Whanganui descendants complete annual waka journey

By Mare Haimona-Riki
Photo Credit: Alice Poa

Descendants of the Whanganui River have come to the end of their annual Tira Hoe Waka journey as they arrived in Whanganui earlier this afternoon after a two-and-a-half-week journey. 

Geoffrey Hipango (Te Āti Haunui-ā-Pāpārangi) was a part of the first group that embarked on this journey in 1989 and says it has become a right of passage for those who whakapapa to the Whanganui river.

“They get to visit the old sacred sites of our ancestors, and wananga. They learn history, they learn about their connections back to themselves.

“Over the past 30 years, some of us who were younger took our kids, and now our kids are taking us,” Hipango says. 

The journey itself spans over 200km, beginning at Ngapuwaiwaha Marae in Taumaranui and ending at Te Ao Hou Marae in Whanganui. Hipango says that although this year's contingent was only 60 people, sometimes there have been more than 150 participants in the kaupapa. 

“We use six-man waka and It takes two and a half weeks, so it's no easy feat.”

The journey serves as an opportunity for Whanganui descendants to reconnect with their roots by familiarising themselves with those parts of the river,  "based on the renowned whakatauāki": "E rere kau mai te awa nui nei. Mai i te kāhui maunga ki Tangaroa Ko au te awa. Ko te Awa ko au. (The river flows from the mountains to the sea. I am the river. The river is me.)"