Tēnā koutou katoa

I keep thinking about the future for my mokopuna's generation and a pathway forward to ensure their wellbeing and I get the same resounding message, understand the ways of our ancestors as a guiding light to our future.

Before the arrival of Europeans, our customs ruled.

The knowledge that underpinned this was passed down by our ancestors through the ages and was born from heavenly whakapapa.


We are descendants of that heavenly whakapapa and to understand its meaning is to understand who we are.

As an oral tradition we captured this knowledge in stories, in our art forms, carving, weaving, song and dance.

Our chosen tohunga selected before they were born, interpreted this knowledge for the people of their time which continued until the arrival of the Pākehā.

These new arrivals brought new customs that were foreign to our people.

All this spearheaded by Christian missionaries repositioning our customs as pagan beliefs, an advance guard to laws that suppressed the rights of our tohunga to pass on their knowledge, replacing it with their own.

In effect, our knowledge system developed through millennia of time was relegated to the status of myths and legends and considered inferior to western science.

Clearly, the intent was to colonise our people and to subjugate them in our own lands and it has worked with devastating effect.

So have we lost our way - the ways of our ancestors?

In large part, I think we have but we are fighting our way back.

Recapturing the long list of "tangas" such as manaakitanga, kaitiakitanga and whanaungatanga, and embedding them into our daily lives is challenging.

Take manaakitanga for example.

It may be translated as hospitality but in the ways of our ancestors, it is much more than that.

It is a multi-layered reciprocation of mana, a process of giving and receiving that elevates the status of the visitor and in turn that of the host.

This demonstration of manaakitanga was at its highest in the recent hosting of the royals at Tamatekapua and the many media that attended.

It highlighted the customs of our people in contemporary society and exposed our community, the country and the rest of the world to the virtues of our people, culture and place.

As we face the challenges of climate change, environmental calamity, social and economic deprivation, let us reclaim our knowledge, our customs, the treasures of our ancestors born from the heavens.

Te Taru is a director for the new iwi-led tourism venture Kahukiwi Experiences, announced in Saturday's Rotorua Daily Post. Te Taru is from Te Arawa, Tainui and Ngāti Porou descent and is the chairman of Te Tatau o Te Arawa, Rotorua Lakes Council partnership. His website is http://tetaruwhite.com