Tuia250: An opportunity for Māori to tell their side of the story

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

A flotilla of traditional waka haurua and European vessels will embark on a voyage around Aotearoa later this year to commemorate the first encounters between Māori and Pākehā.  Master navigator Captain Jack Thatcher, the official kaitiaki for the Tuia 250 Voyage, says it's an opportunity for Māori to tell their side of the story.

“It can't just be telling the stories of European arrival here and what effect it had on us because from our perspective it wasn't a great first encounter.  If you really are wanting a nation to mature then you have to own its history,” says Thatcher.

Thatcher says that he initially declined to take part, but has agreed to on the basis that Māori have equity in the storytelling and that the voyage supports the involvement of Māori communities.

“We've got a thousand years at least of voyaging heritage where our tīpuna arrived in Aotearoa, and up until the time when Cook and Abel Tasman and all those Europeans arrived in Aotearoa and we need to be able to tell those stories,” says Thatcher.

Originally named "Cook Encounters 250", the commemoration is now called "Tuia Encounters 250".

The voyage will include a national science technology roadshow about Pacific and European voyaging, an educational programme about sustainable oceans and other interactive activities including building star compasses.  Thatcher says it's imperative that Pacific and Māori navigation is included.

“And I have to say that we don't see or hear much of that in our schools and if we're able to affect the development of curriculum in our schools where more of our NZ history is actually being taught and it's not a bad thing to talk about, maybe Te Maro, being the first one shot by Cook, because that's a story that we have to own,” says Thatcher.

The waka hourua are Haunui from Tāmaki Makaurau and Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti from Tauranga.  The va'a moana is Fa'afaite i te Ao Mā'ohi and joins the flotilla from Pape'ete, Tahiti.

The Tuia 250 Voyage will visit sites around Aotearoa with significant cultural and historical importance to both Māori voyaging and the arrival of Europeans.  Thatcher says it's important to get the story straight for generations to come.

“We know now that Ngāti Oneone are going to get the opportunity to tell that story, for us that's too important not to actually be involved in this opportunity through Tuia to able to tell our story,” says Thatcher.

The Tuia 250 Voyage will take place from October to December.