Cook commemorations - an encounter with our past

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

For Māori in the Tūranganui-a-Kiwa area, the Tuia - Encounters 250 national commemorations marking the arrival of Captain Cook is an opportunity to tell their own history.

General Manager at Te Hā Sestercentennial Trust, Glenis Philip-Barbara (Ngāti Porou) hopes “for everyone to know the history and be enlightened so that we can take the right steps forward for our children.”

An initiative under Te Manatū Taonga Ministry of Culture and Heritage, the Tuia - Encounters 250 commemorations will remember the first onshore encounters between Māori and Europeans during the initial voyage of James Cook to Aotearoa in 1769.

Tapunga Nepe of local Turanganui-a-Kiwa tribe Rongowhakaata says, “Despite the conflict that arose at the arrival of Cook, it's only right for us to look back so that we can move forward.”

A range of events will be held over the next year, including those highlighting the stories and histories of Māori communities who had been established in Aotearoa for hundreds of years before the arrival of Cook, each with their own voyaging traditions.

Four charitable trusts have been established to hold specific regional commemorations in four parts of Aotearoa where Māori and Europeans first met during the 1769 voyage:

“They are searching for the stories of their ancestors, and through knowing that history the way forward may become clear. That's the conversation in the community at this time," says Philip-Barbara.

The planned core elements of the national programme are:

  • A national voyage of historic and contemporary vessels will travel to sites of significance for Pacific, Māori and European voyaging.
  • An opening ceremony to be held in Gisborne in October 2019.
  • A national education programme and resources for schools.
  • Public outreach and information.

As part of the Tuia - Encounters 250 program, Nepe is running a series of public talks called "kōrero tīpuna" based on traditional accounts.

“There are different sides to the story.  However through those stories, both Māori and Pākehā may be enlightened,” says Nepe.

The main event of the national commemoration will be held in October 2019.