Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au

Whanganui iwi have partnered with local schools to develop resources covering different perspectives of the causes and events of the Battle of Moutoa Island. For schools, the greatest learning is not so much about the battle itself as about the tikanga of engaging with the people of Whanganui river.

Professional learning conversations

  1. What constitutes our knowledge, in particular Māori knowledge? Discuss ideas about who owns knowledge, in particular local knowledge, and how we can share knowledge.

  2. How can schools connect with the people they need to talk to about their local areas?

  3. What  protocols and systems could we set up so that all schools know how to access local Māori history? Should everyone have access to Māori stories from different areas?

Te Tiwha Puketapu – Knowledge is more than just information. It’s what reminds us who we are, what’s important to us, why we do things the way we do. Knowledge is a social contract that stems from one’s belonging to place.

Whanganui iwi have partnered with local schools to develop resources around the different perspectives of the causes and events of the battle of Moutoa Island. For the schools, the greatest learning is not so much about the battle itself as the tikanga of engaging with the people of Whanganui river.

Doug: We went up the Whanganui River and went to Rānana, went to the island with Tamahau and Mark Perakahu from the iwi. And we went and got a real feel for the atmosphere and the geography and so that was our first step.

Pam: The whole process of meeting with the older people, talking about the event and how it affected them, was completely different from anything you can pick up as a history teacher. So, one, they are getting another perspective and in that telling they should’ve actually participated in a set of protocols about what knowledge is.

Te Tiwha Puketapu: We’re asking our schools and our teachers to connect in a way that embeds their responsibility that comes with sharing ourselves – not just book knowledge, sharing ourselves as a people.

Doug: We’re very fortunate that we have someone like Tamahau. His knowledge of Whanganui iwi is encyclopedic and he’s been with us every step of the way.

Tamahau: I knew that there was going be a lot of reluctance on our people to put this story out there. One, because of the history around it. Two, that some of the mamae, that still exists amongst our people around the severed relationships at that point in time in 1864.

Doug: We certainly couldn’t do the interviews that he’s been doing. Just watching him interview and how he’s got to tip toe around some of the issues or making people feel comfortable to talk about their history.

Tamahau: When you’re interacting with kaumātua – knowledgeable people – there is an access point and it’s got to be the proper access point. It can’t be determined by “What do I want?” Let’s reverse that to ask, “What can you share with us?” And we’ll take that as your offering and your koha to the body of knowledge that we’re trying to collate and that’s all we’re trying to do, is collate the body of knowledge that some of our iwi experts are willing to offer. I’m not going in there to grab. We are carefully going to navigate around and make sure that when we open up a door, I’m able to close the door gently and in a mana-enhancing way. We need to make sure that if the door is slightly closed to us that we pull back and try another access point. We can’t narrow it down to a 15-minute spiel of what is Moutoa 1864, the battle, mean to you. It’ll reveal itself when it’s good and ready.

Te Tiwha Puketapu: Moutoa is an access point to talk, to share, to provide the impetus for our students to be hungry. Hungry to learn, hungry to engage with themselves, through their families, through their people. To be able to answer the question: kia uiuia mai nā wai koe? And if you are asked to whom do you belong, you can answer that.

Tamahau: It’s not just Whanganui. Each iwi has different experts. We as Whanganui are not talking for Ngāti Apa. We as Whanganui are not talking for Ngāti Rangi, further up. The lower reaches, the Tūpoho area are not talking for the upper reaches of Tamahaki and Hinengakau and Ngāti Haua. We’ve got our paepae mātauranga, we have connects there to help give the lens of particular iwi.

Patrick: I’ve learnt more about the nuances of the river and having been an educator on or near the river for 30 years I thought I had a fair bit of knowledge, but I’m just learning so much more. If you start off with the monuments down at Queen’s Park where the grateful citizens of Whanganui are so grateful to the warriors who went up there, you realise that is so far away from what really happened. It is complex and there is no one view of events.

Pam: It’s hard for students to try and access stories that are lost in their view or even not able to be accessed. So in this work they are being enabled to understand the contested histories of the events between iwi.

Tamahau: If you were to ask me what is the driving force around this whole project, it is actually not the iwi. It’s actually not the schools, it’s actually the whānau. How does it feel to whānau and how do they fit into us assisting them to be a part and parcel of us as Whanganui.

Patrick: We haven’t done the formal process of taking what we’ve done and presenting it to iwi and saying this is our product to teach your children, “What do you think?” I think when we get the blessing of iwi then we can start drawing the families in.

Te Tiwha Puketapu: The challenge is being able to engage with our past to firm up our future. When we’re sharing with our schools we’re not just sharing the knowledge, we are also handing over a responsibility to look after what we’ve shared with them.