In the West Coast of the South Island, it is the ascent of Puaka (or Puanga in the Ngai Tahu dialect) that heralds the start of the Māori New Year as the pae maunga (mountain ranges) obstruct the view of Matariki. Only some of the constellation can be seen, so it is the ascent of those stars that heralds the start of the Māori New Year.
The team at Kidsfirst Hokitika wanted to do something different to mark the occasion.
Traditionally, much of the food for the feast celebrating the start of the new year was harvested and preserved around March. These delicacies were stored in pātaka built especially for Matariki. The hāngī was a key element of these feasts.
“We considered different ideas for celebrations and I took responsibility for coordinating the events this year,” says Hilke Bruns of Kidsfirst Hokitika.
“We wanted to have a hāngī and I asked Kori Hutana, one of our parents, whether he would like to help us. He welcomed the idea and mentioned we could have the hāngī out at the marae.
After liaising with the marae staff about using the facility, and what protocol we needed to adhere to, we confirmed our day. Then, as a team, we studied the process of a pōwhiri and asked several parents from our Kindy whānau whether they could respond to the karanga, when we would enter the marae.”
Hilke says they were surprised at just how many parents and whānau wanted to join in the celebration on the marae, and had to substantially revise their numbers for catering, as the total had climbed to almost 100!
Parents were invited to help with the preparation of the food on the morning of the event, and by 11am it was ready to go into the hāngī.
“We had been given 10kg of wild pork by a family and the pumpkin had been grown in our own garden. During the day we also prepared a koha gift for the marae (a star picture), which was given to them after our waiata.”
That afternoon everyone travelled to the venue for an informal welcome in the whare kai. The rūnanga (a traditional Māori council) opened the gathering with a speaker and a song. We responded with Hilke speaking and the children singing ‘E tu Kahikatea’. It was then on to the lifting of the hāngī .
“We went to the river and saw a steaming sand mountain, which we touched to feel the heat. Then the men uncovered the food and everybody went back to the marae.”
The food was prepared and when ready the rūnanga spoke a karakia to bless the food and asked for the small children to be served first with the help of their parents. During kai time, children were looked after by the older people, parents were supported by the wider group and generally everybody took turns looking after the well-being of the entire group.
Hilke said it was an evening to be remembered for a long time. “Some families have never partaken in a hāngī or visited a marae, and for others it brought back memories from their childhood.”
“This is the beginning of a journey of collaboration for the kindergarten that can be shared with our local rūnanga on lots of other occasions. We would like to collaborate more closely together, more often and this was a fantastic starting point.”
Hilke Bruns, a teacher at Kidsfirst Hokitika explains how Matariki is different in their part of the country and what the kindergarten did to celebrate this important time of the year for the community.
KIDSFIRST KINDERGARTENS ARE A NOT FOR PROFIT ASSOCIATION THAT HAS DEVELOPED AND MAINTAINED KINDERGARTENS IN CHRISTCHURCH, CANTERBURY AND ON THE WEST COAST FOR OVER 100 YEARS - AS THE PLACE LOCAL KIDS COME TO LEARN, PLAY AND HAVE FUN.