The humble knight – Tā Hekenukumai Pūhipi

By Ripeka Timutimu

Renowned navigator Sir Hekenukumai Pūhipi will be formally recognised in a special ceremony today for his services in reviving Māori seafaring traditions.

Around 300 paddlers, friends and family accompanied Pūhipi onto the Te Whare Runanga at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

Pūhipi says Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis recommended him for the honour.

“I didn’t know until it was published!"

Pūhipi, now 86 years old, attended Pukepoto Native School and is a paramount chief of Te Rārawa.  In the early 1990s the former engineer built the waka hourua (double-hulled canoe) Te Aurere.

It has sailed more than 30,000 nautical miles, visiting Hawaii, French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, New Caledonia and Norfolk Island, as well as making three circumnavigations of the North Island.

Kaihoe honour Sir Hekenukumai Pūhipi this morning. 

Master navigator Jack Thatcher is one of the many that has trained under Pūhipi.

“He put his faith in me to help him bring the knowledge of Pacific navigation back to Aotearoa.  It has been an absolute privilege to be given the opportunities that have enabled me to be recognised alongside Hekenukumai.  It was his faith in us, Stan Conrad and Piripi Evans that has allowed us to begin to strengthen the mātauranga for the next generations.”

Responsible for the construction of 200 bridges, about 150 in the Mangonui County and as far south as Waipū, Pūhipi is also being recognised for building bridges between the past and the future, and the peoples of Aotearoa and the Pacific by reviving star navigation.

Pūhipi is humble in his achievements and says he has a simple formula to success.

“I do it, I don’t just say it, I just do it.”

Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy will formally knight Pūhipi at midday today at Te Whare Rūnanga.