Tipa Mahuta describes the significance of mātauranga Māori – the knowledge of the people concerning the river. She recognises the old people have knowledge that younger ones can learn from. Modern science helps to confirm observational knowledge of the past. Tipa is the youngest child of the late Sir Robert Mahuta and has a wealth of knowledge about the Waikato.
The last time Te Arikinui went on our river, the kids, I think my nephew might have been just old enough to come – 14. But she paddled from Horahora to Te Pūaha, and everywhere we went, they said she knew she was coming because they got different tohu at those marae, the old people did. But not only that, we were waiting at the port for her, and it seemed like we were waiting a long time, and there was a whole group of us, young people included, and this waka wairua came towards us before she did, and that’s how we knew, phew, there is some mana in this. There is a real power for our people in the river as long as we still believe it, as long as we still acknowledge the fact that our old people are still there and that there’s still some learning in it for us.
So I really trust in our mātauranga because it’s modern science that will catch it up. For example, all the science around the river about trees and all of that, I’m pretty clear we observed that, before scientists told us.
If we are true kaitiaki of this area, then we must have a regard for it. In this area, it is the river that dominates our whole economic base – not just for Tainui but for this region. Every farmer needs our river. Every probably major industry in this rohe needs the river – they can’t live without it.
Because the river runs through the whole iwi and you see it wherever you go in our rohe, there’s a connected history there that we can keep telling. So I look forward to a lot of that sharing, I guess with what those old people taught us, teach our young ones, and then they can teach the kids. While we may not connect through the land history, the river is definitely a story we have to tell together.
The Waikato Tainui College for Research and Development acknowledges the financial support given by the Waikato River Cleanup Trust Fund which is administered by the Waikato River Authority.
The Waikato River Cleanup Trust does not necessarily endorse or support the content of the publication in any way.