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.