Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 7, May 1967


Members and friends of the Paeroa and District Historical Society enjoyed a rare experience in Sept. last year when they listened to an address by Mr Ahi Royal, whose magic wand transported them back hundreds of years to the time when intrepid Maori explorers in their great canoes discovered "Aotearoa".

He recounted the accepted traditional story of Kupe's voyage in 950 A,D.: the subsequent settling in New Zealand by Toi and his grandson, Whatonga, in 1150, and the last migration, often referred to as the "fleet", with its named canoes, in 1350.

By the study of genealogical tables kept with great care in the memory of every Maori of standing in the old days, these dates were arrived at by allowing a period of 25 years for each generation.

Mr Royal dealt with the method by which children were systematically trained in this memorisation and said that in this district as late as 1900 there were still schools in which the young were instructed concerning food, weapons and Whakapapa (genealogy). To-day the pattern of training is so different that few of the younger generation of Maoris either speak their own language or show any interest in the story of their ancestors.

Here Mr Royal showed an intricately and beautifully carved stick which represented the 24 generations of his own family back to the Tainui canoe and its captain Hoturoa. One side of the stick depicted his father's people (Te Roera of Ohau) and the other his mother's (Tuhukino of Ohinemuri). His recitation of this genealogy was a feat that few of us have ever been privileged to hear before.

He later referred to the Whakapapa (family tree) charts which he had brought for inspection. The Rev. Gordon Kaa gave able assistance by elaborating on the story of his people who belonged to the area round the East Cape and the Rev. L.M. Rogers, president of the Society was in his element because as a Maori scholar the subject was one dear to his heart and he supplied many interesting sidelights.

Owing to illness Mr Savage of Tapu who was responsible for the carving of the stick was not able to attend and bring other samples of his skilled workmanship. Mrs Neta Brown brought two wonderful and now rare korowai (kiwi cloaks) and among other interesting exhibits were a carved model canoe, a Patu Paraoa, a katiate, a kie kie kit and several illustrated books.

Hearty votes of thanks, discussion and supper concluded a delightful and enlightening evening.