More Top Stories

Rugby Union

Bigger and busier 2023: PM

31 December 2022

Rugby league

Moana target 2025 World Cup

11 November 2022

Thomas Tarurongo Wynne: We belong to the land

Saturday 17 June 2023 | Written by Thomas Tarurongo Wynne | Published in Editorials, Opinion


Thomas Tarurongo Wynne: We belong  to the land
Columnist Thomas Tarurongo Wynne. Photo: CI NEWS/16040843

Our connection to the land is all that keeps us from the ravages of a secular, commodified, and consumerist world beyond the safety of our reefs, writes Thomas Tarurongo Wynne.

There are so many different pictures we can use to paint the picture as Maori of our connection to the land, to our whenua, enua and our respective Island homes.

Wherever they are in the expanse that we now call the Cook Islands, we think of it as deeply connected, like roots of a tree, or Tumu, tumu enua, which speaks of being like a solid and firm tree trunk, with its roots deep into the earth – stable, resistant to the elements and time and there from one generation to the next.

Or the term Toketoke enua, which means I am like the worm, from the soil, surrounded by it, deep within it and immersed in its richness and life-giving elements.

Our connection to land is so adequately captured in these cultural metaphors, in these te ao Maori world views that speak to us from the past, connect us to now and ensure our connection to the future and generations that have not yet been born or imagined yet remain. Our connection to the land is all that keeps us from the ravages of a secular, commodified, and consumerist world beyond the safety of our reefs.

Just this week, we lodged the succession application for our Vouvou, our grandfather Teavae Tarurongo from the Ngati Ingatu clan – son of Inga Kopati Tarurongo and Rima Pukareva, son of Inga Kopati and Noometua Akepapa Pianui, son of Ngatura Kopati and Akevaine – and so our genealogy in Enuamanu continues back to the 14th century to Kare kare te Po and his wife Atakura in the Islands of what we now know as Tahiti.

This connection to the land runs as long as we can remember and why land must never be treated as a commodity or something we own and we use as a cash register or simply as something to possess.

That thinking and world view is not ours, it does not belong to us and should never define us because it belongs to another people and their world view.

Toketoke Enua places us within the land, surrounded by it, immersed in it and part of the land. We belong to the land, it does not belong to us and when we shift from this Maori world view to another, we find ourselves in another system, with other values and outcomes that divide us and hurt us, sometimes sadly from one generation to the next – family against family, brother against brother.

The people that work at the Court have been amazing, and going up there each day, sometimes people were happy, sometimes they were angry and frustrated, though more often than not we sat there next to each other patiently waiting to see the Court workers who by the looks of things had multitudes of people and information to deal with at the same time.

I wanted to thank them and say meitaki ranuinui for their support with this and for their akakoromaki, as we as a family gathered the necessary information needed, each day providing a little more till they had all they needed.

Our grandfather Teavae left the shores of Atiu for Rarotonga and found work on a plantation where he would meet our grandmother, the daughter of the owner of that plantation Arasena Kaitanu whose father Caetano Duarte was from the then Portuguese colony of Cape Verde, the Island of Brava off the coast of Senegal Africa.

A brother Akateatanua Tamaka would leave for Mauke and marry Vaine Elena Taimarangai and the Matapo Tamaka clan come from this connection. Other brothers and sisters would come through Rarotonga like the Enere Tarurongo clan, the Matauri and Ua clans and now Ngati Ingatu has spread throughout Australia, Aotearoa and across the world.

However, wherever we may have taken our first breath, we are Toketoke Enua, we are Tumu Enua, we are of the land.

That is of course until our idea of lands and the Courts idea of lands and belonging to the lands clash, and where the current discussions continue with regard to land succession, and land occupation.

So my question then is this, what do we do when these two opposing world views, two different ways of knowing collide? What do we do where one is legislated and interpreted in a legal system that we have adopted and agreed to since 1915.

We do one of three things available to us as toketoke enua – adopt it, put up with it or amend it, so it reflects as best as possible our tea o Maori view of land.