Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Ruaimoko leaves his memories behind (No. 100)

A story of Ahu and Ahuahu and their family in a Maori village in Aotearoa during European settlement of New Zealand. (Click on Ahu in the labels bar for previous posts) 

When Ahuahu and Tiemi reached Aotea’s whare instead of happiness there was sadness and wailing for Ruaimoko, Hoku’s father had died in the night. His body was laid out on the floor in the adjacent dwelling where Mahuika his wife was alternately laying down beside him or then kneeling and rocking to and fro in her grief and crying out for the gods to take care of him as he looked for them. She had already cut her face and her tears rolled through the blood and streaked her chin and dripped down onto her garment. Other women were there with her singing a song of mourning as Ahuahu went in and kneeled by the body and took Ruaimoko’s hand and laid his head against it. He spoke a few words to him rubbed noses with him for the last time then turned and hugged Mahuika to him and rubbed noses with her and with his fingers smoothed her hair back from her face. She looked at him and nodded and said “Ahuahu he loved no man more than you. He gave your son his precious daughter, and he has left you his memories. Carry them with you and do not lose them. They are our story”. She then let him go and Ahuahu left the whare and returned to Aotea and Hoku.

Meanwhile Tiemi was embarrassed that he was there at this time. He turned to Houhia and said “It might be best if I left you as I may not be welcome at this time.”

Houhia shook her head “Tiemi, you should stay for if you left now it would show you are not worthy to be my husband as you did not support my family in their grief. If you want to marry me you must start to think like a Maori. If I marry you then perhaps I may have to think like a pakeha too.”

“You will marry me then, Houhia?”

“We should not talk of it at this time Tiemi. Relax, what is happening here is part of our way of life. What you hear and see is my life, it tells you what and who I am. It tells you that you will be part of if my father agrees that we should be married. Today you will see both death and new life so you are lucky as you will have no doubt what each event means to us. One day you may even see a wedding ceremony too, ours, if you are considered suitable.”

Tiemi looked doubtful as though he no longer was in control of his actions. Houhia touched him on his arm “Now come and meet Ahu, Hoku and the new baby.”

Houhia called out for Hoku before she entered and asked if she could bring in a visitor. Ahu came out and saw Tiemi there and nodded doubtfully at him. Houhia glanced at Tiemi and nodded twice at him and he went forward and rubbed noses with her and said “Tena Koe” a little awkwardly to her.

“Haere Mai” responded Ahu. “You are visiting us again. Do you want to take away more than plants this time, Tiemi?”

Tiemi blushed, so Ahu smiled. “Come and see Hoku and Aotea’s baby. It is a little girl whose name is Aotaki.”

Tiemi followed Ahu into the other room and Hoku had already placed the baby in a sling around her back so that the constant movement of her mother would reassure her that not much had changed since she was in the womb. Hoku was busy sorting things out and she looked up in surprise that Tiemi a pakeha who she had not seen before was in her home. She sat down on the floor and waited for Ahu to say something.

Ahu announced that this was Tiemi the pakeha botanist who had come to talk to Ahuahu again. Tiemi carefully approached from the side and knelt down before her.

“Forgive me for coming today and I am saddened to learn of the death of your father, but joyful that you have given Aotea a child and that your father knew he had another grandchild before he died. I hope he will be content now with his gods.”

Hoku nodded in reply.

Tiemi then whispered to Houhia as he sat back down again. Houhia touched his arm lightly and came forward and told Hoku “Tiemi is learning about us and he apologises if he says our words incorrectly. I will try to make him more like a Maori but he is still a little scared of us.”

Hoku then said to Tiemi “We will bury my father Ruaimoko on the third day after his death in accordance with tradition. I will be with him tomorrow to allow Mahuika to rest a little while as he must not be left alone at any time. I have much to say to him. Then when we have said goodbye we will welcome Aotahi into our ngare the day after. I am trying not to cry for if I do the baby will know it. She must know how much she is wanted and what joy she brought my father before he died.

Ahuahu then touched Tiemi on the shoulder and beckoned him to go outside with him. So Tiemi thanked Hoku for welcoming him in her home and left the whare with Ahuahu. When they were alone Ahuahu said “Let us go for a walk on the beach and talk.”

“Ahuahu, I have been much honoured today. Thank you for making me so welcome and showing me what being a member of your family is like.” Tiemi then paused then said slowly “You have shown me that you could accept me into your family, your Pori. What is it can I do for you in return?”

Ahuahu smiled “Convince your people that this land we live on must not be stolen from us. Ruaimoko knew he would die soon so he came here from Rocky Outcrop where the pakeha are already digging the ground outside the village. He did this trusting this land of ours between Gannet Island and Black Sands would always remain in our hands so he would be buried with his people for ever.”

Slowly Tiemi saw the light. “So even if Houhia agrees to marry me you will not give your permission unless my people, the pakeha agree they will not take this land from you.”

Ahuahu nodded. “How much is Houhia worth to you Tiemi? Will you walk away from her when even I can see she has chosen you?”

For two more days Ruaimoko always had someone with him by night and day. He had much to listen to before he was finally buried. Even Tiemi sat there for an hour and spoke to him with Houhia by his side. When they left the whare Houhia held his hand.

Tena Koe - Hello

Ngare - Family

Pori - Clan 


  1. Does he have enough authority for that? What will he do?

    Don't you dare leave me hanging.

  2. There is no weakening in the quality of your story-telling. Another fine episode, which is only to be expected.

  3. Thank you for another culture introduction :)
    Great story and I like how you shared cultural information at the same time.
    Althought, cutting her face was a bit wow O.o