Ancestral journey retraced

Katarina Te Maiharoa, from Timaru, left, Michelle Croft, from Whitecliffs, and Maiana Te Maiharoa...
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.

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