Spirit journey to our sacred rivers
The sacred rivers of our region, Nga Pakihi Whakatekateka o Waitaha, are under assault currently from the dairying industry. The government has announced that our local rivers are now the property of the Nation. Well then, time for all to step up and take care of these sacred waterways. Conservation orders have been lifted by government to enable farmers to take more water for irrigation from a now dwindling supply. Many strategies have been and are currently being put in place to take more and more from our rivers to turn otherwise arid land of the plains into lush pasture for the dairying industry.
There is much concern from across the communities in that they can see the effect of this latest farming fad. ‘Feeding the world’ is the term used by the large corporation to validate their need to expand and take more and more from the aquifers. Those who are more aware of the poor health of the waterways in turn say, at what cost!!! Trading away our children’s rights to have healthy waters to go to and live by; trading away the health of the creatures that live in the environs of the waterways, is this the cost? Remember the tuna, the eels. If they die the rivers die!!
All rivers, all lakes indeed all waterways are sacred. And so a small group of intrepid travellers, 3 adults and 4 children set off on a spirit journey to our sacred rivers and waterways. Our intention was to go to our rivers to honour them in their aged mana, to honour them as the life giving forces they have been since the beginning of time, to acknowledge them, to give them our aroha, respect and our deep deep wish that they will survive to become more healthy so as to sustain all the creatures of Tangaroa who dwell within their realms and those that live on the periphery of these realms for the future. And as well to become healthy to sustain our children and grandchildren and subsequently the grandchildren of the future so they inturn can become the kaitiaki, the caretakers and guardians of the waterways that they are born to be.
The journey began at Waikirikiri. We slept the night beside our river. A small group of grandmothers and other family came to join us. We all went to the river to begin the ceremony. As the first karakia was closing we heard the sound of something in the water. We looked over to see two tuna lifting their heads out of the water. We all smiled and knew that these wise beings of the world of Tangaroa were aware of the intention of this journey and had come to express their gratitude. As well were leaving the valley the soft rain of Iho Rangi began to fall gently like a blessing. We headed towards the Rakaia Gorge where we were to stay that night and rise the next morning to a stunning sunrise complete with tuna in the cloud community.
And so we slept beside the six main braided rivers over six nights. In the mornings we would begin the day with ceremony reciting prayers, then we would go to the waters and place our intentions and wishes for them to be healthy and flourish. We would complete this ceremony by singing our aroha and gratitude to the waters. The children took delight in leading these songs.
As we traveled during the day we stopped at as many rivers as we could to pay homage to them. These rivers were smaller than the ones we slept beside. Some of them had small flows, some had just a trickle and sadly some were completely dried up. Yes we have had a dry summer but some of these rivers had been dried up for many a year. They were once substantial because the bridges that crossed them are very substantial.
Going down through the McKenzie country we went to the precious lakes of Tekapo, Pukaki and Ohau. Each of these waterways had their own character of course and sang their own songs. And at all of these places we found heart shaped stones. And we paid homage to the tears of Ranginui that have fallen and continue to fall to make up these waterways.
The stark beauty of the land never ceased to amaze us and often we were privy to a stunning sunset and or sunrise. For three days our trail was blessed with the tears from the Sky Father and this came in the form of light rain to the swirling mists of Hinepukohurangi. The last night we were at the mighty Hurunui River in north Canterbury. The north west wind, Tu Te Raki Hau Noa was reigning supreme over the mountains as huge banks of clouds pressed relentlessly forward over the mountains to spill over the plains of Canterbury. The light on our beloved Mother Earth, Papatuanuku was breathe taking. The moon setting on the last morning was spectacular to witness. Marama was continually bathed in rainbow colours as the sun rose in the east.
The children participated fully in the ceremonies and recited the karakia at the rivers, to the mountains and to the rising and setting of the sun and the moon. It was a wonderful learning opportunity for them, indeed the whole week was a Wananga, a time of learning. We concluded this trail in the Valley of the Teachers returning once again to our sacred awa called Waikirikiri and beneath our sacred mountain Wharariki. We were bathed in the dappled light of Autumn, the water flowed gently over the stones. It was a perfect end to a beautiful trail.
It is time to communicate with the natural realms. They wait for us to do so. They listen and if one is blessed one will hear or sense their presence as they respond, and they do and they will.
Toku awa, ko toku ora, my river is my life, toku awa, ko toku mana, my river is my authority, toku awa, ko toku kaha, my river is my strength, toku awa, ko toku wairua, my river is my spirit. (Whispers of Waitaha: Traditions of a Nation).