Last year I sat with my feet in the sand at Karaka Bay, one of Auckland's eastern beaches, watching a display by Ngati Paoa's waka, Te Kotuiti 2 and its precision paddlers. It was a re-enactment of the Treaty of Waitangi signing, 175 years earlier by Hauraki chiefs including my ancestor, Hori Te Ruinga Pokai, who penned the founding document on behalf of our iwi.
I wondered if the sand burning the tops of my feet was the same sand under the soles of my ancestors back in 1840.
I didn't grow up in Auckland but as a child I dreamed of living here. I am from the people of Ngati Paoa, a Hauraki iwi whose fires burned from Matakana in the south to Matakana in the north. Along with many other iwi and hapu, we call Tamaki Makaurau home. The name, "Tamaki of a hundred lovers", represents the many battles that took place over land.
On the eastern shore, some 40 minutes from Auckland city, is the seaside settlement of Kaiaua. It's here that one of our marae, Wharekawa, sits looking out to Tikapa moana. It's flat and sandy, seabirds fly overhead and on clear days you can see across to Thames.
We have historic connections all the way up the eastern coast, across to Waiheke Island and on Auckland's North Shore. As a child, I remember jumping off Great Barrier's Port Fitzroy wharf into water lit up with phosphorescence. We'd float on our backs and look up to a canvas of stars, the seven stars of Matariki among them.
Matariki is the start of the Maori New Year. It's a time to share food, to reflect on those we've lost and appreciate what we have.
Nga mihi o te wa o te Matariki ki a koutou.
Celebrate the Maori New Year: 18 Pipiri ki 17 Hongongoi - 18 June to 17 July.