Next generation taught voyaging traditions used by Polynesians centuries ago

Hundreds of tamariki from the top of the south have spent the past week learning about mātauranga waka - the knowledge and traditions of our voyaging Māori ancestors.

They were taught ancient skills of navigating without instruments as part of Te Hau Kōmaru, the national biennial Waka Hourua Festival, designed to keep the kaupapa alive.

It was a scene last seen centuries ago when four waka hourua sailed into Kaiteriteri beach last Saturday. 

It sparked a week recognising the voyaging feats of our ancestors and imparting their knowledge onto the next generation. 

"It's these voyaging waka that are here that our kids are going to be looking at going wow, how amazing our ancestors were," said Stan Conrad, a founding board member of Te Hau Kōmaru National Waka Hourua Charitable Trust.

"So teaching all that sort of stuff is good for them, it's their right."

Children from across the Tasman area came to learn about the traditions and practices Māori used to navigate the Pacific Ocean, or Te Moana Nui a Kiwa.

They also got to climb aboard and hear stories from the waka crews about voyaging in these double-hulled canoes. 

Toiora Hawira is the captain of the Ngahiraka mai Tawhiti waka and was teaching children about their canoe. 

"The people that have come from the small communities, the number of people that it's reached out to only keeps growing and growing," he told Newshub.

The tamariki got the chance to get on board the waka hourua too.
The tamariki got the chance to get on board the waka hourua too. Photo credit: Newshub.

It's the third time Te Hau Kōmaru festival has taken place, but the first in the South Island.

"It will be beautiful to see the day when our kids are running around canoes like it's a normal thing," Hawira said.

They want a lot of traditions to become normalised again too, so locals are learning how to weave their own sails.

"Being able to sit with these wāhine and learn these techniques, so that we can start to bring this practice here as well, so we can start to weave the sails for our own waka," said local Michaela Lobban. 

As a teacher, she believes what the tamariki are learning is crucial. 

"It's a learning you can't catch in schools, this is a kura taiao (education with an emphasis on the environment and nature), this is the most beautiful way of learning," she told Newshub.

Sowing the seeds to ensure the memory and traditions of our tīpuna will continue for many years to come.