Hunting collective turns lives around

By Hinewai Netana-Williams

The Breethas: Te Ahikaiata Durie (left), Te Manawa Netana-Williams and Kairewa Tepania. Photo / Supplied

By Hinewai Netana-Williams, Te Rito Journalism Cadet

They call themselves the Breethas, a bunch of young Māori men in their 20s who have taken up hunting and fishing to retain the traditions of their tūpuna.

And on Friday, to celebrate Matariki, members of this group will be putting their hunting skills to the test.

"Hands-on mahi is what we're all about. Every time we go for a hunt or dive we always give back to the whānau," says Arana Millar, 21, who joined the group to help steer him away from a troubled life.

"I pretty much grew up around the whole drug and gang scene. I've been through and seen some pretty hard-out stuff, mates in and out of jail. That's what I did not want to be.

"If I was still at kura and someone came in to teach me about hunting and gathering, I'd happily do that. It made me be true to yourself and be around people who want to help you grow."

 Kiriri Nohotima. Photo / Supplied

Food for the whānau: Kiriri Nohotima. Photo / Supplied

The Breethas at Mahi were formed in 2020 by a group of mates living in the Manawatū who felt the need to provide a positive outlet and challenge the negative stereotypes of Māori men.

The group of nine core members and other mates in the area go hunting and fishing most weekends and provide kai for their whānau and communities, documenting their exploits on social media.

"Initially, it was just all of us boys going out just to keep out of trouble, to get away from the riff-raff, from the city antics, and just go out and have fun," says Kirihi Nohotima, 22, another member of the nine.

"We had the bonus of bringing back kai to feed our kuia and koroua and just enjoying each other's company. It's never a dull moment when we're together. It's just a good buzz."

This year, Aotearoa will celebrate Matariki with a public holiday on Friday, June 24. Kirihi says the outdoor skills and traditions practised by his ancestors live on through him and his mates.

"Some of the activities we do, like gathering kai and returning back to our whānau and feeding our villages, were normal for our ancestors," Kirihi says.

Hunting provides kai for the community. Arana Millar with this catch. Photo / Supplied

Hunting provides kai for the community. Arana Millar with this catch. Photo / Supplied

Camaraderie and trust are some of the positive outcomes established within the group. Another important value is mental wellbeing.

"Being in the water is very therapeutic. You're in a big ocean. You're not the top dog, you're just another fish swimming around. It's good for mental health. You've got people to talk to. These boys, I trust them with my life."

Public Interest Journalism, funded through NZ On Air