Through work we are encouraged to go visit a Maori marae (meeting place) for a few days to learn more about the culture and language and maori issues. It is also a chance for our organisation to explain to maori iwi (tribal groups) what we do, and how the maori research group can help to solve some of their environmental issues.
So after three years of being in New Zealand I finally got to one of these Noho Marae sessions over near Greytown at a marae called Papawai (headwaters). This marae is very old and historical as is used to be the site of the Maori parliament.
The marae is very traditional with lots of beautiful maori carvings around the entrance and marae.
Some of the beautiful carving
Inside they have lots of very old pictures and photographs of all the deceased members of the iwi on the wall, arranged in their hapu (families). It was a little bit weird sleeping in the marae surrounded by all these pictures looking down on you.
Sleeping inside the marae with all the deceased members surrounding us!
Behind the marae is a stream that has a lot of eels living in it. They used to eat these - but now they are just pets and they feed them with left overs from the marae and surrounding houses. So there are lots of eels and a few of them are very large! Not sure I would want to swim in the stream!
Feeding the eels
During our stay we learn about the maori history of the area, we went on a guided hikoi (visit) with some of the maori elders to some of the significant sites around the area. We saw a few middens, pa sites (old fortresses) and some burial grounds. We also learn some maori and lots of waiata's (songs), and we learn about all the traditional formal greetings (powhiri).
The motely group with several of the Maori elders who explained the history and took us on a hikoi (visit) around the local area.
I learnt a lot. It was really interesting to learn about the history and the maori environmental issues. They were very well informed and organised with a lot of ideas of what they wanted to see done and changed.
It was also a nice change from work for a few days.... looking at the more practical side of environmental science rather than my esoteric long term climate stuff!