Students 'tracing the footsteps of Paikea'

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Te Kāea caught up with Māori immersion school Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Uri ā Māui on their most recent extracurricular educational expedition to Rarotonga.

Emma Te Rangi Haami-Jones (Te Aitanga a Māhaki, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui) is a student at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Uri a Māui. 

She says she is “tracing the footsteps of Paikea and learning the traditional accounts pertaining to his endeavours.”

Rongomai Smith (Taranaki, Ngāti Tahu, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui) teaches at the school. 

He says, “According to traditional accounts, it was from there that Paikea left Te Hau Whakarongorongo-i-Te-Kapua, and then made his way down to Whāngārā Mai Tawhiti."

They've just returned from a cross-cultural exchange in Rarotonga.  Smith says education beyond the confines of the classroom is crucial for student development.

"For our students to see the significance of their culture and people, for them to be able to draw similarities and evaluate.

"We have gained a more succinct understanding of how fortunate we are here at this school with the resources that we have."

Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Nga Uri a Maui attended the Te Maeva Nui Festival, a week-long national culture and dance event that celebrates Cook Islands independence and cultural heritage through the arts, crafts, music, song, dance and local food.

Smith says cultural connections can be made through the lineage of language. 

“Some of the words are same, other words may drop the 'h' sound, the 'w' is replaced with 'v', and so on and so forth.  So it's great for these students to be made aware of those connections.”

The students say one of the key observations was the use of Cook Island languages in both public and private.

“They spoke their own native languages, perhaps that is something that we as Māori should strive to emulate,” says Whaanga-Gilbert.

These descendants of Māui and Paikea say they will carry the experience with them for life.

Emma Te Rangi Haami-Jones says, “I will hand this knowledge down to the next generation, to the juniors of the school, to those who aren't familiar with the traditional accounts pertaining to Paikea.”