Family create link to their tupuna

SONIA BEAL
Last updated 13:01 17/01/2014

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The mokopuna of the Macdonald family visited the land of their tupuna yesterday during a visit to Maori Island urupa at Grovetown, near Blenheim.

About 300 Macdonald family members gathered at Omaka Cemetery and Maori Island urupa (burial site) yesterday morning to pay homage to their ancestors.

The cemetery visits were on the runsheet of activities for the reunion of one of Marlborough's largest families.

Family members first visited the family grave of patriarch John Macdonald, who migrated to New Zealand from Scotland with his wife Sarah in 1843 and died in 1875.

Reunion head organiser Wendy Hynes made note of the restoration of John Macdonald's gravestone, which had been undertaken at no cost by Geoffery T Sowman Funeral Directors, of Blenheim.

Thousands of dollars had been spent on the reconstruction, Miss Hynes said.

"As you can see, we didn't want to restore it too much, because then it wouldn't be 1875.

"Half of this headstone [John Macdonald's] was broken off and this was all just dirt and broken chains," she said.

John's wife, Sarah, who died in 1871, was buried in an adjacent section as she was Catholic.

Later that morning, the Macdonalds headed to Maori Island urupa -the resting ground for the Rangitane, Ngati Toa and Ngati Rarua iwi.

Phillip Macdonald, of Blenheim, told family members gathered that there were unmarked graves all through the urupa.

Although unsure of when the site was established, he knew it was old enough for some of their ancestors to have been buried in the traditional way.

"Rangitane have been here since the 1300s," Mr Macdonald said.

"When they buried them in the old days, because they didn't have any boxes, they buried them sitting up."

Overlooking the urupa was Mt Tapuwae o Uenuku, the highest peak in the northeast of the South Island and a sacred site for Rangitane.

Jeffrey Hynes, of Blenheim, said iwi had a strong association with a particular mountain, river and body of sea in their area.

For Marlborough it was Cook Strait, Wairau River and Mt Tapuwae o Uenuku.

"It was quite special that we had rain and [yet] we could see the mountain as clearly as this."

Another important site for the family was Port Underwood, where Ihaia Kaikoura signed the Treaty of Waitangi on behalf of Rangitane.

At the end of the visit, family members planted a dozen trees - one for each of the 12 descendants of Francis Macdonald and Rea Te Rangihiroa.

"The trees are for all the families to plant," Phillip Macdonald said. "It's something that binds us together.

"When they [whanau] come back in the future they'll be able to see them and relink that bond."

The Macdonald family reunion began on Wednesday and will finish on Sunday.

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- The Marlborough Express

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