Kaupapa Māori rites of passage programme turning tama into tāne

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

A Raglan-based organisation is revitalising the ‘Rites of Passage’ practice in its community - in a te ao Māori way.

It’s been a seven-year journey for the charitable trust Poutama Rites of Passage where youth workers returned from a five-day rite last week, helping boys aged 14 to 15 years old make the transition to becoming young men inside a te ao Māori space. 

Tiaki Coates (Ngāi Tahu) says the idea came in 2015 when he and other youth workers came together wanting to make the biggest difference they could for rangatahi, to steer them away from all of the interferences in the world such as drugs and violence.

It’s a re-weaving of a safety net of mentors in communities for rangatahi to look to.

“Indigenous cultures around the world have practised rites of passage for millennia for their communities. Ultimately the question lies with us, as a society: if we don’t initiate our young people, we’ll leave them to initiate each other, and that’s what we’re seeing in our world,” Coates says.

Bringing back a practice in a kaupapa Māori re-version.

“Peers are initiating peers in the most dangerous and unhealthy ways.”

Michael Moore (Ngāti Maniapoto) says kaupapa, tikanga and mātauranga Māori are the foundations for Poutama, and encourages both the mentors and tama to dive into the programme to learn pūrākau about atua Māori, and wānanga about relationships to whānau among other things.

Coates says, “As we see on the marae, it’s the journey from that space of noa into a space of tapu. In that space of tapu is that transmission of all of that knowledge, where our growth happens. Then we return back to a place of noa.

“A lot of our tama don’t have fathers or any male role models. After this experience that has just gone, these 10 boys now have 16 men in the community they can look to when things get tough.”

Anyone wanting to look more into the kaupapa more can do so on their Facebook page.