Hinematioro pou returns to her ancestral home

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

After 250 years, the 'Hinematioro Pou' is back in Uawa with Te Aitanga a Hauiti. The carving was a gift from East Coast high chief Hinematioro to the Endeavour crew in 1769 when they visited Pourewa Island.

Speaking on behalf of Te Aitanga a Hauiti, Victor Walker says, “We, and our grandchildren, can see it with our eyes and feel it with our hands, the prized possession of their great ancestor, the chief of chiefs, our female sovereign Hinematioro.”

Hinematioro was a noble chief of the highest rank and was without a match. Her genealogy contained the many senior lines of the East Coast tribes. The carving gifted to the Endeavour was a gift from her house.

“She was a woman who loved her people, she had the gardens that fed her people from Te Kaha to Tūranga, so it's not as though I'm saying she was only of Te Aitanga a Hauiti, but her authority and prestige was recognised throughout Te Tairāwhiti”, says Walker.

When the Endeavour landed at Pourewa, Hinematioro approved provisions for the ship, and in addition to gifting the carving, she granted Banks and Solander access to record native flora and fauna across Uawa.

Many of the species were drawn by Sydney Parkinson and some of them were engraved into copper plates in England. The original drawings and copper plates are held in the Natural History Museum, London. 

The 'Hinematioro Pou' is carved in the Iwirākau tradition that emerged from Te Whare Wānanga o Te Rawheoro, the ancient and sacred house of esoteric lore. It is referred to by Te Aitanga a Hauiti as the art form of greatest antiquity.

“We say this is the first gift, the first gift given in a peaceful manner, in the heart of compassion to Tupaia, to Cook, shall we say, to the world”, says Victor Walker.

The carving has been off-shore since 1769 and was gifted by the London Natural History Museum to the Tubingen University Museum in Germany.

A delegation of Te Aitanga a Hauiti has forged a relationship with the museum, leading to the on-loan return of their taonga.

“The relationship is not a recent development, but over the last 20 years we of Hauiti have carefully exchanged ideas with them, so based on that closeness and the righteousness of that relationship they have agreed”, says Walker.

The carving will be installed at Tairāwhiti Museum as part of the Tū Te Whaihanga Exhibition where it will reside for 6 months.