Ngāi Tahu celebrate at biennial festival

Ngāi Tahu celebrate at biennial festival

Ngāi Tahu members are celebrating their identity and culture this weekend, at the tribe's biennial festival in Dunedin.

And its building those links to the iwi that that are behind a practical initiative unveiled for new parents.

Even the Scottish Robbie Burns is celebrating with Ngāi Tahu this weekend, as around 900 whanau descend on Dunedin for Hui-ā-Iwi.

They were joined by thousands of locals for a day of entertainment and activities, ranging from kapa haka performances through to arts and culture.

"The business is restricted to one hour on the first day, and then it's about whakawhanaungatanga. It's about getting to meet ourselves as relations," says Kaiwhakahaere (chairperson) Mark Solomon from Ngāi Tahu.

But with more than half of Ngāi Tahu's members now living in the North Island or overseas, the iwi is keen to ensure they're brought up knowing their identity and culture.

All newborns will be sent a pēpi pack, containing tribe-branded clothes, blankets and books.

Infants like Tamaraukura will also receive a scroll listing their genealogy, and their first pounamu.

"Quite excited that he's got the gear and got the pounamu now. We speak Te Reo in the home as well, so he responds to both Māori and English, which is a great thing," says his mother, Takiwai Russell-Sullivan from Ngāi Tahu.

And there's a practical reason for the flax pod housing the gifts, with statistics showing more than 60 percent of babies who die suddenly in New Zealand are Māori.

"A lot of our parents and grandparents, they're still sleeping baby in the bed with them. So we want to educate that the wahakura is a safer way of sleeping baby," says Kaiwhakahaere (director) deputy Lisa Tumahai from Ngāi Tahu.

It's one of a growing number of education and community projects Ngāi Tahu are rolling out to invest in and lift their people.

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