For those of you who have seen the letter to the Editor in this morning’s Hokitika Guardian, which reports the pounamu we have gifted to the Hokitika Westland RSA as stolen, I have sent a response to the Editor which I hope is received in time to be oriented tomorrow. It is unfortunate that rather than checking his facts, James Mason Russell chose to go directly to the paper, however, it has offered the opportunity to share more widely the colourful history of Ka roimata o totoweka (even if only in a brief way!)
If you have questions about its provenance, I can assure you that the Pounamu that has been gifted in aroha by Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio to the RSA is not stolen. Mr Landaus, who was prosecuted for breaching the Crown Minerals Act when he illegally removed pounamu from the Cascade Plateau, did not remove all of the boulder and following the passing of the Ngāi Tahu Pounamu Vesting Act 1997, we worked with Ngāi Tahu to extract the remainder of the pounamu. Kā roimata o totoweka Tears of Totoweka, the name our people gave to the extracted pounamu, is an example of not only the restoration of mana pounamu but also the first time we exercised that mana under the new Act which vested the ownership of pounamu back to the tribe and its management in our rohe to us.
The sister piece, which was stolen, had been purchased in good faith by the NZ Army, who were unaware that it had been illegally obtained, and used by them to create the Pounamu Memorial Wall, Tears on Greenstone-Roimata Pounamu. Although the situation did not sit comfortably with us, it was considered that the link formed with every Iwi, Hāpū and Whānau and indeed across all New Zealanders through collective loss during the many wars, was apparent and agreed that although the memorial had been created with illegally taken pounamu, it should not detract from the honourable and meaningful purpose for which it had been created and erected. Finally in 2001 following discussion with the Army, a bus load of Kāti Māhaki whānau travelled to Waiouru to meet with the NZ Army and to settle all of the grievances associated with the pounamu. Justice restored, the link to He ara roimata – Trail of tears was symbolically restored by placing a piece of the extracted pounamu at the base of the memorial wall, and through the gifting of a Mere Pounamu carved from the same stone to the Army’s Tumatauenga Marae.
He ara roimata– The trail of tears became a physical expression of sorrow and pain.
Our people had felt the heavy impact of world War 1. More than half of our eligible young men went to war and some did not return. The rūnanga acknowledged that all Kāi Tahu paid a heavy toll and pieces of “Kā roimata o Totoweka” were gifted to each of the other 17 Kāi Tahu rūnaka. Each received a taoka roimata (Tear drop pendant)- a symbol of past losses and as a memorial to all Kāi Tahu men lost during the wars, the lost generation/s of leaders and a reminder of our interwoven whakapapa and a raw piece of stone-acknowledgement of Pounamu Vesting Act and Ngāi Tahu ownership, and the restoration of Mana Pounamu. In completing the gifting of these pieces, a symbolic “trail of tears” throughout Te Waipounamu, which commemorated all Kāi Tahu’s war dead, was created. The anchor stone remains with this rūnanga in recognition of our kaitiakitaka relationship to “Kā roimata”. Today, the trail encircling the South Island and northward to “Tears on Greenstone-Roimata Pounamu” Memorial Wall continues to grow. Another link in the trail will be added at a dawn ceremony to open the Hokitika Westland RSA and dedicate the new Kōhatu Mauri on Saturday 25th February 2017 at 6.00am.
As I have written in the letter to the editor – “The story of Kā Roimata o Totoweka has been shared with every piece gifted, including the Hokitika RSA. The provenance of this pounamu is ours, as is the kaupapa which continues to grow as each new mauri kōhatu touchstone is unveiled. Just as the rain (Kā roimata The tears) fell nearly twenty years ago, as we extracted each piece of totweka, we continue to shed tears for those who had been lost. Ka maumahara tātou ki a rātou.”
Susan Wallace, Tumuaki
Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio