By FRANCES GRANT
The elders of the families had the wedding plans all sewn up when Kaa Rakaupai, of Ngati Tuwharetoa, was just a few days old.
She was to marry Te Kohika, a boy born to another family of the tribe on the same day as she was and delivered by the same woman, wife of the paramount chief Te Heuheu.
The first time she saw her husband was on her wedding day. Rakaupai thought he was a bit of all right, she told her granddaughter, musician and film-maker Moana Maniapoto.
Years later, after Te Kohika died, she married his younger brother - according to the custom.
Rakaupai is one of four kaumatua profiled in a documentary, Nga Morehu - End of an Era, screening on TV One (Sunday, 10 am) as part of Waka Huia's season of summer specials.
The hour-long programme was made by Maniapoto and director-producer Toby Mills, whose documentary on prison inmates, An Inside Story, was a finalist in last year's New Zealand and Film Television Awards.
Nga Morehu - End of an Era was co-funded by Maori broadcasting funder, Te Mangai Paho and is in Maori with English subtitles.
"We wanted all New Zealanders to catch a glimpse into a Maori world that is unfamiliar to them, a world that is fast disappearing," says Maniapoto.
But although the use of subtitles dooms the programme to an early morning slot, the stories of the four kaumatua are worthy of prime time.
Tawhao Tioke, of Tuhoe, talks about his grandfather who voluntarily spent nine years in Mt Eden Prison so he could be with the imprisoned Tuhoe prophet Rua Kenana.
Tioke's own life story harks back to a past that many pakeha would prefer to forget - the days of such policies as the banning of the use of the Maori language in schools.
You can still feel his anger, says Maniapoto, as Tioke tells of children being held down by teachers and having their mouths washed out with soap for being caught speaking their language.
One of the stories has a surprising twist. Joan Mohi grew up speaking Maori and believing she was of Maori descent, until she was 16 and discovered both her biological parents were pakeha.
The programme also looks at the life and work of master carver Paki Harrison, of Ngati Porou. Maniapoto says she was daunted at the prospect of interviewing him - master carvers have a fearsome reputation. "But he was just wonderful."
Getting Rakaupai's story on film, too, was a challenge. The busy 97-year-old kuia, who is still actively involved in teaching, was hard to pin down.
When the film crew caught up with her, she was too tired to film and wanted a lie-down on the couch. Then the stories of traditional tribal life starting pouring out. "I said, 'Please Nan, can we film?' " says Maniapoto.
Permission was granted. Rakaupai was in full flight. "She said, 'I've got to get it out, I've got to get it out because I'm not going to be around next year'."
By FRANCES GRANT