Midden in Plain Sight

March 25, 2022, 10:33 p.m.

Middens are a visual historical footprint made up of artifacts such as kaimoana shells, bones and food waste. Found in coastal areas, mainly sand dunes along Te Oneroa a Tohe. Middens tell us about the tīkanga, history, diet and earlier movements of our tūpuna. More care needs to be taken when driving along the beach to help us better preserve these significant sites.

Laurie Austen, a Marine Conservationist and local community member, couldn’t stress enough, the importance of preserving and maintaining the middens. 

“I think its really, really important that everybody, through an educational aspect, can appreciate what there is here and the reason for preserving it, its the equivalent of book burning in my opinion” stated Austen.

Middens are living evidence that our ancestors had consideration and respect for 'Tangaroa' and the moana that they harvested kai from. Only gathering one species of kaimaona at a time, gutting and shelling far from open waters and restricting their waste disposal to only one area demonstrates strong values that are still upheld today. 

Kaio Hooper (Ngai Takoto Environmental Manager) grew up with strong tīkanga and values around the moana, tikanga passed down from generation to generation. 

“You dont collect kaimoana and then chuck your waste where you collect it, its just wrong, in any sense of the way you think about it. It's tīkanga, its how we grew up.” 

Te Taitokerau, being predominantly coastal landscape, means that all iwi within this region have significant sites, that include middens, noted and preserved within their coastal rohe. A place of significance because these were areas where tūpuna prepared and consumed their kai. Noting that the world's first toheroa canning factory was established in 1905, firstly at Unahi, then later shifted to Lake Ngātu. Not all mounds of kaimoana shells within this area were due to Māori consumption.

Extensive work and research is being done to see middens preserved and protected further. 

Tags: Community Tikanga Maori Perspective Hitori Midden Kaimoana Shellfish


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