OPINION: One of my ancestors has died.
I read the obituary on a new signpost at one of the entrances to a Hawke's Bay tourist trail.
The tupuna was Rongokako, and he was the first-born of our family line in Aotearoa some 18 generations ago.
That's according to the whanau whakapapa compiled by my dad, Titoko Whaanga.
It begins with Rongokako's dad, Tamatea-mai-i tawhiti (from afar) who was the rangatira of our waka, Tākitimu, that set sail around 1350AD from Tahiti and around two weeks later, landed at Ninety Mile Beach, Northland.
Māori, like other native peoples, have a habit of remembering their tupuna and their deeds through naming children and landmarks after them.
Then they fashion pakiwaitara, pūrākau, stories to tell about how these tupuna "interacted" with the land and people of Aotearoa - through their feuding and sometimes passionate lovemaking.
Those tribal members who know the kōrero about their particular tupuna, become connected in the telling to that local rohe, that "stomping ground".
Academically it's called "anthromorphism", assigning human qualities to inanimate objects. Pākēhā "wisdom" schools teach this is "heart" knowing.
Māori call it whanaungatanga, identity, kaitiakitanga and belonging.
Trouble is, my ancestor has died. He is being erased from the kōrero told about a prominent landmark of Hawke's Bay, Te Mata Peak.
The peak's full name was Te Mata o Rongokako, the face of Rongokako.
You can see this most clearly by looking at the eastern skyline from Hastings and seeing the silhouette of a person lying down.
The uppermost points are the brow, nose and mouth – the face, the mata of Rongokako.
This is also the age-old story that's engraved in a plaque at the top of Te Mata Peak, which is at odds with the revised story told at the entrance.
Perhaps what's been set in stone is going to be quietly changed to fit in with a newer contemporary Māori version.
It's common human practice to favour a particular descent line in your whakapapa. Sort of like claiming descent from royalty or having a Māori princess in the family tree.
But this revision is very public and perhaps a sign of some Māori wanting to assert their mana and change the story.
According to our family whakapapa, Rongokako was a "land-strider" – a very tall person who competed with another ancestor, Paoa for a woman's attentions in the Hauraki district.
In the chase, he made big indentations along the East Coast, starting from Cape Kidnappers, then to Mahia, on to Whangara and finally, to the Bay of Plenty.
Corroboration of this tribal kōrero comes from an unlikely source, the memoirs of Mrs I.E. Nolan, the wife of Maurie, the Havelock North Town Clerk from 1956–1961. The book is "Our Village – our story".
The historian, J. Mitchell, who wrote Takitimu – a History of Ngati Kahungunu, expands on this chase in his history of the Tākitimu waka.
He says Rongokako started leaping from Te Wairarapa, where he was a student at a whare wānanga. It was Rongokako's second step that landed him at Cape Kidnappers.
As I said, one of the purposes of pūrākau is for descendants to remember the tribal connections between these locations, to have a relationship with the environment, which includes today's inhabitants, Māori and Pākēha.
And the more our ancestors got around and made contacts, the greater the spread of their mana that still lives on in their descendants today.
For all I know, Rongokako the ancestor, may have stayed around the Bay of Plenty where his parents met and lived. But Mitchell says Rongokako was chosen by his "East Coast" people to go to the whare wānanga much further down the "Coast".
As a journeying family, the fuller story may be a composite of travel accentuated through four generations: Tamatea mai-i-tawhiti; his son Rongokako; his son Tamatea Ure Haea (Tamatea circumcised) and the great-grandson, Kahungunu, who today's Hawke's Bay iwi take their name from.
In the first instance, Tamatea mai-i-tawhiti's waka, after the initial landfall in Northland, sailed round the North Cape and voyaged down the East Coast, putting in next at Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty.
Here Tamatea Ariki Nui got off and settled down with Toto, the daughter of the local chief, Maika. Tamatea passed the captaincy to Tahu Potiki, who agreed to carry on to the South Island in the search for pounamu.
Tākitimu next landed at Nukutaurua, Mahia. That's where the tohunga, Ruawharo alighted and some reckon, thereby reduced the mana of Takitimu.
The waka then put in to Waikawa, Portland Island before rounding the tip of the Mahia Peninsula and sailing up the Wairoa River to Makeakea.
The next landfall was Te Wairarapa and here Tupai, the remaining tohunga got off. Tahu Potiki carried on to the Arahura River on the West Coast, where it is said, the waka embedded itself miles inland.
Another story says Tākitimu was wrecked in Southland because it's the inland mountains there that are called the Tākitimu Range. South Island's Ngai Tahu are descendants of the last captain of this waka.
The second travelling story is about Rongokako's son, Tamatea Ure Haea who lived at Tiniroto Pa, Orongotea near Kaitaia.
He is credited with building a replica of the Takitimu, circumnavigating New Zealand and also travelling extensively overland.
Hence his last two titles, Pokaia Whenua and Pokai Moana, meaning a person who "gobbled up" land and sea.
According to Dad's tatai whakapapa, his layers of tribal genealogy, Tamatea Ure Haea was not shy about recounting his stories and so the local Ngapuhi forced him to flee Northland to Tauranga.
Tamatea's son's travels were more of the amorous variety.
Kahungunu had eight wives and through them, connected the whakapapa of many tribes through his travels to Kaitaia, Opotiki, Whangara, Popoia Turanga, Mahanga, Nukutaurua and Mahia.
Our whanau descent is from the seventh wife, Rongomaiwahine of Nukutaurua and my Dad's whakapapa shows the descent down to my mokopuna as the 20th generation.
So you can see why the apparent "erasure"or change in the story line of Rongokako is of interest to me. It sort of "orphans" me in my current home in Hawke's Bay.
The new story version has been picked up by some Māori.
