Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has pledged that waka — and the deliberate discovery of Aotearoa by Polynesian navigators — will form part of New Zealand's new school history curriculum.
Ardern made the promise during a visit to the waka camp at Bledisloe Domain, near Paihia, which draws hundreds of kaihoe (paddlers) from around the country each year in the lead-up to Waitangi Day.
The Prime Minister's visit to ''Tent City'' has become an annual tradition since 2018 when she first called in.
Two days earlier she had announced New Zealand history will be taught in schools from next year.
Speaking to the paddlers on Thursday, she said waka would be part of that — and all schoolchildren would learn New Zealand's first people arrived by design, not by accident.
She asked for their feedback as the government started consulting on the proposed curriculum.
Ardern also made a personal pledge to keep learning about waka, referring to her first foray onto the water during last year's Waitangi festivities.
''You've seen my lack of skills — I tried my best not to embarrass my colleagues — so I'll need a little more practice before I do it in front of cameras. But if you keep teaching me, I'll keep learning.''
In response Joe Conrad, captain of Ngātokimatawhaorua, offered a history lesson about how the Queen conferred official naval ship status on the great waka in 1974.
He also appealed for government help to rebuild Te Korowai, the Treaty Grounds waka shelter.
The shelter, built in the 1970s, was no longer up to the job of protecting the waka and was in danger of collapse.
Earlier in the afternoon Ardern visited the Māori Wardens' camp at Bay of Islands Holiday Park near Paihia.
It was the first time during this year's Waitangi commemorations she was joined by daughter Neve.
The two-year-old rushed to greet her mum for a cuddle, then stole the show as she sang along with the waiata and was fussed over by the wardens.
It was also the place Ardern chose to drop a hint of other personal news.
"I promise to report on a wedding soon," she told the wardens.
The oldest Māori Warden in Tai Tokerau, Henare Hape, was among those at the campground. It was his fourth time meeting the Prime Minister.
The 82-year-old from Whangārei became a warden in 1970, more than 50 years ago.
Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson told the wardens they were lucky to have a Prime Minister who came to hui like theirs.
''We've never had prime ministers who'd come to Waitangi for five days. They'd just drop in,'' he said.
Also on Thursday Ardern attended the opening of an exhibition by Hamilton photographer Te Rawhitiroa Bosch (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu) in Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi.
Up to 300 kaihoe performed a mass haka outside the Treaty Grounds entrance as she was escorted inside.
Bosch's photos focus on the story of Eru Patuone Heperi, the only surviving crew member of Ngātokimatawhaorua's maiden voyage in 1940.
Heperi was 12 years old when he was invited on board as a bailer.
In 2020, aged 92, he travelled from the Gold Coast to fulfil a dream of once more paddling the great waka during Waitangi Day festivities.
Bosch said it felt "epic" to see so many people at the opening.
"And it feels right, because we're at the home of waka. This is an exhibition for whānau waka (the waka family), not for Te Rawhitiroa Bosch."
Bosch's own waka connections include sailing the Pacific on the waka hourua (double-hulled canoe) Te Matau a Māui.