years ago has been re-enacted by his modern-day descendants, who took four days to walk from the mouth of the Waitaki River to Omarama.

Descendants of Waitaha-Kati Mamoe tohunga Te Maiharoa took part in a heke celebrating his 1877 journey from Arowhenua/Temuka to Omarama.

Te Maiharoa's great-great-granddaughter Kelli Te Maiharoa said that as part of the heke, the sacred waters of the Waitaki River had been collected and were returned to the Ahuriri River on completion of the trek on Sunday.

The embers of a fire lit at the mouth of the Waitaki River had also been kept, in order to light an ancestral fire at the end of the journey.

''It was a very successful heke. Everyone who set out each morning completed each day, and we ended up with about 12 walkers on the final day.

''Then we had about 50 people at the sacred ceremony at the end, last night [Sunday].

''It was fantastic. Everyone had a great time. I think we walked about 130km, which was fitting for celebrating 135 years. There were lots of blisters and people hobbling along at the end, but there was five of us who walked the whole way from the river mouth at Waitaki to the Ahuriri River.''

Ms Te Maiharoa said although re-enacting her ancestor's journey had been hard, it would not have been as challenging as his own journey. She said it took a total of two months for the 105 people who followed Te Maiharoa to relocate from Arowhenua/Temuka to Omarama to complete their journey.

''There wouldn't have just been people. They took everything they owned with them. There would have been livestock, chickens and dogs.''

The journey also claimed the life of Te Maiharoa's wife, along with many others, she said.

Agreed

I also should have been more specific. It is a fact that Maori burned forests. However, I meant that there's no mention of this in the Waitaki. Let's hope there's no re-enactment of the burning techniques also! Especially since (as ffolkes helpfully points out) the moa are gone.

The forests of New Zealand

Perhaps my wording for the Waitaki Valley should have been unforested rather than deforested, but if anyone for a moment believes that the first Polynesian visitors to this country didn't burn huge tracts of forests in order to hunt to extinction the Moa along with numerous other species of birds, then they need to start thinking again.  These hunter/gatherers had no thoughts whatsoever for environmental protection or guardianship.  Thoughts to the contrary are nothing other than the rewriting of history.

No More

Sv is right to say its difficult to find moa. In fact, it's impossible. This was confirmed in a folk ballad by Wally Chamberlain, sung by Paul Walden: "No moa, no more, in old Aotearoa/Can't get 'em, they ate 'em/ They gone and there 'aint no moa".

Forested or not

Actually one of the first commenters on this thread stated it was deforested, which inherently means it was forested at some point. The land is extremely stony river bed and the trees growing on it now are mainly poplar, willow, pine and eucalypts. I can only find reference to the valley as unforested, and no mention of Maoris burning forests. There were never many Maori in North Otago although there are ovens at the river mouth. They caught moa upstream and rafted them down. Now that would be an epic re-enactment, although the moa may be difficult to find!

Sources to read up on the history (including geography) of the Waitaki are:

The Waitaki - the river and its lakes, the land and its people. (A. Nordmeyer, 1981).

The Boy Colonists. (Rev S. Elwell, reprinted 1975).

Whitestone Country. (K.C. McDonald, 1960).

Notwithstanding the difficulty of the walk regardless of terrain, the story of Chief Huruhuru is much more interesting and "epic" in my opinion. Hopefully no one tries re-enacting that though!

Escaping from?

[Ian]: Were the people who made the journey, escaping
from the encroachment of Ngai Tahu into their tribal
territory, perchance?

Perchance not. Maiharoa had links to Ngai Tahu through his father's side, and the reason for his journey was more crown-related.

Epic or not

No-one suggested that this recent walk by a small number of people was epic although it seems to have been described as hard by those that did it.  Most seem to have accomplished part walks although it was reported that 5 did the whole journey.

No-one has suggested that the Waitaki Valley was once forested, although equally no-one has provided the source of any evidence one way or another.  I am very aware that vast tracts of land once heavily forested were burned to aid in the process of moa hunting but whether this valley which was the site of a very large moa butchery at the mouth of the Waitaki was indeed forested requires some archeological or geological evidence.

'Epic' journey

I recall an excellent  recent documentary on 'Maori TV' which recalled the near-2000km trek of a Native American tribe, many of whom had been ordered out of their homes by 'American' colonists; the victims wearing only the clothes they stood up in (many still in nightwear), and in the middle of winter. That to my mind, would be 'epic'. A 130km walk, over four days up a an unforested valley, hardly rates as 'epic' by comparison; but the 1877 trip of Chief Maiharoa might well have been considered so, for a variety of reasons.

But I have carefully read the text which prompted all this. The original journey was hailed to be 'epic'. Nowhere, as far as I am aware, did anyone claim that the re-enactment was of 'epic' proportions. Also I see no mention of the Waitaki, a braided river valley, as having been forested at the time in the newspaper report.

Good on the Maiharoa descendants for making the trip. I note that both Kati Mamoe and Waitaha are mentioned as tribal affiliations. Were the people who made the journey, escaping from the encroachment of Ngai Tahu into their tribal territory, perchance?

Not forested

The Waitaki Valley was never forested. In fact when Capt. Cook parked up off the coast he said it was so barren and dry that it would never be good for anything. Irrigation however has thankfully proved him wrong.

Epic trip

An 'epic' journey can mean many things. Check European/Amerindian myth and The 'Hero's Journey'. Distance is not as relevant as outcome, or boon to community. The negative outcome was a chieftainess died. Yes, I think the Ahuriri trek can be called Epic.

Epic journey?

What, in a walk up a braided river, through a deforested wide valley, for a distance of 130km, constitutes an "epic" journey?