I heard the new pūrākau from a young Māori guide on a recent "educational" trip up the peak. The tale he told was about another chief with a much shorter name to remember, Te Mata. He was a giant who upset Hawke's Bay locals by eating people and animals.
Of course a Māori maiden is involved, her name being Hinerākau. To win her heart, Te Mata has to perform mighty deeds One of these was to eat a mountain and he chokes to death, becoming embedded as the skyline we now see, as Te Mata.
A children's picture book illustrated by Sophie Blokker and written by Analisa Ferguson tells this story but names Rongokako as the giant.
Sophie says local Māori from Waimarama approved the retelling of the story which she says is a favourite at her Te Mata kindergarten in Havelock North, just under the gaze of Rongokako.
Further story explanations "doing the rounds", are based around reo pronunciation. Te Matā, with a longer second vowel sound, could be describing the black rock that is found on the peak. It is sharp and was used as a cutting tool.
One story says the local tribe, Ngāti Hinepare, was overwhelmed by another tribe from Waikato, and the locals in their grief, lacerated themselves with the matā whilst mourning their forced exile.
The back-up evidence for this, is a "topographic" version of this story.
It comes from a Pākēha teacher at Hereworth School, Havelock North, where he was headmaster from 1936 to 1952.
J.H. Buchanan published a Māori history of Hawke's Bay from oral sources, Māori Land Court records and early survey maps, Māori History and Place Names of Hawke's Bay.
He even commissioned aerial mapping of Māori sites. From this vantage point, he says the sharp ridge or edge of the peak would have been noted by Māori as like a cutting tool, and so te Matā.
Buchanan is also helpful later in explaining how the rupture came about in my family relationship.
My whanaungatanga, my kinship with Te Mata Peak is described and felt in oral kōrero, pūrākau, whakapapa, scientific explanations and stories about "pokai whenua" giants gobbling up the land and sea.
The kōrero now even includes how the kaitiakai, the Kahungunu tribe, temporarily lost their guardianship of Rongokako.
The engraved plaque at the peak mentions the generosity of the Chambers family in gifting the land for a park in 1927.
According to Mr Nolan's account, in 1850 the colonial government bought the Hapuku block of 279,000 acres which encompassed the peak and Karanema Te Nahu, the eldest son of the rangatira Hapuku, was a signatory when the purchase was gazetted in December 1851.
This is how John Chambers bought some of the land, to farm as Te Mata station in 1854 (1862 on the plaque).
She says the adjacent land of 4000 acres, Karenema's Reserve ... "was gazetted in 1858 at a price of 800 pounds paid by the Government of the day to the Māori owners".
J. Buchanan (of Hereworth School) quotes from the deed of sale for Te Mata block, where a reserve of 4000 acres was to be set aside by the colonial government.
"This land is for the descendants of Te Heipora for ever" (Te Heipora was the wife of Te Hapuku).
Comparing the records of the Havelock North Town Clerk and the Headmaster, J. Buchanan, it's reasonable to assume Karenema was a signatory because of his connection to the reserve of land sectioned off.
But as he died in 1854 during a measles epidemic, he could not known that a few years later in 1858, a large chunk of present-day Havelock North would no longer be in the family.
Here is where the connection with the environment, the guardianship relationship between people and land was finally broken.
This is the sense of "tangata whenuatanga", belonging to Aotearoa. It is available to Māori and Pākēha, but only if we retain a relationship with the environment and understand what is behind the storytelling.
The hard lesson of the responsibilities that go with belonging is being repeated around Aotearoa. Ihumatao and Tainui tribe is just a an update of Bastion Point and Ngāti Whātua from the 1970s.
The saga of the ill-conceived Craggy Wine zig zag trail up Te Mata peak shows what happens when the local story is lost.
In the end it was the Iwi relationship with the ancestor in the Hawke's Bay "family" that prevailed over private property rights.
But that took some storytelling, some education of the Hastings District Council, the wine-makers and the public by the tribal guardians, Ngāti Kahungunu. That is when they were finally called in and invited to contribute their stories. At least that's what's being promoted on the new sign as, "Te Mata Peak, OURS forever".
So, after my research of other people's memoirs and tribal pūrākau, there is choice. For my mokopuna, who can trace their belonging back 22 generations, we want to feel the knowing connection here in Hawke's Bay.
So we'll go with Te Mata o Rongokako. After all, who wants a death in the family.
Te Mata Park Trust said they agree the signage is "a complex issue".
The sign mentions Te Mata Park as a "recreational, historical and cultural treasure," which was gifted in perpetuity by the Chambers family in 1927.
It is protected by the Open Space Covenant through the Queen Elizabeth II Trust, but does not mention the peak's full Māori name, relevance, or story – to which Whaanga mentions there are many adaptations.
Emma Buttle, manager of Te Mata Park Trust, said the signage is currently being reviewed and updated and are 90 per cent through upgrading directional signage with upgrades of educational signage being upgraded later this year.
That includes the information signboards at both Tauroa Rd end and the Main Gates carpark.
She said the signboard referenced was installed in 2018.
"The use of 'Te Mata' was used following guidance from a well-regarded local historian, who provided a report to Te Mata Park Trust.
"Since 2019, the Park Trust now has a Mana Whenua Roopu, who sit alongside the Trust Board in a co-governance position. Representatives from each local hapū are members of this group. Our Roopu will be working with Park management on the content of our signs within the next 6 months, and their recommendations will be reflected in the new content.
"The Park Trust is aware of the varying perspectives of local hapū, and this is reflected on our recently upgraded website page."
She said the trust is also supportive of the 2018 Cultural Assessment Report by Marei Apatu, which looks at the whole maunga.
"The new signage will reflect the sentiments conveyed in this important guiding document."