Sowing Seeds of Whakapapa

April 13, 2022, 7:54 p.m.

Mike Cochrane-Marsden and his tamariki plant heritage rākau around the severed tūpuna rākau in Moringai/Moringaehe to represent his whakapapa, whilst teaching his tamariki.

Community groups, with the support of local nurseries in Te Hiku o Te Ika, have been planting natives trees as a method of preserving and reviving matauranga-ā-iwi (tribal knowledge) and connecting future generations to the past. In Ahipara and Waimanoni, the planting of trees has been used as a symbolic reclamation of land that was once lost, or that the community continues to fight for. 

Bootsie (Dorothy) Rivers runs the Waimanoni Nursery alongside the Ngai Takoto Taiao Environmental Team. As well as propagating native trees, they share their knowledge about gardening, utilising the māramataka and the environment. 

"I am really proud of our babies in our nursery. I feed them, care for them and sing to them. They grow - that's my reward. They also tell a story. They have whakapapa too. Their kākano come from places that our tūpuna lived or traveled through like Houhora, planting important rākau along their way. We are protective about where their children, their seeds end up, just like how we protect our whakapapa as humans, we do the same for our taiao" says the Ngai Takoto kuia.

Reclaiming Whenua

In 2019, the whānau of Waimanoni successfully reclaimed tūpuna whenua (ancestral land) that was being wrongfully sold in general title. As part of that reclamation journey, the iwi gathered regularly in significant sites around that whenua to plant carefully sourced native trees that held the correct whakapapa to uphold the mana of the area and collectively heal. 

The tūpuna whenua was collectively owned in Māori Title before being wrongfully gifted in the 1830s under the 'Returned Soldiers Settlement Act' which converted the land to General Title. Ownership has been restored to the descendants of Ngāi Takoto rangatira, Rawiri Awarau. He also held Te Aupouri whakapapa through his father Tikiahi and grandfather, Te Ikanui. 

The kākano (seeds) planted in this whenua were all sourced from tūpuna trees in significant places that traced Awarau and his wives' footsteps. The kākano continue to be sourced from these places to ensure the maintenance of those genealogical links for future generations.

"It is important for my tamariki to learn their whakapapa. By staying involved in these kaupapa, planting trees, answering the calls of my whānau in these times, visiting whānau, listening to the history of our people and the trees we plant - we are learning exactly what our tūpuna want us to remember and then teach the next generation" - Mike Cochrane - Marsden (mokopuna of the late Māori Marsden).

Waimanoni mokopuna create their own māra kai on their tūpuna whenua to produce their own kai and work collectively in caring for the plants.

George Hooper supervises the Ngāi Takoto Taiao Environmental Team and spoke to Te Hiku Media about his role as kaitiaki within his rohe;

"We need to start learning the whakapapa of these places, why are they special and what is the story behind these places, then we will learn our connection, and then we can then teach the next generation."

More recently at Moringai/Moringaehe in Ahipara, where a significant pōhutukawa, considered an ancestor or tupuna, was severed, local hapū have been replanting the occupied land with native trees. Juvenile pōhutukawa, pūriri, harakeke and karaka have been planted around the severed tūpuna rakau to encourage regrowth, and symbolise the rebirth and reconnection of the people with their land. The juvenile pōhutukawa seedlings were sourced from the severed pōhutukawa itself.


Waimanoni nursery housing healthy native plants such as manuka, kanuka, and harakeke.

Planting of heritage kākano and seedlings is a physical act that preserves history alongside storytelling. They will grow and enhance the significant sites and strengthen connections between the people and the land.

Elderly tupuna rākau standing proud over Pārengarenga Harbour.



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