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    Waiata (songs) carry the stories of places as well as people and their ancestors. They are important to iwi because they tell us important markers of stories that help establish the link between a whānauhapū or iwi to a particular place. A few examples of waiata are described in this article.

    Te Puea Herangi, granddaughter of Tāwhiao, referred to the river as a symbol of tribal identity in many of her songs. For example, E Noho e Ata refers to the river as one of those important symbols.

    E hoe tō waka ki Ngāruawāhia
    Tūrangawaewae mō te Kīngitanga
    Te tongi whakamutunga a Matutaera
    Aue hei aue!

    Paddle your canoe to Ngāruawāhia
    To Tūrangawaewae the footstool of the Kīngitanga
    This being the final prophecy of Matutaera

    Other waiata such as Ngā Ra o Hune E Noho Ana Ra and Tīmatangia make similar references to the river.

    Waikato te Awa, composed by Rangi Harrison, directly mentions the Waikato River by describing a journey up the river. The first four lines are provided below.

    Waikato te awa katohia
    Katohia he wai mau, katohia he wai mau
    Ka eke ki te Pūaha ko Waikato te awa
    He piko he taniwha, he piko he taniwha

    Waikato is that river
    That surges before you
    As you travel from Te Pūaha along its current
    At every bend a taniwha

    Pumi Taituha composed a haka that describes a similar journey from Te Pūaha o Waikato (the mouth of the river) to Ngāruawāhia.

    E ko te mangamanga rā te urutapu tuatahi kei Te Pūaha o Waikato
    E ko Karewa, te mana pūtanga atu ki a Tangaroa ki uta, Tangaroa ki tai
    Ko te onetapu o Maioro, te tūahu okiokinga o te tini, me te mano
    Ko te Matawhiuwhi, te kaokao riponga kupu o Waikato e tere nei
    Ko Waiwaia, kei te take o Tikirahi

    The sacred black sands are the first seen at the mouth of the Waikato River
    ’Tis Karewa the open gateway, where the river meets the Lord of the Sea inland, the Lord of the Sea ocean bound
    Then the sacred sands of Maioro, the myriads, and matatawhiuwhi, the repository of everliving history of the Waikato flowing free
    With Waiwaia [a taniwha] at the base of Tikirahi

    Waiata often describe a journey along the Waikato River. For example, the following is a part of the lament of a Ngāti Mahuta chief for his wife who passed away. It likened her journey to a waka travelling to his wife’s traditional territory along the Waikato River on its way to heaven.

    Tū mai i kona
    Kia horahia atu te kahu o te Tipua
    A, moe taua i runga i te takapau
    E ara ki runga rā
    Kia utaina koe te riu waka-taua
    Nō te Aparangi, he tāonga whakanui nā ō tūpuna
    Ki runga te au-ripo
    Te au ki Waikato

    Now rest awhile my loved one
    Death’s sleeping mat is spreading for you
    On that soft couch we two will seek repose
    Then you’ll arise and soon be borne away
    In your ancestral war canoe
    Manned by heavenly company
    Borne away on the rippling tide
    Of the strongly flowing Waikato

    Other waiata tell stories of lament. For example, a waiata composed by Te Rangikataua of Ngāti Mahuta and Hauraki descent who lived with his wife on Taipouri, an island on the Waikato River between Waahi and Rangiriri. The waiata describes the result of the battle between Waikato River and Hauraki iwi and his plea for the fighting to end. It mentions his sadness at having to leave his wife who was expecting a child.

    There are many other examples of traditional and modern waiata that refer to the river as a symbol of identity for Waikato-Tainui.

    Acknowledgements

    This article was written by Jonathan Kilgour, Research and Projects Manager, Waikato-Tainui College for Research and Development.

    Copyright: Waikato-Tainui Endowed Colleges Trust.

      Published 19 March 2014 Referencing Hub articles