Look who's talking: Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō

John Webber, official artist for the third voyage of Captain James Cook, painted this Meretoto scene circa 1788, when Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō were resident in Tōtaranui.
TE PAPA TONGAREWA/SUPPLIED
John Webber, official artist for the third voyage of Captain James Cook, painted this Meretoto scene circa 1788, when Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō were resident in Tōtaranui.

As Marlborough looks back on the first encounter between Māori and European people ahead of national Tuia 250 commemorations in November, reporter Chloe Ranford talks to the four iwi taking part in the event. Here, she speaks to Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō cultural advisor Kiley Nepia. 

What areas does Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō rohe (district) take in?

The present-day rohe, or tribal area, of Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō takes in swathes of Te Tauihu, or the top of the South Island, including areas in the Marlborough Sounds, the Nelson Lakes, Mohua (Golden Bay), Te Tai-o-Aorere (Tasman Bay), Whakatū (Nelson), and Kawatiri (Buller). 

However, it is important to understand that historically the rohe stretched beyond the Statutory Acknowledgments and Statement of Association areas acknowledged in the iwi's 2014 settlement with the Crown. Ngāti Apa first settled in the Heretaunga (Hastings) district. Migrations led some Ngāti Apa south and across Raukawakawa Moana (Cook Strait) to Tōtaranui, and west across Te Tauihu. Those Ngāti Apa became known as 'Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō', or 'Ngāti Apa of the setting sun'.

What is Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō's connection to Meretoto?

Along with whanaunga Rangitāne and Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō tīpuna occupied Meretoto and surrounding areas when James Cook sailed into the bay in January 1770. The area was an important taunga waka and mahinga kai for Ngāti Apa and other iwi, as recorded by the new European arrivals.

Today, members of Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō are spread across the country. Many return to the rohe for the iwi’s annual Hākari, or feast.
NGATI APA KI TE RA TO/SUPPLIED
Today, members of Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō are spread across the country. Many return to the rohe for the iwi’s annual Hākari, or feast.

Is there a particular waiata (song) associated with Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō?

Waiata are an important part of our cultural identity. They are one of many ways through which we express our Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tōtanga and are an important vehicle used to pass down pūrākau, whakapapa and information around wāhi tāpu. He Aha kei Tua o Motuara Ka? is becoming more well-known through Tauihu. It is a ngeri, which is like a haka, but without the set moves, and it is up to the kaihaka to interpret the waiata by choosing appropriate hand actions. 

The ngeri was composed at a Ngāti Tarakaipa hapū wānanga by Taepa Kameta, after visiting the Marlborough Sounds and Meretoto. The kaupapa of the waiata is about our cultural pride and resilience and its also refers to our continuous occupation. It is located in the Meretoto and Anamāhanga areas. The first part of the waiata refers to the arrival of James Cook on the Endeavour and, importantly, emphasises that our tīpuna were there long before Cook arrived. 

What is Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō's sacred river or waterway?

Ko Raukawakawa te moana.

Ko Rotoiti, Rotoroa ngā roto.

What is Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō's sacred mountains?

Ko Puhikererū te maunga.

Puhikereru (Mt Furneaux), which overlooks Te Anamāhanga (Port Gore), is especially important. Its name ("plume of the pigeon") evokes the kereru that were found here, the appearance of the clouds as they come over the maunga. The maunga is also of great significance to Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō because of its association with Kupe.

Rangatahi train at Meretoto, near a pou depicting their ancestor, Kupe.
NGATI APA KI TE RA TO/SUPPLIED
Rangatahi train at Meretoto, near a pou depicting their ancestor, Kupe.

What are some of Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō's significant wāhi tapū (sacred places)?

There are many spread across Te Tauihu, but some significant sites include Rotoiti, Rotoroa and the Nelson Lakes alpine tarns – Rotomairewhenua (Blue Lake), Rotomaninitua (Lake Angelus), and Rotopōhueroa (Lake Constance); Te Ope-a-Kupe (Te Anamāhanga/Port Gore); Puhikereru (Mt Furneaux), and Meretoto.

Which waka does Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō connect to?

Ko Kurahaupō te waka - the great ocean-going Kurahaupō waka, which arrived in Aotearoa sometime between the 13 th  and 14 th centuries. Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō is also well known for its early 1800s waka taua, Te Awatea, said to be the most famous and most beautifully carved war canoe in Te Tauihu. Today, waka traditions are again at the forefront, with the iwi set to launch its own waka tāngata later this year.

Who is Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō's eponymous ancestor?

The eponymous ancestor of Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō is Apa-Hapai-Taketake. He was the grandson of Ruatea, who was captain of the Kurahaupō waka. Some other important tīpuna include Tamahau, Tarakaipa, Te Ao Mārama, Tutepourangi, Te Rato (te Kotuku) and Te Kahawai.

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